On March 14, 1968, the South County Neighborhood Center at Boca Raton first opened its doors. The Center started out staffed solely by volunteers and established itself as a community based non-profit organization serving individuals in poverty-stricken situations. The Center received its Certificate of Incorporation as a not-for-profit corporation in 1968 and became a recipient of United Way funds in 1969.
Soon after, financial donations and supplies poured in to help support and sustain the Center.
In the fall of 1968, the Center began a tutorial for children with 15 volunteer teachers from the community. The Center soon after expanded its programs for children by adding a juvenile delinquency prevention program.
To meet the growing needs of the community, a child’s day care was also added. James and Florence Fuller became the first major contributors to the Center when they supported the building of a new day care center which became the Florence Fuller Day Care Center. This center is now fully independent of the Volen Center.
In 1976, the Center narrowed its focus to meet the area need which a city survey revealed: helping the older adults in the community.
Mr. and Mrs. Ben Volen became interested in the Center and recognized the need for services for older adults in the community. Mae Volen especially wanted to improve quality of life for seniors as they age. Ben and Mae themselves were not at all in need of financial help but they enjoyed attending community parties and Mae also enjoyed volunteering for the Center.
During the holiday season Mae and a friend volunteered to drive an elderly woman home from a Christmas party. Although Mae had volunteered for the Center this was truly the first time she witnessed the terrible living conditions in certain parts of Boca Raton. In addition, Mae could not believe that the elderly women had no means of transportation.
Mae Volen approached the head of South County Neighborhood Center, and expressed her feelings of concern for senior citizens. Mae stated that she could not believe that there were so many charities for children but none for older adults.
About a year later, Ben asked Mae what she wanted for her birthday and she replied, “A bus with a wheelchair lift.” Mae remembered the woman she drove home and decided she wanted to make a difference for all seniors in the community. Ben Volen lived to please his wife and Mae received a beautiful bus with a wheelchair lift as requested for her birthday. She donated the bus to the South County Neighborhood Center. The transportation program became one of the key programs that the Center has continued to provide to the public and has linked thousands of older adults to crucial services throughout the community. Today the transportation program provides approximately 80,000 rides per year to the older adults of South Palm Beach County.
The Volens also financed the Horizons program, which later became the Life Enrichment program. Currently the Life Enrichment program serves hundreds of active older adults and provides activities ranging from exercises to weekly outings to holiday parties and entertainment.
In 1986, the Center moved to a larger building that was made possible by an extremely generous donation from Ben and Mae Volen. The Center became known as the Mae Volen Senior Center. Ben Volen generously donated over a million dollars towards the construction of the new senior center. In 1983 Mae Volen passed away, but she was confident that the senior center would be completed. Finally, in 1986 the facility was completed and Ben insisted that it be named The Mae Volen Senior Center. When Ben Volen later passed away in 1988, he bequeathed 10 million dollars to the Mae Volen Senior Center so that quality services could be sustained.
Over the next 45 years, the Center continued on a steady uphill growth taking on many new programs and services to serve older adults. These services include independent senior programming consisting of a full schedule of activities to keep even the busiest senior entertained; senior dining sites which offer no cost hot, nutritious meals at several locations throughout Boca, Delray, and Boynton; care management services to assist one in remaining comfortably in their own home; adult day care, and many more!
In 2008, the Center adopted a new mission statement to include the disabled, their families, and family caregivers. The Center wanted to redefine itself as a full service community center, not one just devoted to serving older adults. Programs that were added to the Center’s ever growing list of services included collaboration with the YMCA of Boca Raton for an intergenerational program promoting the interaction of young children and older adults. Evidence based programming demonstrates the benefits of these enriching interactions for both generations. The Center also received a generous grant from the SFRTA (South Florida Regional Transportation Authority) to provide a new personalized type of transportation for disabled and older adults. The new transportation service, named the Volen LIFT program, allows for shorter ride times, a more personalized transportation experience, and shorter call ahead times.
In so redefining its new place in the community, the Center also redesigned its name and logo. The Center became the Volen Center and adopted the new butterfly logo. Over the past 45 years, the staff has grown from a group of unpaid volunteers to over 100 paid employees. The annual budget was sustained solely by private funding and goods and services donated by volunteers in the early days. Today, the annual budget has grown to over $8 million due to private and public funding as well as donations.
Now you can see the trademark Volen buses, vans and cars throughout the South Palm Beach County roadways with the brightly displayed services on each of our vehicles. From adult day care services to senior dining sites, to weekly field trips and fun with kids, the Center has seen so much growth in its almost 50 year existence. Please feel free to browse our site to see the many programs and services we proudly offer.