Officials break ground on new Pace Center for Girls

New home will be on College Drive in Orange Park

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ORANGE PARK – The Pace Center for Girls will soon get a new center on College Drive following last week’s groundbreaking.

Months of work culminated with a ceremony of 50 people marking the symbolic start of construction for an important project for Clay County. Pace executives and volunteers were joined by local business leaders and government officials Sen. Rob Bradley and Reps. Travis Cummings and Bobby Payne on Friday, July 24, and each shared why Pace was special to them.

“This pandemic has really given...my family an opportunity to reflect on what matters,” Bradley said. “It’s sort of the silver lining of the pandemic. We’ve gone back to what really matters and have focused on that. Understand that this matters. This place right here.”

Bradley said Pace deeply affects the community in positive ways and that it helps girls and young women find new avenues to success despite odds that might be stacked against them.

Pace began in Jacksonville before making its way to Clay County, and it now is located in 21 different counties today. It helps girls with incarcerated guardians, girls dealing with domestic violence and girls living in poverty, among a number of other things. What these girls see as insurmountable odds, Pace sees as barriers that the girls can be lifted above.

Bradley, Cummings and Payne worked together in congress to keep money flowing to Pace and eventually garnish enough funding that the new center located on College Drive could finally come to fruition.

“Women’s lives are going to change because of this place being here,” Cummings said.

Cummings and Bradley have both been open about their best-friendship over the years. The two said how great it was to work toward something like this for a county they love together in congress. Payne made his way to congress after Cummings and Bradley and he said he quickly took to the two as “great mentors.”

When in appropriations, which is where funding allocation is determined, Payne said he remembers asking Bradley and Cummings about Pace. They always told him not to worry about that because Pace is taken care of every year.

That’s because of the hard work of these two, Payne said of Bradley and Cummings.

“It was always going to happen for them,” Payne said. “This center has great importance to them and it really shows.”

Legislative requests for the new center began almost two years ago and now that construction can begin, the future of the Pace Center for Girls has never been brighter. Even with COVID-19, nothing got in these girls’ way.

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