Lotus House, the innovative women and children’s shelter in Overtown founded by former real estate developer and investor Constance Collins, has received a $20 million pledge from developer Martin Z. Margulies that will ensure its survival “for generations,’’ the program’s founder said.
Since its founding six years ago in a small, formerly vacant apartment house that Collins purchased, Lotus House has expanded rapidly to several adjacent, brightly painted buildings with beds for 110 women and children and a free health clinic set around lush gardens.
The shelter, the only one in Miami-Dade focused exclusively on women and kids, has been praised for a unique therapeutic approach to helping its “guests,’’ as residents are known, that blends hard-nosed counseling and job training with art and alternative therapies.
Margulies, 73, a prominent art collector and philanthropist who founded the nearby Overtown Youth Center, will leave the shelter the $20 million gift in his will. The gift, first disclosed at a gala last week marking the shelter’s sixth anniversary, was announced publicly on Tuesday.
Margulies and Collins met and married while she was setting up and running Lotus House. They recently separated but remain close, Collins said.
Collins said the gift will help establish an endowment large enough to support a substantial portion of the shelter’s growing operations, which are overwhelmingly privately funded. The shelter receives less than 15 percent of its annual $1.4 million budget from government sources, Collins said.
“It’s a prayer answered,’’ said Collins, who quit a lucrative career to launch the shelter and runs its day-to-day operations. “I am so proud of Martin. He was there with us in the very beginning, when it was just a single apartment building with a laundry, a community room and some beds.’’
Collins emphasized, however, that fundraising remains critical to Lotus House’s operations. The shelter is also in the midst of a $3 million capital campaign, and Collins said she hopes Margulies’ gift, by ensuring the program’s financial stability, will help draw other potential donors.
Margulies had previously given Lotus House about $1.5 million to purchase its second building, renovate it and install a kitchen and dining room. But he said he was inspired by Collins’ dedication to help secure its future.
“Seeing her work every day every hour for the last five years has been a tremendous inspiration,’’ Margulies said. “To be honest, she taught me a new way of seeing the world, of seeing the people who have fallen through the cracks, either through their own doing or through circumstances beyond their control.’’
Margulies said he structured the gift so that Lotus House will receive $10 million upon his death, and $500,000 a year for the next 20 years.