Community recognizes new resource for the disabled

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COLUMBIA – A Columbia group that works with disabled people now has more space to provide care and train its employees.

Woodhaven held the grand opening Friday for the Billy J. Palmer Health & Training Center after five years of planning and two years of fundraising to reach the $1 million needed to pay for the addition.

“The center is going to provide an expanded space for training for the staff here at Woodhaven and also expanded space to provide healthcare for the individuals that we serve,” said Leigh Anne Haun, director of development.

Woodhaven currently has around 300 employees that serve 112 people with disabilities in mid-Missouri.

Staff members said the new building is already easing problems with having enough space available for training.

“I would have to go oops I can’t have a class this day, and I need to extend the new employee training another day restricting how quickly they could get in the homes working because I didn’t have a room to train in. Now, since we’ve opened this building I have not had to cancel classes,” said Julea Gerhard, quality assurance coordinator.

The new building commemorates Billy J. Palmer who was the maintenance director at Woodhaven for more than 20 years.

“B.J. was one of those people that was just always behind the scenes, making sure that the doors worked and the carpets were cleaned and the toilets flushed and everything. He didn’t really go out and seek recognition for that, he just went about his job, doing it quietly,” said Mark Palmer, CEO.

Palmer said Woodhaven's goal is to grow with the people they help as they offer services to them for several decades.

“Our future really is going to be revolving around continuing to serve those individuals to the best of our ability as they age. When individuals came to Woodhaven back in the ‘60s the life expectancy was about 30. Now we’re serving individuals to their 60s, 70s. So we’re dealing with a lot of issues that are kind of in unchartered territory,” said Palmer.

Woodhaven hopes by learning and growing in the new building some of these challenges will subside.