Unlimited Opportunities and Boonslick Industries will soon have a new facility. After a fire in February of 2012, the organization reorganized and spread its offices around town. This new facility will allow the organization to be located in one central location once again.
Executive Director of Unlimited Opportunities Jennifer Waibel said there were many aspects to consider when moving forward after the fire.
"The immediate need was to find temporary locations to house the programs that were destroyed. Once this occurred, the focus was on how best to move forward. There was a considerable amount of time devoted to working with the insurance company to recover funds for the loss of the building and contents. In the meantime, many ideas were researched to determine options for purchasing an existing site within the community or building at the same location at 1620 W. Ashley Road. The UOI Board of Directors voted to move forward with hiring an architect, whether it be to rebuild or to renovate in the end. Once an architectural firm was hired, they began to draw out a schematic design based on the needs of the organization and its programs. A rough cost estimate was presented and the board felt comfortable moving forward with the architectural process. Now, nearly half way into this process, and no practical existing site to meet the agency's needs, the UOI Board of Directors unanimously voted that we will rebuild on Ashley Road and return "home," Waibel said.
The new facility will be similar to the first as it will include all aspects of the company from the recycling center to Savvy Seconds.
"The new building will house all of our programs and departments. The Recycling Center will be on the far East end of the building. The middle section of the building will house Family Supports, Community Employment, Administration, Community Services, and Targeted Case Management. In addition, the BII Day Program and the Individual Supports Program will be in that area. Savvy Seconds will be in the front of the building, highly visible with a great storefront, and easily accessible from Ashley Road," Waibel said.
Waibel said at first there was some apprehension about having the recycling section connected with everything else, especially after the fire.
" The fire started in the recycling section and we were all a bit apprehensive about having everything under one roof again. As we have gone through the planning and design process with the architects, we have learned that a separate building really wouldn't be a necessity. The building will have a sprinkler system, which the old building did not have that. The fire walls between the three parts of the building will provide more than adequate protection. Some employees have taken a little longer to get used to the idea, because the fire was a very traumatic event. But we have been given much assurance that this construction will be safe for us," she said.
Once the plans were finalized Waibel said it was a huge relief for all of them at UOI. She said the staff is looking forward to working in one location again.
"From the outside looking in, it appears that everything is running smoothly and that the worst is over. And in many ways, that is true. However, being in different locations has made daily operations more complicated and costly. For example, many of the Boonslick Industries Day Program clients work at the Recycling Center for part of their day. Our clients have been scheduled for different shifts due to space availability and providing transportation between the Day Program on Rt B and Recycling at Boone Village Plaza has meant more travel time, more vehicle use, more spent on gas," she said.
Many improvements along with services will accompany the new facility. Waibel said the way the building will be located on the land will allow for easier and safer access to the recycling center for the large trucks that are in and out every day.
"The opportunity to be back together in one location allows for more effective and efficient services. UOI and BII will have the space to allow for growth, which means supporting more individuals with disabilities. Savvy Seconds will expand in square footage, offering a greater amount and variety of gently used items at affordable prices. The recycling center will also expand in square footage, allowing for an increase in amount of recycling equipment, which increases the amount of processed paper products, No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, glass, aluminum and metal, clothing and textiles. In addition, additional space and equipment allows for much greater efficiency. Unlimited Opportunities and Boonslick Industries are viable businesses that offer a variety of beneficial services to the community and its citizens," Waibel said.
Waibel said the past year has been a humbling experience.
"This organization has persevered like no other! Extraordinary supports are provided on a daily basis within the walls of Unlimited Opportunities and Boonslick Industries, regardless of where those walls stand, and what we do makes a difference in the lives of those with disabilities. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to make an impact on people's lives. As I stated on February 2, 2012, together we will be bigger, better and stronger!" Waibel said.
Look for more information in The Weekly on February 6.