It's the little things that workers and clients at the Beaufort County Department of Disabilities and Special Needs relish most in their big, new building.
They've been in the 25,000-square-foot space for about two weeks and take delight in simple acts like a stroll outside or basking in the natural light flooding the main activity room.
Such activities were unheard-of in their old space, which was only about 1,700 square feet, county officials say.
The $6 million Disabilities and Special Needs Day Program and Administration Building was dedicated Friday at 100 Clear Water Way in Beaufort. It's completion has been a goal of the county's since 2004, said county administrator Gary Kubic, the year he toured the old facilities and realized how badly upgrades were needed.
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The former headquarters on Old Shell Road housed administration staff and the adult day program, which serves 84 adults with disabilities and special needs each weekday.
The street was only a few feet from the front door, making it dangerous for clients to go outside, department director Mitzi Wagner said. The inside was cramped and ill-equipped for changing adult diapers or providing a quiet space for those who needed it.
The new building -- which staff and clients voted to informally call the "Great Expectations Place" -- not only solves those issues, but allows clients to earn income by washing cars, making pottery and growing vegetables.
Wagner said they've only just begun to make plans for the space.
She said they plan to break ground Monday on part of the 10-acre property for a new garden. The ABLE Foundation, a disabilities fundraising organization in Beaufort County, has raised $23,000 in private donations to plant the garden. Wagner said they hope to raise about $2,000 more.
Most of the building's cost was paid for with Beaufort County funds and $453,000 in state and federal grants.
Kubic was given a giant "thank you" card, signed by staff and day program attendees during the dedication ceremony. A few of the clients called out to him, smiling and waving when he poked his head into one of the classrooms before he left.
"If you understand that you build something like this literally once every 20 years, you know it's important that you do it right," Kubic said.
Bill Love, director of the day program, said his favorite feature of the new space is the effect it has on his clients.
"I get to see them come in every day laughing and smiling," he said.
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