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Center for adults with disabilities has more space for development

The Douglas County Developmental Achievement Center, in its new location, offers range of motion activities and indoor and outdoor exercises for all of its clients. John Kohls takes part in some stretching exercises. (Celeste Edenloff | Echo Press)1 / 4
Mitch Van Alphen works on a project for Donnelly Manufacturing at the Douglas County Developmental Achievement Center. Projects have also been done for Brenton Engineering and a project for Douglas Machine is in the works. (Celeste Edenloff | Echo Press)2 / 4
Allyson Estes and Derreck Sorenson work together as a team measuring, cutting and sealing homemade garbage bags at the Douglas County Developmental Achievement Center. The bags are then sold to area businesses, including floral shops and Douglas County Parks Department. (Celeste Edenloff | Echo Press) 3 / 4
Many different jobs are performed in The Workshop at the newly expanded Douglas County Developmental Achievement Center. The center recently moved and more than doubled its space, going from 4,400 square feet to 11,000 square feet. Its new location is in Alexandria's Industrial Park, 4125 Minnesota Street. (Celeste Edenloff | Echo Press)4 / 4

After more than 30 years on Willow Drive on the west side of Alexandria, the Douglas County Developmental Achievement Center has moved to a new location — and more than doubled in size.

Carla Bettin, who has been the executive director since 2012, said the DAC, which provides day training and rehabilitation services to adults 18 years or older with developmental disabilities, moved to its new quarters in April.

The old building provided 4,400 square feet, while the new space, in Alexandria's Industrial Park, at 4125 Minnesota Street, provides 11,000 square feet, said Bettin.

The center, despite its name, is not a county entity although it does receive some funding from the county. The majority of funding comes from the state.

"We also get some private funding," said Bettin. "It's so great to have people, including the county commissioners, supporting us."

The commissioners, she said, supported the move, which now allows the center to meet the needs of more people and expand their opportunities to include more programs.

Bettin said its new location allows the center to offer its programs to 55 people Monday through Friday, up from about 40 before the move. And in its new location and larger space, Bettin said the DAC will soon be licensed for up to 61 people.

However, 20-30 people remain on a waiting list.

At the development achievement center, Bettin said there are four main areas — the sensory room, the program room, the center square and the workshop. There are also exercise rooms and a massage room. In addition, quiet spaces are available for clients if needed.

On site, 22 staff members assist and work with the clients, who are usually at the center from about 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Some work on projects for businesses throughout the community and others work outside the center. The DAC contracts with local businesses including Alex Travel Agency, Alexandria Covenant Church, Animal Doctor, City of Alexandria, Depot Express, Douglas County Parks Department, Douglas Furniture, Evening Lions, Go Kart Association, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Runestone Museum Urbank Baseball Park, Vantage Bank and a few more.

Clients make many products at the center and sell them in the front lobby store, including brown sugar scrub, candles, fire starters, gift bags, honeycomb flowers, rags, garbage bags and Christmas bulbs.

"Anyone can come in and purchase our products," said Bettin.

Many of the clients at the DAC work regular jobs as well, she said, which is a goal of the center.

"There 43 people right now who have a job within the community," she said. "And that is awesome. They are earning a paycheck in this community and many use their money in the community to go bowling, to the movies, shopping or some even go on trips."

Bettin said it's great when her clients are employed within the community and that employers believe in them and give them a chance.

"I want to plead to the community that our people have more than just cleaning skills," she said. "They have lots of other talents as well. We just need to find employers who are willing to give them a chance. It really does benefit everyone involved. Just give us a call and give someone a chance."

About the program

Douglas County Developmental Achievement Center provides pre-vocational and vocational skills training, non-vocational programming, independent living skills development, social awareness and skills training, volunteer opportunities and community inclusion. It offers on-the-job skills training, community-based employment and piece-rated contractual work. It teaches independent living skills including handling money, cooking, personal cares, cleaning and washing clothes.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. She enjoys running and has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon distances.

(320) 763-1242