Puzzle Pieces' move complete

Amanda Owen, executive director of Puzzle Pieces Inc.

Puzzle Pieces is in its new home.

Monday marked the first day the nonprofit's divisions, administrative offices and clients were under the same roof at 2401 New Hartford Road, where Atmos Energy and Daymar College formerly were located.

In the past, Puzzle Pieces, which assists people with intellectual disabilities ages 8 and older, and its adult vocational division named Center Piece operated out of buildings at 5010 Back Square Drive and 1512 Frederica St. Administrative offices were housed in another Frederica Street location.

In late August, the nonprofit's officials announced they would consolidate everything under one roof by mid-November and open the Owen Autism Center next spring.

Preparing the 28,000-square-foot building and moving the well-established business from two buildings into one seemed daunting at times. Also, the move meant more clients, jobs and increased pressure to succeed, said Amanda Owen, founder and executive director.

"But that pressure goes away because of community support," Owen said.

She credited an army of volunteers and "the Dream Team" — consisting of her parents, Sharon and Leon Boarman, along with some clients and their families — for meeting goals on time.

Collectively, the Dream Team worked more than 40 hours a week at the new building. Owensboro Regional Recovery clients served as Puzzle Pieces' private moving company, and many companies and other community partners offered help with cleaning, painting and other chores.

"Everyone wanted this project for the clients," Owen said. "I still get calls asking how people can help."

All the work was done in about eight weeks.

Initially, Owen and her staff worried that Puzzle Pieces' clients would miss the gymnasium at the Frederica Street facility. However, the new building provided space for five sensory rooms, which are safe spaces in which children with sensory issues learn coping skills. The former location had only one sensory room.

"The kids light up when they go into the sensory rooms," Owen said.

Also, change is especially difficult for people with disabilities. To Owen's surprise, no clients have been upset or have had a hard time with the transition. She credited staff members, who spent extra time ensuring every detail went well.

"There's been more excitement than anything," Owen said.

Puzzle Pieces' expansion is expected to add about 30 new jobs over the course of the next few years.

The Owen Autism Center should open in April 2020. It will be the first of its kind in Kentucky.

The center will use a whole-life approach. A key component will be an inclusive day care for children of all abilities who are ages 18 months to 5 years old.

The Owen Autism Center will offer after-school and summer components for school-aged students, and it will provide a college advisory program that will offer a peer college mentor, academic support and social integration support.

Owen is pleased to have the move behind her. And she's happy her office is in the same building with Puzzle Pieces' clients.

"That's what drives me," she said. "Now, when I want a pick-me-up, I just walk down the hall."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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