HAVERHILL — If you’ve been near the back of the Northern Essex Community College campus and seen all the construction trucks, you might think the college is expanding.
That’s not the case — but a large educational project of another kind begun.
Opportunity Works Inc., a private, not-for-profit organization that helps adults with disabilities and their families, has broken ground for a 37,000-square-foot educational center.
The building will emerge from land behind the college and is slated to open next fall. It will include 12 classrooms offering a variety of integrated, multi-disciplinary services.
The organization helps disabled people learn daily life skills, such as hygiene, getting around the community and recreation. It also provides training in work skills and helps clients find jobs with local companies.
Dozens of supporters of the Opportunity Works mission gathered recently for a groundbreaking ceremony, which included remarks from Opportunity Works Executive Director Jane Harris-Fale, Mayor James Fiorentini, state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell and Haverhill parent Diane Fasulo, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities.
Fasulo, whose adult son Dean attends Opportunity Works, said the new building will fill a vital need in the community.
“The need to support individuals with disabilities such as autism, Down Syndrome and Traumatic Brain Injury grows each year,” Fasulo said. “My admiration goes out to the Opportunity Works staff for their dedication. It’s a top-rate program and I am pleased to be part of it.
“This is like a dream come true,” she said. “The new facility in Haverhill is a great project, a great opportunity.”
More Haverhill residents are supported by Opportunity Works than any other city or town except Amesbury, agency officials said.
Harris-Fale, a lifelong Haverhill resident, explained the pressing need to expand with a new facility.