The Vernonia Health Board, along with the rest of the Vernonia community, celebrated the grand opening of the new Vernonia Health Center, Carolyn Keasey Memorial Building on Saturday, October 25, 2014.
Health Center Board Chairman Erika Paleck was the Master of Ceremonies for the grand opening, welcoming the crowd and introducing the guest speakers.
The event was the culmination of several years of intense work on the part of the Health Center Board of Directors and many others. That work specifically involved fundraising in order to move the facility from its previous location on Bridge Street, which flooded in 2007. The new facility is located at 1005 Cougar Street and is part of the Rose Avenue Project complex at the south end of town where they can now operate safely.
Paleck informed the audience that the new building has been open since late September. She also noted that the Health Center Board is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization which owns and administers the health clinic buildings which provide health care services to the Vernonia community. The previous health clinic building on Bridge Street has now been demolished.
Paleck told the audience that the Health Center Board’s goal is “…building partnerships with new providers in order to widen the scope of services so it is not just primary care.”
Guest speakers at the ceremony included State Senator Betsy Johnson and Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde.
“This is another great day for Vernonia!” said Senator Johnson. “Vernonia is a great place to live and work and this is one more step in putting everything back, not just the way it was but ten times better!”
“We had a crisis, and instead of just falling flat and becoming victims, we recognized opportunity,” added Commissioner Hyde, referencing the new school, the new West Oregon Electric headquarters, and the new Health Center as improvements to Vernonia since the flood.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were State Representative Brad Witt, Vernonia Mayor Josette Mitchell and former Vernonia School District Superintendent Ken Cox, who traveled from his new home in Idaho to be at the event.
Patient care at the Health Center is provided by The Public Health Foundation of Columbia County and Pacific University. Sherrie Ford, the new administrator for The Public Health Foundation, was a guest speaker, as was Physician Assistant Jim Ferguson representing Pacific University.
The new Heath Center building is named in honor of Carolyn Keasey, long time member and chairperson of the Vernonia Health Board. Carolyn Keasey passed away in October of 2013. Numerous members of the Keasey family were on hand for the celebration. Paleck unveiled a portrait of Carolyn Keasey which she said will have a prominent place in the new building. “We are very proud to have Carolyn’s name connected with the Vernonia Health Clinic from this day forward,” said Paleck. “Her upbeat spirit was the driving force that kept the project alive to its completion.”
The new facility was fully funded through fundraising efforts and grant awards from The Meyer Memorial Trust, The Ford Family Foundation, The Collins Foundation, The Oregon Community Foundation, The Samuel S. Johnson Foundation and the Carolyn Keasey Memorial Fund. Funding was also provided through the FEMA buyout of the old clinic building. Funding also came from The Providence-St. Vincent Foundation, which collected funds donated to rebuild the clinic immediately following the flood in December 2007, and from individual donors.
Marc Seigel from U.S. Senator Jeff Merkely’s office read a message from the Senator. “Congratulations on this exciting grand opening of the new Vernonia Health Center. Access to affordable and quality health care is critical to our communities and this new health center will provide necessary primary care to Vernonia residents. Due to an innovative model with Pacific University and The Public Health Foundation of Columbia County, the Vernonia Health Center will fill an important health care need for the community,” read Segal.
The Carolyn Keasey Memorial Building is the first completed phase of the Rose Avenue Project, a collaboration between local non profits and the City of Vernonia which has been developed as a home for local essential services. The project will hopefully add the new Senior Center and Vernonia Cares food bank in the near future.
The new facility has five rooms dedicated to patient care, treatment rooms and office space, as well as a large conference room. There is space for additional services to be added.
The building was designed by Scott Edwards Architecture and constructed by Five Star Building.
Following the grand opening ceremony the building was open for tours and refreshments were served.