A man described as a “visionary” was memorialized as hundreds gathered for the dedication of an activity center at the Vivian B. Adams School named in his honor Sept. 19.

Friends, community leaders, co-workers and former students gathered as the re-purposed former sheltered workshop on the VBAS campus was officially named the Raygene Burkett Activity Center.

The VBAS on Stuart Tarter Road in Ozark, which opened in 1971, serves people from Coffee, Dale, Henry, Houston and Pike Counties with cognitive and developmental disabilities. School buses travel 1,000 miles a day to bring clients from throughout the Wiregrass to the school which provides services for those aged 3- to 82-years-old year round.

During the ceremony, VBAS Director Hannah Parker shared the vision and leadership of Burkett who served as the school’s first director. “He accepted this position and the challenge that was presented,” Parker said of Burkett’s reaction when the Dale County Mental Retardation Board offered him the opportunity to serve as director of the new school being built in Ozark in 1971.

“Many times he said that this was the best decision that he had ever made,” Parker added. “He said he loved his work and enjoyed each day better than the day before. He was truly dedicated to the school and its students.”

Burkett was a hands-on leader, Parker said. “He was always repairing something, making furniture, re-roofing and assisting others in many, many ways. He was not content to sit and be idle. He always had time for everybody regardless of how busy he might be.

“Considerate, thoughtful and completely unselfish” are words Parker used to describe Burkett. “He cared about people. He was always trying to make people laugh and make them comfortable in any situation.”

Burkett died April 1, 1982 while playing basketball, a sport he loved, Parker said. “He had compassion, understanding, humility and sincerity that few people have. His life touched so many from all walks of life.”

When federal mandates required the closing of all sheltered workshop programs, the VBAS board voted to convert the facility into an activity space for the school’s individuals and community.

Since its renovation in May, the Raygene Burkett Activity Center has been used for physical activities, special programs, dances and dance classes for the school’s students as well as a venue for community meetings.

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