Sunland Center Celebrates 50 Years - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Sunland Center Celebrates 50 Years

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It's been half a century since a Jackson County facility serving those with developmental disabilities opened it's doors.

"Sunland is a family," says retired Sunland Superintendent Brit Dennis.

Family was a popular word at Sunland's 50th anniversary celebration.

"We have our church family, we have our individual family, we have our work family," says Dennis. "Well, Sunland family is the greatest I've been around."

Every speaker who took to the podium Friday reflected on how this facility nurtures a family like atmosphere.

"A lot of the clients that were here when I was here are still here.  They know me, they speak to me, they see me in town," says Arthur Basford, a retired Sunland superintendent. "That's why I said it was like family. It's not something you come here and forget."

Basford says this facility has been a special part of his life...even before this facility became Sunland.

Over 50 years ago, it was home to Graham Air Force Base and Chipola Junior College.

"In fact, the administration building was classrooms and the very office I used as a superintendent I went to classes there several years earlier."

Today, what hasn't changed is the bond between its residents and staff.

"This is my second family," says current Superintendent Merlin Roulhac. 

Roulhac says Sunland is a special facility.

"I was married right here in the chapel in 1983," says Roulhac. 

While today's celebration focused on it's half century history, Roulhac is looking forward to many more years and making this facility a special one to many others.

"Yes, we deliver a lot of excellent services here, but we may not receive that recognition," says Merlin. "So it's my job as the leader here to strategically plan so that people in the community and abroad recognize that this center sticks out in this rural area."

The Sunland Center in Marianna is operated by the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Currently it's home to about 330 residents. 

And currently home to about 330 residents.