NEW ALBANY, Ohio (WCMH) – A new home is creating new opportunities for a Central Ohio nonprofit. Thursday, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) celebrated the grand opening of a new facility in New Albany.

“We can expand the types of dogs we can offer people here, the programs we can do here and just the sheer number we can do,” explained CEO Paige Mazzoni.

The Central Ohio location is the organization’s training hub for the North Central region, training dogs and pairing them with people with disabilities. The new facility is seven times larger than the former Delaware location, with 54,000 square feet for working, training, playing and living.

It now includes on-site veterinary space for intake exams and lab work. A small kennel area can hold puppies while they wait to be picked up by caretakers, while several larger areas can accommodate 48 kennels with garage doors for fresh air and attached play yards.

According to CCI, one of the game-changing additions to the new facility is a residential wing with 16 accessible suites families and students can use during their 2-week training sessions.

“Now they can stay here and have the experience of really getting to know each other and bonding together as a team and a class, but also be more comfortable,” said Mazzoni. “[They can] come and go to their room, they can bring their family members and their clothes… and they don’t have the expense of paying for a hotel.”

She explained students had to previously pay for their own lodging in hotels, which dissuaded some from making the trip. Additionally, a large common area includes an accessible kitchen, children’s play space and couches, chairs and tables for socialization.

“The bond that they form with those other classmates in a team training is really an ongoing family,” Mazzoni said.

The larger space and new amenities create an opportunity for CCI to expand its programming in Central Ohio. Mazzoni explained the organization may be able to start training dogs for veterans with PTSD or for hearing assistance.

“This allows us to really use this region as a critical hub for a lot of those new advancements,” she said.

The COVID-19 health crisis forced CCI to make Thursday’s grand opening ceremony virtual, but it plans to hold a public open house when it’s safe to do so. Learn more about Canine Companions for Independence here.