The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 8, 2014

4RKids: Foundation offers vocational, social, educational opportunities for clients

Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — For an organization often thought of as “serving the developmentally disabled,” the 4RKids Foundation serves a broader slice of the population than many realize.

4RKids offers vocational, educational and social opportunities for clients in a six-county area, regardless of what form of disability they have.

On a recent Tuesday, the 17 clients in the employment center at 710 Overland Trail included people with developmental disabilities, a blind woman and a man whose physical disabilities require him to use a wheelchair.

At the employment center, clients earn paychecks by making dog biscuits, greeting cards, lotion bars, bath salts, hand sanitizer and jewelry. 4RKids also performs document-shredding and aluminum can and paper recycling. Sometimes they get pre-employment skills training.

Other employment services include job training for cash register operation, pricing and display of inventory, lawn care, janitorial tasks and operation of a concession stand.

Sadie Cain, busily rolling out dog biscuit dough, enjoys making the puppy treats. Her own dog, Buddy, loves them, Cain said, smiling as she ran a rolling pin forward and back over a specially designed board with guides along the edges to produced a consistent dough thickness.

A bone-shaped cookie cutter was used by another client to cut the dog treats before they were placed on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

Other clients that day worked on paintings ultimately  destined to become greeting cards sold in 4RKids’ two gift shops.

Other clients on that Tuesday afternoon were shredding paper and taking it to the recycling bin, and painting for greeting cards. The blind client was getting tactile training, learning how to differentiate between different items.

4RKids offers education, information and resources to parents and educators in the region; connects people to services they need; operates a Putt-Putt miniature golf facility that offers employment to clients as well as wheelchair-accessible recreation to the public; operates 2nd Story Gift Store on Overland Trail and 2nd Story Downtown Gift Store in the Non-Profit Center; and sponsors Miracle League baseball program for children and adults, which pairs special-needs and typical players together for recreation.

Miracle League games are held at ABC AMBUCS Park at Van Buren and Oak. The grand opening celebration for the newly completed baseball field, four years in the works, is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 25.

Each of 4RKids’ two gift shops offers a unique selection of gifts, although some items are available at both shops. Clients work in the gift shops, doing such things as cleaning and pricing donated books, ringing up customers’ purchases, restocking the shelves and keeping the gift shop in bright and appealing condition.

According to Tricia Mitchell, executive director of 4RKids, the downtown gift store offers a wider selection of men’s gifts.

The donated books sold in the 2nd Story Gift Stores include paperbacks and hardbacks, and sell for 25 cents to about $5. Rare books are priced higher.

“The books on the back shelves are listed on Amazon, and they pull the books in the morning that have been sold and help package them for shipping,” Mitchell said.

Additionally, 4RKids participates in activities to raise awareness on behalf of the disabled.

“We do some community awareness and try to do some outreach,” Mitchell said.

That includes outreach to high school seniors who might qualify for services from 4RKids, Mitchell said.

The organization also sets up booths at events such as arts and crafts fairs.

“That’s a lot of work,” Mitchell said.

4RKids clients also are volunteers at Loaves and Fishes food bank. There they stock shelves, unload trucks and clean. The tasks serve as job training for clients.

“We go every day and we’re the only regular volunteer group,” Mitchell said. “Our individuals are getting paid. When we’re providing job training, we’re getting reimbursed by the state for that.”