TEXARKANA — Opportunities Inc. will look to expand its services to clients, as the organization transitions to a new social enterprise model.
Thanks to a recent grant from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation of $280,000, Opportunities now has the funds needed to provide employment opportunities that cater to its clients’ interests and goals.
Development Director Rebekah Drennon said this funding allows it to provide adults with disabilities in the area with less menial tasks, and more purposeful work.
“Our mission is to provide support services that empower our clients, and we really feel like this grant will help enhance their quality of life because it’s giving them an opportunity, with our three different enterprises, to figure what they love to do, instead of just giving them piecework,” Drennon said. “We want them to feel empowered and like what they’re doing is meaningful. So, being able to discover their interests and just applying what they love to their work — it’s a discovery process for them.”
Executive Director Sherry Young said this idea started with its Creative Arts enterprise, which began in December of 2019.
“The way that started is we had a local artist — Eileen Stearman — who came in and worked with our adult clients on different art pieces,” Young said. “She then took their artwork and put it together. We took them and had them printed into Christmas cards. And it identifies on the card that the artwork is inspired by our clients and their work. We started last year selling those Christmas cards.”
Opportunities started this as a way of getting out there, then created more art pieces and calendars.
From this success grew the idea of three separate enterprises that will employ adult clients: Business services, creative arts and horticulture.
“We’ll have a business services enterprise, which will provide business services such as printing, collating, shredding and packaging to local businesses or individuals,” Young said. “And we will have a creative arts enterprise, which will include our cards, which we will have to expand on. But we are also going to have a ceramics component and shop. Each product will be cut out of clay, dried, sanded — the whole process. And once the piece is complete, we will tag and price those ready to sell to the public.
“Horticulture will be the third one. We are going to construct a garden center. In that garden center, we will actually have a horticulturist who will work with us, and we will teach our clients how to plant and care for a variety of plants that will be open for the community to come out and purchase.”
Young believes this can break the mold of sheltered workshops for adults with disabilities, and open up a window for a fuller life in the community for their clients.
“The history of adults with disabilities working has been what’s called a sheltered workshop, where it’s really segregated, and it’s only people with disabilities,” she said. “And they’re typically paid below sub-minimum wage. That’s the system that has been in place across our country since the 1950s. Employment opportunities and inclusive opportunities for people with disabilities look very different now. So, we are looking for a way that we can provide inclusive job training and employment opportunities for our clients.”
Young and Drennon both expressed appreciation to the T.L.L. Temple Foundation for the funding they needed to make this possible.
“Opportunities has a long history of partnership with the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, and this is just another way that Temple has continued to support our growth and development of our programs,” Young said. “We are very appreciative of their longstanding support.”