EDMOND — The vibrant personalities of Mark Jarrett and James Oliver cut right through an otherwise gray December morning.
Jarrett, 52, is a dock supervisor and job coach at the Employment And Residential Centers, or EARC, donation center and thrift store at 100 E Third St.
Jarrett is a job coach to Oliver, 47, who is a dock worker.
The EARC's mission is to provide a better quality of life and encourage greater independence to individuals with developmental disabilities, such as Oliver, said Bonnie B. Wells, executive director for EARC Inc.
Asked about his enthusiastic welcomes for those who walk or drive into the outdoor donation area adjacent to the thrift store, Jarrett replied with a question.
“What's most important?” he said. “The most important thing on earth I think is another human being.
“I'd do anything for these guys.”
The EARC has three thrift stores, two in Edmond and one in Guthrie, five community homes and a long-term care specialized nursing facility.
Nine clients are hired to work on staff at the thrift store locations.
There are 20 individuals hired to work on community job crews with coaches providing supervision in these various stores.
Another 24 clients attend the work center program at The Trails Sheltered Workshop and are paid to process donated goods for sale in the thrift stores and other contract work when it is available.
The donated goods taken in, and their subsequent resale, fund the job opportunities, Wells said.
“Our client-employees' earnings allow them the dollars needed to pay for those little extras that they otherwise could not afford,” she said. “However, with this employment, they can proudly say they have paid for it with their own money.
“So, if Mark seems to get excited when you bring some bags of your unwanted clothes, children's toys, electronics or other household goods for him to unload, and gives you a tax receipt for your donation, this is why. He knows that you are a secret Santa providing jobs for men and women who want to work.”
Once inside the open fence gate at the EARC donation center, a shopper's eyes can bounce around from the tan office chair, to an assortment of crutches, to the seashell-adorned picture frame to bags of golf clubs.
Work for Jarrett means not only supervising, but selecting what items go to which of EARC's three locations.
“The people who drop off stuff like clothes, some will wash them and iron them and then bring them in,” Jarrett said.
“People will take them to the cleaners and then bring them in. Donations are great because it's from the heart.”
Within minutes, a red Volvo pulls through that gate. Jarrett walks to the car and asks the driver how she's doing.
“Fine,” she replies as she opens the back of the car to reveal some furniture she had brought to donate.
He unloaded it and thanked her.
The items are plentiful, but it becomes obvious that Jarrett is right: it's the people who make the difference.
Oliver, who was wearing a Santa hat recently while loading a truck, said he not only enjoys working at EARC, he likes laughing or causing others to do so.
About that time, Oliver looked over and spoke loudly enough for Jarrett to hear him.
“He needs to shave his sideburns,” Oliver said and grinned.
Jarrett doubled over laughing.
“These guys work hard and they hardly ever complain, they're always smiling,” Jarrett said. “They've got so much love for people. It's just great working with them, and being around those who donate.”
The latter are also encouraged to enjoy themselves. Jarrett has one particular approach that often makes that possible.
“When they first come up, especially if they're driving a real nice car, a Mercedes or something,” he said, “I go, ‘Ma'am are you donating your vehicle?' “That'll get a smile almost every time.”
And then he'll unload what they really brought to donate.
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For more information about Employment And Residential Centers, go to www.
The most important thing on earth I think is another human being. I'd do anything for these guys.”
Dock supervisor and job coach