Oklahoma Foundation for the Disabled provides opportunities, activities

The Oklahoma Foundation for the Disabled was founded 52 years ago and serves about 100 clients from central Oklahoma.
by Matt Patterson Published: October 29, 2012

“There are days like any other job where it can be frustrating,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I feel grateful to be here. When someone says ‘Thank you,' or ‘I love you,' that just makes your day. It shows you how much what we do here matters in their lives.”

Funding is a problem

The foundation is under the United Way umbrella. It also receives funding from Bargain Thrift store. Local businesses contribute material or provide services at a reduced rate.

But money is a constant problem. The foundation is funded for 6 {+1}/{-2} hours of care per client per day, but often clients exceed that time by an hour or more. Last year the foundation provided $276,000 in unfunded services. Its fuel bill averages about $7,000 per month.

To help cut that shortfall the foundation asked parents and guardians to create a scholarship fund. Devening is also working with the Department of Human Services to obtain funding for its fuel costs.

The parents of one client raised $18,000 to build a fence around the facility on Walker. A recreation center that was recently constructed includes an indoor basketball court, gym and game room.

“This was a game-changer for us,” Devening said.

But even with the creativity in keeping the foundation humming, there are limitations. In May, it was forced to turn away five applicants in one week because of funding. Devening said many parents are surprised to find out that services their child received while in public school are no longer available to them after graduation.

“I always caution parents who have very young developmentally disabled kids that may not improve over time to get on the waiting list as early as possible,” she said. “Some parents are shocked when their child graduates. They have no idea they won't have the services that were available to them before.”

Despite the constant struggle for cash and materials to run it, the foundation makes do and prospers. The way the staff sees it there's too much at stake to settle for less.

“They may not be able to work at a job and some of them may not be able to talk to you but these are people who are very affectionate and kind,” Stepney said. “They can teach you a lot about caring for others. They take care of each other in here and it's awesome to watch.”

by Matt Patterson
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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