By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
“MPower would be inoperable without the United Way’s assistance,” Executive Director Amy Spiva said in appreciation of the community which has been so generous through the years. “United Way funds help us provide a client-to-staff ratio for adequate supervision of the individuals we serve.”
The nonprofit agency, located at 516 Expo Circle South, near the intersection of East Sixth Avenue and Fairgrounds Road, empowers people with developmental disabilities. Spiva said MPower is counting on the community again as the United Way progresses through its annual fundraising campaign.
“We are hosting an open house from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Tuesday to let the community see our facility,” Spiva said.
There will be formal tours at 10:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. with a presentation at 11 a.m. The agency is hoping to attract more production work for their clients, Spiva said.
“We lost a big part of our production business when MerCruiser shut down,” she said.
MPower workers assembled pouches of parts for MerCruiser. This was sheltered employment provided at the workshop site. Production floor employment includes the assembly of parts, collating, framing, flag and button construction. MPower would like to add more business contracts to the production mix. Some of its regular accounts include producing bags of dental hygiene items for Ocean Dental to distribute and flag assemblies for several companies. Spiva said MPower was very fortunate to gain an oil and gas industry account with a new piece work job from Hydro Foam Technology in Perkins. MPower also sells safety glasses and a first aid fanny pack, cinch bag or backpack.
“The production floor jobs provide fulfilling activities in an environment in which they are comfortable,” said Ed Blouin, floor supervisor.
A group of parents founded the agency in 1969 to provide their adult children with developmental disabilities an opportunity to have a meaningful day. MPower was formerly known as the Sheltered Workshop but changed its name to reflect more about the services they provide in helping adults become independent.
“Supported employment, job training and placement, and residential services are other areas of assistance that we provide clients,” Spiva said. “We build on the skills they have with the ultimate goal for everyone to have their own job.”
Supported employment includes work crews and individual community placements. Danny WhiteEagle is one of those success stories. He was trained at the Sheltered Workshop and gained skills to conduct janitorial work on his own. He worked more than 20 years for the United States Department of Agriculture and retired but became bored at home so he continues employment on a work crew and center-based production assignments.
“I like to clean,” WhiteEagle said and he has never missed a day of work or been late as a janitor.
Spiva said the work ethic of MPower clients is strong and they are very proud to have a job and earn their own money. When contracting with MPower, businesses experience no production losses due to sickness, injury or vacations with no training or overhead expenses, she said.
MPower’s residential department services coordinate training, health care, financial management, continued education and transportation. Another service, Systematic Training for Employment Program, provides the assistive technology that may be needed for an individual with significant challenges, Spiva said.
Belle Smith supervises several MPower clients at the Oklahoma State University Student Union and said they are good workers and “some of the best employees.”
“They ride or die for the black and orange and are Pokes for life,” said MPower Employment Training Specialist Lindsey Slusser.
She checks on workers assigned to independent jobs in the community. Dorothy Marion said the independence is important for her daughter, Debbie Marion, who rolls silverware at Red Lobster.
“I made a lot of friends,” Debbie Marion said. “I never miss work because I know they need me.”
Spiva said the people from MPower know how important it is to show up for work each day and do a job well with the funds from the United Way helping provide staff to train all the clients they serve and “put them to work.”
For more information about MPower’s services or to volunteer, drop by the open house on Tuesday morning or contact Spiva at 405-377-0834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.