30 Sep Conway County Center provides employment, social activities for disabled adults and children
By Morgan Zimmerman
For Executive Director Kara Jones and the staff of Conway County Center for Exceptional Children (CCCEC) in Morrilton, the mission is simple, to empower people with developmental disabilities and delays. They do this every day through various support programs that focus on what their clients can do, not what they can’t.
The CCCEC has around 90 individuals enrolled in three programs that include services for children and adults in Conway County and a site that serves children in Perry County. Jones said that enrollment has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and is lower than average for them. The organization has been serving Central Arkansas since 1970 through the Beginnings Preschool program as well as the ACTION (Adult Center Toward Independent Occupational Needs) Services program on the main campus in Morrilton. The children’s program provides therapies for children with developmental delays and disabilities. The adult program provides meaningful employment and life skills training for adults in that same demographic.
Jones believes that what makes ACTION Services special is its attention to both the physical and mental well-being of its adult clients. The events of the past two years have limited access even further for individuals with developmental delays and disabilities. The isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the likelihood that therapy will be missed and that developmental milestones will not be met. The ACTION program provides a safe space for clients to focus on their strengths, build independence, and know they are valued. Jones added that for her and her staff, “It’s about our clients’ strengths and all the wonderful goals they are accomplishing.”
That list of what the clients get to do is quite long. The life skills program teaches self-care, cooking, and household management. Clients also get time for recreation and leisure activities, like using the gym, learning computer skills, or doing arts and crafts. A fringe benefit of these activities that contributes to the overall wellness of clients is the opportunity to socialize. Things like “Fun Fridays,” where a different speaker comes each week to teach clients about an organization in their community, are expanding horizons. ACTION Services also provides accessible transportation to and from campus, and Jones says the bus is like a social hour full of singing and lively conversation, noting that riding the bus with clients is one of her favorite parts of her job.
Her second favorite thing comes from the ACTION Shredding Workshop. ACTION Shredding provides confidential document shredding for nearly 300 Central Arkansas businesses. Clients can sometimes shred up to 1,000 pounds of paper in a day. This work gives clients a sense of independence as they earn a paycheck each month. Jones is grinning from ear to ear when she recalls delivering paychecks to the workshop and being met with shouts of joy and proud exclamations from the program participants. “Thank goodness they are here with us and that we get to witness everything that they accomplish,” she said.
While there are other programs that serve children and adults with developmental disabilities around the 501, ACTION Services is one of the few that provides a work program for clients and the only one providing that service in Conway County’s surrounding counties. The nonprofit organization works in partnership with the state, and while their primary source of funding is Medicaid, they are also funded in part by the United Way of Central Arkansas and by community support from local fundraisers as well as civic and business partnerships.
According to the Arkansas Developmental Disabilities Provider Association, without nonprofit community programs like this one, many people with developmental disabilities would receive no services or support at all.
Plans for the CCCEC include adding more accessible outdoor spaces for the adult program and continuing community outreach to reach more adults and children with developmental disabilities.
For more information, visit centerforexceptionalchildren.org or contact Jones at 501.354.4484.