We Are AbilityWorks

Written by: Jay Webster for Bartlesville Monthly Magazine

Sometimes an organization serves a community long enough that they actually outgrow their name.  That’s exactly what happened to Bartlesville’s AbilityWorks. 

After years of being known in the community as ARC (an acronym for “Association for Retarded Citizens”), the word “retarded” took on a derogatory meaning, especially in pop culture, and no longer reflected the scope of what the organization did.  According to executive director Becky Ingram a new, updated name was needed.

“Our new name, AbilityWorks, is much more positive and refers to the ability or abilities of all individuals and how those abilities can work toward as much independence as possible for everyone we support,” said Ingram. “Being independent is a normal and natural desire for everyone and we work hard to ensure the individuals we support in all our programs can attain as much independence as possible.  It improves self-esteem and empowers people to reach higher and expand their newly found independence.”

AbilityWorks partners with organizations and companies throughout the community to provide work opportunities and service projects; all with Job Coaches who help ensure the work gets done and everyone participates as their ability allows. 

For Ingram, the goal is about empowering lives and maximizing each person’s potential to ensure everyone is entitled to the respect and consideration they deserve.

“The people we support have intellectual and developmental disabilities, but they have the same rights as any other American citizen.  They pay taxes, can vote, and participate in any type of community activity they choose.”

AbilityWorks’ clients work within the organization operating the popular Thrift store, located at 501 S. Virginia Ave, which has been part of the Bartlesville community since the 1950s.  In addition to operating the store, other AbilityWorks clients run the group’s extensive shredding and recycling operation on-site recycling clothing, paper, and cardboard.  As part of the Community Competitive Employment Program other clients work jobs alongside their job coaches out in the city’s workforce at places like McCallister’s Deli and Homeland.

One of Ingram’s favorite work projects that AbilityWorks participates in is the Shining Honor Project, which enriches the lives of those with developmental challenges while honoring our Nation’s Veterans.

“The Shining Honor Foundation pays our clients $10.00 per hour to clean and maintain Veterans’ gravestones.  We work with several cemeteries in Washington County to provide this meaningful service.”

In addition to employment opportunities, AbilityWorks also coordinates and supports a variety of living options for those they serve.

“AbilityWorks owns and operates three six-bed group homes, an Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IID) – known as Jacquelyn House, and currently supports over 25 individuals living in the community in their own homes.  All residential programs are supported by Direct Support Professionals (DSP) to ensure community integration, training on specific goals to increase independence, transportation, and medical supervision through medication administration and health care coordination.”

Ingram and her dedicated staff are passionate about the life-changing mission of AbilityWorks. The board as well as employees work daily to ensure each client knows dignity, opportunity, and achievable independence.  For them AbilityWorks is not just an organization’s name, but a declaration.

For more information on AbilityWorks and their services, as well as information on ways to support and volunteer visit AbilityWorksok.org or 918-336-5928. 

AbilityWorks Facts:

  • AbilityWorks operates a ThirtyStore (501 S Virginia) which offers gently used furniture, home goods, and clothing.
  • AbilityWorks will pick up large furniture donations as well as cardboard for recycling (918-336-5928)
  • AbilityWorks partners with Bartlesville High School (Special Education) to give students opportunities to gain experience while earning high school credit for their work in our Thrift Store. 
  • AbilityWorks is a 501(c)3.  Donations and additional information can be found at their website abilityworksok.org.