Pawhuska’s Help Works turns 40

Robert Smith
Help Works provides services to developmentally disabled adults. The non-profit organization receives some financial support from the state of Oklahoma, but also conducts fundraisers to generate a significant portion of the revenue it needs. Staff and clients are pictured here last Friday morning. Robert Smith/Journal Capital

Help Works, the Pawhuska non-profit that provides vocational, employment and residential services to developmentally disabled adults, is 40 years old. The organization held a birthday bash Friday.

Janie Glendenning, executive director of Help Works, explained the organization was founded by mothers of developmentally disabled adults in the fall of 1979 in the basement of the Christian Church. The mothers created a day care for their adult children.

Help Works now serves more than 30 individuals, providing services 365 days a year. It receives some state funding, to reimburse staff costs, but must have money available upfront to pay the wages that are later reimbursed. In addition to the work center and administrative office that Help Works maintains at 219 Lincoln, there are four group homes located at Cedar Ridge.

Tricia Thomas, who manages the vocational workshop aspect of Help Works, said 17 job coaches help the 30-plus service recipients.

“We’re about empowering people,” Glendenning said. Some of the people Help Works serves live with their parents. Others are married and live on their own. Still others live in the group homes that were built in 2001. The organization received a grant from the state for that project.

Because it is a private, non-profit organization that contracts with the state to provide services, but receives only partial financial support from the state, Help Works frequently conducts fundraisers. It is well-known in Pawhuska for fundraisers that are offered to the public in October, during the buildup to Halloween.

Help Works will be holding a “Spook Walk” from 8-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays this month at 219 Lincoln. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. There will also be an auction at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Pawhuska Elks Lodge, and Help Works is planning to sell Christmas trees in December.

Glendenning, who will mark her 26th anniversary with Help Works on Sunday, Oct. 13, offered details about the kinds of financial challenges the organization faces. She mentioned that Help Works bought five new vans last year, and had to make financial arrangements to manage the $140,000 of cost involved. She depends on the creative thinking of Tara Hendren, who manages Research and Development, to help come up with ideas for revenue generation.

The waiting list for the services Help Works provides is huge, and the wait for a spot there can be six years, Glendenning said. The result is a work environment characterized by great need and constant challenges.

“I have been here 26 years and I have never been bored,” Glendenning said. Help Works has a Facebook page titled “Help Works Inc. Why Knot.”