Help Works pursues new downtown business venture

Robert Smith
Tara Hendren, left, and Hunter Hansen, right, help to make a presentation to the Pawhuska City Council about a new business venture that Help Works is pursuing. In the photo, Hendren and Hansen are holding a visual aid where members of the council's audience can see it. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

Help Works, a Pawhuska non-profit that provides vocational and residential services to intellectually disabled adults, is pursuing an opportunity to create a role for itself and its clients in the city’s business district.

Janie Glendenning, executive director of the four-decade-old service agency, said the business project will allow Help Works to meet a governmental regulatory requirement about having a business district location, and it will hopefully allow the organization to generate enough income to provide for the health insurance and retirement savings needs of its employees.

Help Works has more than 30 intellectually disabled clients and 81 employees, Glendenning said. The business concept that Help Works is pursuing involves the construction of a building in the 300 block of West Main Street in Pawhuska and the creation of campsites south of 5th Street, along Bird Creek. The building on Main Street is to serve as a business office where employees can handle campsite reservations, operate a camping store with supplies for visitors to the Bird Creek campsites, establish a community food bank, sell ice and fountain drinks, rent bicycles and more.

In an information packet about its project that it presented July 14 to members of the Pawhuska City Council, Help Works said it has purchased several lots south of Fifth Street. Glendenning and other representatives of the organization explained to the council that Help Works desired to acquire additional lots along Bird Creek, owned by government entities, to help further the project.

In a council meeting the next week, on July 21, the city of Pawhuska transferred two lots it owned along Bird Creek to Help Works free of charge, as a donation.

“These are lots that we don’t have any use for at all,” City Attorney John Heskett said. Technically, the city council transferred the two lots to the Pawhuska Municipal Trust Authority, and the authority then transferred them to Help Works. Mayor Roger Taylor congratulated Help Works on the acquisition.

Help Works also approached the Osage County Board of County Commissioners on Monday about a lot the county owns that the organization would like to acquire.

Hunter Hansen, who handles a variety of administrative duties for Help Works, commented to the county commissioners that Glendenning and Tara Hendren, who does research and development work for the agency, have been engaged for several years in a process of developing a concept for the downtown business venture.

The commissioners took no action Monday on the request to acquire an additional lot, with board chairman Randall Jones citing a need for legal research.

Glendenning told the Journal-Capital that the employees of Help Works currently have no health insurance or retirement savings coverage. The agency has offered health insurance in the past, but cost increases made it difficult for the employees to afford, she said.