By: Sheryl Sowell | Category: Education | Issue: September 2015
Dr. Ralph Richardson, chief executive officer of Home of Hope.
Millions of men and women in the United States live with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Every day, individuals struggle with impairment in functions most of us take for granted, and they often find themselves separated from involvement in a world that doesn’t know how to respond to their needs – a world that either doesn’t notice or chooses to ignore their presence. The history of society’s treatment of men and women with disabilities has been filled with personal tragedy, ranging from the damaging assumption that they are capable of so little, so they should be allowed to do little, to the unspoken fearfulness that has led to efforts to isolate or harm those who could not defend themselves. Many still endure physical and verbal abuse, extreme neglect, and ridicule. Even more are left without opportunities to truly live, thrive, and find purpose in their lives because it is assumed that they are incapable of productive work, meaningful relationships, and a fulfilling life.
It is this marginalized treatment of these individuals that led Dr. Ralph Richardson to Home of Hope, a nonprofit organization based in Vinita that provides residential, vocational and other services to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Dr. Richardson is a psychologist who has worked with trauma victims throughout his career, including families of children with medical crises such as cancer and blood diseases. Prior to joining Home of Hope as chief executive officer in August of 2014, Dr. Richardson worked with at-risk youth at Hope Harbor Children’s Home in Claremore for 10 years. “I came to Home of Hope to work with a wonderful but still vulnerable population. These men and women with developmental disabilities deserve the same opportunities we all want in life, including a home, relationships, and meaningful work, but they need some degree of support to make it possible. I’m thrilled to be a part of a place that is dedicated to providing those opportunities.”
Home of Hope was created in 1968 by two mothers of children with Down syndrome, at a time when adults with developmental disabilities were given little hope or support toward social interaction, a purposeful life, or any semblance of independence. Today, Home of Hope provides a broad range of services to over 200 individuals in a six-county area spanning two states, through a variety of residential programs, vocational training and job placement services, and quality of life activities programs.
Each program has separate qualifying criteria. The Community Support Programs enable individuals to live in their own home or in their family home, while staff members provide support such as cooking and money management. Group Home Programs provide residential living in a group setting of six to ten people, and are ideal for those who are independent but require some amount of assistance. The Intermediate Care Facility Program provides residential living in a group home setting of six to eight people who require direct care 24 hours a day. The Vocational Programs offer services based on an individual’s ability and needs, ranging from pre-employment skills training to job coach oversight. The Quality of Life Activities Program is large in scale and includes a state-of-the-art equine program, social gatherings, theatre productions, community outings and teams in the Special Olympics.
What truly sets Home of Hope apart, says Dr. Richardson, is the staff – the heart of the organization – which includes more than 340 full and part-time employees. “The people here go above and beyond what is required and give genuine attention to what each individual needs in their life. It is amazing to see the impact you have had on someone, such as when they receive a paycheck for the work they’ve performed and pride shines in their eyes. Working with this population can be physically and emotionally difficult, and you must have a heart for doing something that truly matters. Everyone here has that desire to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
To support its many important programs, Home of Hope does hold several fundraising events throughout the year, but what it needs most is ongoing financial and volunteer support, and of course it’s always looking for great people to join its team of dedicated employees.
Sheryl Sowell was born and raised in Tulsa, OK. She graduated from Will Rogers High School and received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Northeastern State University in 2007. She has worked for Value News as editor, writer and advertising copywriter since 2008. She enjoys meeting and interviewing people for Value News articles, learning about their backgrounds, and helping to promote their businesses and local events. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new recipes and crafts from Pinterest, attending concerts and sporting events, and spending time with family and friends. Sheryl lives in Tulsa with her fiancé Paul, their daughter Scarlett, and their two dogs, Gunner and Boo.
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