According to its own numbers, the center works with approximately 1,200 central Oklahomans. Executive Director Connie McGoodwin said DRTC’s economic impact is profound, generating $5.5 million in wages for the state’s disabled community.
In 1953, the center was founded as a school by parents inspired by Angel Unaware, a book by Dale Evans Rogers, the third wife of movie and TV cowboy Roy Rogers. The best-seller told the story of the couple’s handicapped daughter, Robin, who died at age 1. As the original students aged, the school transitioned to a vocational school and employment assistance center.
Today, DRTC has businesses on its campus, as well as services that connect clients with jobs in the community. Clients are assigned a job coach who helps match interests and job skills with positions in metro businesses.
One of those clients, Amber Little, 33, moved from Indiana to Norman when she was a child. In spite of her handicaps, she is employed and largely self-sufficient. Working with her DRTC coaches for the past decade, Little has been employed by McDonald’s, Buy for Less and a pet-grooming business in Norman. She said her job coach is critical to her success.
“She checks on me at work,” Little said, “and I talk to her about how to do the job and any other concerns I have.”
In addition to employment training and service, DRTC sponsors Camp Tumbleweed, a summer camp designed to serve teens and young adults with developmental disabilities. This year, the organization became the nation’s first nonprofit agency to purchase Papa Murphy’s franchises to train its clients. The first location, on NW 23rd Street, held its grand opening in July.
Additionally, DRTC works with clients who have a wide array of intellectual disabilities, physical handicaps, hearing impairments and learning disabilities.
McGoodwin said more than 80 percent of DRTC clients are working in the community at businesses as diverse as Hobby Lobby, OG&E and Altus Air Force Base. The agency also manages to be about 83 percent self-sufficient, thanks in part to the on-campus businesses, including a trophy company and online store.