When it comes to volunteers and the disabled, most think of the former helping the latter.
In Moore, a special group of people with disabilities have flipped that assumption on its head by forming a new chapter of the international Aktion Clubs service organization. In just six short months, the dedicated, 32-member group has performed more than 1,500 hours of community service – a feat that would do credit to any volunteer organization in the metro area and beyond.
Aktion Club is the only service organization in the world for adults with disabilities, with more than 12,000 members in 14 countries. The new chapter is the first of its kind in Oklahoma and is co-sponsored by the Moore and South Oklahoma City chapters of Kiwanis International.
After initially forming in August of 2017, the official charter recognition of the club by Kiwanis International was finalized in late February. To celebrate, the group hosted a Mardi Gras-themed banquet on March 8, attended by chapter members, Kiwanis representatives and supporters from the local community. Performing at the event also were members of the Westmoore High School Key Club.
Key Clubs are service groups for high school students sponsored by Kiwanis.
“Our mission is to show people that we can help others; they’re not victims of something,” said Jessicia Smith, Santa Fe Place director and Aktion Club adviser. “It’s a way to focus not on their limitations but on how they can help others. They have really pulled it together to do amazing things.”
Members of the new Aktion Club reside at Santa Fe Place, a home for disabled adults. Their ages range from 18 to 70, and the disabilities they face also run the gamut – everything from Down syndrome and cerebral palsy to autism, seizure disorders and various types of mental cognition issues. The volunteers come from every type of background, and the group is divided equally, 16 men and 16 women. While advisers are available, members run the club themselves, including the requisite financial and administrative duties.
“Simply saying they’re a volunteer group for people with disabilities does not do it justice,” added Mary Ford, adviser and Moore Kiwanis member. “By becoming involved members are developing communication, interaction and learning skills, and they can become further integrated into the community. It also helps inspire us, as Kiwanians, to do better.”
Sarah Watson, vice president for the Aktion Club, also addressed banquet attendees and shared how the members benefit.
“We laugh together; we care about each other,” she said. “It helps us to work as a team, to help and communicate and to offer our talents and ideas. We look forward to new challenges and doing good deeds.”
The types of volunteering these adults perform, and the locations and people they assist, cross a wide spectrum and add up to more than 300 hours of community service each month, Smith said. As an example, Aktion members go twice weekly to the Moore Free and Charitable Clinic, where they provide janitorial and lawn care assistance.
Another regular beneficiary is Jordan’s Crossing, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that allows parents and children to remain together during the adult’s treatment. Aktion members continually collect baby items and toys for the center’s families.
Among other activities, they’ve also taken part in the Salvation Army Christmas season bell ringing and provided crowd security and cleanup at the Oklahoma City Holiday Red River Parade.
“They’ve done a great job for us,” said Jordan Evans, owner of Evans State Farm Agency in Moore, who utilizes the group to provide parking lot cleanup and other janitorial services.
In turn he provides financial support and does fundraising so club members can attend an annual camp that serves people with disabilities.
“It’s amazing to see how much they respond when they’re given an opportunity,” he said. “On the days they come into our building, it puts everyone in a good mood.”