The Building Bridges Ready To Work center in Cabot is helping adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities live an independent life and find employment in the community.
Building Bridges, formerly the Lonoke Exceptional School, marks its 50th anniversary this year. It is a nonprofit organization that receives funding from Arkansas Rehabilitation Services and Medicaid.
The Ready to Work center opened in 2018, in a 2,000 square foot office on South Second Street in Cabot next to Peppermill Café. In January, the work center moved to 205 N. 10th St., an 8,500 square foot building, that was a fitness center.
Ready To Work employment specialist Holly McMurty said they support over 100 clients through Arkansas Rehabilitation Services’ Employment First program, Lonoke and North Little Rock high schools students and adult clients in the community.
The work center has 12 clients, who come from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the week. Building Bridges provides transportation to the center.
McMurty said they have smaller class sizes to work more one-on-one with clients.
“Everything we do in the program will help them foster the independence they need,” McMurty said.
She said Ready To Work clients are higher functioning and have to able to do classwork and participate. Some clients already live on their own and drive. At the work center, they are learning and working on skills all day.
McMurty said, “It is almost like a college-feel. Some days clients may be working on art or history. We take them on college field trips, if they are interested in college. We help them fill out financial aid applications, help them get set up for college and show them all their options they can choose for what is best for them.”
Clients are in the work program for two years, or longer if needed. Clients learn job skills in their interests and are matched with employees. Clients gain work experience and see if it is for them.
Clients at the work center, work on resume building, mock interviews, fill out job applications, learn how to use email and how to use a computer, instead of a Chromebook.
They also work on daily independent living skills. Some clients come to the center to improve reading and basic math skills, learn how to read a bill and budgeting. The center can help clients get CPR certified.
The work center plans to set up a shelving station, so clients can learn how to stock shelves. The building has a kitchen, so clients can learn proper food handling and safety.
Ready To Work partners with Eventology of North Little Rock, an event rentals company that is one of the biggest North Little High School supporters; Cabot and Lonoke community centers, Beebe, Cabot and Lonoke public libraries, Cabot Animal Shelter, Goodwill, Grumpy Rabbit restaurant, Jackrabbit Hardware, Tractor Supply, KFC, Dairy Queen, Crown Trophies, Days Inn, the Humble Thread, Eads Auto and Tire, Home Depot, Marshall’s and Pride Industries, and providing landscaping work for Little Rock Air Force Base.
Client Haley Phifer of Ward works at Marshalls in Cabot. She sorts clothing, helps with layout and puts misplaced merchandise back on the racks and shelves in the evening. Phifer keeps the store clean and neat.
Phifer is a 2019 Cabot High School graduate. She started working at Marshalls in Cabot last month. It is her first paying job.
Phifer said, “Ms. Andrea, Holly and Chris and everyone at the Ready To Work center, helped me out getting this job and I appreciate them helping me out. They taught me things I didn’t learn in high school. They helped with job interview questions, and I got better.”
Store manager Lydia Campbell said, “Haley has a bubbly personality. She has made friends. Haley is a fast learner and easy to train.”
Client Brandon Washington of Jacksonville works at the Grumpy Rabbit restaurant in downtown Lonoke, washing dishes and busing tables.
“I like washing dishes and being with my co-workers. It is a fun place to work,” Washington said.
Assistant manager Kyle Johnson said, “Everybody needs an opportunity. Brandon works hard and is a good teammate.”
Washington said the Ready To Work center is nice.
Client Cody Goggans graduated from Cabot High School in 2018. He worked in the Ready To Work high school program.
Goggans said, “I like the amount of space we have in the new building. I’ve been learning about art and some history lessons.”