Among Friends Activity Center opened in January, 2003 with 6 adults with disabilities and a few volunteers. The purpose was to provide a place for adults with special needs & disabilities who had no place to go and very little activity or social interaction. With about a dozen clients and a donation from United Cerebral Palsy, Among Friends moved into the Community Services Building, 1185 East Main Street in Norman in 2005, and expanded its activity center space to about 1900 square feet. Our capacity increased to about 25 clients, aides, and volunteers. In 2006, Among Friends made an application to the Norman United Way, and was awarded an interim support of $5,000 and awarded funds from the 2007 campaign. This was a big step for us and we began to see there was a huge need in our community for the kind of services Among Friends was providing.
In September, 2010, the Among Friends Board of Directors voted to expand the Activity Center by moving into a new space available in the Community Services Building. This new space gave Among Friends 4000 square feet of area to better handle more clients, and expand their programs and activities. This new area can easily handle 50 people and has a large open area to have room for wheelchairs & walkers.
Open Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 4pm, Among Friends welcomes adults (20+ years of age) with all abilities & disabilities, mental and physical, who would like to meet new people, develop social skills, and participate in activities planned especially for them. A variety of activities like games, arts & crafts, music, karaoke, movies, dances, Wii bowling & games, bingo tournaments, outings, and more are offered. In partnership with Cleveland County Aging Services, clients are given the option to have a hot and balanced meal provided to them each day, or they can pack their own lunch.
In February, 2014, Among Friends expanded its program by adding a 2200 square foot area for the Among Friends Health & Wellness Center. Three days a week clients work out on exercise equipment designed especially for them and have fun in a large area for exercise classes and dance. Weekly Nutrition and Healthy Living Classes and bimonthly Cooking Classes are offered for clients to learn how to eat better and take better care of themselves. The goal of the Health & Wellness Program is to help people with special needs & disabilities have a happy and healthy life, and improve their health & wellbeing.
The newest edition to Among Friends Activity Center has been the Lifelong Learning Center and weekly social discussions. In an attempt to further meet the needs of the clients, Among Friends will now offer tutoring, basic budgeting classes, current events, and other subjects requested by the clients. Along with the Lifelong Learning Center, the social discussions will be based on the need for understanding consent, personal space, basic social clues, and etiquette.
Without Among Friends Activity Center, our clients have expressed that they would be isolated, lonely, and depressed – being stuck at home either alone or with a family member/caretaker, without much social interaction with others their age or like them. At Among Friends, we like to think we of ourselves as extended family and a safe, fun place for our clients to grow, learn, and socialize.
1. Among Friends Activity Center achieved an all-time high number of clients – 60 active clients.
2. Among Friends Activity Center hired a full time Executive Director in November 2016.
3. Among Friends Activity Center has effectively maximized the use of our Activity Space, knocking down a wall to expand the art area as well as creating a quiet, Lifelong Learning Lab for tutoring and classes as well as a comfy “wind down” area for our clients when they get over stimulated by a loud and busy day at the center.
4. As of January 1, 2017 Among Friends Activity Center has effectively gone paperless with daily operations; everything from client files, to bookkeeping, to daily activity logs is now easily accessible to ALL staff for use.
5. 2016 was the highest earning year for Among Friends Activity Center with a handful of successful fundraisers and grant opportunities.
1. Increase the number of active clients from 60 to 75.
2. Grow the relationship between Among Friends Activity Center and the University of Oklahoma’s students, faculty, and staff.
3. Receive specific funding to be able to increase the number and amount of scholarships awarded to clients to help them cover the membership and meal costs on an ongoing basis or in case of emergencies.
4. Hire a marketing intern to help grow our social media presence as well as help create monthly blog posts or newsletters – our goal is to get to 1,000 likes on Facebook by December 31, 2017.
1. Among Friends Activity Center must be able to continue to grow with number of clients while also growing funding sources – meeting or exceeding a budget FY17 of $221,000.
2. Among Friends Activity Center needs increased visibility in the community in order to recruit new members and raise awareness to the programs and activities offered by Among Friends.
3. Among Friends Activity Center needs three additional board members from the community to fill its ranks. This would give Among Friends a 15-member board to better serve the mission of Among Friends Activity Center.
4. In order to achieve #2, Among Friends Activity Center needs marketing and media assistance to help rebrand/reimage the Center’s digital presence to reflect the mission of the organization as well as attract new clients, volunteers, and donors.
5. Among Friends Activity Center is in need of new accessible and durable commercial grade tables and chairs for the Center’s daily use. Purchasing new would cost approximately $2200.
The vision of Among Friends is to be an independent, strong, and sustainable presence in the community, offering programs and opportunities that will improve the well being of adults with special needs and their families and caregivers. 80% of the members at Among Friends live at home with their family as caregivers. These caregivers can be parents, single moms, siblings, and even grandparents. This can be a huge burden on families and cause a lot of stress. Among Friends offers respite breaks for family caregivers which allows them to work, run errands, have lunch with friends, or just rest. We offer our family caregivers support, information, and a Family/Caregiver Support Group. Some of the comments from family members on our 2016 Survey are "I am given a much needed break"; "I have less stress and worry about my loved one"; "The happiness, excitement, and friendships flow through Among Friends everyday with lots of smiles & laughter"; "I have peace of mind knowing my son is at a safe place"; "Having a place to go he likes makes my brother happier at home & easier to deal with"; and " Having a place like Among Friends for my daughter, helps me be able to continue working".
Among Friends is an independent organization that operates on donations, business and community service group contributions, fund raising, and membership fees. NO State or Federal funds are used. Among Friends charges a monthly membership fee of $100. This fee helps support the operations of Among Friends. An Adult Day Care Center costs $65/DAY. Among Friends Activity Center has discovered a need long left unmet in the Norman community, and one that is not met by any other agency in our area.
Our client list over the years has grown with almost no referral network, just by word of mouth and the hard work of a few volunteers. With the number of disabled children in the public schools, research shows that the need will continue to grow rapidly and Among Friends must continue to grow and expand to meet these needs in our community.
Today, Among Friends is working with the high schools to help transition disabled students into the community, offering Among Friends as an option. One of our goals is to re-integrate our members into the community and help them feel more comfortable in public settings, while forming relationships with others in a social setting. Some of our clients have developed enough self-confidence to move into their own housing, get jobs after developing their social skills, and make friends and get together outside the center for dinner, etc.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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