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Open Avenues: Fighting the Term 'Retard'

ROGERS, AR--KNWA first reported this week a movement starting in central Arkansas to ban the use of the word "retarded". In Northwest Arkansas, organizations are pledging to end the use of the "R" word.
ROGERS, AR--KNWA first reported this week a movement starting in central Arkansas to ban the use of the word "retarded". In Northwest Arkansas, organizations are pledging to end the use of the "R" word.

Allison McElroy, foundation director for Open Avenues said, "We have physical disabilities, we have mental illness disabilities, people who have had head trauma or accidents."

Meet John Youll. He had a bad accident. These days he rides the bus to Open Avenues in Rogers and starts working around nine o'clock in the morning.

Youll said, "This is a place that gives me a chance to work and other places don't have that opportunity because I have seizures."

The non-profit organization provides opportunities for adults with disabilities. McElroy believes it gives clients hope and you can tell by the smiles on their faces.

"We do packaging, labeling, anything that can be taken away from the main production line and brought into our work center. They get paid based on how many pieces they get done," McElroy said.

From the work room to the classroom, clients can also work on life skills like cooking and cleaning.

Youll said, "With my accident I've been through all the training and skills classes myself."

Open Avenues--proving mental and physical handicaps will not keep folks like John from living a normal life.

"If I do have seizures they know what to do here and this little magnet they know what to do and how to take care of me. I couldn't go to other places because they wouldn't know how to do that," Youll said.

The organization gives clients the chance to chase their dreams and in return, a priceless reward for staff.

McElroy said, "It's an opportunity for them to transition into a working environment and learn more skills in hopes that they can find a job that maybe they have always wanted to do."

Executive director, Brenda Neal said, "Any day that I'm having a bad day, I can walk out into the work center and about 25 people holler at me. They make me want to come everyday."

Visit Open Avenues at www.openavenues.org

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