Pauls Valley Democrat
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
Being a part of the atmosphere at the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center has certainly been a challenge in the last few years alone, but for one employee, it’s just one of many chapters in a proud 40 year relationship.
It was March of 1972 when Rick Shreve first joined the former state school, working directly with clients for several years before transferring over to a department that’s as become much a part of him as it is the other way around. Now the maintenance/construction supervisor, he spends most days overseeing more than being directly involved, but has not lost touch with no day anymore set than the one before.
“It’s been a learning experience... you never know what’s going to pop up, it’s certainly not routine,” said Shreve, who was born in Ft. Worth Texas, but grew up in Elmore City. “Just when you think you’ve got everything lined up, there’s a surprise.”
In fact, Shreve has seen quite a few changes to the campus in those four decades from the educational environment where people could grow up and enter society as functioning citizens to reductions to the point where only the most severe cases receive treatment. Even his department has seen a significant scale-down of services from 46 employees at one point including building on campus when he started to nine individuals maintaining the remaining structures.
However, one thing that keeps him coming back day to day is providing something for the residents, with plenty still around and those he knew years ago always surprising him with a visit after leaving so long ago. One of his fondest memories is getting to play Santa Claus on occasion and seeing the clients’ faces light up at what many adults take for granted.
“I can remember clients getting together to go to Special Olympics, dances... every holiday and all kinds of activities,” said Shreve, noting how he still chuckles when thinking about clients hanging on him like a ornaments on a Christmas Tree. “It tugged on your heart strings to know that was their Christmas.”
Shreve has also got to share his working life in one way or another with his wife Pat, who has worked at SORC for 30 years as an administrative assistant for nursing services. Whether he is at home or work there is that family feeling and it isn’t unusual to reminisce about all the experiences while at the facility.
In the end, while Shreve admits things will not return to exactly like the used to be, he would like to see SORC become a true resource center where more people can be served if they choose to seek treatment there. He sees the new direction including the construction of more energy efficient living units and reducing the overall footprint.
“I’ve got a great bunch of guys who will do anything I ask,” said Shreve. “This is what has driven me for these many years and is also what I shall continue, to the best of my ability, to continue to provide.”
Shreve noted how there are thousands of people waiting to be a part of the center and believes it still has many more years of use left. He believes this has in part been made possible because of those like the guys he works with who share a similar focus and dedication to the overall mission.
“I’m not larger than life by any means, though it does take a lot to be here for 40 years,” said Shreve, who plans on sticking around for a while longer with five or six years before he’s eligible for social security. “For the last 36 years I have been tasked in one capacity or another with providing a clean, safe and comfortable living environment for our clients... best part of working here are the friends, the relationships I’ve built with people.”