Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

October 29, 2013

Transition opens doors for family biz

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — Every day is one day closer to the final chapter for the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center, but it also means opening the door of growth for more of those in the private sector.

One such entity hoping to offer a personal alternative during transition right here in Pauls Valley is DJK Enterprises, a plan that in part got going with the announcement of a closure date for the former state school back in November last year.

Led by CEO and owner Jean Kilgore, they began with what was actually a former SORC resource, The Willow Tree thrift store.

“I’m in it because there’s a need, I feel like I can help people have a better life,” said Kilgore, who has a background in the industry going back to similar events when the Hissom Center closed by the early 1990s.

“A lot of them have not had the opportunity to live that kind of life… they need to have that opportunity.”

A family formed entity from the get-go, the name of the company comes partly from Kilgore’s name, as well as her late husband David.

They started it together back in 1991 in Ada and with the eight clients they recently added in Garvin County, the company has 50 clients overall involved in either vocational and or three resident homes.

“My husband encouraged me to do it, I haven’t regretted it,” said Kilgore. “I wouldn’t change anything.”

Kilgore and her employees are largely motivated by the opportunities they provide for their clients, like helping take full advantage of freedom to move around in the community or earn a paycheck through entities like this reopened thrift store where most of the local clients work.

After converting it back in the spring, there was an opening in June and the company already has helped with the transition of a couple of former SORC clients in a home in Wynnewood.

However, these jobs can be through any local entity, with another example being an individual who works at Braum’s and the eventual hope is more area businesses take part. Residents of the community play a role in supporting them as well as the thrift store depends on donations from area residents with items from electronics to clothing and a small section for small pets featured.

“Our goal is to get them jobs in the community… A lot of them can work some people think they can’t,” said Kilgore, adding how their vocational services in Ada involve a pet store and a presence in Tecumseh.

“The overall goal is to work our way out of the job… To live independently like anyone else.”

There are even opportunities for those who want to work in direct care being created, perhaps something to consider as the SORC closure date in 2014 is still the plan.

Kilgore hopes to employ some of the people at the state school who are already trained and noted how they recently hired a program coordinator that worked at SORC for 20 years.

The ultimate imprint DJK will be able to make in the community will depend on how many families or guardians decide to go with them for vocational services and or living arrangements.

Kilgore expects the possibility of more referrals from SORC as there are still many clients in need of placement and in the future may try other business ventures if enough people in this area enter into agreements.

Kilgore offers one bit of comfort for those who are concerned if clients can get proper care in a transition to the community noting how several former residents of the Hissom Center near Sand Springs she’s dealt with have lived very fulfilling lives.

In the meantime they will also try to be more involved in local events and causes as well, including the Relay for Life, where they have a team run each year in Ada already.

“We’re going to continue to grow as we get referrals,” said Kilgore. “I think a year from now many of these parents will say it’s good."