United Way presents OCARC clients bring joy to others

Published 6:00 am Saturday, December 18, 2021

(Editor’s Note: This is part 14 of a 21-part series on the partners of United Way of Orange County.)

OCARC has been an integral part of the Orange County community for over half-a-century, and continues to be an important part of life for many individuals and families across the area.

OCARC provides intellectually challenged adults an opportunity for vocational training.  They also provide daily rehabilitation services, which focus on building social, cognitive and self-help skills.

OCARC, which was founded in 1956, was formed by concerned parents and citizens.

Since 1971, OCARC, according to its website, has expanded with other Workshop extensions, serving around 23 adults daily. OCARC has now been in the industrial engraving sign business for over 20 years, and makes all types of signs, desk sets, name pins both in plastic and metal. Other products include trophies, plaques and industrial signs.

The “employees” who make the signs and trophies are actually OCARC’s clients, developmentally disabled adults, who receive vocational training by making these items, with special focus on social and cognitive skills.

As a non-profit, OCARC relies on sales of their items and help from United Way in order to provide these services, and an annual fundraiser in the form of their annual fishing tournament, known as the OCARC Annual Fishing Tournament, always held the first weekend in August. as well as funding through United Way of Orange County.

“United Way does so much to help the different agencies such as Day of Caring,” OCARC Executive Director John Thomas said.

While the organization did not utilize Day of Caring this year, it is grateful for all United Way does to help them.

“When it does to painting and things like that, we try to be as self-sufficient,” Thomas said.

He added that at one time, it was hard because OCARC would get a percentage of the funds raised through the United Way Campaign.

“Maureen has been wonderful about finding extra money,” Thomas said. “The staff of United Way come up with new ideas for fundraising.”

Now, OCARC gets 1005 of the funds requested each quarter.

“We have been with United Way for over 48 years,” Thomas said. “They were partners when I came on board almost 48 years ago. Without them, we would be in trouble.”

COVID had a huge impact on the organization as clients moved and a couple were lost due to the pandemic.

“Our goal is to bring in new clients,” Thomas said. “Not all of it was due to COVID, some was due to the floods. Group homes moved out of the area due to the floods.”

It is the clients which brings Thomas back every day.

“We opened the sign shop before we reopened services to our clients,” Thomas said. “It was not the same here without them.”

“I always say, if you’re having a bad day, just stop by,” Thomas added. “One of the clients will strike your heart and make your day better.”

Before the organization was formed, there were no services in the area for the clients of OCARC.

“Citizens of Orange County built this shop in 1971,” Thomas said. “Orange always takes care of its own.”

And it continues by making donations to the United Way to help its partner agencies keep the doors open such as organization like OCARC serving members of Orange County.

“We could not operate without the United Way,” Thomas said.

To make a donation to United Way of Orange County, visit https://tinyurl.com/mvb46fy7