Empowerment Through Learning with Focus, Inc.

In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Greenbrier spoke with the nonprofit NE Arkansas, Focus, Inc. (Focus). Greenbrier and Focus were introduced in 2020, shortly after Greenbrier acquired the manufacturing businesses of American Railcar Industries, including Greenbrier Paragould and Greenbrier Marmaduke. Although Greenbrier and Focus, Inc. have recently partnered, the organizations have already built a solid foundation and look forward to working together in the future.

Focus, Inc.’s mission statement

Enable individuals, with or without disabilities, to pursue their goals and take their place in our community.

As a subset of the Department of Social Services, Focus serves individuals referred by the State of Arkansas or by referred physicians. Most of the people who need these services live in poverty and have developmental disabilities, such as autism or cerebral palsy.

Sabrina Woodson, CEO of Focus, Inc., joined the team right out of college and has never looked back. In fact, she recently celebrated 22 years with the organization and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. Focus is a group of 200 employees, 100 less than before the pandemic.

Many organizations, including Greenbrier, are feeling the pressure to get dedicated talent and Focus is no exception. Sabrina detailed some of the ways employment and talent acquisition challenges impact the organization: “We see a turnover rate of around 30%. This work is incredibly rewarding but very difficult and it takes a special person to be dedicated to the mission. ”


One of the most striking things about Focus is its accessibility to programming for all ages. The organization started in 1978 and only offered programs for young children. Today it has broadened to include both early childhood support, adult development, and individual life with supports (waiver services).

According to Sabrina, children’s programs generally get more funding than adult programs. Focus operates two early childhood programs focused on the developmental stages.

  1. The Focus Early Childhood program emphasizes play-based learning while ensuring cognitive, social, self-help and language development, as well as gross and fine motor skills, among other areas of instruction.

  2. The Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) program provides preschool education services to children under the age of five who have multiple developmental and socio-economic risk factors.

Focus is in favor of early intervention and personalized support according to the needs of the person. They offer speech, occupational therapy and physiotherapy care to ensure that every child receives high quality care in all areas of risk.

Emphasis is among one of the alone programs in the region that support adult learning and care – a traditionally neglected demographic. Through her Adult Development Program, Sabrina says the organization’s vision for each individual is to foster a life where individuals can be empowered. Although autonomy varies for each participant, the services that Focus supports range from integrating them into day programs, facilitating living and supportive living conditions, and providing a learning experience. actual work.

Moving people from an assisted living facility to their own apartment is one of the most exciting things Focus makes. The organization helps people physically move, gets them to buy furniture, and teaches them the life skills needed to do things like grocery shopping and budgeting.

“There isn’t always a lot of natural support for this [adult] demographic. We have two “Focus Houses”. They are in the community, integrated into the neighborhoods. Most have four bedrooms, so our participants live in shared accommodation. The staff will also be living with them, ”said Sabrina. “Attendees make their own budgets and do their shopping, and Focus is the vendor that will help get customers where they want to go. ”

Some of the Focus participants want to work. Five years ago, the organization launched the Supported Employment Development Program. The program helps participants find and keep rewarding employment by partnering with local businesses. Focus ensures that the individual’s interests and long-term goals are taken into consideration when searching for a position.

After completing the job search, Focus provides a certified job coach to help participants get training. The work coach helps the participant learn their work and will slowly step back as the participant becomes more independent at work. “A lot of people in their lives are paid to be there, so finding a job gives our participants new social activities,” said Sabrina.

Finally, some people need day programs rather than housing assistance or supported employment. For this service, Focus operates a transportation program with 27 buses that pick up children and adults in Northeast Arkansas. Some bus lines last up to an hour and a half. “We’re not getting a lot of money back and the bus schedule is still in the red.” However, this is an essential program, as around 95% of the participants take the bus and it brings everyone to a Focus center. “We rely on transportation because parents usually cannot bring children and adults every morning.”

Funding for programming is a challenge. “We have limited funds and resources. If we leave a building and go on field trips, we eat the fees because there is no refund. But we like to go to the movies, the zoo or whatever. excursion because for some children and adults, this is the first time they have attended these activities. ”

To be involved

Sabrina is proud of the community of Paragould, Arkansas, and her commitment to supporting Focus. In fact, she calls the region of Paragould “a hidden treasure” and recognizes that a large part of Focus’s work depends on a united and united community. As part of Greenbrier’s involvement with the larger nonprofit organization Paragould, we contributed $ 10,000 in October 2021. We are proud to work with Focus, Inc. and look forward to further developing our partnership .

How can you get involved with Focus?

  • Make a donation

    • To contribute money, visit the Focus, Inc. website.

    • Focus has several storage sheds to store apartment furniture for new tenants. If you have lightly worn furniture, coordinate with Focus, [email protected]

  • Volunteer

    • Focus organizes several events, almost all of which require volunteers

    • Create your own volunteer time by visiting our website

  • Become a supported employment partner by sending an email [email protected]

Holistic care

Focus takes care of young children with developing minds (early intervention) as well as support for adults in all life situations. The organization adapts its approach to ensure that it supports each person individually, rather than a single attitude.

“What’s normal for you and me? It should serve as a bar. We give our participants the power to choose what they want and what makes them happy.”

– Sabrina


Greenbrier Companies Inc. published this content on October 26, 2021 and is solely responsible for the information it contains. Distributed by Public, unedited and unmodified, on October 26, 2021 09:07:03 PM UTC.

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