- Shining Honor Project, a new not-for-profit organization based in Broken Arrow, is providing job opportunities for developmentally challenged individuals while honoring American service members and their families.
- Shining Honor Project provides job funding for developmentally challenged individuals to clean and restore cemetery headstones belonging to military veterans and their spouses.
- Shining Honor Project is partnering with the Gatesway Foundation, the Tulsa Community Foundation and other caregiving organizations to pay developmentally challenged clients wages that exceed the state minimum wage.
BROKEN ARROW, OKLAHOMA — More than 200,000 Oklahomans, ages five and above, are living with cognitive disabilities. They are three times more likely to live in poverty when they reach adulthood compared to their nondisabled peers, according to data from the 2015 American Community Survey/Census.
Enter Shining Honor Project, a new not-for-profit organization based in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Their mission is to provide much-needed employment opportunities for people with developmental challenges while honoring veterans and their spouses for their service.
In April 2017, Shining Honor Project began a partnership with the Gatesway Foundation. The Shining Honor Project provides funding for Gatesway clients to earn pay that exceeds the minimum wage by cleaning and restoring headstones of military veterans and their spouses.
“The concept for this initiative began when our founders were watching a news story about a fascinating man in Florida who spent many weekends volunteering to clean and restore veteran’s headstones,” said Shining Honor Project Executive Director Erin Wambold. “With the combination of budget cuts and shortages of employment opportunities for adults with developmental challenges, this type of work seemed ideally suited for these individuals while being able to give back to veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for our country.”
It is the mission of Shining Honor Project to honor those who have endured enormous sacrifices for the country while providing jobs for those who desperately need them.
Shining Honor Project Honor Teams have already cleaned more than 2,500 headstones in three Tulsa cemeteries—Oaklawn Cemetery, 1133 E. 11th St., Clinton Oaks Cemetery, 4200 S. 24th West Ave., and Memorial Park Cemetery, 5111 S. Memorial Drive.
The Shining Honor Project has been a fantastic program for Gateway Foundation clients according to Gatesway Foundation Interim President Gloria Morton.
“Giving our clients the opportunity to go to work, earn a paycheck and become increasingly independent has made a difference in their lives,” she said. “You can tell by the smiles on their faces that they enjoy their time with Shining Honor.”
In 15 years as a Gatesway Foundation client, Billy had never shown any interest in any job whatsoever. But when he was approached about becoming an Honor Team member, he was ecstatic and “all in.”
Billy was so proud to be a part of the Project, he insisted on sleeping in his Honor Team orange safety vest. His face beamed with pride when he received his first paycheck. This work gives Shining Honor Project’s team members an added sense of purpose, pride and value to their lives.
Shining Honor Project has received tremendous response and support from veteran’s organizations and the caregiving agencies that support adults in the community with developmental challenges.
“Since there are funding cuts and challenges with locating employment opportunities, caregiving agencies are absolutely thrilled to partner with Shining Honor Project,” Wambold said.
Though the not-for-profit organization is just getting started, they’ve had interests from other states and have plans to expand next spring.
“I see SHP becoming a national organization because this model can be duplicated in every city/community,” Wambold said. “The concept can be expanded to multiple types of projects as well.” MORE
There is something therapeutic and peaceful about sitting down and taking a headstone that’s aging, stained and covered with moss and making it shiny once again. It’s the organization’s purpose to help enrich the lives of their neighbors through fulfilling employment that also serves to better the community.
In addition, Honor Team members earn income that is above the minimum wage, providing much-needed income to help cover their basic essentials. Many Gatesway Foundation clients receive as little as $50 per month of government assistance. Even more importantly, participants are able to work and develop skills that will prove invaluable in a wide range of real-world situations.
One hundred percent of the Shining Honor Project donations go directly to the partnering organizations and Honor Team members with the help of the Tulsa Community Foundation.
All donations are requested to be made to the Tulsa Community Foundation for the Shining Honor Project and are 100 percent tax deductible.TCF serves as an additional resource to help oversee the distribution of funds to Honor Team members through their caregiving agencies.
Shining Honor Project has obtained private funding to pay for all overhead expenses through 2018. No overhead or administrative costs are paid by donors. Donors can have confidence that gifts donated through the Tulsa Community Foundation in the name of Shining Honor Project are going into the hands of those who need it most.
For more information go to shininghonor.org, or to schedule an interview regarding Shining Honor Project, call Executive Director Erin Wambold at (918) 317-3486 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.