The Blue Umbrella Gift Shop Celebrates Opening to Public
Provides a Supportive Employment Opportunity for Arkansans with Developmental Disabilities
(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) – The Blue Umbrella gift shop officially opened to the public today, offering a year-round supported employment opportunities to clients of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS). The gift shop features handmade items created by Arkansans with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Store artisans and employees, providers, community partners, and DHS staff from around the state attended the grand opening ceremony at DHS to celebrate as the shop officially opened its doors to the public.
“I woke up smiling and excited because we were finally going to have the opening where the public can now come in and take part in this incredible community of artists that we have,” said DHS Director Cindy Gillespie. “I’m so proud of not just the team here but also our store manager and all of the artists who are clearly excited to be a part of this. We see what people can accomplish with their abilities. We don’t focus on their disabilities.”
The store will be open weekdays starting today, February 7, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. inside the DHS Central Offices in downtown Little Rock at 700 S. Main Street. The store will accept cash, checks, and credit cards.
DDS Director Melissa Stone says the reason for the store is to help clients have a better life.
“One hundred percent of the crafts here are made by clients with disabilities. One hundred percent of the profits go directly back to them and the staff that work here who also have developmental disabilities,” Stone said.
Blue Umbrella’s inventory includes custom-made rugs, magnets, jewelry, birdhouses, wreaths, paintings and sculptures, candles, soaps, greeting cards, and more.
Chris Moore makes rugs at the Human Development Center in Booneville, and he’s excited to see his work sold in The Blue Umbrella.
“It feels good. The money goes in our account, and we can use that to go shopping,” Moore said.
DDS provides funding for community- and facility-based services to thousands of Arkansans. The division also operates five residential Human Development Centers statewide, which are home to nearly 1,000 clients. The division’s mission is to work with clients so that they can be as independent as possible and have a high quality of life, Stone said.
For more information about The Blue Umbrella, the artisans, and the inventory in the shop, visit its website at www.blueumbrellaar.org.
|Pictured above - Blue Umbrella store manager Mederick Davis, receives applause from the audience as he speaks during the grand opening of the store inside the Department of Human Services on February 7, 2019, in Little Rock.
|Pictured above - Guests shop for hand-crafted goods during the grand opening of the Blue Umbrella store inside the Department of Human Services on February 7, 2019, in Little Rock.