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SunHive Collective

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SunHive Story

Nurturing Growth and Inclusion for Young Adults with Disabilities

Nestled among the rolling hills and trees of northeast Norman sits a beautiful haystack building. This once humble dwelling has transformed into a place of enrichment for one of the most vulnerable sections of society.

SunHive Collective is a non-profit organization that creates a safe and inviting space for young adults with disabilities to grow in their daily living, social and transitional skills.

This mission shows the same care for community that serves as a pillar of OEC and OEC Fiber. It is with that in mind that OEC Fiber donated one year of service, at no cost, to help SunHive better serve their “hive.”

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with SunHive Collective,” said OEC Fiber’s senior manager of sales and business development, Michelle Hohlier. “They embody our commitment to caring for the community, providing vital services that truly make a difference in the lives of their members and their families. We are excited to witness their growth and the amazing impact they have on transforming lives.”

The importance of what they do cannot me understated.

Many special needs individuals find a place to belong in school. They have access to additional resources and interactions with others that enrich their lives. Unfortunately, many lose this upon graduation.

“They’re going home and sitting there not doing anything,” said co-founder and director of operations, Melissa Collyar. 

As of 2021, around 13.5% of the U.S. population has some type of disability. This group is incredibly close to Collyar’s heart. Her daughter, Hanna, is one of the hive members. Seeing the isolation Hannah experienced after graduation exposed the need for a place where she could socialize with friends and feel a part of the community she lives in.

“There wasn’t anything out there that she was able to do. The services that are out there require you to do certain things. And so, the ones that can’t [do them] end up staying at home with their parents.” 

When Nikki Mire, program director, called Collyar about the vision she had for what would become SunHive, she was ecstatic. They discussed Mire’s five-year project plan. Fast-forward one year, and SunHive is a buzz with activity.

For any organization, let alone a non-profit, to come together in such a short period is astounding. Doing so with the level of success they have is remarkable. Their facility sits atop a hill, looking out over a beautiful tree-filled landscape. Five of their 20 acres are enclosed with a high iron fence for hive member’s safety.

“We go on free choice here,” Collyar said. “We have planned daily activities, but if a member’s not filling it today, they can go outside and roam [the fenced area].”

Every day at SunHive starts with a short meeting. Hive members and staff talk about the planned activities, how they are feeling and their individual duties for the day.

“Everybody has a job here. We make sure everything’s cleaned up at the end of the day. We have baby chicks, so they have to make sure they have food and water. Everybody has a job to keep the place going.”

Along with structured activities and learning essential skills, a lot of fun and games are happening at SunHive. Art projects the members have done cover the walls of the craft room. They do everything from beadwork to painting.

When planning these activities, the staff considers the needs of each individual. One of the staff created a textured canvas so a blind member could participate in painting with the others. Little touches like these make SunHive stand out among the crowd.

Wi-Fi enable activities can be found throughout the facility. As much as the members love their outdoor spaces and the work they get to do because of it, there are times when they have to be indoors.

“The Wi-Fi is very important.” Collyar gestured to the main living area where “The Adams Family” plays. “We have movies that we love, and we pretty much have a movie or music playing at all times.” 

The computer room off the main living area is another favorite of hive members. Having OEC Fiber’s high-speed, reliable services lets them go online and explore the world at large with wonder and appreciation that many able-bodied individuals take for granted.

Field trips into town are another highlight for hive members. They do things anyone else would enjoy, like seeing a movie or eating out, but those are not what makes the outings special.

“It’s little things,” Collyar said. “It’s everyday tasks that we think are mundane, they really enjoy. We go to the post office, library and bank. We take them to the grocery store. They have to do all their own grocery shopping and check out. That’s a big thing!” 

Ensuring members have everything they need is at the top of their list. SunHive caters to high-need individuals who are unable to live on their own. Their 2-1 teacher ratio ensures individuals requiring extra support have it. That, combined with the space available, determines the number of hive members they are able to serve.

“We have about 13 members,” Collyar said. “So, we have plenty of room to expand and grow.”

A large open area sits off the café, dining area, at the back of the building. Like with the rest of the facility, there is a plan for this space to take life at SunHive to the next level.

“We want to build a gymnasium. [A space] where we could have inside basketball or an area for them to have more activity when it’s cold outside.” 

SunHive partnered with other non-profits in the area to achieve their vision. United Way generously provided a grant to help build their greenhouse. Earth Rebirth brought their expertise to create a stunning garden. They cultivated a green oasis to benefit the members and the community. Hive members will sell produce not consumed onsite at the Norman Farmer’s Market in the coming year.

All of these amazing opportunities and vision for the future are what makes OEC Fiber so excited to be partnering with them.

The mission of SunHive Collective to enrich the lives of those in their community is something the world needs. Groups like this make OEC and OEC Fiber proud of what we do. If you want to learn how to be involved or apply to become a hive member, visit www.sunhivecollective.com. 


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