People

Group Living client reflects on nearly 50 years of community involvement

By KELLY STILES | The Arkadelphian

Arkadelphia native Ricky Wright has served the community he loves through the local non-profit Group Living, Inc. for nearly 50 years.

“I just love to help people out,” Wright said.

Group Living is a private organization located in downtown Arkadelphia that provides assistance to adults with developmental disabilities, helping individuals achieve independence. Having began his involvement with Group Living in 1974 — just a year after the organization formed — Wright worked for The Beehive thrift store for more than 40 years. The Beehive is a constituent organization of Group Living focused on giving employment opportunities to its clients.

Ricky Wright

At The Beehive, Wright would alternate between working the cash register and greeting customers as they came in. He quickly became a smiling face that regulars looked forward to seeing.

“Ricky is very kind-hearted and hardworking,” Group Living director of operations Jason Johnston said. “Everybody in the community loves Ricky.”

The Group Living building is located in downtown Arkadelphia and contains The Beehive thrift store.

Since the advent of the COVID pandemic, Wright ceased his Beehive involvement, at least for the time being. He spends a lot of his time participating in the Group Living day program. Any given week, he will engage in math and literacy lessons in the morning, and a variety of activities during the afternoon, like chores, games, and puzzles. Fridays typically consist of bingo and a movie.

“A lot of the things we take for granted in our normal life, they need some assistance with,” Johnston said.

Vision and balance difficulties can make it a challenge for Wright to perform some household tasks, so a direct support professional from Group Living will stop by his home a couple evenings a week to help him out.

He was born to CB and Melvia Wright on May 14, 1956, in Clark County Memorial Hospital, where the Baptist Health Medical Center is now located. Wright has witnessed firsthand historical events which have shaped Arkadelphia, such as the tragic tornado of March 1, 1997.

“I’m just happy to be alive,” Wright said.

Wright is a big fan of Western films, especially those containing John Wayne. Country and Southern gospel are his music genres of choice. He also enjoys keeping up with sports, whether it be Arkadelphia High School, Henderson State University, or Arkansas State University. Wright likes to spend time with his brother, sister-in-law, aunt, and two nephews.

“I just love the Lord, and I love everybody,” Wright said.

He attends Unity Baptist Church in Arkadelphia where he is a song leader. Occasionally, he and the church pastor Danny Golden will sing a duet special in front of the congregation.

“Over time they become more like family,” Johnston said.

Johnston started working for Group Living in 2005 as a direct support professional. He would work one-on-one with clients, helping them accomplish individual goals. During this time, Johnston grew close to Wright and his family. Wright’s mother passed away from a stroke in 2021, and his father passed away in 2022 from complications with COVID.

“You’ve just got to keep on,” Wright said.

Wright is known for calling all of his friends and family to wish them a happy birthday. One piece of advice he would give is to call and visit loved ones, because it makes them feel special.

“Just be nice to others,” Wright said.

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