If you go to the Simple Life Center, you should know how to play Slapjack. Cross will teach you if you don’t.
Cross is the 6-year-old grandson of Linda Bryan, the owner of the Simple Life Center. He can be found with Bryan at the center on most days.
Cross took a deck of cards, shuffled them and then began rapidly laying down each one until a Jack was on the table, then slapped it with his hand. This is one of the games the children who go there enjoy, all of which are technology-free.
“We just don’t do computers here,” Bryan said.
The Simple Life Center is a 501c3 nonprofit and runs on donations of time and resources. It provides disadvantaged and special needs children with tutoring and other activities. Parents can bring their children, but they have to stay at the center while their kids play and learn.
It is at 324 N. 19th St. in Guthrie, but its origin is much humbler. Bryan said she had the idea for the center in a vision in 2007.
“I fell asleep on my couch and remembered my childhood Kiwanis Club,” Bryan said. “Me and all of my friends could go down there, we could swim. There was a woman that taught us painting, she taught us everything, how to play table tennis, how to act and be polite to each other, and it was all fun. There was nothing that wasn’t fun about it.”
Bryan later fell asleep on the couch again and had the same dream. She took it as a sign.
“I said, ‘Dear Lord, you want me to do that?’” Bryan said.
Bryan ran the Simple Life Center from her backyard for its first year before the YMCA let her use one of its rooms once a week. It moved to its current location in 2016.
More than half of the children the center works with have developmental disabilities. The center has offered resources to families of children with autism, dyslexia, and other disabilities.
Sooner SUCCESS Logan County Coordinator Brandy Parks is a former teacher, and she works with The Simple Life Center to tutor them. It works with communities to provide health, social and educational services to children with special healthcare needs in Oklahoma, including the Simple Life Center.
The center takes donations of reading materials and other resources, but it needs volunteers to tutor children, preferably ones with experience working with children.
Parks said anyone with teaching experience is urged to volunteer.
“We really get a lot of math kids that are coming in, either late elementary or junior high,” Parks said. “It varies depending on the time of the school year and what kind of testing they’re getting ready for.”
Most volunteers are parents of children who visit the center.
“They probably would never know that I call them that (volunteers), but that’s what it is,” Bryan said. “We need lots more.”
Parks said the community steps in more often than not when the center is in need.
“One day, Linda said, ‘Put it on the dry-erase board what you need, and we’ll pray over it,” Parks said. “Then, one day she called me and said, ‘Somebody came and dropped these on the table,’ and it was a lot of the things I had really been needing.”
Parks said similar donations are what keep The Simple Life Center’s mission alive, which is to provide a safe place for children that caters to their needs and home lives.
“There’s really a wide range of things, but the other part is building an inclusive community,” Parks said. “That’s capacity building, that’s where you’ve seen the tutoring programs. What we want to do is fill in the gaps. We make it an inclusive program. Everybody is welcome. Whoever walks in the door, that’s who we’re serving.”
For more information on the Simple Life Center call 405-318-9892.