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story.lead_photo.caption Westside Eagle Observer/RANDY MOLL Ric and Debbie Stripling purchased the Applecrest Bed and Breakfast in 2016 and use it to care for four people with disabilities. The home gives them the space needed to provide care for their house guests.

— Ric and Debbie Stripling may be retired but their idea of retirement is, perhaps, a little different from most. After retiring from Pathfinder Inc. two years ago, they purchased the Apple Crest Bed and Breakfast on the south side of Gentry so that they would have room to care for people with disabilities and help meet their needs, and that's what they are doing in their retirement years, caring for four with disabilities.

And instead of traveling or engaging in activities together as a couple, the Striplings plan their activities around the needs of those they assist -- things such as Special Olympics, bowling and other activities to engage and challenge their house guests.

After working for Pathfinder Inc. in central Arkansas, the Striplings continued their work with Pathfinder in the area through the skills training centers in Bentonville and Cave Springs. Debbie's work focused on skills training in Cave Springs, and Ric helped a lot with transportation, Debbie said.

And retirement didn't end their love and commitment to those with disabilities. They were caring for three people when they purchased the Apple Crest, and now they provide a home for four, the most they can care for without being licensed as a care facility by the state. And, the Striplings' retirement plan is making it possible for four special people -- whether it be with severe autism or cerebral palsy -- to live a more normal life outside of a skilled nursing care facility.

Not only do the Striplings provide needed assistance in the home each day, they provide transportation to skills training and to jobs for those who work.

Debbie said she found her niche in life when she started working for Pathfinder. She said it was God's niche for her to be a caregiver.

"I have a passion for caregiving," she said, "and I want others to get to know these persons are a lot more like us than people realize. They have hopes and dreams too -- to have jobs, get married and enjoy life."

"You have to have a heart for it," she said, "or you should do something else that makes you happy."

And the Striplings have a heart for it and hope, during their retirement years, to be able to assist others for as long as possible.

Agencies which support the Striplings in their work include Bost of Western Arkansas in Ft. Smith, and the United Cerebral Palsy of Arkansas, with offices in Little Rock and Fayetteville.

The Striplings also said the Cross Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers is working to embrace those with disabilities by forming a small connect group.

Pathfinder Inc. is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and implementation of individualized strategies designed to enable citizens with developmental disabilities and behavioral health needs total access to community life, according to its website.

General News on 01/24/2018

Print Headline: Gentry couple cares for disabled in retirement

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