Sasquatch Shaved Ice, a program of the Homeless Alliance, is kicking off their second location in Bricktown, all while creating an organization dedicated to helping OKC’s fostered, juvenile justice and low-income youth with employment opportunities. Whitley O’Connor, program manager of the popular snow cone joint, reflected upon those who helped him succeed in his younger days.
“Race, income and familial makeup shouldn’t stop young people from pursuing their dreams,” O’Connor said. “As a teen and into my young adulthood, I was given several opportunities that helped me achieve my academic and career goals. In fact, I would work for my aunt during summers in high school, and she would match dollar for dollar what I saved towards my educational and career goals, much like we do with our Sasquatch employees.”
O’Connor’s business doesn’t stop at simply serving iced goodies; rather, he acknowledges the
hardships of youth in some OKC areas and provides his employees with the gift of financial security and educational opportunities.
“Low-income and foster-involved youth are less likely to find employment,” he said, “but work history is perhaps more important for them than their peers in higher income brackets, who are more likely to attend college and have the social capital and familial networks needed to find employment more easily.”
Sasquatch Shaved Ice goes beyond a spot for summer treats, as O’Connor worked with lawmakers to pass a bill allowing snow cone stands to stay open during the winter. Now, opportunities for guidance and employment are not constrained by the seasons. With a grant from the Arnall Family Foundation, Sasquatch Shaved Ice was able to expand their location into Bricktown, where more of the youth will benefit from the multitude of opportunities O’Connor’s business provides.
According to O’Connor, each employee is slated to receive “a checking and savings account and take part in a program with OSU OKC that includes financial literacy, life skills and training to prepare them for higher education or certification enrollment.” On top of this, the Arnall Family Foundation provided Sasquatch Shaved Ice with the ability to “open a workshop where we bag our own ice and bottle our own sugar water using filtered water and pure cane sugar,” so that the Homeless Alliance’s program can benefit the environment as well as the community.
The cherry on top? Sasquatch Shaved Ice is quite delicious with plenty of variety. O’Connor said, “We have 110 unique flavors from cherry to pomegranate to li hing mui (salty dried plum), so everyone can find something they’ll enjoy.” Sasquatch Shaved Ice is dedicated to much more than delicious snowcones, helping to “ build job skills, improve financial literacy, increase high school graduation and higher education enrollment and provide a foundation for long-term financial stability and job readiness.” There’s nothing sweeter than this.