Alumna and Daughter Craft a Future to Support the Neurodiverse

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Nijah and Betty pose with a sign that reads Obsessions Gift Shop in the entrance of their store
Nijah and Betty at Obsessions Gift Shop

"I had a vision where I was behind a desk, and my daughter was standing up beside me, and she was about to take my place," Proctor told the Tallahassee Democrat. In 2017, Betty Proctor dreamed of passing something down to her daughter Nijah.

When her daughter, who is on the autism spectrum, started to have panic attacks at school, she looked for ways to help her relax. Together, they found crafting art and jewelry calming, rewarding, and something that they shared. As their interest and passion in art and craft making grew, they started to sell their jewelry in Frenchtown. Betty realized what she wanted to pass down to her daughter.

Betty quit her job at the Florida State University Autism Institute and opened Obsessions Gift Shop in Railroad Square Art District in Tallahassee. Co-owned by her daughter, they share their passion through their shop's vibrant and colorful offerings.  "This is where everybody has a passion, or everybody has an obsession, and it's just allowing people to be creative," Proctor said.

Shortly after opening the shop, Betty and Nijah also participated in an FSU research study on art's impact on women on the autism spectrum.  "Her social skills really started to improve, and her communication increased," Proctor reflected on her daughter's personal growth.

"I like the atmosphere and just being able to help out," Nijah Proctor shared about working closely with her mother.

By 2018, the shop was also growing. They introduced art classes and business workshops for people with special needs. "We've been doing art workshops with persons on the spectrum, and we want to be inclusive because the world is all made up of people that are neurodiverse or have varying abilities," Proctor said.

Parents and patrons who participate in art workshops at the shop have noticed similar positive results to those of her daughter, who are neurodiverse and experience the world differently.

Motivating People Through Arts and Crafts

"Nijah and Betty seated outside of Obsessions Gifts at Railroad Square Art Park with a colorful exterior"
Nijah and Betty seated outside Obsessions Gift Shop at Railroad Square Art Park

Betty and Nijah launched Motivating People Through Arts and Crafts (MPAC) in 2020, a nonprofit that provides autistic and neurodiverse people with opportunities for personal and artistic growth and develops social and job skills and opportunities. The program allows participants to socialize formally and informally and pursue their entrepreneurial interests.

Since its founding, MPAC has supported 50 individuals in starting their own small businesses and assisted more than 100 people in improving their social and employment skills through volunteer opportunities at the shop.

The organization has also recently become a vocational rehabilitation provider and hopes to provide more people with services. MPAC is seeking interns, volunteers, and employees to join the MPAC community. Contact MPAC at (850) 792-2737 for more information. 

Not only is Betty establishing a lasting legacy for her daughter Nijah, but together, they are crafting a future filled with opportunity and community for persons with special needs. 

To attend an art class at Obsessions Gift Shop or connect with MPAC, Call (850) 792-2737 or visit mpacobs.com. You can also connect with Obsessions on social media on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

Stay up-to date on recovery of the Railroad Square Arts District from the impact of recent tornadoes in the area on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

"Betty and Nijah at a tabling event"
Betty and Nijah at a tabling event

Thursday, June 6, 2024 - 03:20 PM
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