The Way Community Should Work: Latest Projects and Updates and Stories
Before and After of the Same Spot Photos; same kind of transformation here in many places...
Hi all. Here is a background report for our Board meeting for tonight, Thursday Sept. 19 6:30 pm here at the community center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave., that I thought I would share with all of you too...
In ways large and small, in upcoming events this weekend and in recent weeks here, and in our ongoing service during the week, we have been seeking to embody the wisdom of the saying, "The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of both poverty and wealth is community." You are invited to follow along daily with our activities through Facebook; friend me at Ron Robinson or go to www.facebook.com/revronrobinson; also "like" our page at WelcomeTableMission and A Third Place Community, and see more reports and analysis at www.turleyok.blogspot.com, www.progressivechurchplanting.blogspot.com, and www.missionalprogressives.blogspot.com. Keep up with the growth of the community gardenpark and orchard at www.cherokeeschoolgardenjournal.blogspot.com.
First, a short story about the way community should work, and its healing power: a few Saturdays ago I was talking with a church youth group that had come here from Shawnee to learn about missional church, and while I was teaching them upstairs downstairs one of our neighbors and his wife came to see about getting food from our Corner Store, which had already closed for the day and the volunteers gone home, all except one who had stopped by too and who didn't work in the corner store free pantry anyway; so she was still downstairs when the couple came by. The volunteer didn't turn them away to come back another day but knowing we work with people by appointments too decided to try to help them anyway. As they were entering the Corner Store she tried to turn the lights on, only to find one of the main light wouldn't stay on but kept flickering; the man immediately started figuring out the problem, found it was in the light switch, said he knew how to fix it, went to the local family-owned hardware store and bought the little items that he needed out of his own money, refusing the volunteers money for it, came back, fixed our light, got their food (got community more than that, as we say) and went on. That spirit runs through the bulk of what we do; it is our vision; not all live up to it including us, but we know it is possible, and are reminded of it often enough that we can say we also know that "Another World Is Possible" and we catch glimpses of it, and our mission is to create spaces and encounters where others can too.
Here is a rundown of our invitations to you to come participate in community renewal on the far northside of Tulsa, and an update of our projects, some of our uplfting stories, our wish list and needs and ways you and your organizations can partner with us to renew community in the McLain School area.
1. Turley Area Free FunFest and Senior Fair and Heritage Lunch, Friday and Saturday, Sept. 20-21 at both our community center and our community gardenpark and orchard. We are in the midst of launching our new seniors group for our area and conducting a survey of interests and needs of seniors in our area during our annual Free FunFest for All Ages. If you are part of a group that serves families and persons including those more than 55 years old we would love for you to have a table or provide information to area residents during the event this weekend. Let me know. Our area demographics are skewing on both ends toward 2015 when projections are that our zips will have a majority of residents that are either over 60 or under 18, the two most vulnerable age ranges. Get all the details on this weekend at http://www.turleyok.blogspot.com/2013/09/2013-turley-area-free-funfest-this.html. Games, pizza, breakfast in the park, community art, food and clothing giveaway, childrens jump area, community info and projects, history and heritage lunch, a visit by our partners OU Graduate Social Work students, seniors survey, movies, documentaries, stories, sharing, and more. Launching our new Turley Area Seniors, Inc. nonprofit group we helped to found.
Donations are vital to break even on the festival by keeping it free for all. Those can be made online at www.turleyok.blogspot.com. We desperately need your donations for our all volunteer grassroots group.
2. Cherokee School Project. This is the third Fall that we have started with the school in our area closed and unused except as storage (reminds me at times of how our area hosts a landfill for Tulsa's storage of a sorts, and more). We would love to move some of our key programs for the community into the school's buildings, and bring in partners for using more of the building; I think once it is open and being used again for community purposes it will be a magnet for others, nonprofit and profit, who want to serve our area; we want to host meals, senior group, kids under 18 summer cafe, G.E.D. classes, move our pantry operation and so much more into this asset in our community where the best public or non profit building in our area sits not being used; we could probably outright own the property (seven acres plus the building right on North Peoria Ave. and the city bus line) for something like $400,000 (probably about a quarter of its appraised value) based on the selling price for other school properties sold to community nonprofits. It would be a win-win for us, for the neighborhood, and for the local school system as it would be off their books and with a payoff. So we are still looking for partners for a potential mortgage, or better yet for a purchase from some group, tribe, foundation for us. If you are part of a business or nonprofit that might see yourself with an operation in the 74126 and 74130 zipcodes or just want to pursue helping us on this project, contact me.
3. Abandoned Buildings and Houses Project and Crime Stats and Community Spirit. We continue to highlight this big need in our area to tear down very visible burned out neglected abandoned dangerous buildings in our area; we are waiting to hear a six month update report from the Tulsa Health Dept partners helping to take action for abatements of properties that are in worst shape; we hope to hear it at the next Turley area townhall meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 pm at O'Brien Park Recreation Center, near 61st and North Lewis Ave. All are invited to the meeting. These structures are feeding also into the low community spirit and fosters crime as it fosters keeping neighborhoods in the dark; clearing away abandoned structures brings light into area and that helps cut down on crime, as does the environmental factors of decreasing hunger and poverty and reducing stress in people's lives that prompts them too often to make bad impulsive decisions as they live in the moment to moment. Unfortunately we are still not getting the crime reporting statistics for our area that we used to get from the County Sheriff's office, or visits from their officials to our area planning or town hall gatherings; the comparison of crime stats for our area with previous years to see any trends going up or down, the mapping of where the incidents occur most often, all the hard data helps us to see issues, judge any effects. It is the kind of data often easily made public by the city online; we can get it for the city side of our service area, but it is more difficult to get for the unincorporated side of the service area...Finally in this area we had a wonderful engaging and enlightening and educational meeting with the Community Action Project about the Scattered Sites Housing for low income residents in our area; 34 houses, 14 being rented currently, and heard why it is hard to rent the others, about the compliance issues and the restrictions that would prevent many of our neighbors from using this resource, because of felonies in the past, or size of family (which reminds me we also had a good meeting with an OU grad student wanting to work with us on voter registration drive, and on the particular issue we face of helping change the wording on voter registration forms so it reflects how felons can vote not how they can't do so; without having to change any law or policy on that even). We are hoping to continue our learning about housing opportunities and needs in our area and ways we might be able to enter into helping with this mission.
4. Fire Dept. Election Campaign for Fire District Board. With the good decision not to rush the vote to the public on this November ballot, we are in a holding pattern but still want to be ready to help the volunteer fire department out as we can when they are ready to make the push for the petition drive and election, as creating the Title 19 board and getting funds pumped into the volunteer fire dept to help improve services, attract and recruit firefighters, get a local dispatch person again, and more equitably distribute the source of income for the department so it doesn't have to rely on people voluntarily sending in their dues all plus for most people who pay fire dues being able to realize a saving financially themselves, makes this project important not only for the fire dept and the residents but for the town itself; the experience of being able to hold and win a campaign like this will help give us experience for a potential incorporation into a new city campaign.
5. We are partnering with some OU Tulsa Graduate Social Work classes again this year on research projects to help in our area; on Monday, Sept. 23 in the afternoon I will make another presentation on our area and our work here at one of the classes. We are always looking for other service-learning opportunities with other programs and other universities and with common education classrooms too; we can offer a kind of University of Poverty 101 with others.
6. This summer in the three months of June July and August our Free Corner Store affected the lives of some 2000 persons; with thanks to grant money from the Tulsa Elks this past year, and individual donations from some givers, we were able to pay for much of the food we were able to get through the Food Bank. But now those funds are gone, and you can tell it this Fall in what we are able to offer folks, and with the drop in what we are even able to get supply-wise from the Food Bank. But we had a great summer; our former Food Coordinator Deb Carroll left us a great system in place as she moved to a new place and work, and it has helped us to weather the new drought in finances; we are also learning to streamline our procedure thanks to new computer volunteer helping people check-in, which is good since our numbers seeking assistance continue to rise. We had a great showing here of the documentary on hunger in America, A Place At The Table, in August, too. Looking ahead, our next Big Mobile Van Food Giveaway Day here with the Food Bank will be Friday, Oct. 18 from 11 am to noon when we will give away some four tons of food in one hour. Volunteers are needed and can come for orientation at 9 am, begin preparations at 10 am, serve at 11 am, then finish as we provide the helpers with a lunch...We are also continuing to make slow improvements in the remodel of the crafts/new sewing circle room; still need volunteer carpenters to help us remodel our bathrooms; need helping hands to help us install, with supervision, a new donated air conditiioning unit; we are excited about working with Green County Permaculture on new public space outside that is sustainable, uses beautiful rain gardens, and will help fix a flooding drainage issue, but to do that we need a few hundred dollars in donations, and donation of a Bobcat equipment and operator for a day.
7. Our Miracle Among the Ruins gardenpark and orchard is looking in its best shape and the harvest is continuing as is the teaching and healing and health practices that go on there through the gardens. I only half joke with our garden project leader who is a physician that she does more for increasing life expectancies through the community garden presence and connections with others than through a clinic setting. But the park is a health space. There are many opportunities to use it, and there are many ways to help us continue taking it to the next needed level in our phases of making it better for our neighborhoods. We are also working on the Native Prairie Plant Wildflower area across from the gardens, and hope to continue making them a sign of improved safety, health, education, spiritual lift and more for those who have to walk and push their shopping carts by the area on the way down and back up the hill to the grocery and business areas. We particularly are wanting to make a priority out of creating paved areas for access to the gardens for neighbors using wheelchairs and scooters. It is also bad that they have to ride those or get pushed in them out in the street, sometimes with kids with them (same for families that walk with shopping carts to the store and back who have children riding in them with them) all in the busy highway or on streets because of lack of sidewalks in many many places here, as well as lack of street lights. See the above links for more details on the gardenpark and events and more there including its wish list.
8. We partner with so many local community folks in our area: it was fun to meet so many families at the combined back to school event in August; we shared a table with the McLain School Foundation we support. Still, it is such a changed place and evidence of so much community fragmentation and difficulty in organizing when any neighborhood of ours will have its children going to so many different schools, many of them outside of our area. We seek to support the schools here, but also the children of our area who leave our area for school during the day or who are schooled in other ways and look for partners to help us do that better, even in the small ways we can probably manage...We will be having a booth for our projects at the community health fair the Health Dept is putting on on Sat. Oct. 19 from noon to 3 pm and invite all to come help and enjoy the event focusing on healthy food. Stay tuned for all the events upcoming where we promote or help plan and have a presence at.
9. We are gearing up to seek another grant partnership like the one we got for the gardenpark; this one would be to help us remodel and renovate the building we use for the community center; we are looking to add folks with various experiences to help us on a series of advisory teams this year for the park, for grants and fundraising, for events and programs, for organizational development and capacity building. You might be asked to help in one of these areas, but don't wait to be asked to offer assistance and connection. Over and over we have not let our bare bones income keep us from dreaming and doing big things; we are probably at our lowest financial point ever now (juggling those past dues) with more of our leaders and contributors having moved or started supporting other local endeavors. Besides the grants work, we are also going to be making it easier than ever for individuals to respond with us and make a difference with us by contirbuting in small ways each month through our donation button on the website, www.turleyok.blogspot.com Soon we plan to have a way to indicate you will help us out with just $10 per month, and with automatic withdrawals so you don't have to return to do so online each month. We would rather receive the 100 donations of ten dollars each month than the ten donations of 100 dollars a month, but we need them all, as well as the one who can make a life changing donation (by life changing, I mean their life changing, even more than the with others here)...We also need to focus on taking some of our unsold nice items in the thrift store to an auction or consignment sales place, so if any in the Tulsa area have leads or would like to help us do that, let's say it would be both an immediate help, and help us prepare a new space in the south building to create a full renovated community room.
10. Our missional worshipping community will be meeting at the Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave., this Sunday at 11 am for Singing, Praying, Communion, Conversation and then Common Meal. We will be talking about growing a worshipping community to sustain our missional community, and how each can contribute to that; hour our spiritual practices are going; how to create contemplative space in our center from the hectic harried lives, and from even our programs. Come help us grow a new church, and more importantly, a newer kind of church. And how can we promote having more community fun in our area, in small ways, in organic ways. The invitation still stands as well to come join with me in New Orleans Oct. 10-13 learning and doing and helping; see more at www.uuchristian.org/revival.
11. It has been uplifting to be in this summer on the ground floor of growing community organizing connections and learning how to better respond with relational power as part of a wider local empowerment group, leaders committing out of their deepest place of faith, hoping to grow something like Oklahoma City has with its VOICE group. In that vein, there is an important three day training event in Oklahoma City that will feature longtime acclaimed organizer Ernie Cortez, to be held the last weekend of this month. For more, go to http://www.voiceokc.org/events.html.
12. Bonnie and I just returned from the first gathering of missionally-living and minded progressives at www.lifeonfire13.wordpress.com in Oak Ridge, TN and are ourselves fired up to help others here and elsewhere host the Life On Fire 14 event to be held here at The Welcome Table Center and also at the Park and possibly other places in our community on Feb. 28 to Mar. 2, 2014. A heads up to save the dates and come experience the 'mmersion in mission.
Renewing community, turning blight to beauty, empowering residents, doing small acts of justice with great love, making the radical way of Jesus visible in the world, growing healthy lives and neighborhoods, relocating, redistributing, reconciling...this is our mission and calling; come see, come join, even from afar.
blessings, thank you, yes you, and more soon,
Posted by Ron at 12:41 PM