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Thanksgiving: Common Life Common Good

A Third Place Community Foundation

 a 501c3 nonprofit grassroots all volunteer organization

 growing healthy lives and neighborhoods in the 74126 and northside areas.

Center: 5920 N. Owasso Ave. and Park: 6005 N. Johnstown Ave. 74126


offering The Welcome Table Community Center, Free Corner Store Pantry, Free Books, Free Clothes and More, Community Art Studio and the Community GardenKitchenPark and Orchard 

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Hi all.

 First, our news and then our Thanksgiving message...

 1. We were named a finalist for the statewide sustainability award for nonprofits serving communities with more than 45,000 persons by the Keep Oklahoma Beautiful organization; we were in the category with the Tulsa M.E.T. and Tulsa Young Professionals, who won the award last week, and were proud to be in such company and to have our story told of our gardenpark and orchard created from a block of abandoned houses. We are hopeful of continuing to grow our presence of healthy food and nutritiion here where there is a 14 year life expectancy gap from other parts of Tulsa and will try again next year. The park has really been taking shape in the "Vegetable Village" and play area for kids thanks to visits from Riverfield School and LifeChurch. We are still harvesting the cold crops of greens and the edible roots of Jerusalem Artichokes (sunflower plants).

 2. This Wednesday, Nov. 27, from 10 am to Noon at one of our regular Food Community Days we will have a Thanksgiving Pie and Ice Cream Fest at the community center; and use our newly received Espresso machine from the Food Bank. Come have dessert first before your Thanksgiving Day meals....And this Saturday, Nov. 30 from 10 am to 2 pm we will have another of our weekly Community Art Days at the Center for all ages, including free lunch...Stay tuned for an important news announcement soon from here as we will sponsor a Free Meal Giveaway next month from a Mobile Food Truck from the Food Bank coming here.

 3. Why we are here and why we do what we do was driven home this month in a study that we participated in with OU and the Food Bank has just been released and puts statistics to what we have known: so many in our local area we see here are sick, especially with mental illnesses, with high degrees of food insecurity and hunger, and the food we are giving is both not enough even as emergency supplemental to their "food stamp" supplemental assistance each month, and it is not the kind of healthy food they particularly need. And yet the food we do give them, as well as the community support we create and offer through relationships of mutuality does help reduce a little bit the stress triggers that help them to make better decisions, to make responses not reactions. To get the full report on the statistics and my report go to

 4. The Turley Area Community Meeting will be held tomorrow evening, Tuesday Nov. 26 at 7 pm at O'Brien Park.

 5. You and all are invited to a "Justice For The Poor" video series and meal discussion will be held at the Center on Sundays Dec. 1 through Jan. 5. It is produced by the Sojourners in Washington, D.C.: The topics include: Dec. 1: Burger King Moms: Being Poor in America; Dec. 8: Is there something wrong with the prosperity gospel? [answer is yes]; Dec. 15: Standing at the Corner of Church and State; Dec. 22: The Gospel according to New Orleans; Dec. 29: Outside the Gate: The Poor and the Global Economy; and Jan. 5: From Serial Charity to a Just Society.

6. Share with others our 4 Project Winter 2013 Mini-Capital Campaign designed for individuals or church groups or others to be able to easily make a specific small-but-huge transformative action with us here: 1. $500 creates both an outdoor hospitable rain garden permaculture area and will prevent flooding, working with Green Country Permaculture; 2. $500 for the women's restroom and $500 for the men's restroom to help put in showers and stalls in time for our visiting groups to use next Spring for the Life on Fire national conference that will come here; 3. $600 for copper tubing and coolant to match the donated air conditioning unit we received and the matching free labor donated to install it; and 4. $350 for supplies for a new Central Grand Entry Gate and Sign for the GardenPark and Orchard. Please share for those looking for end of the year giving opportunities that make a difference on the ground here...We also have our membership support campaign going for operations and are a fifth of the way to achieving our goal of 60 people giving at least $5 or $10 a month (15 or 30 cents a day), but the mini-capital campaign will propel us to being able to serve more people and host more people. See for our story, our statistics, our spirit.For just 15 or 30 cents a day, we can broaden our base of support to break out of our cut-off notice to cut-off notice putting it all into mission, no salaries, budget. At the website you can choose either one time donations for the capital campaign or subscribe for small monthly figures to be ongoing operations support.....Consider Yourself Asked!!!

7. Thankful to be a part of recent community events: Taste of North Tulsa feeding 400 in our area; Food Glorious Food Day at the North Regional Health Dept Wellness Center connecting with more than 100 residents, many youth here; and our 8th annual community Halloween Party held for the first time for some 150 residents at our gardenpark and orchard; hosting service learning projects with Riverfield Country Day School high school and middle school students, and with Diversity classes at the OU Graduate Social Work program who are working with us on research projects in educational issues, housing issues, abandoned properties project, and other issues facing our residents. And supporting the local nonprofit Sarah's Residential Center in its mission to provide small community living for seniors...Also the McLain High School Homecoming a reunion of one of the first integrated junior high basketball teams in our area in the mid 60s at Monroe Junior High...And sponsoring a Mobile Food Van giving out several tons of food in one hour here partnering with the Food Bank...And meeting monthly with others in the Greater Tulsa area to forge connections for community organizing....Also Look for further updates from me on some of the OU graduate paper research topics related to our immediate zipcode areas.

8. The Wish List of ways to be a part of our Miracles Among The Ruins projects of blight to beauty, despair to hope, can be found also at

9. We are pleased to be hosting a national conference Feb. 28-Mar. 2 for those seeking to live more missionally, for and with others. See more and register at

 Thanksgiving Message: CommonWealth/CommonLife/CommonGood

I have been fortunate this month to travel to Pennsylvannia and to Massachusetts and to talk with people about our mission of community here in the 74126; I got to do the same thing in October in New Orleans, and the same thing in September in Tennessee. At each place I expressed thanksgiving for the many partners in our area, and for the people who come and serve with us, and receive from us and giveback at the same time; in short, for the experience of a community that is turned not inward toward itself and for itself but turned outward always looking for others to connect with. Every week we are blessed to connect with some new person or new group; new volunteers finding through us a way to give their own gratitude back to life itself; new groups from schools to churches who bring us food, who listen to our stories, who match their mission with our mission.

Last week we got to provide a common meal to our regular volunteers and supporters here to tell them thanks and to tell them about the recent survey results of the work we do here (see above and the link) and why what they do here, even though they think it is such a small thing in their life, is literally a life-giving action. We are extending people's lives; we are making it just a little bit easier for them to make just a little better decisions; to take next steps. One of the things that our gratitude now leads us toward is to foster advocacy on the conditions and decisions people in power make which are making it in fact harder for people to live, shortening their lives, adding stress to already burdened lives. We plan to do this not only by making information available, and avenues for responding, but inviting people to go deeper into their own lives and life of their family and their neighborhood in order to see where the stresses are coming from.

I am grateful above all for the blessing of being able to live in the McLain School area. I just listened to a public radio report about the increasing re-segregation, and sometimes deeper than ever segregation, of our communities splitting apart people by not only race but by economic levels and educational levels. There have always been these tendencies, but the growing wage inequality and abandonment of the cities and of common institutions have created wider gaps of where people are interacting and getting to know people of different life experiences than themselves (which is why again we called our Foundation "A Third Place" for the movement to create spaces in public that counteract this tendency). Our schools, churches, parks, businesses, transportation means, entertainment venues, all are segregating across some of these lines in ways never before. Against all this, the blessing of living here and working here is draining at times, challenging and growing and learning, but an immense pleasure and adding of meaning to life.

 This call to common good coming from common life is best summarized for me in the words by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haws in "Common Prayer" when they write, for this time of the year: 

 "Independence is a value of our culture, but it is not a gospel value. Jesus lived in community and was part of a village culture...Jesus' culture was more like the Bedouins than the Burbs.

The Scriptures teach us to value interdependence and community more highly than independence, and tell us that we are to lose our lives if we want to find them. Forming our lives around something other than our own desires, jobs, and goals is radically counter-cultural. Even our architecture is built around individual families, not around community. But for many Native Americans and tribal cultures, society and architecture are built around a village. Individual dwellings...are very small, and they are built around a central common space where people eat, dance, sing, and tell stories. The rampant individualism of Western society is a relatively new thing, and its emptiness is increasingly evident. We are wealthy and lonely. But God invites us into a common life with others.

Rather than build our lives around the individualistic dream of a house with a white picket fence, we can build our lives around God's vision for community.

We dream of a holy village in the middle of the urban desert, with a little cluster of homes sprinkled about and a neighborhood where folks are committed to God and to each other. Some folks are indigenous to the neighborhood. Some are missional relocaters. Some have gone off to school, trained as doctors, lawyers, social workers, or business folk, and then returned to the neighborhood to offer their gifts to the work of restoration. The houses are small, but that is all we need--a place to lay our heads--because most of our lives are lived on the streets, on the stoop, sweating in the practice of resurrection. Village life begins by greeting the day in morning prayer, and in the evenings we share a meal or grill out on the street. Maybe there is a village center where folks can cook healthy breakfasts for the kids as they head off to school. Perhaps in that center there are laundry machines that we can all share and a game library where kids can borrow a game for the afternoon. Maybe there's a tool library so folks can check out a saw or drill for the day; maybe there's an exercise space for lifting weights or taking an aerobics class to keep our bodies healthy. It's a dream for a village that shares things in common, a space that makes sure possessions and privileges are available for all, a place on earth where there truly is a "common wealth."

Shaping a life together sometimes begins simply by creating a space for community. For many intentional communities, that means that we work only part-time so that we free up time for things we don't get paid to do, like welcoming homeless folks for a meal, helping neighborhood kids with homework, planting gardens on abandoned lots, or praying together each day. Sometimes we have to remove some of the clutter that is occupying our time and energy, like getting rid of the television. But then, as we say no to some things, we say yes to others--cooking meals, painting murals, playing games. And most people don't miss the old life much anyway. A reporter once told Mother Teresa, "I wouldn't do what you do for a million dollars." She responded, "Me neither." We live in community and among the suffering because it is what we are made for. Not only does it give life to others, but it gives us life as well."

This is a vision far from the realities of our mission here, and always will be I am sure, as visions tend to be, but this is the time of the year for casting Visions, reminding us of our possibilities, together. And what falls from the movement toward Vision is enough.

If you would like to see a couple of videos from talks I gave in Dallas last year they have recently been published at this site:, a keynote and a followup q&a workshop. And from the recent trip to Pennsylvannia:

Finally, thanks for you, blessings, and more soon,



Why We Are Here and Needed Revealed in New Study, and Why We May Close

The past few months we have been part of a study of nutrition and health of the folks in our area who use our Welcome Table Corner Store, in increasing numbers. Today we found out the results. Actually these results may be worse here because they also include stats from two other places in the Tulsa area (but based on the survey of our folks done in 2009, these stats seem pretty close to those; we will update when we get the ones for just our space.). This wasn't just a survey where people circle answers as quick as they can; it was more lengthy and conversational, and then the food they select from us was inventoried, and weighed, and its nutritional value assessed. Thanks to OU doctoral program and the Food Bank for working on it with us, and to our neighbors who took the time and vulnerability to participate.

But first before I list the results, let me repeat what I have written on before here after a recent OU presentation, and was reiterated by the survey leaders: the health and life expectancy of people is affected only 10 to 20 percent by care received in a medical clinic or hospital setting (access is very important but it is still, even if all had equal access, only a small part of what makes us healthy). Instead, what we do, working on what people eat, increasing their sense of community and connection, improving the environment, and the renewal of neighborhoods where they live, that counts for the highest percentage of someone's life and health expectancy. But as a society we spend 80 percent of our dollars on what contributes 10 to 20 percent of health. This financial irony, or tragedy, is important and I will return to it after the survey results.

What we found out about our neighbors here who come to our free corner store:
60 percent experience low food security, and 34 percent experience very low food security, meaning they show physical symptoms of hunger and have not eaten that day or regularly.
61 percent say that their health is fair or poor, which is an indicator that within a year they may be hospitalized or die. They are on the bottom rung of health.
In answer to a question posed routinely by the Centers for Disease Control: how many days out of a month do you have bad health days, the answer was a high 11 days; it gets worse when asked about mental health, with the average being 12 days of bad mental health.
41 percent have been told they have depression or anxiety illnesses.
52 percent don't have the kinds of social support necessary for healthy living and especially recovery.
51 percent suffer from depression, 49 percent anxiety, 49 percent high blood pressure, 47 percent high cholesterol, 47 percent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 33 percent diabetes.

(An aside on mental health: I often tell groups that when we relieve a bit of food insecurity, even when it is not with the best healthy food, or give away our free clothing, or host a free community party, or help to get abandoned and neglected areas fixed up, we are making life just a bit less stressful to struggling folks without the resources others have in other areas, and for people with mental health issues helping reduce triggers and stress makes a big difference.)

66 percent are obese and say they want to lose weight. The food insecurity leads to binge eating, which along with the kinds of calories available are indicators of the obesity.
A significant number report having to choose between buying food and paying for medicine and medical care; also a significant number rely on more than one food pantry during the month and still have food insecurity.
The average amount of food we give out to our folks who are only allowed to come once a month will last three to four days (the amount we give out all depends on the amount we can pay for at the food bank in our shared maintenance fees or we get for free from the food bank or can get donated to us, or can grow in our own gardenpark and orchard, which is seasonal). And this 3-4 days is actually less if there are men or active children in the family as studies show that while on average 2,000 calories per person is needed, for them it is at least 3,000 calories per day. So we may only be helping them relieve food insecurity for a few days a month.

What we give out is not always a good contributor to health either, even though it has the other benefits I mentioned of reducing food insecurity. We give out 2600 milligrams of sodium per day in our food and only some 1500 mg is needed per day. We give out 88 grams of sugar and only 32 grams is recommended. We are giving out daily amounts of 300 mg in cholesterol when 200 or less is needed, and this would be worse when we have meat that we can give out; it is at this amount because we haven't been able to purchase meat to give out, even when we can get it for 20 cents a pound through the food bank, when the food bank has it. We are giving out about the right amount of protein, but people report that they feel they need more protein, more meat, so we need to do more education and habit forming so people will feel better about the adequate amount of protein, and how to prepare meals with this level of protein.

Knowing this is why here at our place we also have formed relationships and have present a nutrition counselor from the OSU Extension Center, and why we have representatives from the North Regional Wellness Center of the Tulsa Health Dept to visit with people and help recommend resources; and it is why we have a spiritual director listening to people tell their stories, and to provide the ministry of presence and encouragement of "a listening ear." And above all it is why we have worked in just the past three years to create the GardenPark and Orchard for the community, a park where abandoned houses and trash once was dumped, and now is a place for healthy education, community spirit, and connection, a place that has received state and regional awards, and this month is a finalist for a Keep Oklahoma Beautiful Environmental Excellence Award.

There is the need. There is the response. Here is the tough news; Because of the loss over the past year of financial contributors who had been giving to us on a regular monthly basis the past few years as we were expanding and growing our presence at the park and the community center, wonderful folks who have been our leaders but who have died or moved away or shifted giving to other local groups, we now face a monthly income shortfall of some $600 just to be able to pay the barebones but rising utility bills; we have enough for the mortgage and for phone and internet, but that's it. That doesn't include what is needed for food and program expenses.

So we need to get 60 people to become monthly supporters giving $10 each through our online donation buttons on this page (at, and thats an average, or 30 people giving $20 a month, or just 20 people giving just one dollar a day, or $30 a month. Actually we would rather have 60 people giving $10 or 120 people giving $5 because that increases the shared support and ownership and means if one or two people stop giving we won't be back in the same situation.

We think we are saving lives, making life a bit easier for people struggling, and are bearing witness with our neighbors to many of the inequities and injustice and oppression faced by people here in the low income lowest life expectancy area of the Tulsa area. We hope no matter where you are from you will see value in what we have done, are doing, and can do in the future, and will become a part of this movement of grassroots all volunteer 100 percent mission neighborhood renewal.