The vocation of every man and woman is to serve humanity. -Leo Tolstoy

Posts Tagged ‘underserved’

Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City

In OKC on November 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm

The Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City communicates the importance of assisting the under served as well as any organization I have seen. They are well known for building partnerships with businesses and other organizations that benefit inner city communities. This effort includes engaging professionals to volunteer as teachers and mentors for adults who do not have ready access to formal education. The Urban Leagues other areas of focus are (from their website):


The entrepreneurship program provides services in: credit reports, business plan development, loan application processing, business registration packets, market research, seminars & workshops, procurement assistance, referrals and legal status development. 


The Workforce Development Department specializes in training for the hardest to employ or individuals that are underemployed.  The department also works to contact central Oklahoma’s major employers with the urban employees.

The department provides career development resources including job readiness training, annual career expo, and diversity training for employers.


The affordable housing program provides quality & affordable homes to low to moderate income families by rehabilitating existing structures & constructing new homes.

The program also facilitates FREE weatherization services and prepares families for home ownership by hosting homebuyer education and credit counseling workshops.


The urban health program works to increase awareness of breast health, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer prevention through free community health fairs, referrals, group interventions and free fitness activities.


The children and families department provides after school tutoring, food vouchers, utility assistance, bus passes and parent training for adults.

Eat Wise OKC

In advocacy on October 13, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Eat Wise OKC is a group of concerned parents who have been working since 2008  to improve the nutritional value of meals served to students in Oklahoma City Public Schools. From their website:

Changes you should already see in OKCPS:

  • Fresh fruit daily
  • Whole grain breads exclusively
  • Removal of all a la carte items in elementary school (a la carte = chips, cookies, sodas, left-over breakfast sweets, etc.)
  • Removal of sugary breakfast foods and cereals
  • Removal of pop tarts as part of free universal breakfast
Main Goals for OKCPS:
  • Recess and playground equipment for all elementary students
  • Fresh fruit & veggie snacks daily
  • “Hydration Stations” at every school; i.e. water available on the serving lines
  • Reduce sugar consumption 
  • Eliminate food additives: MSG, artificial colors/flavors, preservatives
  • Stop the sale of junk food in elementary, middle and high schools
  • Replace Styrofoam trays with  reusable trays and dish-washing machines
  • Support Child Nutrition Services in efforts to move to healthier menu items and away from fast food items
  • When the above is achieved, we will have fresh food prepared and served daily.

Freedom School OKC

In Education on September 29, 2011 at 7:38 pm

This summer I spent a morning observing Freedom School OKC. From their website:

One of three sites in Oklahoma and 132 nationwide, FSOKC is a not-for-profit summer literacy program affiliated with the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools Program. Serving children from underserved communities, our mission is to ensure each child has a healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a safe start and a moral start in life, with support of caring parents and nurturing communities of Oklahoma City. Utilizing an Integrated Reading Curriculum, Freedom School helps children develop a love of reading while increasing self-esteem and generating positive attitudes toward learning. 

Although varying from summer to summer, FSOKC provides instruction to 50 children (Grades 3rd-5th) from underserved communities across Oklahoma County.

Participating students become known as “scholars” and instructors who are college interns, become “servant leaders”. They are supervised by the Project Director and Site Coordinator, who are active educators. All personnel have participated in extensive national training from the Children’s Defense Fund and are qualified to deliver the Freedom School Integrated Reading Curriculum. An array of cultural enrichment activities will add to an exciting learning experience for your child in a safe and nurturing environment.

I was highly impressed by the way the educators and interns made reading fun for the scholars. Freedom School is provided at no cost and very worthy of support.

Positive Tomorrows

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Positive Tomorrows is a school for homeless children with a vision to be:

 …a sanctuary of hope; educating homeless children and their families for life.

I observed an art class taught by my friend Carri Dolan last winter and was pleased to see an environment tailored to the uncertain lives of the students. The current economy has been difficult for families already living on the edge of financial disaster and Positive Tomorrows works to restore some measure of stability. A little bit more from their website:

Positive Tomorrows is a private, tuition free school for Oklahoma City homeless children, Kindergarten through 5th grade.  Our students’ families live in homeless shelters, motels, or with friends or relatives.  Sometimes, they lack even that much stability and live cars or bounce around from couch to couch each night.  The dynamics of being homeless cause these children to fall behind their peers by 1 or 2 grade levels, academically and socially.  Because they are behind, they need individualized attention and special services to catch up to their peers and be ready for longterm success when they transition to a public school.

To learn more about Positive Tomorrows and support the work that they do please visit their website.

NewView Oklahoma

In nonprofits on August 31, 2011 at 5:36 am

From their website: NewView is the leading employer of the blind and vision impaired in Oklahoma, and the only private agency offering specialized services for people living with vision loss.

I had the pleasure of working with NewView while working as education director at City Arts Center. Each summer they hold a week long camp for blind and visually impaired youth. That summer children had the opportunity to experience dance, drama and tactile arts. It was touching to see young people enjoy arts that the sighted often take for granted.

NewView helps blind and visually impaired people of all ages to live fuller and more independent lives through their specialized education programs.

As a manufacturer NewView is a leading supplier of hoses to the U.S. forestry service and airplane chock blocks to the U.S. military. In addition they provide business services to Oklahoma companies.

NewView often gives tours of their huge facility located in a former brewery.

Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

In advocacy on August 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I visited the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) earlier this year and was impressed by the work that they do. As the name implies OICA advocates for children in the state of Oklahoma. Their programs include:

Learn more about this wonderful organization that fights for our children.

What OKC Needs

In nonprofits on August 18, 2011 at 8:01 am

In an earlier post I wrote about the effort to bring Breakthrough to Oklahoma City. These are some other types of nonprofits that OKC could benefit from.

Job training programs like these in Austin:

Artist collectives like these in Philadelphia:

Free “Schools” like these:
Whole Neighborhood Initiatives like these:
Artist Residencies like these:
In the future I will write about other types of organizations that I would like to see in Oklahoma.

CASA of Oklahoma County

In nonprofits on August 15, 2011 at 8:11 am

Serving as a CASA for children who are in DHS custody due to caretaker abuse or neglect is difficult and frustrating. In many cases there are few good options for stability during children’s time with DHS. I have been on my first case for only 45 days and because of these challenges I am sure that this will be a defining role in my life. It is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children and I am thankful to be involved.

As a CASA I meet with everyone involved in the case including children, parents, social workers, therapists, foster parents, shelter workers, teachers, attorneys and other family members. I keep track of how the children are doing and advocate for their well being. This might mean making recommendations about their placement, schooling, therapy or parent’s treatment. The ultimate responsibility is helping the court to decide if and when they will be returned to their home of origin.

These children need more foster parents and they need more people to serve as CASA. To find out more about volunteering please visit the CASA of Oklahoma County website.


In Uncategorized on August 11, 2011 at 9:55 am

For the past four months an exploratory committee made up of Danne Johnson, Jackie Mania, Josh Harlow and myself has been working to bring Breakthrough to OKC. I am so excited about the potential impact on our community. From the Breakthrough website:

At 33 locations across the nation and abroad, Breakthrough Collaborative launches motivated middle-school students on the path to college and prepares older students for careers in education. A national nonprofit, Breakthrough Collaborative is devoted to preparing high-achieving middle-school students, most of whom are of color and from low-income families, to enter and succeed in college-preparatory high school programs. Breakthrough also recruits and trains outstanding high school and college students to become Breakthrough teachers and build an interest in careers as educators.

In June I was fortunate to visit Breakthrough Houston and was blown away by the work they are doing there. Even the highest achieving low income students in Oklahoma City graduate college at very low rates. Breakthrough can help to alter this trend and the lives of entire families.

If you would like to be involved in the effort to bring Breakthrough to OKC please contact me.

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