Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hurdles, heroes and our new building


It’s a tale full of trials and triumphs, difficult hurdles and unlikely heroes.  In short, it’s a tale about transformation; of how a deserted, mice-ridden warehouse was transformed into the beautiful new office and warehouse that The Salvation Army Tulsa Area Command now calls home. The first hurdle: Every Christmas season, we had to beg, borrow or rent a warehouse to accommodate toy and food distribution. Every year it became more difficult to find a suitable space and in 2009 it cost $42,000. The second hurdle: The Advisory Board, which must approve every major decision of the Tulsa Area Command, did not want to acquire any new property. The third hurdle: Almost every property the right size and price was in such bad condition, they were downright scary. The fourth hurdle: During the recession, real estate, especially corporate real estate, was selling very slowly or not at all.


Major Roy and Kathy Williams 
Major Williams, whom I think never lets any hurdles get in the way of saving money for The Salvation Army,  went to David Johnson, then chairman of the Advisory Board, to get his support for buying a building that could be used as a warehouse and office. David convinced the Advisory Board to support the idea.

David Johnson at the
canteen staffed by Southern Baptists'
Disaster Team at the Open House.
Advisory Board member and real estate expert Mitch Adwon found the building and sought support from Kelli Bailey, a construction expert, and Rick Neal, a community volunteer. Together, they masterminded the plan to sell the office building at 1616 S. Main and buy and renovate the building at 924 S. Hudson. Dennis Henderson, operations manager for The Salvation Army, kept the project moving forward. But even when things went well, there were challenges. The building at S.Main sold so quickly that it created a year-long gap between the moving date from the old building to the move-in date for the new building.

Advisory Board Chair Billie Barnett
praises Major Roy and Kathy Williams
 and staff.
We packed and moved from the 11,000 square-foot office on Main St. to the existing 5,000 square feet of  office space that was tucked into the 88,000 square foot warehouse. We did it in two days, under the well-organized direction of business manager Veronica Ramirez. Staff members who had previously enjoyed private offices doubled up in one office. Lindsay and I doubled up and when we each needed to have private conversations, we’d head out to the warehouse with our cell phones.

Advisory Board members John Bowen,
Marla Bradshaw, Pat Baldwin
and Mary Shaw

Our break room was so small that part of the staff had to stand during meetings. One staff member opened her desk drawer and a mouse ran out. Lindsay tweeted about our mice problem and KOKI Fox 23 came out to do a story. It wasn’t an office paradise, but we survived with the promise of a beautiful, spacious brand-new office space with our Christmas warehouse down the hall.

Jackie Pizarro, president of the
Women's Auxiliaryand Arletta Robinson,
 director, Center of Hope
David Johnson and Billie


Happy Ending

During our dedication of the building Tuesday, Advisory Board Chairman Billie Barnett commended Majors Roy and Kathy Williams for their kindness, tenacity and grace during the project. She thanked staff members for being good sports about the less-than-ideal conditions. Major Ken Luyk, our Divisional Commander, recognized Major Roy Williams for his energy and vision.

Hurdles were overcome. Heroes were honored. The brass band played. Billie gave me something new to think about. When we are kind, tenacious and blessed with grace can’t we survive practically anything? I’m going to say yes. Kindness, tenacity, grace, new offices, old friends and no mice. It just doesn’t get any better.


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