Friday, June 29, 2012

Mabee Red Shield loves teens

Josh Walker has his hands full. He’s the new athletic director at Mabee Red Shield Boys and Girls Club and is also managing a new teen program this summer. Club director Jerome Smith said it’s the first formal program for teens that Red Shield has had in a long time. Josh leads eleven 13 and 14-year olds in programs called Goals for Graduation, Career Launch and Healthy Habits. I got to spend time with Josh and the teens recently at LaFortune Park where they walk or run the three-mile perimeter once a week as part of the Healthy Habits program. 

Josh said the kids didn’t want to tell their parents about Healthy Habits because their parents would be so happy. “It’s the same story with all the parents. They say all the kids want to do now is be on their phones. It’s hard to get them to do anything else,” Josh said. But he knows how to keep them motivated, although with a nudge, not a push. And that’s good, because Josh used to be a defensive lineman for the University of Tulsa. He learned to play football at Mabee Red Shield as a "Bulldog."

I asked the kids to invent a creative pose for their photograph, and they came up with the pose above. (Click to enlarge.)  From the top of the slide are: K’onte Thompson; second row; Katara Kniep, Monique Ware, Willis Humphrey, Rachel Jefferson, Kerey Carson; third row: Octavia Terrell, Kharon Driver; bottom row: India Noriah, J’day McIntosh. Photo at right is of Josh and Willis.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

N.Mabee kids tour Langston

All I have ever gotten out of Ramone Malone is a big grin and “Yes ma’am,” and “No ma’am.” That’s certainly not all bad. This is a young man with great manners who is a little on the shy side.  So when one of Ramone’s mentors e-mailed me a quote from him recently I was amazed. 
“College ain’t no joke. You have to do your own laundry, figure out where to get food, study, try to have a social life, but if you do have a social life you’re probably doing something wrong,” Ramone said.
Ramone spoke prior to a college tour for the kids in the Felix Jones II, "Running Back to Make a Difference" Foundation ACT Prep program taught at North Mabee Boys and Girls Club. Carol Ainsworth, below right, an ACT tutor and program aide, invited kids from the program to meet at North Mabee and hear what two college sophomores had to say about college life. After the discussion, the kids toured Langston University. Later on this summer, they’ll tour Tulsa Community College and University of Tulsa. Ramone is a sophomore at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. An athlete himself, he is majoring in sports management. He also told the kids that they will miss their family and that the first year in college can be lonely.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cooling Center is Open

As Oklahoma's summer temperatures continue to climb I wanted to remind readers about something important. Did you know that The Salvation Army Center of Hope is one of the handful of cooling centers for the City of Tulsa? Our facility at 102 N. Denver is open 24/7 for anyone in need of a cool place to stay.  All the meteorologist are expecting temperatures increase over the weekend and into next week and we will be there Doing the Most Good! 

Don't forget to check on anyone you know who may not have air conditioning and remember that children, pets and the elderly can be at high risk when the temperatures go up!


P.S. Did you know you can get utility assistance at the Center of Hope also thanks to the Light a Life and Share the Warmth and Lend a Hand programs offered by PSO, ONG and OG&E?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Boys & Girls Clubs rock Philbrook

Hello, I’m Niva Grayson, a Summer Day Camp staff counselor at Maybe Red Shield Boys and Girls Club. In 2011, I was the Mabee Red Shield candidate for the Youth of the Year. I am now a sophomore at Langston University -- but enough about me! I want to give you a chance to hear about our amazing experience at the Philbrook Museum of Art Tuesday.
The Boys and Girls Clubs have been attending “Rock Philbrook” for three summers. Ms. LaDonna, Mabee Red Shield’s “Young Rembrandts” art teacher, made it so exciting for me and the children from the Boys and Girls Clubs to see Philbrook for the first time in 2009. I can remember our first visit well. We were all excited and nervous because we all were being introduced to something new. Ms. LaDonna did an amazing job giving us the chance to be creative and understanding that art plays an important part in our history.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Goodbye to good leaders

Friday is a turning point for The Salvation Army Tulsa Area Command. We knew Majors Roy and Kathy Williams were far too talented to stay in the same position for long, and sadly they are leaving Friday for a promotion in Jackson, Mississippi. Major Roy will report to the Divisional Commander as General Secretary and Major Kathy will be in charge of Women's Ministries for the ALM division, which includes Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. The Salvation Army moves its officers around every four to seven years. I was really hoping for more time with the Williams. I want to tell you what their leadership has meant to me and, I suspect, my coworkers.

Major Roy ushered in so many positive changes, it’s hard to know where to start. We are in our brand new beautiful offices and will save tens of thousands of dollars every year because we don’t have to rent a Christmas warehouse. Major Roy took the initiative to get that done. When I started here three years ago, every time I worked on the website that the National Salvation Army required us to use my computer would crash. I thought it was just my lack of programming skills – but then Major Roy hired Lindsay as e-marketing director. She decided that the website was so dicey that we’d use a blog until a new website could be built from scratch. It’s under construction now, but the blog has been so popular, we'll continue to use it for stories.

When Major hired Lindsay, there wasn’t a single e-marketing director at another Area Command in the Southern Territory. Now, in addition to our blog, we are fully into all social media and mobile media too. These are all concrete milestones that occurred under Major Roy’s leadership, but an invisible aspect of his leadership is equally important to me. Whenever I’ve made mistakes, Major Roy has corrected me without ever making me feel stupid or guilty or unmotivated, an area where I've found many leaders lacking. I'm sure I’m not the only staff person who has experienced it. I don’t know how he does it, but he makes me want to do better, not retreat and take fewer risks. I think that's the point where leadership becomes an art rather than a skill.

Major Kathy is equally talented. I watched her turn our Christmas Assistance Program from chaos to order in a year. During Christmas 2009, recipients of Christmas assistance had to wait in line for up to four hours, sometimes in bad weather, to register for food and gifts. Now recipients make appointments for registration as early as August and are in and out of the Christmas Center in an hour or less. Distribution of gifts from the Angel Tree Program ran like a well-oiled machine last year. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Custodian reaches goals one day at a time

I met Steve for the first time when was I was showing a PR intern around the Center of Hope. Steve was living in the Project Able dorm at the time, and volunteered to give us a complete tour. After that, it seemed like no matter what time I was at the Center of Hope, Steve was there with his mop. He impressed me with his quiet demeanor and gentlemanly manners. So when a teacher at the high school in Holland Hall asked if one of our homeless guests at the Center of Hope could meet with the kids in his humanities class, I recruited Steve.

I have to admit I was a little nervous about the presentation, which in my mind I had subtitled  “Two Worlds Collide.” I got us there really early. When we pulled up to Holland Hall we had almost an hour to wait before class. To pass the time, we talked. Steve told me his story. 

Here it is in a nutshell: Born in Mississippi in 1961, got a GED, joined the Air Force, became an alcoholic. Took an honorable discharge to care for a younger brother.  Worked, had his own place, drank a lot, became homeless. Same pattern for two and a half decades. In 2008, when he went to the ER with a headache, it turned out that he had a massive brain infection. It took two surgeries to remove the infection and he was put into a medically-induced coma for two weeks. They didn’t expect him to live. When he left the hospital he didn’t have a place to stay and spent the nights at the Center of Hope. After three years in AA and two years in Project Able and working as a custodian, he moved into his own apartment in August of 2011. He still attends AA meetings five days a week.

Where would he be without The Salvation Army? “I would have given up,” Steve said. He said he struggles with his drinking every day. “It was hard to seek help because I thought it was a sign of weakness. But you have to get over that to survive. You can’t do everything yourself.”

After telling his story to the Holland Hall humanities students, one young man came up to Steve, shook his hand, congratulated him for his success and wished him the best in the days ahead. He was choking back tears.The two worlds didn't collide, but came together, mainly because of Steve.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Circus comes to club kids

Step right up! See the Greatest Show on Earth! Two hundred kids from our six Boys & Girls Clubs and lots of staff members got a little taste of the circus Wednesday when Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Ringmaster Johnathan Iverson presented 200 tickets for the Saturday morning circus performance at Tulsa’s BOK Center.

Kids from all six Boys & Girls Clubs packed the gym of the North Mabee Boys & Girls Club and raptly listened to Johnathan’s inspirational story. He is the first African American Ringmaster in Barnum & Baileys long history. Johnathan stands six feet, five 
inches tall and his Ringmaster’s stovepipe hat gives him about a foot more. “How’d you get so tall?” one boy asked. “I ate my vegetables and did what my mom told me,” Johnathan said. Good answer! I got the impression he is asked that a lot.  

Johnathan brought along his friend Billy, the Ambassador of Laughter from Clown Alley, who led the kids in stretching and strengthening exercises. He also taught them to balance a peacock feather on their chins and juggle scarves. Billy said they will put on three shows on Saturday and by late Saturday night he will have walked nine miles. You have to be fit to be in the big ring!

The only kid with a beard in the audience was Captain Jay Spalding, who donned a clown nose and participated in all the exercises. He wasn’t the only adult having fun. I wrangled a couple of tickets out of Johnathan and took my son Robby to the circus Saturday morning. He’s 25, but we’re both kids at heart.