Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Learning LifeSkills for a Better Life

Recently, I visited The Center of Hope in downtown Tulsa to chat with some of our caseworkers about some of the longer term housing programs that we have for homeless families and individuals, in addition to the nightly housing and meals available to the general public.

We also talked about the LifeSkills classes that clients in the supportive and transitional programs attend-- this is different from the "Pathways" classes for the general population in the Center's overnight shelter. The main difference is that the LifeSkills classes are actually tailored to address needs and concerns of program participants.

Program participants in the Supportive Housing Program (SHP) for homeless families, and in Project Able, our substance abuse recovery program, will typically participate in LifeSkills for year or more. In fact, the average length of stay for SHP participants is 456 days (or a year and 3 months); and for Project Able clients, it's 593 days (or a year & 7 months)*.

Topics in the LifeSkills classes tend to be focused on addressing issues that contributed to homelessness for the clients, in order to increase their knowledge and coping ability, so that they can remain housed after they leave our program.

For example, recent classes include:
  • Housing- How to find an apartment
  • How to open/ keep a bank account
  • Credit Scores 101
  • Examining Paradigms and Perceptions

In addition, LifeSkills classes have also been structured around book studies/curricula. Past book studies have included:
Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey.

If you are interested in contributing to the LifeSkills classes, through a donation of either time or resources, contact the Center of Hope at 918-582-7201.


* statistics taken from 2012 HUD APRs

Monday, February 25, 2013

West Mabee dinner wildly successful

The West Mabee Boys & Girls Club recently cooked and served a gourmet dinner to thank donor Pam Williford for her generosity in donating all new kitchen appliances to the club.
 Club Director Jamar Giddings, left, presents Pam with a bouquet of roses after the dinner. Jamar teaches the cooking classes at the club in addition to his other duties.
The head table at the dinner included, from left, Major Jim Taylor, athletic director James Jones (taking orders) , Hearne Williford, Pam Williford, and Charlotte and Wade Edmundson, chairs for the William Booth Society Dinner. Major April Taylor's back is to the camera.
From left, Aaron Massey, chairman of the Boys & Girls Club Leadership Council, and Major April Taylor enjoy the speeches made by the club kids about Martin Luther King, Jr.

From left, Joshua gets help with the mic from James while presenting his reading.

The dinner was a family affair. Here's Joshua with his mom Genean. Later Genean gave a speech about what the club meant to her. Speeches were also given by Yvonne and Preston McHenry and Grandma Cathy.
Renee, April Hagan and her baby girl enjoyed the entertainment, which included a fashion show.
Models relax before the show. The young women on the left and right are the daughters of Cass and Kimberly Filio, Leadership Council members and longtime supporters of the club.

Lauren and Rosemary Brown, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs, enjoy the dinner.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Meet Tweety Baldwin, Program Director

Kids lined up at Philbrook
I first noticed Latrica “Tweety” Baldwin at one of the Rock Philbrook events The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club holds every summer. A bunch of kids were standing in a long line waiting to get their bag lunches. There were three large boys who were starting to loudly roughhouse. A stylishly dressed, diminutive girl said about three words to them and they instantly hushed up and stood quietly in line. I thought she was a Boys & Girls Club kid, then later learned she was Program Director at the West Mabee Boys & Girls Club.

“The older boys respect me. All the kids respect me. I think they just fell in love with me,” Tweety told me recently. After getting her Associate’s degree in Fashion Design at Clary Sage College, Latrica attended TCC as an elementary education major. She needed to fulfill volunteer hours as part of TCC requirements, so she chose to volunteer at the West Mabee club. After a year of volunteering, club director Jamar Giddings asked her to be Program Director when the position came open.

“ I like to have fun with the kids,” she said. “The biggest challenge is the kids who don’t get along with each other. I always make them sit down and we play a board game together, like Pictionary or Monopoly. They end up laughing and having fun,” she said.

Latrica is the youngest of five children. She said her aunt gave her the nickname Tweety when she was born because she thought she had a big head and a little body, like the cartoon character Tweety bird. Latrica  is 23 years old and still aspires to be an elementary school teacher or have her own clothing store some day. Until then, the West Mabee kids seem glad to share their lives with a Tweety bird they can look up to, and I'm glad to get to know this small powerhouse who handles kids so well.  


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Shelter's Sunday service popular

Every Sunday night The Salvation Army conducts a worship service in the chapel at the Center of Hope. As always we invite our shelter guests as well as the public to join us. We offer a lively service filled with rousing praise and worship, prayer time and a stimulating message. This past Sunday 51 people joined me as I began a seven-week series on the Tabernacle and how it relates to us in the 21st century. After the service one man said to me, "I have found something I have been looking for for 22 years."

 He, along with 8 others, came to the altar to pray and dedicate themselves to God.

We meet at 6:30 p.m. every Sunday at the Center of Hope, 102 N. Denver St. in Tulsa. I look forward to seeing you there.

- Major Jim Taylor
Tulsa Area Commander

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Booth Dinner to Highlight Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with the 2013 William Booth Society chairpersons, Charlotte and Wade Edmundson, and the remarkable dinner committee they have assembled to help make our 20th Annual Benefit Dinner a success. This year they will highlight our six Metro Tulsa Boys & Girls Clubs and I wanted to share some information about why our Clubs are essential for youth in our community.

I should also mention that this year we will have Bob Costas as our keynote speaker! As the face and voice of NBC Sports, Costas is best known for covering events seen by millions such as the Kentucky Derby, the Super Bowl and the Olympics.

Here are some interesting facts from a national Harris Survey conducted by Boys & Girls Club nationally.

Nationally, 1.3 million students in the class of 2010 did not graduate with a high school diploma: a graduation rate of 69%

Boys & Girls Club members graduate at a rate of 90%
15% higher average GPA than peers
87% fewer absences

Oklahoma spends on the average $36,500 per year for each child in juvenile detention

Boys & Girls Clubs spend $600 per child each year on programs and services that are proven deterrents to juvenile crime.
Check out this infographic with more: 

The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs in Tulsa serve more than 5,000 youth annually. Our programs focus on physical fitness, education and the importance of being a good citizen, among other things. Our staff is top-notch with a passion for ensuring the kids in our Clubs don't just do well, they prosper and succeed, understanding that if they work hard nothing is out of their reach! If you would like to support The Salvation Army and our Boys & Girls Clubs while also enjoying a fabulous dinner and world class speaker, call Nancy Lloyd at (918) 587-7801.

See you there!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Boys & Girls Clubs have busy spring ahead

West Mabee girl cooks
BBQ, Basketball and an Army of Stars among the activities benefiting Boys & Girls Clubs!
As I prepare for another child in my household, I know my life is about to change. It’s going to get busier, louder and more fun. It’s a lot of work taking care of kids – so imagine having to take care of five-thousand!

That’s what the staff at our six Boys & Girls Clubs endures throughout the year. Each Club is unique and does a great job of helping children in its neighborhood. But these Clubs need your support – and there are several opportunities to help, while also having some fun. Take a look at some of the events and fundraisers planned in the next few months for Clubs:

BA's Bouncin' BBQ

Thurs., Feb. 21st, 7pmWest Mabee Thank You Dinner & Fashion Show – 2143 South Olympia. The West Mabee Boys & Girls Club has a cooking class and some generous people donated appliances to this program. The kids are going to cook a special thank you for these donors, followed by a fashion show.

Fri., Mar. 1st, 6pm-8:30pm - BA Bouncin' BBQ –BA Boys & Girls Club, on 91st between 145th and 161st. Inflatables, BBQ, live music, silent/live auction – everything you need to entertain your family on a Friday night! Tickets: $15 for Adults, $10 for Children, $40 for a Family Pack of 4. Benefits the Broken Arrow Boys & Girls Club – call 918-835-6902 to get tickets.
Sat., Mar. 2nd, 6:30pm – Sand Springs Army of Stars – 4403 S. 129th W. Ave., Sand Springs. The Army of Stars banquet is a wonderful tradition in Sand Springs honoring our outstanding Club kids. The event includes a silent and live auction and dinner. Tickets: $35. Benefits the Sand Springs Boys & Girls Club – call 918-245-2237 for more information.
Sat., Mar. 9th, 9am – West Mabee 2nd Annual Teen 5K Fun Run – Rogers State University, Claremore. Eat too much barbeque at Bouncing BBQ? Grab an extra dessert at Army of Stars? Then strap on your shoes and head to Rogers State University for a fun, 3-mile jog.  Tickets: only $10!!! Benefits the West Mabee Boys & Girls Club - call 918-582-4327 for more information.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Every volunteer has a niche

A Salvation Army canteen

I recently attended my first Salvation Army disaster training and left it amazed with several things. First, I had no idea that we work with so many different organizations during a disaster. People commonly think of The Salvation Army as the people who hand out hot meals and coffee, but there’s so much more to it. I learned that no one organization can do it all. If we tried to do it all, we’d overextend ourselves and our resources. So we all just fill in the gaps for each other, and that’s the way we do the most good.
Interior of a canteen

Our wonderful volunteers fill in for each other and for staff members in the same way that organizations fill the gaps for each other. One of our instructors, Major Johnny Poff, who is known all over the South for his cooking during disasters, told a great story illustrating this concept.

Once during a disaster he was cooking in a makeshift kitchen. He had an older gentleman who assisted him, but no one could figure out what to do with the man’s wife. She had dementia and when assigned a task, her short-term memory problem meant that it had to be taught to her again and again. The volunteer coordinator moved her around, trying to find something she could do, but it just wasn’t working.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

3 Reasons why we love United Way

Recently, I faced the largest single grant application in my tenure at Salvation Army (all 6 months of it). Not in size, no, but in grant request amount. 

I tackled the mountain of (metaphorical) paperwork (it's an electronic application) that is the annual Tulsa Area United Way (TAUW) Request for Funding. The application for 2014 funding was a beast- it included financial information, detailed information about our Advisory Board, as well as reporting on all 6 of our United Way funded projects, IN ADDITION TO the actual agency request for funding. 

Due to some scheduling issues, I ended up only having about a week to work on the application/report, whereas most other agencies have been crafting their application since mid-Decemeber.We were a little busy around here.  :)

You may be wondering, why is the United Way application such a big deal? and why its well worth the effort? Well, three main reasons:

Key support for programs:
The United Way is a key component of the financial stability of our major programs; annually, between 13 and 15% of the overall agency budget comes from United Way funding. The 6 major programs that TAUW funding supports are:
  1. Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Tulsa- neighborhood clubs offering academic, sport and social programming for lower income youth, ages 5-18.
    • North Mabee
    • Mabee Red Shield
    • Sand Springs
    • Sapulpa
    • Broken Arrow
  2. Community Centers- adult health and educational programming offered at each area Boys and Girls Club.
  3. Emergency Shelter- Northeast Oklahoma's largest overnight shelter with a capacity of 350, serving 3 meals a day for guests and a public dinner meal nightly
  4.  Emergency Financial Assistance- a homeless prevention and financial aid program for utilities, medical and other essential service
  5. Supportive Housing Program- a transitional housing program for homeless families
  6. Project Able- a permanent housing program for recovering substance addicts.

Community support
In addition, being part of the United Way is important to The Salvation Army because of the connections that it brings to other agencies- to avoid duplication of services as well as to form partnerships and make referrals in the event that our programs are not a good fit for clients seeking assistance- and connections that the public can have with us as a result.

One of our favorite events during the year is the annual Day of Caring. Day of Caring, to me, is mind-blowing for it's coordination and for the sheer number of people, from different companies across Green Country.

From TAUW Fast Facts:
The Tulsa Area United Way Day of Caring is one of the largest such events in the nation, with 4,125 volunteers completing more than 33,000 hours of work at area parks, schools and non-profit organizations.

2012's Day of Caring was a great experience: we had over 300 volunteers working for The Salvation Army. And those volunteers undertook more than 30 different projects at our various locations and volunteered for a total of 1,280 hours!

Volunteers lay flooring for a storage building at the BA Boys and Girls Club.

As volunteer coordinator Jenny McElyea said in her Day of Caring blog post,

"The great thing about Day of Caring is that it’s a perfect testament to what people can do when they work together!  This year projects ranged from a cook-out for the guests at the Center of Hope courtesy of Mazzio's to the cleaning of the fence line at the Sapulpa Boys and Girls club, courtesy of the Williams Companies."

Volunteers from ONEOK paint a new picnic table they bought for the North Mabee club.
We are looking forward to attending the "Live United" Awards Banquet next week, where top companies and organizations will be recognized for their volunteer and monetary contributions to this year's campaign (the largest in TAUW history!). We love being a part of the success of the annual United Way campaign, not just as recipients of funds, but as donors ourselves.

Donor Confidence
Lastly, we really value being a United Way member agency because of the confidence that it gives our donors. As a United Way agency, we are held to some pretty rigorous financial standards and must submit our financials every year upon application for funds. Of the hundreds of non-profit organizations in the Tulsa area, only 60 are Tulsa Area United Way member organizations.

After we, the agencies, submit our applications in January, review panels are assembled and conduct assessments.  
"The Panels conduct in-depth assessments of each agency according to the following criteria: community need, program effectiveness, fiscal and administrative strength and additional resources leveraged by the agency. The panels hold several meetings during the spring to study agency applications for funding. In addition, a separate, independent Audit Committee pours over each agency's financial statements.
After reviewing the applications, panel members participate in site visits of each agency, followed by conferences with agency staff. Finally, the panels recommend funding for each agency, including their rationale, and funding priorities within and between agencies."

Not only do United Way donors benefit from this process, in knowing that each agency is closely assessed, but so do our Salvation Army donors.  Our accounting processes are efficient and our overall budget benefit from the stability of a regular deposits from the TAUW.

You can find out more about the TAUW's fiscal responsibility here.

Hope you've learned something new about the United Way and feel proud to be part of community that so enthusiastically supports non-profit work!


p.s. Check out the 2012 campaign video, it's great!

Friday, February 1, 2013

EFA program popular as ever

EFA interview room
I just don’t know how they do it. I was at the Center of Hope this week with a Tulsa World reporter and photographer. They were covering our Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) program because for the fourth year in a row the 211 social services line has referred more people to EFA than any other program. EFA helps prevent homelessness by helping people pay their utility bills and sometimes other bills. Case manager Cathy Kumm coordinates the program and clerk Heather Houston assists.
EFA Case Manager Cathy Kumm

People who need assistance call the Center of Hope and make an appointment for EFA. After checking applicants’ paperwork, Cathy and Heather call the utility companies and negotiate. They often get part of the bill reduced, then tell applicants about other agencies which can help with the rest of the bill.That means Cathy and Heather listen to the applicants’ sad stories, four days a week, a couple of hours a day.  You can read more detail about the process here.

I’ve listened to some sad stories myself and I don’t know how Cathy and Heather do it. Today I heard the story of a 69-year-old widow who was conned by a man her age who wanted to be her boyfriend.  She left her cozy apartment and moved into his house with him.

EFA Clerk Heather Houston
When she became sick with breast cancer and had to have a radical mastectomy, he lost interest, moved out, took her car and shut off the electricity in his house. She ended up with overwhelming bills. Thankfully, she has a good support network of longtime friends who found her a vehicle and bring her food. I imagine that’s not the worst story told during EFA interviews, but it left me feeling drained. It’s a tough job that they do and I hope they know how appreciated they are.