There is new hope for the homeless and the “near homeless” in Shawneeand the surrounding areas, and Oklahoma’s first lady Kim Henry hasvowed to give her support to transform that hope into reality.
Henry said she was unaware of the growing number of those in need inher hometown until recently, but that once she was made aware, she knewshe had to do what she could to make a lasting difference.
“I had no idea,” she said. “When you drive around town, down Harrison,down Kickapoo, downtown, you don’t see it. In Oklahoma City, you seethe panhandlers, you see the homelessness...but I hadn’t seen it anddidn’t realize what a growing population of impoverished that there isin Shawnee.”
Now that she does know there is a problem, the first lady is helping alocal non-profit with its efforts to assist the homeless.
“I’m helping Shawnee Rescue Mission in two capacities — one as firstlady, with my home being in Shawnee, and the second capacity asexecutive director for the Sarkeys Foundation,” Henry said. “I’m tryingto put forth to our trustees a proposal of a matching grant that willbe put forth in April, that if they can raise $175,000, for Sarkeys tomatch them for the rest of the money. I don’t have a vote, just arecommendation. So as first lady, I’m helping with a fundraiser toraise the $175,000 and working to get the grant proposal ready to goforward.”
The grant won’t be final until the trustees approve — or deny — it inApril, but SRM already has begun trying to raise their portion of thebuilding cost, Henry said.
“Angie and Melissa are real go-getters,” she said of SRM founderMelissa Blankenship and SRM vice president Angie Phillips. “Thematching grant we are proposing is a challenge grant and they have seta goal that they want to have their half met before the trustees evenmeet in April to vote.”
The Sarkeys Foundation, a private, charitable foundation that awardsgifts and grants to non-private 501(c) (3) groups, was asked to “lookinto this” by Terry West, a trustee of the foundation. West made therequest after he was visited by Blankenship and Phillips.
The two women shared with West some of the individual stories of thehomeless in Shawnee and before long, they met with the first lady andtold her their immediate and long-term visions for helping the needy inPottawatomie County, beginning with Shawnee.
“As first lady, I’ve really been impressed with the vision of these twowomen and how they’ve worked and dedicated their lives to this,” Henrysaid. “It’s a vision of Christianity and compassion to help those whoare truly less advantaged than we are. They want to not only providethem with housing but...what really drew me to them and what they aretrying to do is they are also trying to address the problems and causesand help them to address them.”
The visions the women shared with West, Henry and others includepurchasing a large building to offer those in need “wrap aroundservices,” including educational classes, a free “thrift store,” awarehouse with food supplies and more. The building would be inaddition to the day center at 506 S. Beard that “so many have giventoward building,” Blankenship said.
“We appreciate all the help from the community and the other agencies;they have been great, and we are looking forward to the future andworking with them,” she said. “We want to not ever turn anyone away whocomes to us with a need.”
The first steps toward turning the mission’s vision into reality havebeen taken by SRM, Blankenship said. The non-profit organization has abuilding “under contract” that will serve as a resource facility forthe impoverished in Shawnee.
“With this, we can help fill a gap and help them,” she said.
The building, located at 204 N. Louisa, will be purchased by SRM for$350,000. That is, if the non-profit mission can raise half of the costof the building within the next few months and if they can receive amatching grant for the remainder of the purchase price.
Henry said she and her husband, Gov. Brad Henry, will do what they canto help with the fundraising effort by hosting a “Heart for theHomeless” banquet at 6:30 p.m. March 23 inside the Geiger Center on theOklahoma Baptist University campus. The first lady will speak to guestsabout the growing need for community support of the impoverished inShawnee and how that support can provide a positive impact on thehomeless and near homeless in the area.
“Brad and I are just excited to host it and help them raise the balanceof funds needed for the grant, provided the trustees approve it,” shesaid. “It’s fun to be able to help in a significant way and to giveback to our home community.”
Henry said some of the additional ways SRM wants to help the homelessand otherwise impoverished is to provide a literacy program and socialservices to them, along with other forms of care.
“They’ve spoken to doctors and dentists,” she said. “It’s trulytouching to see the way these two individuals have thrown their livesinto helping the homeless in Shawnee.”
Posted on Fri, March 12, 2010
by Main Administrator