Riverwood is an extremely diverse neighborhood located near 61st and Peoria that includes a corridor of apartment complexes and Section 8 housing that can often be overlooked, as it is situated between two affluent neighborhoods. However, community-based organizations like South Tulsa Community House (STCH) work to support Riverwood families to reduce hunger, combat poverty and provide a Pathway to Empowerment thereby, improving their lives through direct services and collaborations. STCH’s physical presence in the neighborhood is key to their warm, intentional approach to providing resources to their families, and their willingness to connect with partners, collaborators and community members, making them critical to the community.
One of the core goals of South Tulsa Community House is to provide nutritious food to families, especially those with young children. Two programs focused on families with young children include a nutrition program for children under 8 to promote healthy brain development in those critical years and a client-choice grocery program, where expectant mothers will receive a sheet of items to choose from, including fresh produce, and STCH will subsequently shop for those items for the mother. Joan Herron, program director at STCH, shared that the organization does not provide community members with food that you would not find in a staff member’s home. The intentionality of the work that STCH can be seen through every detail of their programs: how they emphasize community empowerment and choice.
Joan recalled a moment in October 2021 when a STCH intern encountered a nine-month pregnant mother with her children. The mother was waiting on a cab to go somewhere to get resources for her young children after a friend had wired her money to do so. After introductions, the family walked back to STCH alongside staff. Following a short intake process, STCH was able to provide the mother and her children with groceries and educational items for all the children, such as school supplies and reading materials. This family was then able to benefit from a number of the different programs that STCH provides and others co-located at their physical building. Additionally, STCH was able to connect the mother to WIC and SNAP services. Since that first meeting, that mother, her children and her newborn have been to STCH every month, continuing to build a relationship that was born from a neighborhood walk. The accessibility of their physical location has been an important part to building trusted, sustaining relationships with families in the neighborhood. Their building also serves as a home to many other co-located services, allowing families to access more resources than just the ones that STCH provides.
It is our hope that one day that our program will no longer be necessary to fill the gaps that community members face to make ends meet, that the systemic issues that affect poverty are addressed.
JOAN HERRON, PROGRAM DIRECTOR AT SOUTH TULSA COMMUNITY HOUSE
Physical presence in the Riverwood community makes South Tulsa Community House accessible, and it has become a space where many community members can feel safe, building trusted relationships. This trust and thoughtfulness continues to grow and strengthen the community. Recently, STCH partnered in an engagement program with Tulsa Crime Stoppers and officers from the Tulsa Police Department. This weekly initiative works to build trust between Riverwood residents and officers in aims to reduce crime in the area and provide needed resources to help residents prosper. Through this partnership, weekly walks will allow community members, especially children in the area, to have informal, positive reactions with officers, building needed trust.
South Tulsa Community House continues to be a vital resource and physical space for the Riverwood community, and since joining the BEST Partner Network. Funded through the BEST Advisory Fund process (read more here), STCH has been able to connect and learn from other BEST partner organizations with similar neighborhood oriented services. Cities like Tulsa are stronger when neighborhoods are vibrant, connected, safe and strong and South Tulsa Community House is one of the organizations that is working to strengthen supports for Tulsa’s children and families.
The introduction to other BEST partners also opened up so many resources that we would have to otherwise seek elsewhere. In some instances, we would have never known that such resources were available. This opportunity has been a very positive aspect of our partnership as it has helped us to broaden our partnership base.
LINDIWE CHAZA JANGIRA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF STCH