Friday, February 05, 2010

The closing of community centers in Tulsa...

...And how to recreate them. Here below is the text of a letter I sent to the Tulsa World news and editorial staff. Hope to pass it on to others in the broadcast media soon. Go to http://www.tulsaworld.com/ to read the story about the closing of community centers and parks, especially in our north and west areas.

"In response to the closing of the community centers in Tulsa ("Centers' Groups Scramble", Feb. 5, 2010), I would like first to offer our non-profit A Third Place Community Center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave., for any groups who might find our space suitable to their needs and mission. Facilitating their missions for improving community life is our mission.

Secondly, I would like to offer our model for creating a non-governmental community center as a way to recreate truly grassroots community centers. Without grants so far, though we are working toward some for the growth of our work, and just with donations of money and materials and volunteer time from community residents, we have for three years now created a space for community to happen. We have a place for people to meet and help one another, a free health clinic, free internet center, free library, free programs, free clothing donations, free food pantry, free community gardens and orchard, free animal help group, free classes and programs, partnerships with schools and area groups to channel volunteer energy into community projects beyond our own. We are new, just recently obtaining our 501c3 status, and we have much to grow into, and are a bit messy at times, but so is community itself; in the meantime, there is great need that can be helped.

Just this Spring we will be working with several different classes and groups from the University of Oklahoma at Tulsa to help us create more community connections and highlight those we have undertaken so far. For example, this Saturday Feb. 6 from 9 to 3 pm we will be working with one class on community projects and communication; another will be teaching community development and leadership skills on Tuesday evenings in March and April; another will be helping us look at ways to create entreprenuers; another will be helping us this summer work on meeting nutrition needs in our area; we are also working with others to help us create community centers at community garden sites. And at a time when parks are being closed, we are planning and working toward creating our own neighborhood park out of a place where abandoned houses are located.

With a little help, people in their own areas can create and grow a variety of centers for community, and that sense of the "third places" that Editorial Writer Wayne Greene some time back mentioned as a crucial need, and the kind of work that the Parent Child Center is seeking to foster with its own front porch initiative. The same spirit is motivating the partnerships and work toward the healthy cornerstore initiatives, of which we also are a part.

Lastly, to help provide that little help, and to meet the most immediate emergency needs to keep these centers open, especially in our vulnerable neglected spaces in north and west and east Tulsa, while more grassroots ownership is being created, I call on the churches and other religious bodies to adopt and sponsor running and nurturing these closed community centers as a way to live out their messages of servant leadership. That is how our A Third Place Community Center was begun, as our small church of a few folks decided to transform ourselves into a missional community of faith and to give ourselves away to others, and to create not a space for ourselves but a space for and with others.

Thank you for recognizing the importance of this story, and the sense of place and community spirit and hope that is vital and which has rippling effects throughout the whole city."

Blessings,
Rev. Ron Robinson
Executive Director
A Third Place Community Foundation
6514 N. Peoria Ave.
794-4637, office; 691-3223, cell; 430-1150, home
"doing small acts of justice with great love changes the world" Type rest of the post here