Last Saturday was Tulsa University’s annual Service Day. The event, organized by the Student Association, allowed over four hundred volunteers to attend one of fifteen service sites and, in the words of Austin Carr, who organized the event, “give back to the community,” if only for a brief time. Among the sites were a variety of non-profit, educational, religious and secular organizations.
Catholic Charities is one such organization. Located just a few miles down North Harvard, the charity means to provide the community a wealth of support programs.
Their educational services, for example, include English language, personal finance and parenting skills classes.
For marriage and family counseling they have on-staff licensed professionals available on weekdays.
The primary function of Catholic Charities, however, is emergency assistance, such as food, clothing and social service.
It was with these efforts that the TU students — from Newman Center, Christian Nurses, Chi Alpha and Wesley association— contributed the most, helping to reorganize and sort through the food and clothes pantries located on the church’s campus.
Renee Skalenda, the volunteer leader present at the site, said she was very appreciative of the students’ help.
She added, however, that if she “could get them to come and volunteer every month,” she certainly would. “The organization needs more voluntary leaders, and I think these students could fulfill that role.”
Another local not-for-profit organization featured in the event was Dress for Success. Their mission, to “empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help them thrive in work and in life,” is accomplished in quite a unique way.
The clients of Dress for Success are unemployed women in need of formal clothes for interviews, and, if necessary, the remainder of the work week. Career Development Programs are also available to improve interview skills, enhance resumes, and help assess what job a client would be most applicable for.
The clothing the organization provides is entirely donated, meaning no client is ever charged a fee for any of these services. Serving an ever-growing client base ranging from teenage to elderly women, of all ethnic and economic backgrounds, Tulsa’s Dress for Success is moving to a larger building at 3103 S Harvard.
Service Day volunteers were tasked with aiding this moving process, helping to sort through articles of clothing and move furniture within the new location.
According to the organizer I spoke to, “Dress for Success offers a number of opportunities for volunteers, and would appreciate any kind of support from TU students.”
A Third Place, perhaps the most unique of the organizations hosting TU volunteers, is located in an impoverished area of north Tulsa, where food insecurity is especially high.
The leaders of A Third Place bought and cleared a block of dilapidated abandoned homes in favor of a community-run orchard five years ago, and have devoted their work to improving the space, adding a greenhouse for year-round accessibility.
The orchard serves as a kind of commons for families who would be otherwise unable to purchase fresh vegetables, as the nearby grocery store can’t afford to provide them. Much of the food is run to the organizations’ local free food store, available to families suffering from poverty.
A Third Place hosts a variety of community festivals and parties throughout the year, hoping to emphasize the community’s sense of kinship. “We might be growing a garden here, but more importantly we’re growing a community,” the head volunteer, who simply went by Ron, said in introducing the site to the student volunteers.
There, approximately three dozen volunteers worked according to the ‘Eden Gardening Method,’ helping to lay down the foundation for new gardens with cardboard and mulch.
This year’s Service Day had a record attendance of approximately 425 students. Volunteers were treated to a free breakfast, a boxed lunch, and sweatshirts. Despite the high attendance, the process of getting students to their proper locations occurred without much difficulty this year.
The Student Association attributes this to better weather conditions than last year, a more favorable selection of charitable agencies and the efforts of its organizers. The association hopes to match this success for years to come.