Photos by Alex Garoffo

TU students give back to the community

Rain, trash, hamburgers, Clorox and a bulldog named Bea. What do they have in common? Volunteers at TU’s Service Day found all of them at The Bridges Foundation on Saturday. Megan Sinek, the student in charge of Service Day, firmly believes in its goals.

“Not only do we aim to provide assistance, but [also] to learn more about what each organization does in attempt to better the Tulsa community. We hope that Service Day helps integrate our university with the Tulsa community and create ties with organizations that can be built upon in the future,” Sinek said.

Each year on Service Day, TU students head to different locations around Tulsa to work on various volunteer projects. These range from beautification efforts at the community rose garden to working with youth at the Tulsa Boys Home.

This year, 625 students signed up for the event. They represent more than 50 different campus organizations.

Saturday saw 28 separate Tulsa organizations receive assistance from TU students.

Sinek reported that this year, SA, which runs service day, partnered with True Blue Neighbors and the TU Alumni Association for the first time.

“Many of these community organizations told me that this day is a large benefit to them, even though it’s just one day of the year. Organizations that do not have a large workforce to draw upon are especially grateful,” Sinek explained.

“For example, many of the smaller groups [we] help on Service Day do not have a lot of the manpower to complete the [larger] outdoor projects that a group of 50 students can do in a couple hours.”

Locations for Service Day this year included the Tulsa Boys Home, Global Gardens, Kendall-Whittier Elementary and the Dream Center.

Sinek was assistant director of community service last year, so moving into the position of executive director of community service this year came naturally.

“We live in this city for the better part of the year, so we should try to become involved in this city outside of just our campus,” Sinek asserted.

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One group, composed of members of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and the Kappa Sigma fraternity, along with others, volunteered at The Bridges Foundation in Jenks.

29 students cleaned walls, organized chairs, wiped tables and mopped and swept inside the building. Duties outside and in the warehouse included breaking down boxes, stacking pallets and throwing out trash.

The foundation, formed from a merger in 2012 of the Bridges Foundation and the Riverview Association for Retarded Citizens, exists to enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities through job placement and vocational training.

Bridges Foundation’s ultimate goals include developing interpersonal skills and enabling clients to be independent, functioning, contributing members of society.

Work at the Outsource Center, where students were on Saturday, is done via contracts with outside companies. For example, Bridges clients do piecework for Hilti such as boxing nails (100 per box). They get paid per box completed.

There is no time limit for clients in the program. “Some stay for only a few weeks, others work here for 40 years,” Amy McAbee, the accounting manager, explained. She’s worked with Bridges in various capacities for 28 years.

“We have 10 job coaches who help clients in placements at the IC Bus Plant here in Tulsa. We’ve worked with the plant for 13 years,” McAbee added. The bus plant produces 50-80 buses per day, starting from bare sheet metal to fully finished product.

“Because we pay sub-minimum wage, we’re regulated by the State Department of Labor. We also have summer camps for 10- to 22-year-olds that last eight weeks in June and July, as well as a transition program for high school students who need help adjusting to adulthood before entering college.

The transition program provides an opportunity for high school graduates to learn vocational training and job readiness. Students visit multiple community employers to gain knowledge of a work environment, sample job-specific tasks and develop skills needed to maintain a relationship with an employer.

The summer camp offers both indoor and outdoor extracurricular, educational and personal development activities. Campers increase their social skills and learn to practice healthy lifestyle habits.

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The Bridges Foundation has two locations in Tulsa. One in Jenks and one at Pine and Lewis serve north Tulsans. The organization’s large, annual fundraiser takes place on June 9 at Riverwest Festival Park. “It’s called the Dirty Dog Glow Run, but you don’t have to be a runner to participate. We are always looking for new volunteers,” McAbee assured.

Bridges also has openings to work as a camp counselor during its summer camps, as well as internship opportunities for students seeking work.

Interested students are encouraged to contact Bridges President and CEO, Karie Johnson, to find out more and learn how to help. Her work number is 918-592-3333, and her email is

Post Author: Alex Garoffolo