In an uplifting presentation, the Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma was able to relay its mission Tuesday afternoon to the public. Moments of Grace proved to be a theme that resonated to those who took time out of their day to visit the facility and learn more about the United Way Foundation agency.
"Instead of having an event offsite, we wanted to bring people here and tell them stories of who we are and what we do," Derrick Harvey, Board President, said. "We want the people and programs to shine."
The Grace Center is comprised of the day center and resource center. Each plays an important role in helping those in need and giving them tools needed to overcome struggles. The day center offers phones, mailboxes, laundry and shower facilities, as well as job ready wardrobes. The resource center offers to help to those in need of financial aid in hard times as well as food. The Grace Center also offers classes, which help build life skills and put people in a position to overcome their struggles. These classes range from money management to the "Training Teens for Tomorrow," program.
Through the help of foundations and 15 partnering churches throughout a five county region, the Grace Center is enabled to provide help to a community that has yet to fully recover from the recession in 2008. Many people that come to the Grace Center have at least one working member of the family and still struggles to make ends meet. But with each case of assistance, a class is required to help families find ways to meet the demands placed on them financially.
Lesley Dvorak, Grace Center Executive Director, said one of the goals this year was to find five new churches to partner with to provide aid. The partnership allows churches to refer those in need to the center. At the center, an interview takes place with the name of the client entered into a database.
"It allows us to provide assistance to families on the verge of homelessness," Dvorak said.
The Grace Center served 6,000 clients last year. In 2011, the canned food pantry fed over 100 families a week and the day center provided shower and laundry facilities to over 75 people per week. A total of 711 people attended the money managing and budgeting workshops and 64 teens graduated from the Training Teens for Tomorrow program.
"We offer a hand-up, not a hand-out," Dvorak said. "We just think it is so important to let people know what we do. It is important for people to know that 75 percent of our programs are preventative."