ACS staff, health department and partners combine efforts to provide information to area residents

By Wulf James-Roby
For The Ardmoreite
Community agencies worked together Tuesday to bring resources to students, families and community members in need of assistance with programs to help with healthcare, food and school supplies as well as assistance with rent and utilities.

As schools in southern Oklahoma prepare for the first day of classes, many in the community continue to struggle with meeting basic needs such as shelter, food and healthcare services. While funds have been made available to help, many of the applications require internet access and technology that not all area residents are able to easily access or navigate. 

In response to those needs, school staff and local nonprofits teamed up to bring resources to the most vulnerable. On Tuesday, Ardmore City Schools hosted a resource event that brought together vaccinations, school physicals and pathways to help with other needs facing students, parents and others. 

Renita Dotson RN, lead school nurse for Ardmore City Schools said, “we learned that the Carter County Health Department was launching a mobile clinic to venture out to schools to get people vaccinated and do school physicals. So we teamed up and they set up to come out to get kids 12 and older vaccinated for COVID. They also do the sports physicals, which is great because a lot of kids can’t get in to get them or they can’t afford it. We’ve even had some kids come in from Plainview and Dickson, which is great. They’re all our kids.” 

In planning for the health department visit, Dotson said she thought it would be helpful to include some other resources for those who are struggling. When Dotson reached out to Shenita Jones, founder of Restoring Lives, Jones informed her of another program available to area residents through Oklahoma Community Cares. “Especially at this time where a lot of people are being evicted and struggling, it’s important to have resources available.” Dotson said she also reached out to the Ardmore Public Library, Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative, Chickasaw District, Together Oklahoma, the AHS McKinney-Vento program. 

Restoring Lives is currently accepting applications to help with rent or utilities. The nonprofit is also partnering with Oklahoma Community Cares to assist with applications for that program, which is also assisting with rent and utilities — for up to 15 months for those who qualify. Crystal Douglas with Restoring Lives said the program was able to assist 48 families between the two programs at Tuesday’s event. 

Qualification for assistance through these programs is not necessarily that a family or individual is living on the streets. Living in a hotel, with relatives or friends, or a child staying with a guardian other than their parents may qualify for assistance through one or more programs. Resources are available for assistance with SoonerCare applications, citizenship and residential status, school supplies and many other hardships facing our community. 

“People need to see and realize that there are resources out here,” Dotson said. “If you can just reach out, hold on just a little while longer, they’re there. We just have to help each other. We are all in this together.” Dotson said the school’s first priority is the kids and by extension the community. The school system will continue to work with the health department and other area partners to bring health information and resources to students and their families. 

For more information on programs through Ardmore Public Library, visit ardmorelibrary.org. To apply for assistance with school supplies through the Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma, complete the form online at ardmoregracecenter.com/applications. For more information or to apply for SoonerCare, visit MySoonerCare.org. More information about the Restoring Lives programs and services is available at restoringlivesnow.org. Applications for Oklahoma Community Cares are available online at okcommunitycares.org.