By Darla Shelden
Fourteen years ago, Richard Bond became pastor at Penn Avenue Church of the Nazarene near NW 10 and Pennsylvania Avenue. Bond and his congregation formed a ministry called OKC Compassion in 1998 to address the many needs of homeless and impoverished people in the surrounding neighborhoods.
In 2010 Bond stepped down as pastor of the church in order to focus full-time as OKC Compassion’s Executive Director.
OKC Compassion, Inc. offers support, encouragement and actual real-time help to Oklahoma City’s inner city residents at the shared facilities made available by Penn Avenue Church through their many programs.
The Community Meal program serves over 100 hot meals a day. Partnerships with the Regional Food Bank, local grocers and several restaurants, allows OKC Compassion to be able to serve healthy meals year round.
Free meals are served from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays and breakfast from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday. During Thanksgiving and Christmas they host two large community meals on the Saturdays preceding each holiday feeding nearly 400 people.
The Recovery House Program was started in 1999 and has grown to now oversee six separate housing facilities with capacity for 30 residents.
The Celebrate Recovery Program helps people heal from their ‘hurts, habits, and hang-ups’ by providing a Wednesday evening dinner at 5:45 p.m. followed by a worship service and small group discussions. Each meeting has about 150 participants.
Summer Kids Club offers a safe and healthy alternative to idleness and neglect for young people. It lasts for several weeks each summer assisting area children.
Daily support groups, shower facilities and clothing rooms offering items free of charge are also available for those in need.
The 3rd Annual Philip Gokool 50 Memorial Bike Ride was recently held at Lake Hefner to commemorate the life of one of OKC Compassion’s volunteers who was killed in the city three years ago. Proceeds from the event benefit OKC Compassion’s many programs.
Catherine Sharp and Stacy Lord, both OKCC volunteers, were organizers for the event.
“We hold the memorial ride each year to honor his family, and also to honor and respect the way he lived his life,” said Sharp. “I’ve struggled with addictive problems my whole life,” said Stacy Lord who now lives in the Women’s Recovery House and works as the ministry’s kitchen manager. “They feed people and they get clothes to people. If you have a need, then you quality, “ said Lord. “I don’t know what I would have done without OKC Compassion.”
Tammie Wikinson, reclaiming her life after many major setbacks, is now part of OKC Companion’s Residential Recovery Program.
Wilkinson said, “For most of my life I felt imprisoned, chained, if you will, by my intense feelings of low self-worth and inadequacy. On August of 2009 I met with Pastor Bond and was accepted into the Residential Recovery Program. This proved to be a life-changing event. I was surrounded by others recovering from lifetime trauma, abuse, neglect, addiction and other enormous challenges. And yet there was hope.”
“OKC Compassion’s Recovery Program took me in when I had nowhere to turn,” said Wilkinson. “When I had lost everything, my home, my friends, and my self-esteem. The Recovery Program gave me a safe place to begin my long healing process. And they are still with me today. I am blessed by my friends at OKC Compassion who are a daily source of encouragement and support.”
Catherine Sharp said, “We’ve seen an increase in the demand for our services since there has been a lot of displacement of people due to the changes in the downtown area. OKCC receives no government funding and relies upon donations to continue to operate its programs. Our greatest need now is financial support to replace the two large air conditioning units that cool the kitchen-dining hall area. The combined cost for these units is $18,000 and our hope is to replace them this year.”
OKC Compassion needs support from local churches, businesses and individuals to help with their ongoing programs and events like the Memorial Bike Ride. Grocers are helping by offering food, but others can help the organization with a donation that will make a difference in the lives of many.
For more information contact OKC Compassion at 405-410-8082 or visit www.okccompassion.net.
OKC Compassion serving urban Oklahoma City after more than a decade
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