By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Voices Organized In Civic Engagement (VOICE) Action Fund will host its third annual Gala of Gratitude on Friday, November 11. The dinner and program will be held at the Petroleum Club 100 N. Broadway, Suite 3400, in downtown Oklahoma City.
A cocktail reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. The dinner, program and awards presentation will start at 7 p.m. The evening will include dancing with music by DJ Nick Singer.
“Our annual gala is super fun — a great night to dress up, honor great people, and connect with VOICE leaders,” said Kristen King, lead organizer for the group.
Several VOICE leaders will share highlights about the organization’s work over the past year.
VOICE is a coalition of 25 congregations, nonprofits, and schools with a common mission and concern for the pressures faced by families in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
This year, the VOICE Lifetime Civic Engagement Award will be presented to Moses and Sadie Mast, of the Joy Mennonite Church in Oklahoma City.
Married for 56 years, Moses and Sadie first met while volunteering at an Indian School in Red Lake Ontario Canada. In 1972 they moved to Spencer, Oklahoma where Moses served as minister of the Mennonite Church for nearly twenty years.
The Masts spent three years ministering at a refugee camp in Honduras before returning to Oklahoma in 1992 where Moses became pastor of the Joy Mennonite Church in Oklahoma City. Now retired, they both serve in the church’s Special Ministries program.
“Sadie and Moses are being honored for their lifetimes of service as leaders in the peace and justice community, living their values every day, year in and year out,” said VOICE leader Sundra Flansburg.
The 2016 Good Start Award recipient is Ranya O’Connor, director of the Curbside Chronicle at the Homeless Alliance.
In 2013, Ranya and her husband Whitley founded the Curbside Chronicle, a periodical publication sold exclusively by homeless vendors on the streets of Oklahoma City.
The couple voluntarily ran Curbside until July 2015 when the paper’s growth allowed Ranya to become its first employee. As publisher, she also serves as a case manager for the homeless vendors, training and empowering them to obtain housing, while advocating on their behalf.
Ranya has helped numerous vendors move from Curbside to permanent employment, while providing stability to the lives of many others.
“It is an honor to be the recipient of this award at the VOICE Gala,” O’Connor said. “We’re lucky to have an organization like VOICE in Oklahoma City fighting for those who may not always have the privilege of being heard and represented. I admire the work of VOICE, advocating for restorative and economic justice in our community.
“I hope that we can continue to work together to promote real solutions for people in poverty that don’t include criminalization of acts like panhandling, but real, life-changing opportunities that meet people’s needs and provide a better way out,” O’Connor added.
Inspired by O’Connor’s passion and commitment, Flansburg said, “We look forward to more amazing accomplishments from Ranya in the coming years.”
“This is a very exciting point in VOICE’s work,” Flansburg stated. “In an effort to respond to the stories we have heard from Oklahoma families, we’ve had a busy year. Our work has included shining a light on the impact of public safety; helping families struggling from widespread fines and fees in the criminal justice system; working on the OG&E rate hike case to call for a decision that works for average Oklahoma families; and raising concerns about the abuses of the payday type loan industry in our state.
“We will continue our work on areas related to jobs and economic justice in the coming year, with a vision towards 2018 and the governor’s and other related races,” Flansburg said.
The VOICE Action Fund is a 501(c)4, making contributions non-deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. Donations may be deductible as trade or business expenses, if ordinary and necessary in the conduct of the taxpayer’s business.
Gala tickets are $100 and sponsorships ranging from $250 to $2500 are available.
To purchase tickets, contact: Kristen King at 405-613-3621. To learn more, visit www.voiceokc.org.