A local nonprofit spent this week completing 61 projects in five days for the Tulsa community. One Hope Tulsa set the goal after canceling its annual summer camp because of COVID-19.
"Normally we bring in about 400 to 500 kids and fill [the Rose Bowl] up and overflow into McClure Park, and it's the greatest week in the summer for most of them,” said Joe Blankenship, president of One Hope Tulsa Ministries. “It’s a free sports and arts camp where we try to love on kids and encourage them and help them to find that hook or that encouragement that lets them stay in school, lets them progress, and be successful.”
The camp may have been canceled, but organizers said the mission—inspired by the Bible verse Isaiah 61—is still a go. The verse focuses on proclaiming good news to the poor and binding up the broken-hearted. Joe’s daughter, Annie Blankenship, is spending her summer interning for the organization.
“One Hope Tulsa is a local non-profit dedicated to creating flourishing neighborhoods,” said Annie. “So, we want to help our neighbors flourish by building resilience and sharing hope.”
She said helping out your neighbors is especially important in COVID-19 culture.
“COVID-19 has just been very isolating for our community and communities all over the world. People need relationships, and we want to create connections within our community, and we think these projects help to do that,” said Annie. “[…] We just wanted to give our community an opportunity to connect and kind of combat isolation in this isolating time.”
Annie said when it rains it pours, but rain or shine, she and her fellow interns shared hope by painting murals at Bell Elementary near Admiral and Sheridan during a downpour.
“We had some really great artists come out and help us, and we were all soaked by the end of it, but we got to do something really cool for our community, and we got to show these kids at Bell Elementary that they are loved and that they are valued,” Annie said.
They also created interactive art for kids to play in a COVID-19 cautious way as an alternative to the non-accessible playground equipment at the schools. The group built a music room for students to keep the arts alive, installed playgrounds at apartments, and put up soccer goals. They also created little libraries to place around town, in an effort to encourage literacy. To top off the education trend, they also built a free internet café, where students can access Wi-Fi and on-site tutors to assist in remote learning.
“Teachers just aren’t going to be able to be there the way they have been in the past, and we really want to stand in that gap and be there for these kids,” Annie said.
They made it their mission to provide resources for the community, but they also created a resource wall at the Rose Bowl with a list of outside resources.
“I believe we’re in a time where our country is just, too much of it is just pitting up against one another instead of coming together and finding the things that we have in common and being a part of the solution,” said Joe. "If we have a community where people are serving others instead of just themselves, that's the kind of world we want to be a part of."
Joe said he is beyond proud of these college students who dedicated their summer to service. He tells News On 6 we may have a history of animosity in America, but the future is bright.
To learn more about One Hope Tulsa’s projects, click here.