The Beauty of Partnership : Restore OKC

By Leah Swank Partnership Coordinator

This summer Oklahoma has the incredible opportunity to kick of a brand new partnership in the NE OKC area. This past spring we were able to connect with a couple who has put together a dynamite staff, who collectively are making a Kingdom-sized impact in an area that is challenged with poverty, educational struggles, and joblessness. They call themselves, Restore OKC.

When we first approached this organization, I definitely sense a bit of skepticism rooted in never having worked with an organization like Next Step before. However, as we began to explain what we have been doing over the last four summers in OKC, and the partnerships we have worked with, things began to move in the direction of an unbelievable friendship and partnership.

As the project planning kicked off, Josh, the Workday director of Restore OKC, gave us a tour of the community they work in and began sharing stories of the people they have come to know and call their neighbors. The more he shared, the more bought in we became. In the midst of getting families lined up for us to help do some work on their homes, Restore OKC was able to purchase a large piece of property with an old church that would soon become their own office space. Currently they are renting space from a church just up the road to office out of, but this new building would allow for them to expand their job training for parents, students, and their overall reach for Christ in the community. This became our project for the summer and what a project it has been.

This new facility is centered smack-dab in the middle of the neighborhood Josh and his wife, Caylee, work alongside. Through tutoring programs, job training, and work projects Restore OKC has become intricately connected to this neighborhood and its residents. When a Restore OKC vehicle shows up to the property, dozens (and I mean dozens) of kids show up-kids who are living with great, great grandparents, or have been passed from home to home in the foster care system, these kids show up and love just getting to spend time with the Restore OKC staff.

So how does Next Step fit into this new organization?

Two weeks ago we kicked off our first week of projects with Restore OKC. Both Next Step and Restore were both a little timid at first to get things going, but it didn’t take long for the two to came together and knock stuff out-literally! In our first week, students and leaders were able to rebuild a brand new wall after the old one had been torn down for the room that will eventually be used for the Restore OKC staff offices. It’s amazing what one wall can do to transform a space!

However, it wasn’t the wall that made the biggest impact, it was the kids. Many of the students, leaders, and Next Step summer staff, were ready to get to work from day one, but none of them could have foreseen the impact spending time with those kids would have not only on their workday, but the week as a whole. The work crew came away tremendously impacted by the opportunity to love on these kids for a few hours.

Partnership looks different for many, but in the context of community development it is centered on relationships. Restore OKC could not do the work that they have been able to do without building relationships with its community. The staff would not have a pulse on what takes place in the schools, homes, and workplaces, without the trust of teachers, parents/grandparents, and a network of workplaces. The same applies to Next Step. The organizations we serve alongside help connect us to the community, but it’s through building intentional relationships with that community that change can be made.

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