“Broken Arrow Non-Profit Getting More Room to Serve the Community”
Linda Milburn had to turn down a donation one morning last week.
“Right now we don’t have the storage space for that,” Milburn, a volunteer at Broken Arrow Neighbors, told a caller offering to donate a wheelchair to the organization.
Inadequate space is one of the biggest challenges Broken Arrow Neighbors is facing in its current facility, at 322 W. Broadway Ave.
Volunteers often sort clothes straight out of the truck because there is nowhere to place the boxes and bags of donated clothing.
A conference room doubles as a classroom or any other needed function.
“During holidays, I have to rent a Penske truck to store my prepared meals baskets for Thanksgiving and for Christmas,” said Executive Director Kim Goddard.
Soon the nonprofit organization – which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year – will leave those challenges behind. Next month, Broken Arrow Neighbors will break ground on a new, 10,000-square-foot building, which will provide them about double the space of the current building.
The new facility will be built at 315 W. College St., the site where the organization currently hosts its “Read to Feed” book fairs. Construction is expected to be completed within nine to 12 months.
“It will be wonderful to have more space,” Milburn said.
Goddard said the extra room means the organization will not only be able to store more donations but also expand its services.
“Our goal is to create a comprehensive resource center for Broken Arrow,” she said.
Goddard hopes to be able to use the kitchen area to offer cooking classes and set up chairs and tables in the warehouse for a “modified soup kitchen.” The added indoor space also means they’ll be able to keep fresh produce longer and, therefore, be able to offer healthier food options.
Stand-alone office space at the new facility also means they could bring in people from other agencies, such as Family and Children’s Services or DHS, to offer counseling or other assistance.
“We’re just exploring a lot of opportunities right now,” Goddard said.
The cost of the new facility and improvements is estimated at just over $1 million. Goddard said the organization already has $500,000 to invest in the project and hopes to raise the rest before the end of 2014.
The current building, formerly a funeral home, is more than 70 years old. Aside from being cramped, Goddard said, there are concerns about the safety of the building, especially for older workers, who make up the majority of her volunteers.
“Some rooms have sloping floors, and some steps are not the appropriate width,” she said.
The new facility is a necessity, not an upgrade for aesthetic reasons, Goddard said.
“I know that we would be happy in this facility if we felt like we were truly meeting the needs of everybody that seeks assistance from us,” she said. “I think we do a remarkable job, but unfortunately we’re just not able to truly make everything happen as a result of the limitations with space and even the configuration of what we work out of as well.”
Broken Arrow Neighbors currently provides emergency assistance services such as food, financial assistance, medical care and clothing to about 4,000 people a year. Goddard thinks that number will grow once the new facility opens.
She hopes a newer, more spacious and safer facility will attract more volunteers, allowing the organization to expand client hours and services.
“It just excites me, it encourages me, it inspires me, to be able to enhance our programs and services,” she said.
Broken Arrow Neighbors
People served annually: 4,000
Current services: Medical clinic, financial assistance, clothing assistance, legal aid clinic, food pantry, dental care, W.I.C. services, school supplies, SNAP registration and more.
Story covered by: Nour Habib, World Staff Writer