Given a second chance at meeting their fundraising goal, supporters of the nonprofit Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project have succeeded in raising the money they needed to meet a series of matching grants, meaning their plans to build a $7 million community center in west Tulsa will become a reality.
The Rev. Willard Jones, the organization's executive director, said he found out two days before a Nov. 25 deadline that a $179,000 fundraising shortfall was going to be covered evenly by three contributors.
"That put us over the top," Jones said. "It was marvelous. Of course, we continue to raise donations even now."
The project's fate seemed to be in jeopardy in October, when supporters found themselves almost $1 million shy of their goal in order to qualify for $2.25 million in matching funds from the Mabee Foundation and other organizations. An original deadline of Oct. 14 was extended to Nov. 25, giving the organization another six weeks to raise the necessary funds, but it wasn't until two days before that date that Jones learned he could finally rest easy.
As of Dec. 3, he said, a total of $7,001,174 had been raised -- slightly in excess of the $6,995,132 that was needed.
"It was close," he said, adding that while he was never worried about hitting the fundraising target, he was concerned. "It just didn't feel like we could come this far just to let it fail. There were also a lot of foundations involved in this, and they had a lot invested, also."
Supporters of the project will mark their success with a victory celebration at a downtown location in late January, Jones said, before a groundbreaking ceremony for the community center is held in February. He expects construction to start in March, with completion of the building projected for the spring of 2012. Flintco will serve as the general contractor for the project, and designs are being finished now.
The 20,698-square-foot facility will be located on West 55th Place in west Tulsa's South Haven neighborhood, an economically disadvantaged district badly in need of the kind of services the community center will offer. Jones said such groups as Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Goodwill Industries, Campfire USA, the state Department of Human Services, Family and Children's Services, A Pocket Full of Hope, the Association Centers for Therapy and an Oklahoma State University Bedlam Clinic will operate out of the center.
The land for the center was donated by the nearby Greater Cornerstone Church, for which Jones serves as pastor. But the minister has emphasized the community center will not be affiliated with his church or any other and that there will be no proselytizing. He also has said it would be a mistake to regard the facility as a mere rec center.
"It will bring recreational, educational, medical and social services to an area of town that is underserved at this time," he said. "This is an opportunity for those organizations to serve the entire city of Tulsa because west Tulsa has been the missing piece of the puzzle. This will all be under one roof. It is phenomenal."
Jones said there is considerable excitement among the residents of the South Haven neighborhood about the planned community center. When Jones began his ministry at Cornerstone 14 years ago, he said the area was overrun with gangs and drug activity.
But thanks to a massive home-building effort by Habitat for Humanity and an effort by Jones' church to buy run-down houses and demolish them, the neighborhood is now a place where dozens of families own their owns homes and the people are eager to see things improve.
Jones believes the new community center will play a huge role in that effort.
"There's a big buzz going around," he said, describing the reaction of residents to the news that the facility will become a reality soon. "They probably didn't believe it, but when they see those trucks pull up soon, they'll start believing it. And this project is going to bring jobs to this area. This is a win-win situation for everybody."
Even so, Jones acknowledged that the work is only beginning, in many respects.
"We still have a way to go," he said. "We have to get it built and prove ourselves."
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