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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Ken Chapman Aims to Help Tulsa’s Most Needy

Managing Editor

SALVATION ARMY COMMANDER: The Salvation Army Tulsa Area Commander and Captain Ken Chapman stands next to the Salvation Army flag in his office in midtown Tulsa. Chapman joined the Salvation Army nine years ago and came to Tulsa in June 2016. Earlier this year, he led the charge to begin the Power of Twelve, an ongoing campaign to raise awareness and financial support for the Tulsa Area Command.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Editor’s Note: The Salvation Army Tulsa Area Commander and Captain Ken Chapman is one of Greater Tulsa Reporter’s “10 People to Watch in 2017,” as announced in its January 2017 issue. 

Throughout the year, GTR will publish a series of articles featuring each of its “10 People to Watch,” with next month’s issue to feature A Gathering Place for Tulsa Director Tony Moore.

The Salvation Army Tulsa Area Commander and Captain Ken Chapman’s road to the Salvation Army has been interesting and certainly unorthodox.

While Chapman is a fourth-generation “salvationist,” he admits that his career focus has not always revolved around spiritual things.

A Georgia native, Chapman spent 10 years teaching high school band. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music education.

“I had an early interest in music,” he says.

After a decade of teaching, he left his job to spend time with his mother who was fighting cancer.

He went on to earn his master’s degree at Georgia State University, where, during that time, he was given the opportunity to lead the school’s band.

Chapman’s musical skills led him into music production and event planning, including playing a role in the music production for Georgia’s Coca-Cola Centennial celebration in 1986.

He went on to form an event planning company, which grew into planning Olympic-sized events, literally. Chapman served as the music producer for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and executive producer for the Atlanta and Barcelona Paralympics ceremonies.

He continued for a total of 20 years, organizing events of all sizes and for all kinds of people, including the president of the United States, Liza Minnelli and Aretha Franklin.

However, at a certain point, in the midst of his success, Chapman began to feel called for a new purpose.

He talked to his wife, Jessie, who, before they married, had been training to become a Salvation Army officer.

“She said that she had been waiting 16 years for me to come to this realization,” Chapman recounts.

He and Jessie made the decision to purge their old life and dedicate themselves to the Salvation Army and its cause.

Within three months, they were named auxiliary officers for the Salvation Army and, then, sent to the command in Jackson, Mississippi, where they grew its budget from $2.5 million to $7 million and built an $8 million facility.

They were, next, assigned to Tulsa in June 2016.

Part of Chapman’s focus in Tulsa has revolved around finding ways to increase the budget for the Tulsa Area Command.

The Tulsa command serves more than 100,000 children per year, in part through its six area Boys and Girls Clubs, and serves 357,000 meals per year at its downtown shelter, located at 102 N. Denver Ave.

“No one should go hungry in Tulsa, with the amount of meals that we provide,” he says.

Yet, the Salvation Army does more than feed those in need.

Its shelter offers social programs in order to provide guidance and life skills to help people move out of homelessness and towards self-sufficiency, Chapman says.

“Sometimes homelessness results from needing guidance.”

The Salvation Army also offers financial assistance to people in need, help during national disasters, and emotional and spiritual aid.

Chapman is quick to add, though, the Salvation Army’s message of inclusivity.
“We serve all people without exception,” he says. “If you don’t like our message, that’s okay.”

The Tulsa shelter sees over 300 individuals sleeping there each night, double its number of beds.

While the need is clearly there, however, additional funding is also essential. Chapman, thus, developed the idea of the Power of Twelve, a campaign focused both on raising awareness of the Salvation Army and its programs and driving donations.

He developed the idea after seeing the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge that swept social media in 2014 and brought in close to $100 million for the association in a couple of months.

“So, I thought, how can we do the same thing with the Salvation Army?” says Chapman.

The idea behind the Power of Twelve is to encourage 12,000 individuals to pledge to donate $12 per month for 12 months. That would raise, in total, over $1.7 million for the Tulsa Area Command.

“I know this community can pull this off,” he says. “Tulsa, I would say, is the most philanthropic city in the country.”

The campaign also enables the Salvation Army to share information on how its programs are impacting the local community.

Each donor receives a monthly text message regarding a Salvation Army program or activity.

“Over the course of a year, we will be telling our story and showing how donors’ money is being used,” he says.

The campaign launched earlier this year and will be ongoing.

Raising community awareness of the Salvation Army is nothing new for Chapman.
Two years ago, he rang a bell for 36 hours in 22-degree weather while standing on a billboard. Last year, Chapman walked 66 miles on Route 66 in 66 hours to raise $66,000. After Thanksgiving this year, he plans to find 100 people who will walk with him for community donations.

“I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to bring awareness to the Salvation Army.”
Next month, he has another stunt plan but is mum as to the details. “Keep a watch out for that” is all he will say.

When one considers what Chapman gave up nearly 10 years ago, one can’t help but wonder, was it worth it?

“My past life was a fun life, but all of those things were preparing me for this. To see someone set on the right path, that’s worth it all.”

Updated 06-06-2017

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