By K.J. WEBB
Editor at Large
IRON GATE: In 2010, Iron Gate provided meals to over 200,000 people and provided over 10,000 bags of emergency food supplies to hungry, homeless and low-income individuals.
Various ministries for the poor help those in need in Tulsa. Two of these ministries, Restore Hope and Iron Gate, are highlighted here.
The ongoing poor state of the economy and continued unemployment has adversely impacted many Americans across the nation. Among the unemployed are thousands of job seekers who have given up looking for jobs, lost unemployment benefits, and no longer appear on the unemployment rolls.
In 2011, more Americans (over 46 million people) received over $75 billion in food stamps, the highest participation rate in the history of the program. One in eight mortgages in the country are delinquent or in foreclosure. It has been difficult for Americans across the nation, including the poor who depend on charitable giving (which has declined) and social service programs, which have had their budgets cut.
Tulsans are feeling the economic pinch as well. According to Jeffrey Jaynes, director of Restore Hope Ministries, many Tulsans are in need. “Many of the people we serve at Restore Hope are what many would call the ‘working poor.’ These folks normally have enough to provide for their families, even on their limited incomes. However, they are in a situation where if their income decreases just a little, suddenly they cannot provide for their families.” Jaynes cites instances of job loss and high medical bills as two factors that lead people to Restore Hope for assistance.
Restore Hope will provide food to families who have run out before the end of the month. “They can come to Restore Hope and get what they need to see them through the crisis,” Jaynes says. The food ministry is one of Restore Hope’s most active and successful functions. In 2010 they distributed 416,000 pounds of food to nearly 9,000 families.
The food ministry is not Restore Hope’s only program. Jaynes says, “We are also one of Tulsa County’s only providers of rent assistance to prevent homelessness. A family who is on the verge of homelessness because they can’t pay rent may be able to receive much-needed rent assistance to keep them in their home.” Through the rent assistance program, Restore Hope was able to help hundreds of Tulsa area families remain in their homes. Restore Hope also offers optional chapel services and counseling for families in need of spiritual nourishment. “Our mission,” says Jaynes, “is to restore families in financial crisis to economic and spiritual vitality, and we work hard every day to make this happen.”
Another well-known Tulsa ministry is Iron Gate. It began in 1984 at Trinity Episcopal Church when parishioners decided to make sandwiches for the homeless and hungry who entered the cloister garden through the church’s iron gates. The word spread and soon many of the area’s homeless started showing up at the “Iron Gate” for a meal.
Though the ministry is located at Trinity Episcopal, it remains unaffiliated with any religion and actually operates as a separate non-profit organization. The church provides the space, utilities and some administrative support at no charge.
Over the years Iron Gate has become an important and integral presence in downtown Tulsa and a source of comfort and food that many depend on. As the ministry has grown it has been able to add hot meals to its menu during the week, and sandwiches and fruit on the weekends. In 2010, Iron Gate provided meals to over 200,000 people and provided over 10,000 bags of emergency food supplies to the hungry, homeless and low-income families.
These ministries are excellent and inspiring examples of the dedication Tulsans have toward helping the less fortunate. The tremendous work done by the staff and volunteers at Restore Hope and Iron Gate offers a shining example of what human selflessness and generosity of spirit can achieve, and the difference it can make in people’s lives.
For more information about Restore Hope and Iron Gate visit www.restorehope.org and www.irongatetulsa.org.