Full Circle: Growing Up & Giving Back

Written by Lindsay Whelchel in the November 2010 Issue

Born to drug addicted parents and stuck in a cycle of poverty, Edmond resident Amy Newberry was on track to become another heartbreaking statistic.

“By the time I was 15, I was on drugs and dropped out of school, hanging with a local gang and pushing grocery carts full time. I just kind of had this hopelessness about life,” said Newberry.

Then, friends from her grandmother’s church got involved, wanting to lead her toward a brighter future. They helped Newberry regain focus. She got back in school, graduated, and even went on to Oklahoma State University where she met her husband and Edmond businessman, Joshua Newberry.

The couple have two kids and may have led a rather typical life if it were not for Newberry’s resolve to do for others, what her grandmother’s friends had done for her.

One year ago last November, Newberry officially filed her 501c3 non-profit status, developing a movement that hopes to lead others into a similar bright future.

“It was a really personal thing for me, partly because someone took the time to do that in my life. I was always on a quest, trying to find people and places where I could lift the burden of poverty,”
she said.

That quest led Newberry to an area of Oklahoma City on 29th and Portland.  Her husband had purchased a run down apartment complex and Newberry was expecting they would repaint, re-carpet and have a nice retirement investment. But everything changed when she went to see the property.

“What he took me to was very different. It was just a really devastated place,” she said. The buildings were boarded up and littered. There were hypodermic needles and shoulder-high grass. For Newberry, this was the neighborhood of her past.

“The beauty of it is that it was planted in a neighborhood I had grown up in and around,” she said. She felt a calling to get involved in the community.

Her first steps began as a food mission, inspired by shocking statistics from the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank that lists one in five children as facing hunger. “We would stand on the lawn and just cook a hotdog and make a friend,” she said.

Then, they developed “street sheets” which listed nearby resources for food or healthcare for members of the community who did not speak English, or who did not have a high level of literacy.

This attempt to connect a woven community of resources for the neighborhood helped to form the basis of their non-profit: The Tapestry Project.

Beyond food and healthcare resources, Newberry quickly saw the need for housing as well. This was especially true for single mothers trying to get out of drug addiction or abusive situations.

They began to renovate the entire apartment complex her husband had purchased with the help of local churches and corporations. “We by no means did this on our own. This has just been a huge community development project,” said Newberry. “We looked up, and another building was done.”

The new housing options offer opportunities for a reduced cost of living with no deposits, based on a transition period for rent dues. The program requires participants to pass a drug test and go through an interview process.

The primary residents are single mothers from that specific neighborhood. “We felt like we were planted in this neighborhood for a purpose and we’re supposed to be an ‘on ramp’ for the women in this community,” she said.

In addition to the housing, the organization has developed an after school program for kids in the community. “We believe in making the community livable again and we believe that starts with the next generation. So we’re pouring everything we have into these kids,” Newberry said.

Children and parents in the programs are connected to life coaches and mentors. Most of these volunteers are Edmond residents. Newberry says they constantly need more volunteers and there are many ways individuals can get involved.

As the holiday season rolls in, The Tapestry Project is collecting canned food to help provide a unique Thanksgiving opportunity to the community she discovered already knows so much about giving.

“They by no means need to be taught how to give. They are more generous than I’ll probably ever be, because I’ve seen them give out of their poverty where I’m able to give and share out of my excess,” she said.

So for Thanksgiving, instead of simply giving out food, the community can come and make a food box for themselves plus an extra one to take and give to someone else. “We’re driven by empowerment, so we want to serve our families with dignity,” she said.

Edmond residents can also donate to their toy drive which stocks their unique “Christmas store,” where parents from the community can buy quality toys at a reduced cost. If they can’t afford the cost, they can do a community cleanup effort to earn their chosen gifts.

To raise awareness for the canned food and toy drives, The Tapestry Project will host “City on the Hill” – a 5k run on Nov. 13. “It’s a race that I believe is going to inspire participation. We want people to come and meet our families and see what we’re doing,” said Newberry.

“Something takes place when you spend yourself on behalf of other people,” she said. Newberry can see change occurring for everyone involved on both sides of The Tapestry Project. “The movement has begun,” as she puts it. Newberry herself, is certainly proof of that.

For more information on how to get involved, visit www.thetapestryproject.org.

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