Less than 15 miles separate the classrooms where Sally Goin has spent most of her adult life, but in many ways, the two schools are worlds apart.
Thousands of Edmond students experienced their first taste of Shakespeare in Goin’s freshman English classes. She spent 30 years teaching, first at Central Middle School and later at Edmond North High School. Now retired, she spends her days at Shidler Elementary School in south Oklahoma City.
A dozen years ago, Goin began volunteering with the City Rescue Mission. There she met a young boy named Miguel. Miguel came from a troubled family. Like many in the area, gang involvement and drug use were common themes for those around him.
As time went on, Goin began working more closely with Miguel. She couldn’t allow him to be pulled into a life of violence and destruction.
Goin attended an open house at Willow Springs Boys Ranch in Chandler and thought it would be the perfect place for Miguel. He has now lived there several years and will soon be graduating from high school. Over the years, 10 boys from the Shidler area have been placed at Willow Springs.
Inspired by the promise of hope for Miguel and the other boys, Goin started FaithWorks of the Inner City three years ago. The organization serves the community from Shields Avenue to I-35, from the Oklahoma River south to 34th Street.
“When I retired, it seemed evident to me that I needed to work with that community,” Goin said.
The organization’s mission statement is to meet the educational, spiritual and physical needs of inner city children and their families.
The Whiz Kids is part of a national literacy program that matches Shidler students with reading tutors for weekly sessions.
The Student Assisted Learning Time program provides individual attention for students who are struggling. For two days, the students leave their regular classroom to complete missed assignments and get one-on-one instruction. The students learn basic life skills by preparing their own lunch and also create a craft project with the assistance of a senior volunteer.
Goin knows that part of being a kid is having fun, so FaithWorks offers a Saturday club. From 10 to noon, every-other week, students from the area come together for games, songs, Bible stories and lunch. Once a month, they celebrate birthdays.
For some, it may be the biggest meal they have until Monday. Of Shidler’s 311 students, all but four qualify for free or reduced lunches. To be placed in that category, the family income must be $10,000 or less annually.
For students’ families, FaithWorks provides English as a Second Language classes – an important resource for a primarily Spanish-speaking community.
“The school is sort of the hub of the community,” Goin said. “It is the place people go when they get a traffic ticket and they don’t know what to do or get a notice in the mail and they can’t read it.”
FaithWorks also partners with local dentists and optometrists, including Edmond’s Dr. Brad Fielding, to provide vision and dental screenings for the children in the area. When resources allow, FaithWorks assists families in need with food, clothing and utility payments.
With all the services FaithWorks provides, the organization has no dedicated space in the Shidler community. Goin uses her car, school hallways and local church space for her ministry work. But she hopes that will soon be changing.
“A donor has provided us nine lots across the street from the school – we’re going to build a gym,” Goin said.
Currently, Shidler has no indoor recreation space, so a gymnasium would provide a lasting benefit for the impoverished school and would also give FaithWorks a central location to nurture the area residents.
To raise funds for the building, FaithWorks has two upcoming events.
On Aug. 12, FaithWorks and Willow Springs Boys Ranch are holding a golf tournament at Coffee Creek Golf Course. A golfing clinic with PGA Pros Doug Tewell and Dr. Gil Morgan is included in the registration fee.
FaithWorks is also hosting a dinner and silent auction on Sept. 16 for state and local leaders. After the large investment poured into MAPS and the resulting revitalization, Goin believes it is time to look south of the river.
“It will give people an introduction to this community that is just across the river from Bricktown,” she said.
The silent auction will present a can drive – with a twist. Art objects created by the children and made from aluminum cans will be on sale. FaithWorks also plans to offer painted soda cans that have been signed by celebrities. Oprah Winfrey and Dale Chihuly were among those contacted about contributing their John Hancock for the event. The can drive idea was the brain child of Soriama, an 11-year-old who participates in the FaithWorks programs.
For Goin, “The Kids Can” project has a symbolic meaning.
“As I have worked with these children, I have come to believe they can do anything,” she said. “They can improve their reading scores; they can choose to stop violence; they can be productive in their school and community.”
To learn more about FaithWorks and how you can help, go to their website at www.faithworksokc.com.