The HOPE Center
Driving past gated additions of new homes you might conclude there is no way a community like Edmond would need an organization to help those in financial need. But in the 22 years since its founding, the HOPE Center has offered assistance to thousands of Edmond residents.
"We've helped people who thought they would never need to come here," said Julie Wilson, director of the Hope Center.
HOPE stands for "Help Our People in Emergencies."
"We were naïve enough to think an emergency was a one-time thing," Wilson said. "We've found there are people who live in a constant state of emergency."
People who work in the retail and service industries often earn minimum wage and it is not enough to pay rent, make a car payment and put food on the table, especially if the wage earner is providing for children and paying daycare expenses.
"Seventy-five percent of our clients are single moms with preschool-age children," Wilson said.
The HOPE Center offers food, clothing, small household items and bedding. They also provide assistance with utilities, rent, prescriptions and tickets for the local bus.
"You can't live on minimum wage here – there's just no way," Wilson said. "They have to improve their income." Improved education can lead to better jobs and a higher salary. Clients are often referred to GED programs, vocational technical institutes or community colleges.
"We spend as much time as possible with each client to see what their needs are," Wilson said.
Wilson recalled one young woman who came to the center about five years ago. The woman was living in a trailer, north of Waterloo Road, and her husband was dealing drugs. The husband was also physically abusive to both his wife and young son.
"She was a beautiful, attractive young woman who made a serious error in judgment when she married him," Wilson said. She had no vehicle and only a minimum wage job. With help from the HOPE Center, she was able to get out of the dangerous situation and enrolled in classes at MetroTech. Within two years, she was certified as a radiological technologist and began earning $35,000 a year.
"We have a lot of stories like that," Wilson said.
After a few years, it became apparent there was also a huge need for prenatal care. In 1990, the HOPE Center opened a health clinic. The staff includes a Nurse Practioner and a registered nurse and the clinic contracts with the OU Medical Center for labor and delivery services. OU physicians see each patient twice during the pregnancy and ultrasounds are performed at the Medical Center so moms will have some familiarity when they go into labor. After the baby is born, the HOPE Clinic offers pediatric care and well-child checks for clients, as well as nutritional counseling.
"We don't receive any state aid for the clinic," Wilson said. "It comes entirely from our own budget."
In the 22 years since its founding, the HOPE Center's budget has grown exponentially from $30,000 to over $900,000 each year.
"Most of that is raised in the Edmond community," Wilson said. Individuals, churches and businesses give donations, providing operating expenses.
Through a partnership with the City of Edmond, the HOPE Center uses a portion of sales tax dollars to offer assistance with electric bills. Community Development Block Grants provide money for local bus tickets and prescriptions and federal subsidies underwrite the Women's Infants and Children nutrition program.
But the foundation of the HOPE Center is the Edmond community.
This was particularly evident five years ago when the community raised $1.2 million for the HOPE Center's new facility at 1251 N. Broadway. The building houses both the center and clinic and is completely paid for.
Community support also shines through in the center's daily operations. More than 129 volunteers donate at least two hours each week, keeping the HOPE Center's food, clothing and reception areas stocked and in order. Additionally, various church groups and sewing guilds keep the center supplied with infant clothing and baby blankets.