by Grettel Loney
Brian Beebe calls Eugene Field home. For decades, this neighborhood on the west side of the river in Tulsa didn’t have a name. According to Brian, sixteen years ago it was a rough neighborhood where no one felt safe to walk around, even in the daytime. The area had serious issues: poverty, crime, no sense of community.
“I’ve seen a lot of stuff,” Brian said. “I just got tired of seeing it. I knew change could happen.”
Growing Together was founded in 2011. The nonprofit confronts educational and social challenges by bringing together organizations, residents and educators. It’s all about uniting communities by offering events and other opportunities for neighbors to get to know one another. Brian got involved in 2012.
“It takes one or two people,” he said. “You might do something by yourself for six months. Events—sometimes no one would show. All this food and no one would show. Keep doing it. People start showing. If you care about your neighborhood and you want to see change, it has to start with you.”
The idea is if you know your neighbor, you know their behavior, and you give them a network of support. Brian believed in this enough to put in the hard work of knocking on doors, looking for those who would embrace his vision of neighbors reaching out to neighbors to create a stronger, unified community.
That’s how Brian recruited Patsy Nash, an Oklahoma National Guard retiree and now a full-time grandmother. Eugene Field has been her home for two decades. Patsy admits she wasn’t the easiest nut to crack.
“I’m that person that was sitting in my house content to be sitting in my house—not being a part of the community,” she said.
Brian had to be persistent. After his third visit to Patsy’s home, she says she was struck by Brian’s genuine care for the community and her ability to make a difference too. “When I was asked to join, I thought, ‘I’m widowed. There’s nothing there for me to do.’ We were brand new. Then I realized there was something else out there for me. It was right here in my own neighborhood. I started walking kids to school. I babysat. We have dinners. People come out of the woodwork. They ask, ‘When’s your next event? How can we help? What can we do?”
No longer is she content being secluded in her home. “Now I know my neighbors, I know the teachers at the school. All these people are now a part of my life. Now it’s like family.”
Jaimee Collett is a single parent of three young children, but she wears even more hats than most moms. She’s found time to be on the Growing Together Resident Council and she’s involved in the PTA. She’s also a Go Club children’s counselor, and an active member of Harvest Church in her neighborhood.
She moved to Tulsa to escape the threat of domestic violence.
When asked how she finds the time so be so involved, Jaimee replied, “If you have a passion for something, you’ll make it happen. It’s like when you love somebody—you’ll find a way to make time for them. It doesn’t overwhelm me. God babied me at first. I’ve been on my own since 16. Now I’m 25, and I feel I’m just getting started. God took care of me. Now I have this joy that God gives me from helping other people. It’s about taking initiative. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. It’s about showing them love through actions. I just rededicated my life to God last Sunday. I got baptized. I’m a changed woman.” She says she doesn’t do it for the personal growth—it just comes with the territory when you decide to help others.
Jackie Tompkins is also a member of the Resident Council and a full-time grandmother. She found a new purpose and a new life when she joined. Jackie added, “There’s a whole world that I didn’t know existed until I stepped out of my front door.”
The thrill she gets from this new life is evident by her big smile as she talks. She acknowledges that challenges still exist. For example, Jackie says she did not realize how much hunger was in the area. At one of the events where she was helping, the kids kept coming back for food. One of the council members told her, “You don’t know what they have at home.” She said that’s when it clicked, “These kids are hungry. It changed my perspective.” She believes she is making a difference—one action, one person at a time.
Reuben Cheatum is also on the Resident Council. He says he gets a great sense of satisfaction getting people involved. Long before he was on the council, he was picking up trash in this community he’s called home for twenty years. He says he’s seen it all. “It used to be bad at night. But people want to make a change.” He remembers when the basketball court was a mess, when the center medians were surrounded by trash, when it seemed no one cared. Now he says there’s a growing sense of pride in the community.
Brian agrees. “People do care,” he said. “This is our neighborhood. This is our home. We have to lift together to lift this neighborhood up. It can’t just be the Resident Council lifting. It’s gotta be everyone together lifting. It’s a heavy lift. We get that. We know that. We know what type of neighborhood we live in. Bottom line, it comes down to residents taking ownership because this is our home and no one’s gonna come do it if we don’t.”
Crime happens everywhere. Eugene Field has had its share of problems. But, Brian says this community is so much more than that. “Not everybody is being a knucklehead around here. People just assume we’re all crazy on this side of the river. We’re not. Good people live here. Hardworking people live here. We have good kids that live here that just need that little bit of help and to know that someone cares.”
Growth is often hard. Growth doesn’t happen overnight. But, Brian vows to stay the course—growing together.
“We’re gonna keep doing what we’re doing. We’re not gonna stop. We’re not all crazy I promise! We’re good folks here—a lot of good folks. Good people live here.”
Yes, indeed they do.
To Be Continued…
Grettel Loney is a wife, mother, and an active member of her church, First United Methodist in downtown Tulsa. She got involved at Eugene Field Elementary School after reading in her church bulletin volunteers were needed for an after-school event. Her other work for the918 includes My Journey: Mother’s Day Without Her, 9-18 Tips To Help You Deal with Back Pain, Her Journey With Chronic Pain Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Her Journey Through Grace to Gracie, Tips to Help You with Your Spiritual New Year’s Resolutions, and Tips to Help You Throw a Successful Kid Party.