Day of Caring: Tulsa Area United Way volunteers gather to make a difference in the community

On a bright but cool Friday morning, the local Salvation Army was abuzz with activity—usually an odd sight after school is back in session, and though there were children around, most of the folks milling about on the grounds were adults wearing yellow hard hats, bright green vests and driving orange trucks.

OG&E, a longtime partner with the Tulsa Area United Way, had gathered to help do some cleanup on Sapulpa’s Salvation Army campus, including tree trimming and shrub removal, while more volunteers worked the flowerbeds and did some organizing and cleaning inside.

“We initially had 12 people sign up to volunteer,” said Tammy Taylor, the Community Affairs Manager for OG&E. “But more and more people started arriving, and we’re easily at twenty people or more,” Taylor said.

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Taylor said that OG&E has been involved with the Tulsa Area United Way for at least —as long as she’s been with the company—twenty years. All across the territory, OG&E members kick off their seasonal TUAW campaign a bit earlier, drawing a big response from anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of the Day of Caring. By the end of their time there, the result was evident: two dumpsters filled with tree limbs and discarded shrubbery, fresh mulch for the flower beds, and a pristine indoors.

Meanwhile, a few days earlier and a half-mile away, another group began working on organizing and painting for another community hub—Caring Community Friends. As Sapulpa’s primary food bank and Creek County’s largest resource for emergency assistance, CCF sees a lot of donations and a lot of help, but the number of volunteers helping to keep the food pantry going means that without a system in place, food might get wasted or spoiled.

Ardagh Group, the global supplier in sustainable packaging solutions occupying the former Liberty Glass plant in Sapulpa, stepped in to help improve some of the systems and processes at CCF.

Katie Brown, the Human Resources Manager for Ardagh, said their local office began working just a couple of years ago on how they as a company could have a bigger impact in the community.

“Last year, we did some cleanup along Frankoma Road and Mission Street,” she told Sapulpa Times in a conversation on Monday. “When we had more time to plan, I called Camille (Teale, the Director of Caring Community Friends) and asked her, ‘what do you have?'”

Initially, Teale’s response was “well, I have some painting that needs to be done, and some pantry work,” Brown said.

Upon further inspection, Brown and her crew found a great opportunity to use their skills in organizing for a global company to help the local food bank be more efficient in dealing with volunteers and donations.

Instead of a confusing shelf layout prone to losing perishable foods, shelving areas were broken down into color-coded “zones” and arranged according to expiration dates where needed. “It started as a painting, and it morphed into making the space more organized, and more visually appealing,” Teale said.

The project also included painting the donation receiving room, which Teale said was important because “for our volunteers, it’s seen as ‘the back room,’ but for those who donate to us, it’s their first impression of Caring Community Friends, and we want to present that in the best possible light.”

CCF employee Allison Lily, said the change has been remarkable.

“Just having a place for our volunteers, where we can say ‘thank you’ as they’re checking in, it’s amazing.”