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Photos by Ashley McKinney
The Tulsa Girls Home will proceed as planned after the Creek County Board of Adjustment granted unanimous approval during Tuesday’s meeting. The future of the property was uncertain as it was zoned residential and would need a variance to support opening the as a group home.
Nearly a dozen supporters for the Tulsa Girls Home got up to speak up in favor of the group home, many saying that it would be a better solution than having these girls age out of the foster care system and end up homeless.
Natalie Cornett, representing TGH, spoke first, laying out the specifics on the property, and the reasoning behind the decision to use it as group home. Including not only the home’s rural character—allowing for horses and equine therapy—but also for the history from the home’s previous owners.
“The previous owners had four to five foster children, and two of their own children,” Cornett said. “They renovated the house to accommodate that large family feel—large family spaces, a large cooking space, and a fully built out basement,” she said.
That “large family” that the applicant is hoping to fill the home with would consist of up to 8 girls, between the ages of 14 and 18, along with full time staff members and on-call managers. There would be a staff member with the girls at all times. The girls would not be allowed vehicles or overnight visitors.
Miracle Stokes, the adopted daughter of TGH Director Brittany Stokes and her husband Kyron—and a large part of the motivation to open the home—stood up to share her story. “When I was three years old, my biological dad was taken away by the police. After he left, my mom would just let any different man into our house,” she said. She went on to describe how her life and that of her two younger sisters deteriorated into domestic violence and neglect, including being abused by her foster father.
When she was sixteen, Miracle met Brittany Stokes and asked her outright if the Stokes family would adopt her. She said their decision to say “yes” changed her life.
“When I first saw my new family, everything felt different. My heart changed. There was a Jesus I had never met before,” she said. “I truly believe that where I am today is a testimony of God’s presence in my life.”
On the other side of the issue were a handful of neighbors that were uncomfortable with the idea of a business being in an area zoned residential-agricultural.
“This is a business, not a single family, not a horse ranch,” said Gerald McBride, a neighbor who lives directly adjacent to the property, and has since 1993. “Opening a group home for foster kids is a great concept, but this is the wrong spot.”
Supporters insisted that this property would have the appearance of a home more than anything else, and maintained that a home like this is needed.
Alisha Ortman, who spoke in favor of the home, said she wished this home had existed years ago. “I was in the system. The system failed me,” she said. “I wish I would’ve had a place like this.” Now a nurse and a mother of two, Ortman says she prays daily for the girls who need a home like this. “Not all of their trauma is from gunshots. These kids need homes just like any other eight kids need a home.”
Fire Chief David Taylor addressed the board and told them he had been invited to tour the facility. “I was impressed,” he said. “This facility meets all the obligations they’re required to meet. I asked many questions, and I’ve asked questions of friends of mine who are close to this. I feel like I’ve had all my questions answered.”
Don Moss, Chairman of the Board, thanked everyone for their participation. “I hope and pray you realize how seriously we take this,” he said.
As the motion was made by Gannaway to approve, and the votes were unanimous in favor, the crowd erupted in applause and cheers as Stokes and her family hugged each other.
Stokes breathed a sigh of relief at the outcome but knew there was more work to be done. The organization has received a degree of notoriety thanks to the support of actress Jen Lilley and Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church in Tulsa, which on Sunday offered to not only pay $275,000 toward the purchase of the property, but also paid for Tulsa Girls Home to take their 8 inaugural girls to Disney World.
Stokes says the next step is to get the home ready with beds, a sprinkler system, and all things to make it a home. “Our goal is to open in the Spring of 2022,” she said. “Honestly, I’m so thankful, to everyone, who came out and showed these kids how important they are. How valued.”