By: Joshua Danker-Dake | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: February 2010
Natalie Kemmerly, executive director of the Bixby Outreach Center, stands in the non-profit organization’s food pantry.
“When people look at Bixby, it’s easy for them to see the big houses on the north side and think everything’s great – people don’t always see the needs. But the fact is, one in eight families in Bixby don’t have enough food to get through the week,” says Natalie Kemmerly, executive director of the Bixby Outreach Center (BOC).
BOC, a non-profit organization, offers a variety of need-based programs and services for families in need, including a food pantry, clothing room, school supplies, housewares and linens, holiday assistance at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and financial assistance for rent, prescriptions, gas and utilities. This financial assistance comes in the form of no-interest loans that assisted families pay back. “We know it can be hard for people to ask for help sometimes,” says Kemmerly. “And so we treat every one of our clients with dignity and respect.”
BOC was founded in 2006, and in that time has gone from serving five clients per week to serving over 80 per week. BOC has a staff of only two: Kemmerly and Assistant Director Angela Long. They have over 40 volunteers, and receive a great deal of support from students of Bixby Public School, Kemmerly says. In 2008, BOC has distributed over 96,000 food items and 16,500 articles of clothing. They gave over $40,000 in assistance in 2008. And the need continues to grow. Last year, BOC served 768 clients, a 43 percent increase from 2008.
They recently opened a second location at 4 E. Dawes, which contains the food pantry and BOC operations. The old location, 10 E. Dawes, is still open, and houses the distribution center and clothing room.
Many of BOC’s programs empower families to become more successful. “We offer financial training, with classes on banking and budgeting, and classes on how to dress for success,” says Kemmerly. “We also teach people to invest in their children, to be active in their lives. When people learn these things, to manage their families, they can become more successful.”
BOC has a vision to implement additional programs as resources permit. “We’d like to have a work program where we offer childcare while parents look for jobs,” says Kemmerly. “We’d also like to have a car maintenance program where we could offer a free car clinic once a month. And we’d like to put together an after-school program where we can have tutoring and a computer lab for kids who don’t have computers at home.”
In the meantime, there are lots of ways you can help. “Financial support is our number-one need,” says Kemmerly. “We’re funded completely by personal donations. Increased support allows us to use more programs to help more people. And this is especially important right now with our utility assistance program because of all the bad weather we’ve been having.”
BOC also needs food, including meat and canned goods, clothing, books and household items. “And we’re always looking for volunteers,” says Kemmerly. “There are lots of different things our volunteers can do, from sorting donations to working in our food pantry to interviewing clients.”
For Kemmerly, it’s rewarding work. “Helping people, feeding them – we see the little miracles every day,” she says. “It’s a really good feeling. It’s sad that we have so many people in need in the Bixby area, but we’re so glad to be a place where they can come for help.”
The Bixby Outreach Center serves Bixby and much of the surrounding area. They are open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can visit them online at www.bixbyoc.org.