And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40). Thus set the tone for Tuesday's Lions Club meeting with Christie Baldridge, Executive Director for Deep Fork Community Action Foundation, Inc. When most of us think about social service agencies, we tend to think about programs for the poor, but this is not entirely a true picture now. Of course, growing up as a kid, all of my friends were poor, we just didn't know it because we were all in the same boat.
Christie came to Okmulgee in 1997 from Boulder, Colorado via Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Durant), where she was a scholarship student on the Rodeo Team as a team roper. She has a degree in Psychology and a degree in Business Administration. She briefly worked for the Police Department before going to work for the Creek Nation for five years. Six years ago, she was hired by Deep Fork and has risen through the ranks to her present position of Executive Director, which she has held for the past 2 1/2 years.
Deep Fork Community Action Foundation, Inc. (DFCAF) exists today as a direct result of the Federal Economic Act of 1964, and is a successful part of the "War on Poverty" initiated by President Lyndon Johnson. The agency was created as a single county program covering Okmulgee County in January 1966. In 1968, DFCAF grew to include McIntosh County. In 1983, Hughes and Okfuskee Counties also merged with DFCAF through the direction of the Department of Commerce. Hughes, McIntosh, Okfuskee, and Okmulgee Counties now form the base service area from which Deep Fork Community Action Foundation draws its members for its Board of Directors.
Fifty years in operation, DFCAF is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization with 18 employees at four county offices. DFCAF is monitored annually by each of the major funding sources that pay for the programs operated by DFCAF. Some of the programs are: Housing; self-help housing; weatherization program; emergency solution grant, assisting those that are homeless or almost homeless; Child and adult care food program; prescriptions for Oklahoma; social services (Section 8 application assistance, free income tax preparation for those earning under $65,000 per year [IRS VITA Certified Site], utility payment assistance, rent/mortgage assistance, and fingerprinting service [required for teachers, nursing home workers, etc.].
So you see, Deep Fork is much more than just a "gimmie" agency, and they strive to be good stewards of taxpayers' monies. It is "people helping people help themselves".
Pictured top: is Lion President Beth Flud, Christie Baldridge, and Program Chairperson Lion Cassandra Northington.
(Photo and information provided by Dean Craig)