[Diocese of Oklahoma] For nearly 40 years, Iron Gate has served the homeless and working poor in Tulsa, Oklahoma through their Daily Soup Kitchen, Grocery Pantry, and Kids’ Pantry programs. Their mission is simple, “to feed the hungry and homeless of Tulsa—every day.” Iron Gate refers to those who partake in these ministries as “guests.” Iron Gate’s philosophy states that, “We are all guests on this Earth, and guests treat one another with courtesy, kindness and respect.”Iron Gate has served the homeless and working poor in Tulsa, Oklahoma through their Daily Soup Kitchen, Grocery Pantry, and Kids’ Pantry programs. Their mission is simple, “to feed the hungry and homeless of Tulsa—every day.” Iron Gate refers to those who partake in these ministries as “guests.” Iron Gate’s philosophy states that, “We are all guests on this Earth, and guests treat one another with courtesy, kindness and respect.”
On March 31st, at Iron Gate’s Annual Founders’ Dinner, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Edward J. Konieczny, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, was honored by this ministry for his support, his continued commitment to human rights, and his dedication to respecting the dignity of every human being.
In his brief remarks following the presentation of his award, Bishop Konieczny commended Iron Gate for its dedication and commitment to serving those in need. “Without your support, the hundreds of clients who depend so much on this ministry for their daily survival would find themselves in even more dire circumstances.” Continuing, he thanked all those in attendance for their support of this vital ministry, and challenged them to continue their dedication, “I invite all of us…to think of the men, women, and children, who through a variety of circumstances and challenges find themselves homeless and struggling; and then commit ourselves to reaching out as we are able to bringing them some sense of hope and peace in their lives.”
Bishop Konieczny spoke of the growing discrimination and disenfranchisement of individuals and groups based exclusively on a single aspect: economic status, race, gender, etc. He shared his fear that this type of exclusion is merely a symptom of a world where we have lost the call of community and no longer value or respect the dignity of others. He stated, “We seem more inclined to point out those things which divide us, instead of that which might unite us with a common purpose of living our lives where all people have the opportunity to live into their fullest potential.”
Bishop Konieczny urged all in attendance to reclaim their role as people of faith in this world, and all the responsibilities that entails. “We, as people of faith, have an obligation and responsibility to speak out…In the Christian Faith, our baptismal covenant call us to love our neighbors, strive for justice and peace in the world, and to respect the dignity of every human being…we can make a difference in our own communities by how we respond to those around us. Iron Gate is an example of that work.”
In addition to Bishop Konieczny, Iron Gate honored Jonathan Moosmiller, Executive Chef at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa and a Certified Master Chef, whose volunteer work helps feed the homeless and working poor in Tulsa; Sterlin Harjo, an award-winning Native American filmmaker, whose feature and news films help enhance awareness of the needs of homeless Native Americans in our cities; and Alice Blue, a Fidelity Manager for the Carrera Pregnancy Prevention Program, whose public service helps empower youth and decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies.
Speaking of the award recipients, Iron Gate’s Executive Director, Connie Cronley, stated, “Their work in the greater community reflects Iron Gate’s philosophy of treating all others with courtesy, kindness and respect…Not only do they support Iron Gate, their support of the homeless, the working poor, at-risk youth, Latinos and Native Americans extends throughout Tulsa, across the state and nationwide.”
Iron Gate clarifies that it is not homelessness that walks through their doors, but rather poverty. Their numbers show that since the beginning of the recession, “The number of hungry people seeking food assistance at Iron Gate has increased 407%.” Meaning that in a, “church basement dining room with a seating capacity of 127, Iron Gate feeds 500+ people every day and distributes grocery bags to 300+ families every week.”
Iron Gate’s Daily Soup Kitchen serves healthy, hearty, home-cooked meals daily and serves approximately 650 meals each day; serving 220,000 people in 2015. The Grocery Pantry distributes fresh groceries and produce three times a week, provides the opportunity for guests to visit the Grocery Pantry once-a-month, and serves approximately 300 bags of groceries to households each week; providing 32,000 bags of groceries in 2015. The Kids’ Pantry provides healthy, kid-friendly snacks to every guest of both the Daily Soup Kitchen and the Grocery Pantry under the age of 18; providing 16,000 Kids’ Packs in 2015.
Although Iron Gate originally began as a ministry at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa, it has since increased and evolved so substantially, that it has grown into its own ministry organization separate from Trinity Church. Due to this growth, the Iron Gate Board of Directors has voted to build a new facility for this ministry organization. Iron Gate is still currently serving out of Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa, but their capital campaign to raise the funds necessary to move is well underway. Iron Gate needs $9,000,000, which includes an operating reserve, to complete this move, and donors have already given $5,000,000 to help this incredible ministry!
Despite the close quarters and crowded dining room, Iron Gate will continue to live into its mission, “to feed the hungry and homeless of Tulsa—every day” until they are able to move into their own new facilities. Once this move is complete, the ministry of Iron Gate will have the room it needs to continue to expand and grow in their service to those most in need in the Tulsa community.
— Nicole Baxley is communications director for the Diocese of Oklahoma.