Old gives way for new
|NSO says goodbye to building
By Aloise McCullough, Contact Correspondent
Clouds gave way to the sunlight in time for Church and city officials to gather outside the Neighborhood Services Organization building on April 15 to celebrate the edifice’s legacy and its decommissioning in south Oklahoma City.
About 50 people attended the service. They represented a number of entities, including the Oklahoma Conference, United Methodist Women, various Oklahoma City metro nonprofits, and other supporters and friends of Neighborhood Services Organization (NSO).
The service included hymns, a Litany of Thanksgiving, Scripture readings, a Prayer of Thanksgiving, liturgical dance, and remarks by Stacey Ninness, NSO president/CEO. The sermon was by Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. of the Oklahoma Area. A small reception followed the celebration.
Bishop Hayes called on the congregants to remember the origins of NSO, which has assisted disadvantaged people in the metro since the 1920s, under several names but always Methodist-based. And he reminded them to trust God for the next phase in ministry.
The building’s cornerstone, dated 1916, depicts its establishment as a church on Southwest 11th Street. In the 1920s, a predecessor Methodist women’s organization purchased and set up the building as the Wesley House, a community center. On the northeast side of the city in 1946, the Bethlehem Center, a housing facility for African-Americans, was established.
The organizations merged in 1969, and the 11th Street location was formally established as the NSO center.
"When we opened here and when we came together as NSO, we just had volunteers," said Sam Bowman, former NSO president/CEO. "At the outset we were about organizing low-income communities. We were new and fresh."
He said the volunteers consisted largely of Young Methodists in Ministry in the ’70s. Since then NSO has spearheaded the development of local programs including Mobile Meals, The Detox Center, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, and Positive Tomorrows, which is a school for homeless children.
Approximately 72,000 people were served last year by the nonprofit. NSO is a United Way agency and receives Apportionment support from the Oklahoma Conference.
Bowman said, "I am proud of the place in the community that NSO has today and that it is so faithful and so committed to the mission. This is very exciting for me after being away for 15 years."
Bowman and Jim Gragg are co-chairing a $2.5 million capital campaign for the organization. Earlier this year an engineering assessment deemed the building unsafe, due to its age and the impact of nearby Interstate 40 highway construction. The NSO offices and full-service community dental clinic relocated temporarily to 8101 S. Walker Ave., Suite C.
The fundraising will support a new building to replace the now-empty one on 11th Street. The exact demolition date of the current building is unknown, according to NSO officials.
"It is going to be even better when we get our new building," said Ken Stephens, NSO’s chief financial officer.
Others participating in the leadership for the April 15 service included Donna Roberts of Tulsa and Kathy Caldron of Ponca City, past and current presidents of the Oklahoma Conference United Methodist Women; and Mike Robberson, NSO board chairman.
All around were smiles and hugs as the Sunday afternoon event concluded on a high note, as an ending turned into a new beginning.
"We are able to start a new future, start a new chapter," said Ninness. "It is great to be a part of another building that we will be a part of for 100 years."
For more information about NSO or the capital campaign, contact Anne Harber, 405-236-0413 ext. 305, email@example.com.