Contributing to Operation Roundup can feel like an afterthought.
“The spare change on the end of my electric bill? Sure. I’m not sure how 48 cents will make a difference, but I guess I can round up for charity.”
However, to the individuals and organizations that receive an Operation Roundup grant, sometimes it makes all the difference in the world.
Toni Godwin, Executive Director of Bristow Social Services, and Faye Alexander, President of the Operation Roundup Board and a frequent volunteer with Bristow Social Services, spoke about how Operation Roundup has been a blessing to their organization, and how that blessing has translated to further blessings for the people of Creek County.
Bristow Social Services was established in 1989 to help families in crisis and families with chronic needs. Their service area includes Bristow, Depew, Drumright, Mannford, Milfay, Oilton, Shamrock and Slick.
“Prior to the pandemic, we worked with 250 to 300 families,” Godwin said. “After the pandemic, each month we would see those numbers double. I think our peak number was about 1,800 families a month.”
During the onset of the pandemic, Godwin said, “People lost their jobs. They were losing their homes. They didn’t have the money to buy food.”
The added stress on families led to an increase in crisis calls as people who’d never needed help before felt like they had nowhere else to turn.
Alexander and Godwin recalled the story of a woman from Texas who was escaping marital troubles and brought her six children to the Bristow area to move in with her sister, also a single mother, with four children of her own.
She showed up to Bristow Social Services in tears. It was Christmas time. 12 people living in one house. And she was asking for food.
“We had more than enough to share, so I got all the food together for her,” Alexander said. The woman looked at the cartloads of food in astonishment. “She kept saying, ‘All of this?’ as I kept bringing it out.”
“One of the kids came in with the mom,” Godwin said. “He was looking in the bags and he looked up at her and said, ‘Mom, we have meat!’ That went right to my heart. Kids can’t just fabricate that kind of stuff.”
With the holidays approaching, Bristow Social Services also put the call out requesting Christmas presents for the kids.
“We put the word out, and there were willing hearts who took that family. They blessed those kids, they blessed her, and they blessed the rest of the family who did not ask for anything,” Alexander said. “When she came and picked up all the gifts that were supplied, she just broke out in tears.”
“It wasn’t about the gifts. She was going through something,” Alexander said, adding that in that moment she knew she was exactly where God meant for her to be, doing the work God meant for her to do.
The pandemic was an especially challenging time for the employees and volunteers of Bristow Social Services, both physically and emotionally.
“There would be times when we would serve out to people, and three weeks later they were no longer with us,” Alexander said.
“It was for such a time as this that we were called to make a difference,” Godwin said. “We had to rise to that occasion.”
In addition to food, Bristow Social Services offers utility assistance, prescription drug assistance, rent assistance, diapers and infant supplies, clothing, and seasonal support with back-to-school supplies and Christmas gifts. For a person to qualify for services, their household income must not exceed 200% of the federal poverty guideline.
“What do you do when someone calls and says, ‘my electricity is about to be cut off,’ or ‘we don’t have any food?’ You’re going to meet that need,” Godwin said.
East Central Electric Cooperative’s Operation Roundup program has supported Bristow Social Services in recent years with the purchase of a large, walk-in refrigerator to store fresh food; an electric pallet stacker to manage large quantities of food; a double door freezer; an HVAC unit; shelving; and financial assistance to support the influx community members needing support during the pandemic.
“My parents taught me to extend my hand because they did it, and to help,” Alexander said. “That’s what Bristow Social Services does. That’s where my heart is.”
Operation Roundup grant applications are reviewed and awarded by a board of co-op members who meets quarterly. Individuals or organizations in need are encouraged to apply. Applications and supporting documents must be submitted to the co-op by the 1st day of February, May, August, and November at 4 p.m. to be considered.
For more information or to submit an application, please visit ecoec.com/operation-roundup or call 918-756-0833.