TULSA - Just a few months after opening, city and community leaders are praising the success of the Greater Cornerstone Community Center in west Tulsa and believe it could serve as the model for a similar gathering place in the 61st and Peoria area.
Greater Cornerstone, headed by Rev. WiIlard L. Jones, provides medical, dental and mental health programs at no cost to residents of the South Haven neighborhood, who, according to Jones, have been largely ignored by the rest of the city for decades. The center is also home to tutoring rooms, a food pantry, clothing store that provides free clothing items, basketball court and exercise room.
"We wanted to take this community back, and so now the people don't turn their heads anymore," Jones said. "They have ownership. There are no break-ins in this community center, no windows broken in this community center. People are proud of it, and they make sure that they watch out for it."
Located in Tulsa's second district, represented on council by Jeannie Cue, the Greater Cornerstone Community Center could be the model for transformation in Tulsa's notorious high crime area of 61st and Peoria, the scene of a quadruple murder in early January .
Cue is heading the city's Quality of Life task force, whose job it is to create proposals about reducing crime and improving quality of life in the south Tulsa neighborhood and present those ideas to council.
Cue is working with leaders in community services, education, funding and public safety to generate those proposals. She also encourages any Tulsan who wants to improve the community to join the task force's effort.
"We have an area that has 17 multifamily government subsidized houses from Riverside to Lewis, from 51st to 71st, and with the help of [Oral Robert University], we're doing a study to see if there's even any other area in the State of Oklahoma that has that many multifamily low income complexes in the area," Cue said.
Greater Cornerstone was funded purely through donations and corporate sponsors and without taxpayer money. Cue said that if 61st and Peoria is to benefit from any similar action, the individual organizations pushing for change in the area must ban together.
"Right now, there's several groups of people that do a little bit, but we've got to get together and we will become stronger as a unit."
Jones said the community center was successful because they asked residents in the area what they wanted most. Then, Jones and other organizations conducted a needs assessment to determine what was needed.
"The same thing is going to have to happen over there, and I'm sure that that needs assessment is going to tell them that a lot of the programs that we have inside this facility are going to be needed there at 61st and Peoria."
Cue said the first meeting of the Quality of Life task force is expected to be either Friday, February 15 or Monday, February 18 and will occur on the fourth floor of city hall.
She said proposals probably won't be presented for several months.