Story by Parker Johnson. Photos courtesy of Mission Oak Cliff.
During trying times, we often turn to the pillars of the community for help and guidance. For the past seventy years, the citizens of Oak Cliff have turned to Mission Oak Cliff. In 1948 Virginia Goslin, an employee of Cliff Temple Baptist Church, noticed that the community around her church was struggling with necessary provisions. She decided the best way to give back was to start a food pantry in one of the closets in the church, distributing food to whoever needed a helping hand. Today, Mission Oak Cliff has expanded the food pantry, as well as launching a multitude of other services for the community. In 2019 alone, Mission Oak Cliff was able to feed over 9,000 people. They were also able to provide clothes for over 1,500 families. Recently Mission Oak Cliff was named a charity partner of the Dallas Morning News. The Dallas Morning News has helped nonprofits like Mission Oak Cliff by raising almost a million dollars.
This last week we had the wonderful opportunity to talk on the phone with the current Executive Director at Mission Oak Cliff Kevin Pranoto. Kevin took over the role of Executive Director back in October. However, Kevin is a seasoned veteran when it comes to working for nonprofits, having moved from Atlanta, where he served a similar role in the community. “Texas is home” Kevin grew up in Houston and attended school at Baylor. He has a personal connection to the community and was happy to return to his roots after taking the job at Mission Oak Cliff.
The recent health pandemic involving COVID-19 has caused many nonprofits to adapt to a new way of operation. With the unemployment rates continuing to rise, more and more people are relying on an organization like Mission Oak Cliff to help them reach the light at the end of the tunnel. “We have seen a drastic uptick in the families that we serve. Since the shelter in place order took effect in our community, we have seen over 225 more families seek help at Mission Oak Cliff.” To meet this growing need, Mission Oak Cliff is providing more food than they have ever had to provide. “Before COVID-19, we typically would order around 2,000 pounds of food from Crossroads Community Services every week. This past week we had to put in our largest order of around 9,000 pounds of food to feed our families.”
During the last couple of weeks, Mission Oak Cliff’s decided to suspend all-volunteer help for the nonprofit. “The board and I had to come to the difficult decision to stop our volunteer program. We are still experiencing an interest in people wanting to volunteer. Still, our priority is safety, and we encourage our volunteers to practice social distancing.” This leaves Kevin and the other three employees of Mission Oak Cliff handling the front lines and ensuring the people seeking help receive it.
Despite everything that is currently taking place, Kevin and his staff are determined to continue to offer their services while providing safety for the community. One way they are achieving this is by staggering the hours of operations of their services to prevent overcrowding. “Usually, our hours for all our services are twelve to three. To avoid congregation, we have changed the hours of our homeless welcome center from twelve to one. The local homeless community can come in for a takeaway lunch as well as picking up any hygiene products they may need, including clothes. We then open our food pantry from one to three.”
One of the major services that Mission Oak Cliff provides the community is ESL classes. This service allows people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn English. However, since the rise of COVID-19, Mission Oak Cliff had to suspend all ESL classes. This has not stopped Kevin from providing this vital service to the people of Oak Cliff. “We are currently looking at ways to make our ESL classes digital so our families can continue their English education.”
To help with the growing need for food and supplies, nonprofits are turning to events like the North Texas Giving Tuesday Now fundraiser to help continue the services they provide for the community. “Through our social media, we are encouraging everyone to donate to North Texas Giving Tuesday. We anticipate the community of Oak Cliff will need assistance for the next several years due to the long-lasting economic impact of COVID-19.”
As COVID-19 continues to cause hardship to our communities, it is more important than ever that nonprofits continue their work. In a time where it is difficult to hold on to hope nonprofits like Mission Oak Cliff and people like Kevin Pranoto remind us that no matter how dark it may get, there will always be a light.
If this story has inspired you to support the North Texas nonprofit community, visit our Support Nonprofits During COVID-19 page to learn how you can get involved!