East side Walmart provides grants for seven nonprofits

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Volunteer Charlie Kerwin helps client Deborah Guinn select grocery items at Mission Norman on July 24 in Norman.

Seven area nonprofit organizations plan to use Walmart grant money for everything from stocking food banks to helping students pay for medicine.

The Walmart at 601 12th Ave. NE, was set to have a grand re-opening and big check moments for the nonprofits, but due to the tragic events in El Paso this week the corporation canceled the event. A gunman shot and killed 22 people last weekend in a Walmart store in the border town.

However, Bridges of Norman, Community Action Ministries Inc., Food and Shelter Inc., Mary Abbott Children's House, Mission Norman Inc., Royal Family Kids Inc. and Team Buddy Buckets all still received grants ranging from $500 to $1,500 each.

Stacy Bruce, executive director for Bridges of Norman, said the $1,000 grant they received is going towards student expenses. Bridges assists high school students who are in a family crisis so they can continue to pursue their education without obstacles.

These student expenses are basically needs that are filled for other students their age at home, but Bridges fills the gap and provides items such as brooms, shower curtains, ACT registrations, additional school fees, over-the-counter and prescription medication costs or any other student expense that is needed.

"We love it, Walmart has always been supportive of our program and our students and most all of the Walmarts in our community have given at some level to our student expense," Bruce said.

For Trey Roberts, camp director for Royal Family Kids Inc., the $1,000 grant from Walmart went towards a birthday party for 72 campers. Royal Family Kids confronts abuse and spends time with kids from Norman and surrounding cities and counties, through their camp every summer since 2006.

The grant from Walmart went towards ensuring 72 campers between the ages of seven and 11 has their own individualized birthday presents, birthday cake and just a birthday experience as a whole.

"We thought [the grant] was great, it provided us with an opportunity to really put something special together for these kids," Roberts said.

Dave Karr, executive director for Mission Norman, said the $1,500 grant will help stock food pantries in Cleveland and McClain counties.

According to the Census Bureau, Oklahoma's overall poverty rate is 16%, 3.7% higher than the national average. Norman's poverty level is slightly higher than both at 18%, according to a press release.

April Heiple, director of Food and Shelter Inc., said the $1,000 grant will help them purchase additional food for their food pantry as well. She said their food pantry sees an average of about 200 households a month.

"Walmart has always been incredibly generous and supportive of our work," Heiple said. "So, we are just really grateful for their support and for understanding the need of those living with food insecurity within our community."

Gary Harper, president for Team Buddy Buckets, said the $1,000 grant they received will go towards their Team Up to Build Up initiative, which is a leadership and life skills program. The program helps children start focusing on the next step of their life everyday, and to combat bad decision making.

Donna Hooper, executive director of Community Actions Ministry, said the $500 grant they received was a blessing and will go towards their newest organization called Open Heart Resource Room. The ministry has been around since August 1999, and the resource room was established in June.

She said Open Heart Resource Room helps children who are not being raised by their parents, but by a teacher, grandparents or other guardian. If a guardian like this shows proof, the resource room assists them in whatever needs they have from diapers and clothes to high chairs and car seats.

"The East side Walmart has helped CAM now for 20 years with our camps, and they have helped with food for 20 years, so it was actually a blessing for them to give us this $500 grant to start the new program," Hooper said.

For residents interested in volunteering or donating for any of these nonprofits, all information can be found on their websites of Facebook pages.