Believing in an organization’s mission is a strong way to feel connected and driven to support that organization. For Chief Accounting Officer Mark Wiltse and Agency Services Manager Dylan Lampe, a shared mission is what committed them to Oakridge Neighborhood. They create pathways to success for adults, children and families by providing housing and comprehensive education and employability programs.
Oakridge Neighborhood provides secure housing and more to about 1,000 Des Moines residents, with over half being children under the age of 18. They also offer nationally accredited early childhood care as well as programs ranging from after-school programs for youth and youth summer employment to workforce readiness training for adults.
Why support Oakridge?
Dylan says, “There’s an old saying that ‘we all do better when we all do better,’ and Oakridge works hard to support our community’s most vulnerable children, families and individuals.” This saying paired with their mission is why Dylan has been hooked on supporting Oakridge since he first learned of them.
For Mark, his own humble beginnings and appreciation for secure housing, access to education, and support from people and organizations around him changed the trajectory of his life. As a board member, he says he got involved in a meaningful way because “there’s possibility for people regardless of where they start from.”
Mark says, the Oakridge mission is an opportunity for residents to help their own situations. It also is the right step towards the hope migrants are searching for. Lots of immigrant and refugee families leave their home countries, and Oakridge is a landing spot for many.
Currently, Oakridge has immigrant and refugee families from 21 countries and 22 different languages. They even helped provide for young women, like 18-year-old Cecilia Awa — who migrated to the U.S. with her family when she was just six years old — as she earned her citizenship, graduated from high school and headed off to college.
What would Mark and Dylan say to those considering giving back to Oakridge?
Dylan says, “There are opportunities to tutor and mentor children or to work with seniors through their ‘Adopt a Senior’ program. Oakridge is always in need of donations for their residents, such as winter clothing, toiletries, sporting items for the kids, or puzzles and other hobby ideas for the seniors. Donations and monetary contributions, at any level, can truly be life-changing for some in the program.”
Mark says, “There’s lots of opportunities to get involved at Oakridge. For example, there’s a book-buddies program where you read with the children. It’s truly a community with the needs that any community might have. If you’ve got a skill, get to know the organization and see how your skill can fit. And if you feel compelled, a little goes a long way with monetary donations. Nothing’s too small."
What’s the Annual Jazz, Jewels & Jeans event?
This fun, causal event annually recognizes a hero of Oakridge Neighborhood alongside live jazz entertainment, food and drinks, and both a silent and live auction that includes “jewels” donated by Des Moines area leaders. Participants are encouraged to wear denim and “glitz.” And all funds from this event go toward the comprehensive programs at Oakridge.
Take Mark’s and Dylan’s word for it.
Mark says this event is a “great opportunity for folks to get involved in the community.” He also suggests talking with board members and Oakridge staff to get a sense for what they do and to reflect on the passion they have for it. Mark says you can “take an evening to get to know Oakridge Neighborhood and have some fun in the meantime.”
Dylan, who is a co-chair of the event, says, “Ditch the gowns and throw on some denim for this casual event! This is a great opportunity to learn more about the mission and work of Oakridge while enjoying great food and drinks, live music, and unique silent auction items.”
To learn more about Oakridge Neighborhood, visit oakridgeneighborhood.org.