Clearing Blight and Building Community in Tulsa

The Problem

Low-income communities in Tulsa lacked adequate resources to deal with extreme weather, such as heat and cold, and recover from tornadoes. Abandoned homes and vacant lots also led to blighted properties in many of these communities. Additionally, the city did not have the capacity to sustainably recruit and manage volunteers to address these problems.

The Solution

With funds and technical assistance from Cities of Service, the city launched several interrelated programs to address these problems.

  • Tulsa created as a central volunteer hub for the city.
  • With funding from Cities of Service, the city launched a Love Your Block program, which gave small grants to community groups to revitalize their neighborhoods and aid resilience efforts. Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA members provided additional support to help residents carry out their projects.  
  • Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA members and city staff recruited volunteers, such as the Director of Streets and Stormwater for the city, to teach workshops for the grant recipients to help them implement their projects.
  • Through the Resilient Home program, city staff and the Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA members helped residents weatherize their homes to better prepare for extreme weather.

Tulsa: Youth volunteers paint a house as part of Resilience AmeriCorps revilatization efforts. Photo Credit: Kell Cafe Photography.

The Results

Through the Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA program, Tulsa has both reduced blight and created new relationships with residents and community groups.

  • With grants from Love Your Block, more than 300 residents have increased resilience to extreme weather, cleaned up trash, replaced dilapidated playground equipment, painted murals and improved buildings in their neighborhoods.
  • The city also required neighborhood associations applying for Love Your Block grants to apply with a partner organization, which created new partnerships within neighborhoods and expanded the impact of the grants.
  • The city successfully piloted Resilient Home in two homes, fortifying their roofs to prepare for extreme weather and save energy, demonstrating the project’s feasibility on a larger scale.
  • Through the program, they have also trained Tulsans to weatherize their homes in partnership with local nonprofits Meals on Wheels and Disaster Resilience Network.
  • The city, residents, and community groups are using to more efficiently recruit and coordinate volunteers.

Keys to Success

Support from leadership and the dedication of staff ultimately made Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps a success. Mayor G.T. Bynum was committed to the program, and the neighborhood liaisons and Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA members created connections with community members to create buy-in and increase participation.

“We want to be inclusive, and show that we care about everyone’s opinions and ideas.”

— Grace Martin, Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA Member