Virginia McCrary has been through hard times. Now the successful business owner of a Catoosa restaurant, she likes to give back. That’s why she called the Salvation Army and offered to open her doors to those in need.

Normally, Gin’s Apple Dumplin Restaurant on Route 66 is closed on Mondays, but Virginia, assisted by church friend Twalla Almond and a paid employee, opened up to serve a free meal to residents of the Salvation Army’s Supportive Housing program and Project ABLE.

Supportive Housing is a two-year transitional program for homeless families and is assisted by HUD (Housing and Urban Development). Project ABLE is a similar program for single men and women.

“The programs have an 85 percent success rate,” said Bill Steele, Supportive Housing coordinator for the Salvation Army of Tulsa. “All of the people here today have full or part-time jobs earning an average rate of $8 per hour.”

Once homeless, the people served by Virginia and her crew also have a place to live today, and a chance to start life over.

Laura is the 34-year-old mother of two children aged 16 and 11. She left an abusive marriage some years ago, but had trouble making it on her own. “Things were rocky,” said Laura. “I suffered from depression.”

Originally from Alabama, Laura had moved to Claremore with her now ex-husband. She sent the kids to live with her mother in Alabama for a time while she struggled to get back on her feet. “When I got the kids back, we moved to Tulsa,” she said.

“I wanted to get away from where I was living — the memories, the people.”

Laura went from job to job for a time. “I couldn’t hold a steady job,” she said. She ended up at Tulsa County Emergency Shelter where she and her family lived for four months.

“It was very hard for me to deal with living in the shelter,” she said.“I thought it couldn’t happen to me.”

Laura interviewed for the Supportive Housing program and was accepted in February of this year. She and her children moved into a two -bedroom apartment.

“I pay rent,” she said.“The program has been very good for me. I’m in counseling, the kids are in counseling, and we’re getting family therapy.”

Working for the Salvation Army in the women’s dorm and with transporting children to and from school has been good for her, Laura claimed, saying that she has learned how to work with people and be responsible. She attended Oklahoma Health Academy and is now a registered medical assistant and a registered phlebotomy tech, a career she plans to pursue after the first of the year.

“I’ve come a long way,” said Laura.“People say they’ve seen me do a complete turn around.”

Paul is a 50-year-old who spent 30 years of his life abusing alcohol. He went through treatment at the Salvation Army’s Alcohol Rehabilitation Center. After he graduated from that 6-month program, he got a job with the Salvation Army as a truck drive. He came into ABLE/HUD transitional housing to give himself more time to get on his feet, save money, and establish himself with a church.

“I’ve had thirty-some years of doing stuff my way,” said Paul.“I’m going to try a spiritual way of living.”

Paul shares a room where he pays rent.“He (Paul’s roommate) works nights and I work days so we never see each other,” said Paul.

Currently, Paul has been sober for 20 months and has been living in housing for nine months. He can stay up to two years, but thinks he can move out on his own after a year in the program.

“When I came in to detox, I was 6‚4” and weighted 171 pounds,” he said. Still slender, he is up to 196 pounds and would like to put on another 10 or 15. “Those first six months (in rehab) were a really intense spiritual program,” he said.“Now it’s up to me.”

Paul never expected to find himself homeless. “I was functional for a long time. I always worked, but at some time I crossed a line. I wound up losing everything. With God’s help and the Salvation Army, I’ve recovered everything.”

Virginia McCrary doesn’t ask the people whose plates she fills why they are in need today. She just offers a helping hand and a meal.

“I like helping people,” said Virginia.“I just like giving because I‚ve been there. If I help others, someday someone will help me. We need more of that these days.”



Joy Hampton covers Catoosa and Verdigris. Contact her at baseybunch@mac.com.



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