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The Oklahoma Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives

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The Oklahoma Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives was created in 2000 under Governor Keating to connect faith based and community groups with government entities to address social service needs.

Robin Jones, Director of the Oklahoma Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, explains that they work with both religious and secular groups to engage them to be a catalyst to serve those who are disadvantaged and in poverty. Within the faith based community there are over 6,000 churches, most of which happen to be Christian. Jones says their main priority is facilitation and networking to address the needs within Oklahoma. The Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives is specifically involved with foster care, preparedness, health, mental health, substance abuse, prisoner reentry, and poverty. Jones says, "The Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives is here to serve government and in particular state agencies, but also to serve faith and community groups. There’s been a real disconnect in the past and historically between faith community and government for a variety of reasons, whether it’s fear, the misunderstanding of the separation of church and state, or just linguistics. In fact, a big part of my job I find is just interpretation, meaning the language of government and the language of the faith community doesn’t overlap. In terms of intent and purposes - serving those that are disadvantaged - they’re pretty much on the same page.”

 
The Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives along with the 111 Project is hosting a conference in Tulsa Oklahoma called The 8,308 Conference. “The number 8,308 came from a snapshot of time on January 1, 2012 which represents the number of children in OK DHS custody on that date.” The Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives is part of the 111 Project which recruits churches to recruit foster families. This conference is October 4th at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Tulsa from 9:00am to 3:30pm with lunch included. Jones says the main people that this conference is for is influencers in the faith community, those representing churches and individuals who are passionate about this issue. Another statewide conference in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse is in Oklahoma City on August 28th, it too is all day with lunch included and registration is required. The conference will be at Crossings Community Center with a variety of speakers including keynote speaker Dr. John Townsend, best selling author and psychologist. On their website at www.ok.gov/faithlinksok is information about both of these conferences that are open to the public. 
 
Connecting groups and individuals that want to make a difference, the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives calls every person in Oklahoma, especially those in the faith community, to make a commitment to one act of service in the community. Jones encourages involvement in any of the issues of foster care, emergency preparedness, mental health, or prisoner re-entry. For example in foster care, she says everybody can do something, whether it’s praying, hosting a baby shower for diapers, to being a support to foster families. “In any area of service there are incremental ways that you can help and they can escalate to being very involved, but there is always a starting point, a portal where you can enter and test the waters. Everybody can do something!” Jones says. She also promotes that “every church has a particular thing that would be a part of their DNA and they just need to determine what that is and engage in that and be an externally focused church and not an internally focused church.” 
 
 

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