Hungry for hope

Filling a void for Tulsa's homeless.



Each Friday around lunchtime, it’s easy to find Kelly Swan.

He’ll be in a parking lot near East Third Street and South Detroit Avenue, standing in a crowd of people, some he knows and some he has just met.

Regardless, he treats each as a new friend, handing out a Bible verse on a small slip of paper and, later, a sack lunch.

For lunch recipients, these 15- to 20-minute sessions are a welcome respite from the challenges they face daily. They are homeless, and Swan wants to provide them with encouragement and hope.

It all began one day six years ago. Swan, a Williams employee, was walking back to his downtown office after his lunch break when a homeless man approached him.

The man gently grabbed Swan’s arm and asked for help. Swan, uncomfortable, said “No, thank you,” and walked away.

But he knew he had missed an opportunity. So Swan turned around and caught up with the man, whose name he later learned was Roy, and the two spent 20 minutes talking about the challenges Roy was facing.

“The experience changed me, and it put everything in perspective of my calling in life,” Swan says.

Soon Swan learned that his friend Erin Bjornberg had felt a similar desire to serve homeless people, and the two began walking the downtown streets together, distributing lunches and looking for those who needed an encouraging word.

In late 2003, another friend, Chris Brooks, got involved, and the group decided to make Filling the Void an official nonprofit.

Swan, Bjornberg and Brooks soon went from meeting with people individually to addressing entire groups. In 2005, they began gathering in the Williams Green each Wednesday, first attracting 15 to 20 people and, by 2008, more than 200 people.

Since Filling the Void’s founding, more than 500 volunteers have lent their services to the nonprofit. Swan has even spread the Filling the Void concept to Denver, and he would like to see it reach other cities.

In late 2008, Swan decided to move the outreach events to the current location to give them some added privacy. Although numbers have dropped from 200 to about 40 to 50 people, the change has given Swan and other volunteers an opportunity to get back to the personal nature of their work, shaking hands and learning names.

“It would be easy after you’ve done this for a while to go through the motions,” Swan says. “We don’t ever want to get to that point. We want to go out every week knowing there will be someone new there, it will be their first experience, and we want them to know God has a plan for their life.”

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August 2019

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

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Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

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Cost: $1+

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Sponsor: Tulsa Community College
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Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
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Telephone: 918-585-1234
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Contact Name: Jenée Day
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Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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307 East M. B. Brady St.
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Telephone: 918-585-1234
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Cost: $15

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Asbury United Methodist Church
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Cost: FREE

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Telephone: 918-665-8220
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Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

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Cost: Advance Tickets $14- Adult $6 child

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Contact Name: Circus Saurus
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Cost: $15 - $40

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Sponsor: Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills
Telephone: 918-665-8220
Contact Name: Hasty-Bake Retail Showroom
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Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

See The Dinosaurs and Unicorn Come Alive At The Circus   The 2019 edition of CIRCUS SAURUS will feature artists from around the world.  Immerse yourself into a mythological quest...

Cost: Advance Tickets $14- Adult $6 child

Where:
West of Plaza Santa Cecilia
2160 S. Garnett Rd.
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View map »


Sponsor: Carson & Barnes Circus
Telephone: 580-743-7292
Contact Name: Circus Saurus
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

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Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills Retail Showroom
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Sponsor: Hasty-Bake Charcoal Grills
Telephone: 918-665-8220
Contact Name: Hasty-Bake Retail Showroom
Website »

More information

The Lazy V 105’ Pasture Festival is an annual action-packed, four-day phenomenon of live events at Riverbend Arena at Owens Ranch in Inola, Oklahoma that includes: team roping, calf roping,...

Cost: $15 - $40

Where:
Riverbend Arena at Owens' Ranch
12900 E. 600 Rd.
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View map »


Sponsor: Riverbend Arena at Owens' Ranch
Telephone: 405-417-6191
Contact Name: Eric Owens
Website »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

See The Dinosaurs and Unicorn Come Alive At The Circus   The 2019 edition of CIRCUS SAURUS will feature artists from around the world.  Immerse yourself into a mythological quest...

Cost: Advance Tickets $14- Adult $6 child

Where:
West of Plaza Santa Cecilia
2160 S. Garnett Rd.
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View map »


Sponsor: Carson & Barnes Circus
Telephone: 580-743-7292
Contact Name: Circus Saurus
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Cost: $1+

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