The Tulsa Boys’ Home turns 100
The Tulsa Boys’ Home has given more than 13,000 Oklahoma boys a place of refuge over the past century.
The Tulsa Boys’ Home has made tremendous strides in helping young boys throughout its first 100 years of operation.
What started as an orphanage for five boys in a two-story house in downtown Tulsa has evolved into a nationally accredited treatment facility that is among the best of its kind in the nation.
When Gregg Conway became TBH’s executive director in 1997, he inherited a nearly 20-year-old property in need of vital upgrades. Within months he began the undertaking to launch a fundraising campaign that would overhaul TBH and make it what it is today: a 160-acre property in the Sand Springs countryside that feels more like a private school campus than a treatment center for 64 boys ranging from 11-17 years old.
“I looked at what was originally there when we were bidding on the project,” remembers TBH board member Brock Eubanks, who oversaw completion of campus renovations for Manhattan Construction in 2005. “There were buildings flooding. Everything was out of date.
Now, “It’s the best in the state,” Eubanks says. “There’s not another place like it.”
The TBH transformation began as a $500,000 proposal to the Reynolds Foundation in 1997 that evolved over four years into a $11.6 million grant. That, along with another $7 million from local foundations, corporations and individuals transformed TBH into a state-of-the-art residential treatment facility, Conway says.
The mission of TBH is to provide the highest-quality residential care for boys needing placement outside their home, for the purpose of developing well-adjusted, responsible adults and strengthening the family.
Forty boys, placed by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, live in four lodges. Conway says these are boys who have been mentally, physically or sexually abused and/or neglected. On average they spend 14 months at TBH.
Twenty-four boys are split among two drug and alcohol treatment lodges. Conway says there are 13- to 18-year-old boys receiving treatment for addictions to opioids, heroin and methamphetamine. In all lodges, each boy has his own bedroom, restroom and shower.
There’s a gym with a basketball court, exercise equipment, a weight room, outdoor tennis courts and a pool. Nearby is the on-campus school, where boys attend classes, and a training center with meeting space.
The campus also operates an equine therapy program where TBH partners with the Exceller Fund to house, feed and work with retired race horses. Conway says working with the horses, in turn, helps residents build important relationship skills, break down defense barriers and promotes positive changes in thinking and behavior. The boys ride the horses in the pasture or inside the Sherman E. Smith Arena, which was added in 2007 as part of a $2.5 million capital campaign to establish the TBH Equine Program.
Operating TBH costs a considerable amount of money. “We have a $6 million operating budget this year,” Conway says. “It’s like a Fortune 500 company. This isn’t chump change we’re talking about, so it needs to be run with maximum operational efficiency as well as effectiveness. We want the best and the brightest here.”
Overseeing the 24/7 operation is a staff of 85 employees who go through extensive in-house training. There are counselors, teachers, cooks, facilities staff and administrators. There also are about 400 volunteers a year who assist the employees in various ways.
“We truly have an amazing, compassionate staff, and that’s what makes the dream work,” Conway says. “For those who work directly with the boys, it’s kind of like missionary work. The pay is terrible, although we have outstanding benefits that outshine the competition. I kiss the ground they walk on every day. I really do.”
TBH receives a substantial amount of funding from the state, but it also relies on numerous fundraising events throughout the year. Among them are the Run for the Roses, the Frank R. Rhoades Golf Classic, the evolving Burn Co. Cigar event, the Junior Women’s Association’s “Buttercup Bash” and the Women’s Association Spring Luncheon.
The long-running golf event has generated $2.2 million for the operating budget since Frank Rhoades took over managing it in 1993, a year before he joined the board. While the fundraising is an accomplishment, Rhoades says he is more proud of the fact they’ve established funding for years to come.
“We have a $1 million endowment, and in our pipeline are $12.5 million in commitments for estate gifts in individual wills and trusts,” Rhoades says.
TBH currently has a campaign underway to seek out individuals who could put TBH in their will and estate plan. “The reason that’s so important,” Rhoades says, “is that 66 percent of our revenue comes from the State of Oklahoma, and those funds are becoming less reliable. We haven’t seen an increase in 10 years.”
On Oct. 14, TBH will host a Centennial Homecoming Celebration to commemorate its first 100 years. As part of the milestone, TBH has created a 100th anniversary book that shares the incredible story of the organization. It will be available on the TBH website and at Magic City Books by mid-October.
As TBH prepares for its next century, supporters continue to look for new opportunities so the volunteers and staff can maintain its mission — helping Oklahoma boys.
“If you can do this work with 64 boys really well, that’s plenty to say grace over,” Conway says.
Tulsa Boys’ Home by the numbers
The Tulsa Boys’ Home opened Aug. 28, 1918, with 5 boys.
Boys have come from all 77 Oklahoma counties over the past century.
TBH alumni total more than 13,000.
Average age of a boy entering TBH: 14
6 teachers instruct at TBH’s on-campus school.
12 campus buildings are spread over 160 acres.
Average number of horses in service in the equine program: 24
TBH alum finds family, and the story goes viral
Earlier this year, Good Morning America shared the heartwarming story of TBH alumnus Dakota Hemphill, who met his adoptive mom during a two-year stay at the treatment facility.
When Hemphill arrived at TBH in 2013, he discovered for the first time in his life he had structure and people who believed in him.
“If you let the staff do their job, ultimately you’ll overcome a lot and learn how to handle life,” says Hemphill, whose story is also featured in TBH’s 100th anniversary book. “I had been through so much, my emotions were dry. I liked to fight and argue. That’s no longer a problem because I let them help me.”
Lesley Hemphill met Dakota five years ago when she volunteered through Life.Church as a mentor. Due to only a decade age difference, it made for a lengthy adoption case that they eventually won. An ABC News story aired Mother’s Day weekend and became a viral hit online.
“I didn’t realize how many people had been impacted by it until I saw it on Facebook and saw all the views and read the comments,” says the 19-year-old, who will soon graduate from Union High School and enter the U.S. Marines Corp. “That just made me smile.”
Meet 5 dedicated TBH volunteers
More than 400 volunteers devote their time to the Tulsa Boys’ Home each year. In 2017, volunteers donated approximately 1,200 hours and provided services such as tutoring, mentorship and campus beautification. Some spend time making holidays and other annual events more special for the boys. The following are just some of those dedicated volunteers.
Beeghly knew nothing about the Tulsa Boys’ Home seven years ago when she took a call from a sorority sister asking if she would be interested in helping out by doing activities with the boys. Beeghly soon joined the Junior Women’s Association, which was formed 80 years ago to contribute to the boys’ mental and physical well-being.
In addition to sponsoring fundraising events for TBH, the Junior Women’s Association visits monthly to spend time with the boys and offer activities and outings. It also organizes holiday parties and handpicks Christmas gifts for the boys.
Fast-forward a few years when Beeghly began her three-year tenure as the president of the Junior Women’s Association. Her role as the organization’s leader earned her a seat at the TBH board table. During this time, she began volunteering for the twice-monthly Hope Tours, which showcase the TBH mission to visitors.
When she completed her presidency this past May, the TBH board invited Beeghly to join as a full member.
“It has been very life-changing for me,” she says. “I grew up in a tough environment, so I found giving back is therapeutic.
“In my heart I’ve always had a place for disadvantaged youth. It doesn’t surprise me that’s where my heart went.”
Two years ago, her husband died. “I found that spending time there helped me to identify with the boys because they, too, had experienced loss. I learned to slow down and feel.”
In 2013, Life.Church officials selected TBH as a local mission partner, which meant volunteers were needed. Davis was among the first attendees to sign up, and she continues to work with TBH today.
“These boys are so courageous,” Davis says. “Until they arrived at the boys’ home, nobody told them they can make a difference. They don’t know the gifts they have in them. Just to play a tiny role to encourage or inspire them means a lot.”
Seven Life.Church campuses across the Tulsa metro area have generated nearly 300 TBH volunteers over the past five years, according to Davis.
Davis serves as a campus mentor, spending time with the boys doing various activities. She takes a group of boys to weekly youth group on Wednesdays. Each month she and other Life.Church volunteers host a themed fun night in the lodges, which allows the boys to dress up and have fun as a group.
“The boys just want our presence and to know they’re valued,” Davis says. “The opportunities to engage are endless. All you need to do is use your gifts and share it with them.”
For the past four years, Eubanks has served on the board of directors, but his relationship with TBH goes back to the 2004 campus renovation.
At the time, Eubanks worked for Manhattan Construction. He helped the company land the TBH capital project, but did not get assigned to oversee it. That changed when construction fell behind schedule.
“I took over the project with about a third of the work remaining,” says Eubanks, who now serves as Arrowhead Builders vice president of operations. “I came in and helped revive it and then oversaw its completion.
“After that I stayed in touch and then later had an opportunity to work with them again through Leadership Tulsa.”
As part of the LT program, Eubanks was required to join a board. He was approved as a temporary member of the TBH Board of Directors as an LT intern. As his time was nearing its end, the board invited Eubanks to join its membership.
“I now have a greater understanding of the healing and benefits of the program than I did when we were building it,” Eubanks says. “Nothing can replace a two-parent home, but this is a very good attempt at that. It’s a place for healing.”
Six years ago Martucci saw a commercial about TBH, which left her with a lot of questions, so she went on a tour.
“It flipped a switch inside of me,” she says. “I’m a Holland Hall mom with three sons. I came from a doctor father and stay-at-home mom. I graduated from law school.
“When I met the children, I recognized they were hungry for love and attention. It pulls at your heart, especially if you’re a parent who does everything for their kids.”
Five years ago, Martucci began volunteering once a week as a tutor. She sat in a classroom with the boys and assisted with their homework. Two years ago her sons started joining her. Word-of-mouth spread amongst their classmates and now carloads of Holland Hall students make the trek to assist as tutors.
“There are currently eight to 10 Holland Hall students who work with the boys one-on-one,” Martucci says. “The students want to be there. They keep coming back to help. In car rides, I’ve heard them talk about how lucky they are to have the lives they do. How grateful they are. That’s not something you typically hear from teenage boys. It’s such a rewarding experience for everyone.”
Rhoades has been a TBH board member since 1993, but he has had a lifelong relationship with TBH because of his grandfather, Sam Rhoades Sr., a lifetime board member until his death in 2001.
The defining moment for Frank came in 1958 when as an 8-year-old he joined Sam, who was the TBH board president at the time, and his mentor, philanthropist John Mabee, on a visit to the Tulsa Boys’ Home.
Upon their arrival, Mabee and Frank walked over to a baseball field, sat in the bleachers and watched the boys play the game. After a while, Frank says he asked the philanthropist why he wanted to watch “orphan boys play ball.”
“He told me he had been an orphan and that it would have been nice for him to have a place like the Tulsa Boys’ Home when he was a kid,” Frank recalls. “That really stuck with me. Here was the richest man in Tulsa saying he would have lived there as a boy. I’ll never forget that moment. It continues to motivate me today.”