Keeping the faith

After three years of helping girls aging out of foster care, Manna House receives an unexpected miracle.



Ashley Walker founded Launch Outreach and Manna House, a home for teenage girls transitioning out of foster care. Jordan Edwards, right, lived in foster care from the age of 2 months, moved to Manna House at 18 and will soon join the nonprofit’s team as a full-time resident advisor.

For Jordan Edwards, turning 18 wasn’t a joyous celebration. After living in foster care since she was 2 months old, she was suddenly faced with the reality of being on her own, without any support.  

“Then I met Ashley,” the 19-year-old Edwards says. “She and Manna House changed my life. I don’t know where I would be without them.” 

Oklahoma has approximately 10,000 children in DHS custody, with an average of 300 aging out each year. This rite of passage into adulthood can be a scary time for a young girl in the foster care system.

“There was a huge gap in services,” says Ashley Walker, founder of Launch Outreach and Manna House. “When I started my career in social work at the Laura Dester shelter, I was stunned to see that there was nothing in place for kids who age out of the foster care system. Many of them had nowhere to go.”

It was that realization that hit home for Walker. Raised in a family of foster care supporters (her parents and grandparents have fostered children for as long as she can remember), Walker decided she needed to take things a step further. 

“I wanted to do something that focused specifically on girls, since no one was working with them,” Walker says. “If I could create some sort of transitional home, something that could give these teenage girls a chance at becoming independent adults, that would help bridge this gap.”

Walker’s idea for a transitional living home came to fruition after countless meetings and hours of hard work. 

“I think I met with every person in the city of Tulsa who had something to do with foster care,” Walker laughs. “I had less than $10,000 in our account when I started. It was a huge leap of faith.”

That leap of faith paid off and Manna House became a reality. After three years, Manna House has helped 17 girls transition into adulthood by providing them with housing, life skills training, tutoring and additional resources as needed.  

 

Removing barriers

Edwards is one of Manna House’s success stories. 

“I am so grateful to Manna House and everything they have done to support me,” Edwards says, her voice choking.  “I could have easily dropped out, but instead I was able to graduate from high school last spring.” 

“Jordan represents everything we want for our girls,” Walker says. “She is such a great example of what these girls can accomplish when they have a support system in place.” 

Among other barriers, driving a car can be a substantial obstacle for most teens in foster care. 

“This is something that most of us take for granted, but it is a huge stepping stone for these girls,” Walker says. “Living in Tulsa without being able to drive or having access to a car is a sizable hindrance for these girls in going to work and to school.” 

Walker and her team help the girls at Manna House, including Edwards, obtain their licenses and cars that have been donated to the organization. 

“I never thought I would get my license, let alone ever own a car,” Edwards says with a grin. “There is no better feeling than being independent and having some control of your life, especially when you’ve never had that before.”  

Manna House is only one of the programs that Walker started under her umbrella organization Launch Outreach. 

In addition to housing, Launch Outreach provides tutoring and online classes to help girls in the foster care system finish high school. Volunteers provide life skill classes, teaching the girls everything from opening a checking account to basic cooking skills and job interview tips.  

Another Launch Outreach program is Heaven’s Keys, which provides a way for the girls to earn money. 

“Heaven’s Keys is a company owned by Launch Outreach that focuses on teaching entrepreneurship and leadership skills to young girls in and out of DHS custody,” Walker says. “It’s a merchandise company where the girls make and sell necklaces, and everything is managed by the girls in the program and community volunteers.”  

Launch Outreach’s programs will not be limited to residents of Manna House thanks to the expansion. Its classes and programs will be open to any child in the foster care system.

 

A new home

Although Manna House has had great success, its current home can only house four girls at a time. The need, of course, is much greater. Once again, Walker turned to her faith.  

“The name Manna House is truly fitting for our home,” she says. “To me, manna represents God’s provision. The word manna comes from the Book of Exodus. People were traveling from a place of oppression to the Promised Land. They lacked resources, but prayed to God, and he provided them manna, or bread from heaven.” 

Walker’s prayers for more space were again answered, not with manna, but through an anonymous donor. 

Manna House is expanding — by quite a lot. 

The anonymous donor gave Launch Outreach an 8,000-square-foot property in south Tulsa that is currently being renovated into dormitories for the girls. The donor was alerted to Manna House in a December 2013 TulsaPeople story. The space will be ready in early fall. 

If that weren’t enough, the anonymous donor also purchased the house they currently occupy.

The new Manna House dormitories will be ready in the fall.

 

“We will be able to house up to 12 girls at one time,” Walker says of the new property. “In addition, we are able to provide five full-time RAs, who will live in the home full time with the girls and provide them the support they need.” 

Walker eventually would like to be able to house more than 25 girls at one time. 

“That is considered phase three,” Walker says. “I am in awe of what we have been able to accomplish in three years. But there is still much work to be done.” 

And what’s next for Jordan Edwards? She will actually join the Manna House team as one of the five full-time RAs. And in addition to her job, she will begin classes at  Tulsa Community College in the fall. What is she planning to study? Social work. 

“My experience at Manna House has made me want to help others, like Manna House and their staff have helped me,” Edwards says. “I want to help the homeless and give them the skills they need to get back on their feet.” 

Walker’s faith and hard work have certainly started to pay off. She is forever grateful to the people who believed in her mission, especially her anonymous donor.

“I will never have adequate words to express my gratitude — his gifts and generosity have changed the entire trajectory of our ministry,” she says.

 

Want to help Manna House?

  • Donate your working car.
  • Volunteer to teach a class in your area of expertise.
  • Buy a necklace from Heaven’s Keys for $35 each.
  • Tutor a student.
  • Purchase a ticket, table or sponsorship to Launch Outreach’s annual fundraiser Sept. 20. 
  • Donate or purchase household items for the Manna House expansion.

 



Successful start

Manna House measures success with its girls in a number of areas. In three years, the program has helped them reach many milestones:

17 girls were enrolled in school and 11 found jobs while in the program.

80 percent of all program participants have volunteered in the community.

Three cars were donated to help three girls achieve independence and stability.

Those ending the semester at Manna House had a 100 percent school passing rate.

An average of 200 community volunteers annually establish a culture of volunteerism and connect girls with caring adults in the community.

Heaven’s Keys Co., a youth-run entrepreneurial program begun in 2014, has generated $5,000, teaching essential business and life skills.

One girl graduated high school and will begin college in fall 2016.

 

 

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Contact Name: Woodland Hills Mall

More information

Celebrate the vital role eastern Oklahoma plays in the amazing Monarch butterfly migration! Join us for great activities and presentations including educational activities and crafts, tagging and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Turkey Mountain
6850 S Elwood Ave
Tulsa, OK  74132
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Sponsor: river parks
Telephone: 918-596-2008
Contact Name: Ryan Howell
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The Home Remodeling Showcase is the premier showcase of newly remodeled homes in Tulsa and the surrounding areas.  Presented by the Remodelers Council of the Home Builders Association of Greater...

Cost: 10

Where:
Spread throughout Metro Tulsa
, OK


Sponsor: Pella Windows of Oklahoma
Telephone: 918-663-5820
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Experience the sites, sounds and smells of Greece!  The best lil stop in OPA!homa - just off route 66. Live music, dancing, kids zone, Greek food and drink, delectable baked goods, Greek...

Cost: Adults $5/Kids Free

Where:
13th & Guthrie Ave
1222 S. Guthrie Ave

Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: Tulsa Greek Festival
Telephone: 918-583-2082
Contact Name: Tonya Boone
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Living Arts of Tulsa will present a multi-media exhibit of Jave Yoshimoto’s work. Intractable Chasm examines the refugee crisis in Greece, experienced firsthand by Yoshimoto when he...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East Reconciliation Way
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Central Park Community Center
1500 South Main Street
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 918-259-8437
Contact Name: Central Park Community Center

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Join us for our second annual Food Truck Frenzy on September 21, from 4-8 p.m., and taste a variety of delicious cuisines from food trucks located in our riverfront backyard. Families can enjoy...

Cost: Adults $17.95, Children 3yrs-12yrs $13.95 Military and Seniors(62+) $13.95

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Dr
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-528-1507
Contact Name: Liz Medrano
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Fundraising concert featuring popular Christian rock band Sanctus Real benefiting Circle of Care's three programs: state-wide foster care, transitional living for single mothers with children...

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Venue 68
6910 S. 101st E. Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74134
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Sponsor: Circle of Care
Telephone: 405-215-1400
Contact Name: Sarah Steffes
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Benefiting the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Broken Arrow Cosplay contest and silent auction. Fan made 1966 Batmobile on display. Food provided by Charlies Chicken, Panera and drinks...

Cost: $10, 12 and under FREE

Where:
1400 W. Washington St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 918-406-9341
Contact Name: Sean Henry
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Circle of Care and popular Christian Rock band Sanctus Real are teaming up on September 21, 2019, to raise funds for Circle of Care’s three nonprofit programs. Band member...

Cost: Tickets start at $20

Where:
Asbury United Methodist Church's Venue 68
6910 S. 101 E. Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74133
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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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Get moved with Tulsa Ballet! Experience incredible works from the most in-demand choreographers in the world at Creations in Studio K. Tickets start at $25. Read all about the exciting pieces...

Cost: $25 - above

Where:
Tulsa Ballet - Studio K
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Contact Name: Dan Meagher
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Young and old alike will love the cherished story of Alice and her friends performed through original and exciting dance choreography! "Project Alice" is based on Lewis Carroll's...

Cost: 15-20

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
Website »

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Young and old alike will love the cherished story of Alice and her friends performed through original and exciting dance choreography!"Project Alice" is based on Lewis Carroll's “Alice's...

Cost: 15-20

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
Website »

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Whether you prefer Borg nanoprobes to Midichlorians, the Justice League to the Avengers, or Terminators to Daleks, don't let anyone force you into boldly going where no one has gone...

Cost: $8.00 ($4.00 for children under 12)

Where:
pH Community House
306 S Phoenix Ave
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Laughing Matter Improv
Contact Name: Jerry Henderson
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In our 4-week Beginning Fencing class, you'll learn about the history of Olympic fencing, the three fencing weapons – foil, saber and epee – and the general rules for each of the specific...

Cost: $75

Where:
Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center
3500 S Peoria
Tulsa, OK  74106
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Sponsor: Tulsa Fencing Club
Telephone: 918-928-2663
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Where:
Veterans Park
1811 S Boulder Park Dr
Tulsa, OK
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Get wined and dined at the first annual Tulsa Beer & Wine Festival. Stroll through our landscape gardens and treat your taste buds to exquisite food pairings with local and national craft...

Cost: TBD

Where:
Gathering Place Great Lawn
2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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What's New


Tulsans in Automobiles Getting Food

A special 918 Day video with Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum to discuss comedy, the city's celebration and more.

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918 Day special events and deals

The city's annual celebration includes discounts at numerous local businesses as well as special events

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Oklahoma's Best-Sellers: Sept. 15

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

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Branjae on the sixth sense, the street light and empowerment

A Q&A with the singer/songwriter, who just released a new single: “Street Light.”

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Oklahoma's Best-Sellers: Sept. 8

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

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