‘If you’re hungry, go to the church with the iron gate.’
Tulsa's Iron Gate began with a single sandwich in a church kitchen.
Iron Gate Executive Director Carrie Vesely Henderson and Board Chairwoman Mindy Morrison Taylor with Iron Gate founders the Rev. Jack Powers, Gene Buzzard and Keenan Barnard.
In 1978, the Rev. John C. Powers, Keenan Barnard and Gene Buzzard were in a Bible study at Trinity Episcopal Church when a homeless man knocked on the door and asked for something to eat.
“Somebody suggested we just make him something in the kitchen,” Powers says, and they did — a sandwich.
Many other homeless and hungry people gathered around the church, asking for food and daily necessities. The three men saw an opportunity for a food ministry. “Being downtown, we were stationed where the people in need were gathered,” Powers says.
The church members began with distributing leftover food items, either made in the church kitchen or brought for potlucks. It then grew to cooking full meals for the homeless community and was named Iron Gate in 1984. It flourished into a daily program where those in need of food and sustenance would come to the church and be given a hot meal.
“The word spread: ‘If you’re hungry, go to the church with the iron gate,’” says Iron Gate Executive Director Carrie Vesely Henderson. “It was literally a random act of kindness that grew.”
Powers, who served as Trinity’s rector from 1977-1991, says Iron Gate has been a vehicle to put into action “something that is very much a part of the Christian life.”
“We are in an age,” he says, “where we have many, many homeless and hungry people, the working poor, and we need to reach out and be a sign of hope to them.”