Man and woman painting inside of a house

(Credit: Alistair Berg / Getty Images)

An Oklahoma single-site life plan community has joined the effort to help Afghan refugees start new lives in the United States.

Trinity Woods in Tulsa, OK, is partnering with local churches and Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma in an Afghan resettlement program to house 800 Afghans — 200 families — in the Tulsa area. Another 1,000 refugees are being settled in Oklahoma City by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

“Our allies and their families were marginalized, beaten and left on the side of the road,” Steve Dickie, CEO of Trinity Woods, told McKnight’s Senior Living. “We are trying to follow that Biblical example of loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

Trinity Woods is temporarily housing three Afghan families in the homes it owns in an adjacent neighborhood. The intent is to house four more families soon. 

Dickie said that the community has been buying properties in the neighborhood for some time with the intent of eventually expanding its offerings. In the meantime, Trinity Woods is renting out some of the houses to nonprofit organizations, including groups that help homeless families move to stabilized housing, a group that serves orphans in Uganda, local churches housing pastors, and a summer reading program for underprivileged youth.

Call to action

According to Catholic Charities, these families were “rescued from a difficult situation that unfolded at the Kabul airport.” They assisted U.S. servicemen and were selected by the U.S. government to come to the United States. 

Dickie said that he watched in dismay the events that unfolded in August when the United States withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover. He likened their plight to the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a man traveling through a dangerous part of the country falls victim to thieves who beat him and leave him for dead on the side of the road. The man is passed by until a Good Samaritan stops to treat his wounds and find him housing.

Trinity Woods, formerly known as Oklahoma Methodist Manor, went through a rebranding in the spring, which involved researching archetypes. Trinity Woods settled on the “neighbor” archetype.

Dickie said that when he learned that a local church had partnered with Catholic Charities for the Afghan resettlement program, he offered use of the neighborhood houses. Calling Trinity Woods a “reluctant landlord,” Dickie set boundaries for the partnership — the church had to cover the rent and utilities, and home improvements had to be done by volunteers. 

The churches, he said, have “taken the ball and run with it.”

“What’s happened is, there’s a kind of contagious compassion that has resulted in work teams going into homes we never envisioned being inhabited again. They’ve adopted these homes,” Dickie said. “They didn’t even know the families moving in, and they went in with sweat equity and wholesale prices on paint and flooring and basically prepared these homes. It’s amazing.”

More good deeds

That contagious compassion is spreading.

Trinity Woods residents approached Dickie about lending their skills toward the effort. Several retired early childhood development professionals offered to help preschool-aged children, and others volunteered to work with their new neighbors to teach them conversational English. Others are picking up extra gifts and supplies on their trips to local stores.

Welcomers International, a nonprofit charity based in Tulsa, heard about the Afghan resettlement effort and approached Trinity Woods about using one of its houses as a community center for English language learning. In January, the nonprofit will open that center, providing classes for Afghan children and adults, as well as equipping volunteers with the skills they need to assist the refugees in their English language development.

Dickie said that residents in neighborhoods that surround the street that is now home to several Afghan families also are lending a hand. About 15 residents showed up to an informational session on the resettlement project, leaving with a positive impression and offering their assistance if needed.

“The kindness and hospitality of the people that came was very impressive,” Dickie said.