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Second Friendship House on verge of completion

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star
In a partnership between the Absentee Shawnee Housing Authority and Community Renewal, a Friendship House — the second one of its kind in the city — is under construction at the southeast corner of Main Street and Bryan Avenue in the Rolling Hills South Addition on Absentee land.

Strategically placed near Boy Scout Park and Horace Mann Elementary and Pleasant Grove Elementary schools, a Friendship House, the second one of its kind in Shawnee, is on the verge of completion — then the real work begins.

Part of Community Renewal of Pottawatomie County's mission, the Friendship Houses plant families into neighborhoods to more directly meet needs of residents. They do so by making resources more readily-accessible and also invest in the community through personal relationships.

Wrapping up construction, the home could be move-in ready around Fall Break, Community Renewal Executive Director Brandon Dyer said.

“The goal of a Friendship House is to build trust and bring resources into the neighborhood,” he said.

The three-acre site — established to become a Friendship House three years ago through a partnership with The Absentee Shawnee Housing Authority — occupies the southeast corner of Main Street and Bryan Avenue in the Rolling Hills South Addition on Absentee land — just a couple blocks north of Pleasant Grove school.

“(Absentee Shawnee Housing Authority Executive Director) Sherry Drywater approached us with the idea to put a Friendship House in the area,” Dyer said. “She dubbed it the Good Neighbor Project.”

In May 2018 Dyer named Michael Phillips the coordinator — and live-in resident — for the house. Phillips and his wife, Jessica, and their three sons — who are already living in the area — are set to move into the unique neighborhood resource once it’s built.

One goal of the Friendship House’s community room is to provide after-school activities and a safe place for children in the Horace Mann and Pleasant Grove neighborhoods, GED (Hi-SET) programs, adult literacy classes, and other services that meet the needs of the neighborhood.

Friendship House project

Community Renewal's inaugural project, the Craig Family Friendship House, at 812 W. 7th Street in Kickapoo Park, has been in operation for about two years now.

Ward 3 Shawnee City Commissioner Travis Flood, Community Renewal's Friendship House director, and his family call the site on the northwest corner of 7th and Pottenger their home.

Though it looks like a typical house from the outside, some alterations make it a distinctively different structure.

The family lives upstairs in the home, making room for a community space constructed on the first floor both accessible and available for neighborhood meetings and after school programs.

Moving a trained staff member into a neighborhood is a good example of how a Friendship House — and future ones — intend to serve the community. The project immerses Flood and his family fully into an area, making them a close and consistent resource for their neighbors.

With the same floor plan, soon the Phillips family will be doing the same across town.

Community Renewal

Plans to bring the program to Shawnee started about five years ago through the effort of the Avedis Foundation; once it was established it has consistently shown that its mission is an easy sell. The group continues to passionately promote the restoration of relationships from within neighborhoods, bringing member after member into its fold.

After the membership drive for We Care. team members and Block Leaders were established, the organization set its sights on its next phase — planting team members into neighborhoods with friendship Houses, so by becoming fully invested in the area they can be a constant and easily accessible resource to their neighbors.

Community Renewal Pottawatomie County’s office is at 1000 N. Kickapoo.

To learn more, join in or make a donation, visit Community Renewal Shawnee, OK on Facebook, visit http://communityrenewal.org or call (405) 273-1035.