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Lankford Praises Southwest Oklahoma Community for Event that Promotes Neighbors Helping Neighbors on Senate Floor

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today discussed an upcoming community event in Lawton, called Embrace Hope, which will take place with Lankford’s participation on March 14, 2020. This event will provide SW Oklahoma residents free services including housing (shelter, affordable housing, information, and referral); food (nutrition); warrant forgiveness assistance; medical assistance including, dental, optometry, and pregnancy resources; WIC/SNAP assistance; physical therapy; haircuts; clothing; photography; and others.

Lankford praised the Embrace Hope Lead Event Coordinator, Brenda Spencer-Ragland, for her continued service to Oklahomans both at Fort Sill previously and now coordinating this important community event.


I come to the floor today to unashamedly brag on the people of southwest Oklahoma. It’s a pretty remarkable group of folks. And the community around Lawton, Oklahoma and all the surrounding communities there are people who serve their neighbors every day. There’s a remarkable group of churches, nonprofits, ministries, federal workers, state, city, county, and staff workers that are there that do a pretty amazing job of taking care of their neighbors. But this weekend is above and beyond. This weekend southwest Oklahoma organized what they call Southwest Oklahoma Embrace Hope.

So one day, on Saturday, where the whole community is having neighbors serving neighbors to see what they can do to be able to help each other. Serving your neighbor is not about how much money you have or a title you hold or a certain house you live in. Taking care of your neighbor is just basic honoring each other and finding a way to be able to love your neighbor. The vision behind the Embrace Hope event is about stepping up and saying, as individuals, we can do more if we do it together. 

Embrace Hope community will offer Oklahomans an opportunity to access a lot of free services and basic help. There are partners from all over the state of Oklahoma that have donated their time, services, finances to help those in need all over southwest Oklahoma all in one place all in one time. If someone needs housing, shelter, information or referral, food there will be folks there to be able to help them. There will be agencies to talk about long-term needs and people in meeting short-term needs. If someone needs a job, there will be folks there that will show them opportunities for hiring. If someone needs to just get their resume together so they can get a job there will be folks that will be able to take a picture so they can use it with their resume. In fact, if folks need a suit to wear to the interview, there will be folks to help them get a suit so they will be prepared.

There will be health services scheduling appointment and pregnancy resources and even a breast exam if that is a need there. There will be folks that will be able to give them a haircut if they need a chair cut and have them get access to that. There will be folks there that are mental health professionals and counselors to help folks with substance abuse or dealing with the stress of life. There will be folks that can help with legal assistance. See, this is communities coming together, ministries, churches, organizations, government entities all coming into one place at one time to be able to help. There is a log of needs in the area.

In fact, in Oklahoma, according to DHS statistics, just from this last year, we had 78,000-plus households that needed winter heating assistance in our state. More than 378,000 Oklahomans receive food benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Program. These are federal resources and federal programs. As a member of Congress, we work together to be able to help in whatever way that we can to be able to help those in greatest needs to be lifted out of poverty and to be able to walk through some of the low points in life. But a government check or a check-in with a federal entity is no substitute for a neighbor helping a neighbor. When you’re at your low point of life, a check is helpful to be able to help get through a hard time, but you need a person, you need a mentor, you need a friend, you need a neighbor. The Embrace Hope event is all about that. It’s neighbors helping each other to be able to walk through this process, but it’s also opportunities for people that live in southwest Oklahoma not just to help someone one day, but to also understand we could do this throughout the course of the year because there are lots of folks that say I want to be able to help. They just don’t know where to go to be able to help their neighbor. They might help the folks that are around them. They might help people in a small group at their church. They might have family members that they want to help, but they say I want to be able to do more. The Embrace Hope event allows volunteers by the hundreds that have signed up to be able to serve their neighbor in one day but also to kind take a test drive a bunch of other ministries and nonprofits in the area and say what do you do? I can help you one day to be able to help people, but maybe I can plugin and help you at other times.

It also allows those nonprofits and ministries to be able to reach out to a whole pool of people maybe aren’t involved all the time and say if you enjoyed helping your neighbor that day, why don’t you come to work us the rest of the year? It’s a way for them to be able to meet each other. Quite frankly, it’s a way for us to be able to build a stronger state, a stronger community, stronger connections with our neighbors. That we don’t just default by saying ‘Hey, they get help from the government so that’s probably all they need’ when we know in our heart it’s not. They need help from somebody local. They need a friend and they need somebody that can look them in the face and to say how can we help?

That’s Embrace hope. Now, there have been hundreds of people that have volunteered already, and as it’s preparing for this Saturday, which will probably be a cold and wet day, a perfect day to help people in need. As we get together this Saturday, with all the volunteers and all the folks there will be on a person that will be in the background that the whole event will circle around, but a lot of folks won’t know it.

Her name is Brenda Spencer Ragland. She is the lead event coordinator for Embrace Hope. I can’t even imagine how many hundreds of hours that she has put in behind the scenes to be able to bring this to a reality. Her title has been coordinator, but that title doesn’t even remotely do justice for the work she has done for bringing Embrace Hope into a reality. She is one of those incredible individuals that everyone wishes live around them but southwest Oklahoma actually has her. She has a servant’s heart and a servant’s attitude. That’s who she is, quite frankly, more than just what she does. Brenda served our nation as a civilian with the United States Army for 32 years before serving in her current role. She was the Director of Family Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Programs at the post in Fort Sill in Lawton. Her title was kind of a fancy way of saying that she took care of military families in whatever way she possibly can, and she did it well. Those who served us, she loved serving them, and on her retirement, she grieved because she loved serving those folks at the post. Now, after serving and dealing with morale at Fort Sill and after serving also as the Housing Director there at Fort Sill, she has found a new way, Embrace Hope. She has built around that same mission. She came to Oklahoma City and she saw an event called Love OKC which was very similar to that. She brought a whole group of volunteers to be able to look at what was happening in Oklahoma City and the remarkable Love OKC even that happened to be seven years in a row. She took that vision back to southwest Oklahoma and created Embrace Hope. Meeting after meeting, donor after donor, long night after long night of organizing, it’s about to happen.

So Brenda, to the folks of Lawton that don’t know you, they should. Because if they did they would give you a warm hug and a very grateful ‘thank you’ for blessing so many people. Thanks for answering the call to serve your friends and neighbors, stepping up when you saw a need and tirelessly giving back to southwest Oklahoma, the community that you love. It’s an honor to call you a friend and a neighbor, and I look forward to serving alongside you this weekend at Embrace Hope and doing whatever you need me to do to help us as we love our neighbors together. God Bless you, and I look forward to seeing you there, Brenda. I love getting a chance to be able to brag about what’s happening in great southwest Oklahoma.