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Oakridge Foundation asks businesses to invest in community


In an effort to raise awareness and funding for the services the Oakridge Neighborhood provides to its 750 multi ethnic residents, the Oakridge Foundation is inviting the public to a series of informal meetings this month.

The private, non-profit community provides 300 federally subsidized apartments to immigrants and low-income families. But it relies on private and corporate donations to maintain social services designed to help its residents, including finding jobs and learning language skills.

During the first meeting on Oct. 8, Norm Bormann, CEO of Oakridge Foundation, said 95 percent of Oakridge’s residents earn wages below the poverty level. The average gross income per household is $7,799. Ninety-eight percent of the community’s occupants are single mothers, he said, and there is a waiting list of more than a year of people seeking housing at Oakridge.

Board members and employees say the community is strapped for funds. But despite being short on cash, Oakridge has earned national awards for providing a safe neighborhood and quality early child care for its residents.

“I recall the problems Oakridge used to have, but Norm and his staff are committed to helping people find their way out of poverty,” said Mike Knapp, president and CEO of Iowa Realty.

Knapp, who recently became a board member of the Oakridge Foundation, said it is difficult for Oakridge residents to enter the mainstream of Des Moines. He said that is why the foundation seeks financial assistance – to further develop and coordinate numerous programs to help make residents an integral part of the community.

“You can invest in a number of things that have a more dynamic and quicker impact, but I don’t think you’ll find one that is longer lasting and more effective,” Knapp said. “We’re asking business people to invest in Oakridge and invest in Des Moines.”

Board members will meet with the public Oct. 17 and 24 from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Anyone interested in attending should call Bormann at 244-7702.

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