Curbside Chronicle vendors training at OSU-OKC for new floral shop
OSU-OKC President Brad Williams was impressed with the work that “The Curbside Chronicle” was doing in the community and he wanted to do more to help its efforts.
“The Curbside Chronicle” is a monthly magazine sold by residents experiencing homelessness. A staff led by Ranya Forgotson helps create the publication, which is part of an international network of streetpapers. The Curbside is housed at The Homeless Alliance.
Williams said he had been paying attention to the work that the Curbside team was doing, such as the annual flower stands to sell Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day arrangements, and he had seen the announcement about the upcoming flower shop.
For the holiday-based flower arrangements, a florist gives instructions to the vendors on how to make the bouquets. The flowers are set up around the assembly room, with instructions on how many types are needed for each bouquet. Vendors are paid $10 an hour to make the arrangements and work at the pop-up stands.
But the flower shop will offer bouquets for all occasions, from funerals to birthdays. Forgotson said the staff had already been asked to make arrangements for weddings and corporate events.
Being able to make bouquets for a variety of needs with different types of flowers would require training. That’s what Williams could offer, so he gave Forgotson a call. The school’s had a retail floral design certification for decades and getting the Curbside vendors in the class also fit another initiative at the campus.
“We have an overall initiative here called, ‘Back on Track,’ where we help people reestablish their footing after some major life event, such as experiencing homelessness, overcoming addiction, or serving time in jail. Working with Curbside aligns with that work,” said Williams.
To cover the costs of the certification, OSU-OKC reached out to its community partners to see who would be interested in funding the classes. The Inasmuch Foundation stepped up and offered a $50,000 grant to support the Back on Track Education and Training Fund. The fund provides men and women transitioning out of homelessness the opportunity to complete a college certificate.
The floral classes are designed to be completed over five weekends, but Forgotson said OSU-OKC is willing to work with Curbside on a schedule that best fits its clients’ needs.
Forgotson said it’s great that OSU-OKC was interested in offering its resources to the Curbside vendors.
“It’s exciting to have an educational partner that wants to help us with our mission,” she said.
She said she’s thrilled that the vendors will get back into an educational sphere, which many have not been in for many years.
“We do have some clients who were fortunate to graduate high school and others that were not. It’s great that they’ll get to be part of an educational program that has merit like OSU-OKC and learn skills that will be applicable to the job they’ll be doing.”
The classes will likely be taught in March on the OSU-OKC campus. The shop’s location will be announced soon and it will open this spring.
Forgotson said she’s enjoyed seeing the community wrap its arms around Curbside and OSU-OKC’s help is another example of that.
“Curbside lives and thrives by vast community support,” she said. “It’s really cool when the community takes something like our floral idea and just runs with it. That fact that this shop is even happening is because of community support.”
Residents will get their next chance to support the Curbside vendors in February, when the highly-sought Valentine’s Day bouquets will be on sale. Pre-orders will start later this month. The organization is also still seeking donations to fully fund the brick-and-mortar flower shop. Residents can visit www.curbsideflowers.com in February to find the pop-up locations or watch The Homeless Alliance’s social media accounts to find out when sales begin.
Williams said everyone at the OSU-OKC campus is delighted to be involved.
“We’re here to teach people new skills that help them increase their ability to provide for themselves in a sustainable way,” he said. “This work fits our mission perfectly.”