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South Oklahoma City neighborhood continues turnaround

More than 200 community volunteers are working to fix up 13 homes in the Riverpark neighborhood in southwest Oklahoma City. Volunteers have restored more than 100 homes in the neighborhood in their six years of volunteer work.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Published: June 29, 2011
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The past three years have been tough for Dale Osborne.

He lost a piece of his esophagus to cancer. Surgeries on his right shoulder and left elbow have left the retired computer programmer unable to keep up with his collapsing backyard fence.

This week, a team of high school students and community volunteers are helping Osborne and his fellow residents in the Riverpark neighborhood fix up their homes. Osborne and his wife, Kathy, are getting a new fence. Now they can let their dogs out back without worrying they'll escape.

“It kind of reminds me of how good things can be,” Dale Osborne said Tuesday. “A lot of the time you dwell on what you don't have.”

More than 100 homes — 1 in 5 in the neighborhood — have been remodeled in the past six years, said Jeanna Daniel, the Riverpark neighborhood association president. Each summer, volunteers from Catholic HEART Workcamp partner with local companies and community groups to help the neighborhood. This year, 13 homes are on the repair list.

The work teaches students how to respect people regardless of income, said Sharon Breytspraak, one of the adult leaders of the Catholic campers. Breytspraak, who lives in Mahomet, Ill., is leading a team of students from Illinois and Tennessee.

“This could be Illinois,” Breytspraak said. “It could be any town.”

The work is hard but rewarding, said Hope Emoff, a 15-year-old Catholic volunteer from Brentwood, Tenn.

“It's great to know we're making their lives better,” Emoff said.

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Riverpark recognized nationally

Riverpark in Oklahoma City was named one of the top neighborhoods in the country this year.

The Riverpark Neighborhood Association was named the runner-up for the 2011 Neighborhood of the Year Award in the Physical Revitalization Beautification category from Neighborhoods, USA, a national nonprofit group.

Riverpark volunteers were honored for the dramatic turnaround of their neighborhood, which runs from SW 24 to SW 29, between Portland and Tulsa avenues.

Riverpark is the first Oklahoma neighborhood that has been named a finalist for the award, said Georgie Rasco, executive director of Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma.

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