Inside a converted warehouse in Oklahoma City, an 18-year-old former gang member grips the handles of a shoulder press and works out more than his muscles.
He’s here because past discretions with the law led him into a Youth Services for Oklahoma County program that works with delinquent teens who have spent time in detention or treatment facilities. He isn’t identified by name for fear his old friends might find him.
Since the beginning of November, he’s come to the youth services headquarters, at NE 50 and N Walnut Avenue, four days a week to use and maintain more than 20 exercise machines. It’s a safe place to enrich body and mind, and it didn’t cost program leaders a dime.
“I can associate with my friends without worrying about gunshots,” he said. “It’s safe. You benefit from it in many ways.”
The gym equipment was donated by Devon Energy last spring and was loaded into the Youth Services for Oklahoma County warehouse — now called “The Den” — in late October.
Debra Forshee, Youth Services president and CEO, said the gym has fulfilled her dream of adding the promotion of healthy living skills into her programs without cutting into an air-tight budget.
“We knew that was (a) key piece of feeling good about yourself and making better character-driven decisions,” Forshee said. “If we could get the kids to do that, we’re jumps ahead of what’s going on in their lives. That had been a dream with no possible way of figuring out how we were going to do it.
“I would have never imagined we could have something this grand.”
‘Put to good use’
Kris Goforth, vice president for Devon's Mississippian-Woodford business unit, has served on the Youth Services for Oklahoma County board of directors since 2008. When she learned that a large amount of gym equipment from Devon’s Houston wellness center was up for donation after the company relocated, she contacted Forshee, who was thrilled.
“We certainly had to look at how it was going to be utilized and what was really going to be the benefit,” Goforth said. “At Devon, that’s always a big concern of ours. We want to be good neighbors; we always want to be involved in the community where we work and operate. But is it really going to be put to good use?”