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Norman native hopes to share stories of nonprofits

OKC Good creates videos, stories of good in the community.
By JAMES A. PEARSON, For The Oklahoman Modified: March 31, 2014 at 11:00 pm •  Published: March 31, 2014

When Norman native Mark Nehrenz returned to Oklahoma after a year in South Africa, he felt strangely disconnected. It was 2011 and he had just finished a Fulbright-funded year producing videos for nonprofits in Pretoria, South Africa's executive capital. The stories he told drew him into the city, into a web of intersecting plots and people and relationships.

Now, back on his home soil, that web was gone. “In my home state I was nowhere near as plugged in as I had been in South Africa,” said Nehrenz.

Shortly after his return, Nehrenz began working on a master’s in journalism, focusing on documentary video production, at the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. He remembered how stories of generosity and compassion had pulled him into a vibrant community in South Africa, and wondered if the same might work in Oklahoma—not just for him, but for other Oklahomans, too.

“I decided to develop a community involvement storytelling platform for my master’s project,” said Nehrenz. He named that platform OKC Good.

The centerpiece of OKC Good is a website where Oklahoma City Metro residents can see stories of the inspiring work done in their communities by nonprofits and other pro-social people and groups. “We want to amplify the voices and share the stories of the people and organizations who are making positive changes in our community,” said Nehrenz.

To get an idea of what this means, take a recent video that OKC Good produced. Billy Ray, an older homeless man who died in early March, was a vendor for Curbside Chronicle, a magazine that employs homeless people to sell its issues, providing jobs for people who are otherwise hard to employ. Last year Billy Ray lost a leg to diabetes. Curbside Chronicle worked with Limbs for Life and Scott Sabolich Prosthetics to get Billy Ray a new prosthetic leg, and OKC Good was there to film it.

There’s a moment in the video that shows the power of the OKC Good platform. An attendant comes into Billy Ray's care room holding a big box wrapped up like a Christmas present. Billy Ray, an old, thin homeless man, claps his hands in excitement, says impishly, “I know what it is,” and giggles like a boy on Christmas morning. As soon as he pulls the leg out of the box he kisses it and cradles it like a child on his lap.

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