The Tulsa Dream Center serves vulnerable families in north Tulsa, so when the pandemic hit this past March, Executive Director Aaron “A.J.” Johnson knew the nonprofit had to rise to the occasion. And it has, meeting need after need.

“I knew I couldn’t sleep at night if we didn’t respond to the needs of a community so many already consider disadvantaged,” Johnson says. “If there was no school, there might be no meals (for students). We knew we had to respond in the area of food.”

Since March, the Center has served as a food distribution site for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Initiative and has aided in the distribution of millions of meals throughout the community and surrounding areas.

When Tulsa Public Schools announced it would begin the 2020-21 academic year virtually, Johnson realized many north Tulsa students didn’t have adequate technology or at-home support to keep up.

Though the Center has long provided educational support through its tutoring and after-school programs, Johnson says it began “running school for 93 students” — partnering with teachers and teaching assistants to help students with virtual learning and homework, as well as serving many breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When toddlers Tony and Miracle Crooktragically drowned this past summer after wandering into Mingo Creek, the Center helped pay the family’s funeral expenses. Then it launched a capital campaign to build a swimming pool and splash pad at the Center.

“Sixty-four percent of African Americans don’t know how to swim,” Johnson says. “We want to break that cycle.” To donate, visit

This month, the Center continues its community outreach with its eighth annual Toy Run, a Christmas toy drive. The Center is asking for donations of new, unwrapped toys (individual value of $10 and up; no stuffed animals or weapons) for ages 18 and below. The target age is 5- to 12-year-old boys and girls.

Toys can be brought to the Dec. 6 kick-off (see below) or brought to the Center by Dec. 17. They will be given to children in need at the Center’s Christmas Celebration from 9 a.m.-noon, Dec. 19.

The Toy Run kicks off at 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 6, from Gathering Place (the south parking lot at East 31st Street and South Riverside). At 2 p.m., participants will drive to the Center to drop off toy donations.

Volunteers also are needed starting Dec. 7 to begin to sort and wrap the toys. Call 918-430-9984 or email for more information.

Story via Tulsa People. For full report, visit