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Local charity helps fathers furnish homes

Daily Oklahoman - 1/27/2020

Jan. 26--A south Oklahoma City mom has started an organization to help fathers turn their houses into homes.

Lynda Steele said her empathy for dads, particularly non-custodial fathers, led her to create Furnishing Fatherhood.

"Many times, non-custodial parents don't qualify for assistance, but their resources are depleted," she said.

Furnishing Fatherhood accepts donations of household goods and furniture to distribute to dads who need the items to make their residences more habitable and comfortable for their children. Steele said having adequate beds and linens and other furnishings can make all the difference when a father has his children for overnight visits.

Besides beds, the organization also tries to provide couches, chairs, tables, silverware, baby beds, car seats and strollers and other furnishings.

Steele said the group also has clothing for men and children, as well as toys and DVDs that they give to dads in need. During the 2019 Christmas season, they distributed some Christmas trees, children's gifts and small kitchen appliances like slow cookers.

Steele started Furnishing Fatherhood in December 2018 and she estimates her group of about a dozen volunteers has helped about 35 dads and 120 children since then.

One of those fathers was Allen Shaw of Oklahoma City.

He said an out-of-state advocacy group for dads told him about Steele and Furnishing Fatherhood through Facebook. He said he has four children and he needed help, but couldn't find it.

"They told me to look her up personally and I looked her up and called her. I said this can't be real. DHS doesn't reach out this fast. Nothing reaches out this fast," Shaw said.

He said he is currently married but he got help from Steele's organization when he was a single father with few resources. Furnishing Fatherhood provided him with a vacuum cleaner and other supplies for his house.

"Meeting people that are down to Earth and willing to help -- I love it," Shaw said.

Seeing a need

Steele said part of her mission is to let men know that it's OK to ask for help.

She said she started Furnishing Fatherhood after she joined the National Guard and met many men who were non-custodial fathers. Steele said she listened to their stories and realized that she might be able to help.

The idea came to fruition when a father heard about her plans and reached out to her on Facebook. Divorced, he was anticipating his children's weekend visits but he needed some household items. Steele said she gathered some of the necessary items and gave them to the dad.

She said he got very emotional when he realized he had all he needed.

"Turned out, he didn't have anything. He didn't have beds. He didn't have dishes," she said.

The relatively new organization fits in with another group Steele is part of, the Shared Parenting Network.

She said she and her ex-husband are co-parenting their two sons and she knows firsthand that a child is helped when a parent receives support that ultimately helps them become better at parenting.

There are plenty of other parents who feel the same way.

Steele said parents are often the biggest donors to Furnishing Fatherhood, particularly men who have received help from the organization.

"They usually donate and say 'I know what that feels like,'" she said.

Partnering to help dads

Gerald Scott is one of the people Steele has reached out to in recent weeks. She said she is trying to get to know other people who are part of a coalition informally called the "fatherhood movement."

Steele said she hopes to learn from them and to see if Furnishing Fatherhood can be of some help to them and the fathers they support.

Scott has been involved in the movement to help fathers in a variety of ways. He is an educator with True Dads, an organization that helps equip dads with effective parenting skills.

In the past, Scott has worked with non-custodial fathers at the Carver Center halfway house and he is a former permanency planning worker with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, where he worked to ensure children in DHS custody had safe shelter, attended school and had access to necessary resources.

Scott is currently founding executive director of Services That Assist and Redeem. The faith-based nonprofit known as STARR works with male felons who have had substance abuse issues, offering them life skill programs and other assistance.

Scott said he sees a need for Steele's group, having worked with fathers and families over the years.

"We see her as a very strong potential partner," he said. "We love her resourcefulness. We love that she cares. We love that she's philanthropic."

Scott said he has recommended that Steele make sure she has a strong vetting system in place to ensure that men receiving her organization's support are not already in some type of program being helped. He said it's important not to undermine protocols already in place, possibly because of something a father may have done to get himself in a less than positive situation.

"There should be balance. Sometimes, it's because of poor choices and bad decisions that have been made. I think there needs to be an assessment that needs to be done rather than giving you carte blanche support if you are abandoning your children," he said.

"The assessment piece is the best way to capture the real-time issues: Are they involved in any legal cases? Do they have a case manager and could you be inadvertently sabotaging a plan or system that is already in place?"

Steele said the issue of assessment was brought up last year by a domestic violence organization that found out about Furnishing Fatherhood through social media. She said the group's representatives were concerned that Furnishing Fatherhood might be helping men who are abusers.

Steele said Furnishing Fatherhood does not condone domestic violence. She said she uses public records in her assessment process to see if there is some information there to glean about dads who seek out the help of Furnishing Fatherhood.

Steele said if the court system has determined that a father may have visitation of his children, especially overnight visits at his home, she sees no reason not to help him in his parenting role.

Ultimately, "supporting the parent is supporting the child," she said.

How to help

For more information or to donate to Furnishing Fatherhood, email Lynda Steele at or go to the organization's Facebook page.


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