At the 154-year-old church on White Oak Church Road, big things are happening.
“It’s the greatest program in the world,” Rev. Charles Tyner said. “There can be no better.”
As the pastor of White Oak Missionary Baptist Church for 47 years, Charles Tyner wanted to expand its reach — to help the retired farmers in his community who couldn’t find work or afford to live comfortably.
“I said to some people, ‘We need to do more than just have church,’” he said. “We need to do something out in the community.”
Thus, the White Oak Foundation was started. The Apex-based nonprofit began in 1998 as part of a vision to feed the hungry, promote home ownership and establish economic self-reliance.
Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the White Oak Foundation has helped over 30,000 individuals with a range of needs. Family homes have been saved from foreclosure, medical and dental care have been provided, and college students have received scholarships. That doesn’t include the food bank that serves hundreds of people each Saturday morning.
“We are proud of where we are,” Charles Tyner said. “We’ve come from such a long way.”
Last November, GlaxoSmithKline showed its support for the foundation by donating $40,000, one of ten GSK IMPACT Awards given to Triangle nonprofits. The annual grants recognize innovative organizations that are working with the community to improve the health of residents.
The reach of these funds will go far and wide throughout the foundation, increasing the programs made available to seniors, children and everyone in between whose needs aren’t currently being met.
“The reason I can do so many things is because I have so many good people,” Charles Tyner said.
Volunteers are keenly aware of the history of the church, established after the Civil War, and feel an obligation to serve the local community. The current structure, built in 1974, sits on an 18-acre plot of land that was once owned by tobacco farmers. Today, many of those helped by the White Oak Foundation are former farmers, and their children and grandchildren.
“That’s why we love it here,” said volunteer Juanita Young, who writes grants and fundraises for the foundation. “This is legacy land. What we do with this property is based on the labor, the blood, sweat and tears of the forefathers of this 154-year-old church. This is their land.”
Young and roughly 80 other volunteers strive to help those who cannot help themselves, be it small children, the elderly or parents who are unable to support their families. It’s all part of what Young calls the “continuum of care.”
While it was launched to serve the entire Triangle — Wake, Durham, Chatham, Lee, Harnett, Johnston and Orange counties— the foundation typically serves those living within a 10-mile radius of the church. Its impact travels much farther.
“We are looking at generations of tobacco-farmer children go on to become psychologists,” said Young, recalling one woman who grew up receiving aid from the foundation and eventually graduated from the UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.
Candace Tyner, Charles Tyner’s daughter-in-law and the director of summer camps and programs, started with the nonprofit in 2012. Since then, she has grown the children’s summer programs and has put an extra emphasis on education.
In the time she has been with the White Oak Foundation, the camp has grown from a two-week camp open to church members’ children to a five-week camp open to anyone ages 4 to 14. Kids have come from as far as Florida to attend.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have teachers who have been willing to work with the program,” Candace Tyner said. “That’s what has kept the academic side so strong.”
While traditional summer camp activities go on during these weeks, she also involves influential people and groups from the community. She has invited Apex police officers to play a game of basketball with the kids and discuss bullying, and she has arranged visits to UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus to show these students what their future could be.
“This is the time to formulate behaviors and attitudes,” Candace Tyner said. “This is the time. And they have that opportunity when they address things like bullying and aggression.”
The foundation plans to build a 62-unit senior living center as well as 30 homes across the street from the church, enabling veterans, single parents and those with illnesses to have an affordable place to live.
With a new building opening soon, additional programs like weekday senior daycare and medical care are on the horizon, adding to the services the foundation currently provides.
“This program has taken on the same attributes that I have about serving others, and this foundation was set up and named for that purpose, what we can do to help others,” Charles Tyner said.
“If you do good, things will just happen to us, and this has happened to the White Oak Foundation.”
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