Matthew 5:9 Outreach Manager
Q: You are a Chicago native and love that area but live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What drew you to the Sooner state, and what do you love most about living and working in Tulsa?
To be clear, I love big cities, but I am a huge fan of Tulsa. What drew me to the city was my desire to attend Oral Roberts University, which just so happened to be in Oklahoma. When I told my parents that I wanted to go to Oklahoma for college, they gave me a puzzled look. In the 17 years I’d lived at home, I don’t think any of us had ever said the word “Oklahoma”. So, it was an adjustment. Tulsa residents have much to learn about driving in the snow, but Tulsa has turned out to be a gem. Tulsa has a rich history, and city leaders prepare for a bright future. The Greenwood District, aka Black Wall Street, is here. The city is investing in infrastructure and incubating new businesses. Natural resources like oil and gas provide great paying jobs, and the city is family-friendly.
I also like Tulsa because there is so much potential for progress. There is a racial reckoning that needs to happen between blacks and whites. We occupy Osage, Cherokee, and Creek land, and the native tribes have much to teach us. I feel like Tulsa is a small city with great energy, and I am glad to be part of it, leading it into a brighter future.
Q: You and your wife own a toffee company (Oklahoma Toffee), and you donate a portion of your proceeds to school teachers in the Tulsa community. Why did you choose education as the recipient of your profits?
My wife and I believe Oklahoma’s most incredible natural resource is its teachers. When we had the historic Oklahoma Teacher Walk Out of 2018, our nation was able to see the state’s education struggle firsthand. Still, for a long time, teachers had voiced concerns over the funding of education in the state. When our 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year announced that he was moving his family to Dallas because of Oklahoma’s lack of support, supplies, and salary, it was an indictment of our state’s priorities. My wife taught middle school science at the time, and I saw how these issues affected us. So, in 2017, we decided to do something about it.
We wanted to start a business that reached lots of people, and everyone loves candy, so I said, “I’ll make candy, but not just any candy, the highest class of candy – toffee.” I went to my grandmother and told her about our business plan. She said, “Baby..lots of sugar, lots of butter, and lots of love–that’s the recipe.”
We started small, just going to local trade shows and selling online. When the teacher strike happened, we got a lot of press, and some local retailers picked us up in their stores. Today, we are still in operation. Instead of donating money to schools or foundations, teachers can directly request supplies or funding for passion projects through our website. Oklahoma still grapples with properly prioritizing education and supporting teachers, but this is our way to use our resources to make a small difference.
Q: What made you decide to join the One America Movement team?
As a seminary student and youth pastor, one of the community partnerships I formed was with a Christian leader who would eventually be part of the One America Movement’s board members. She and I worked together in low-income areas of the city, hosting music camps and events. When the position for the Matthew 5:9 Outreach Manager opened up, this board member, shared the vision of the One America Movement and told me that it would be a place to use my passion and experience. That was certainly some of the best career advice I’ve ever received.