The new location will house a food pantry, a community garden and a movie theater.
By Sriya Reddy
To Taylor Toynes, Oak Cliff is home. It is community, it is purpose, and it is responsibility.
After seven years as the executive director of For Oak Cliff, Toynes watched the grand opening of the nonprofit’s new home on Saturday morning.
For Oak Cliff, founded by Toynes and Xavier Henderson, the director of strategy, is a nonprofit organization that provides resources to their community such as GED programs, food drives, and enrichment programs for K-12. It started after Toynes, a former elementary school teacher at Bushman Elementary School, realized his students did not have school supplies.
In March, For Oak Cliff announced that they acquired the historic Moorland YMCA and will be moving there this summer from their original location in Glendale Shopping Mall. Their new 10-acre community campus is 20,000 square feet, which is five times the amount of space they used to have.
“I’m excited to bring so much love,” Toynes said. “I’m excited to bring people together. I’m just basking in it right now.”
The new location will include a food pantry, a community garden and a movie theater. Outside the building, there will be a walking trail, sand volleyball court, fruit orchard, flexible field and event space.
Toynes said that For Oak Cliff is exactly that, for the community of Oak Cliff. His daughter cut the rope at the entrance of the new building, and it was a special moment for him.
“We are able to leave a legacy for those that come behind us,” Toynes said. “I feel like what we are doing here in the community, it’s a chain reaction, because now someone now has the foundation of this to stand on and dream as big as they want to.”
Three hundred people attended the grand opening ceremony, which was held on Juneteenth. That made the day even more special to those who attended.
Jerry Hawkins is the executive director of Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation and understands the importance of having a space like this in Oak Cliff. He came to the grand opening celebration to support the organization and the work they do.
“Every community that has experienced racial segregation, redlining, laws that exclude people from participating in society, need anchor institutions that serve the community and provide services that frankly are not in the community,” Hawkins said. “On the tour, a young person mentioned that they didn’t have a movie theatre in Oak Cliff, and so institutions like For Oak Cliff can provide some of those stopgaps as we work to build a more inclusive Dallas.”
Krysisha Conly is a volunteer with For Oak Cliff. She has spent a lot of time volunteering with For Oak Cliff’s food drive and said she admires how they uplift people with no judgment for what they need.
“For Oak Cliff, at the rate that they are going, for the people to see and support is amazing,” Conly said. “What they’re doing for the community, you can see the changes. The kids are excited and happy to come get their homework done. People are excited to come get their GED and accomplish that.”
Courtney Thomas, another volunteer and former foster youth, has been volunteering with For Oak Cliff for almost a year and has watched them support the community through all kinds of hardships. For Oak Cliff had food drives every Wednesday, they helped people fix their roof after the February winter storm, and assisted with paying bills especially after the economic struggle the pandemic brought.
Thomas described the new For Oak Cliff location as “monumental.”
“Nobody has helped Black people the way we helped ourselves in my opinion,” Thomas said. “To see our people coming back and giving back. Learning these resources, learning these tools and then coming back and giving these tools to people who are without — that is very monumental.”