OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Community and Faith Engagement (OCFE) hosted its 35th annual Volunteer and Community Partner Recognition Awards Ceremony on April 18, 2018 at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. The theme of this year's event was 'Defining Excellence!' Twelve organizations and six individuals were recognized for their efforts and contributions to communities statewide. The awards were presented by Sheree Powell, DHS Director of Communications and Community Relations.
Tulsa resident Gay Larson established the Oklahoma Heart Gallery in Oklahoma in 2002. The gallery is based on the original Waiting Child Heart Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The purpose of the gallery is to invite talented photographers to create inspiring portraits of children waiting for adoption. The Oklahoma Heart Gallery is now one of more than 80 such galleries nationwide. Larson, a former executive at KTUL TV-8 in Tulsa, played an important role in developing a partnership with Wendy's Wonderful Kids, which was named for the daughter of Wendy's Restaurant founder, Dave Thomas. Through its online gallery, traveling exhibit and partnerships with DHS, KTUL and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Oklahoma Heart Gallery has helped find forever families for many Oklahoma children.
"We salute all our volunteers - they are so inspiring," said DHS OCFE Administrator Karen Jacobs. "From individuals to group efforts, we have seen a genuine outpouring of compassion and commitment to help others. It is humbling to see so many people get involved in their communities to help meet the ongoing needs of families and children across the state."
From left: DHS Communications Director Sheree Powell and Gay Larson