Variety Week: Oakridge Neighborhood - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Variety Week: Oakridge Neighborhood

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By Lisa Martone

Lmartone@myabc5.com

DES MOINES -- Some of you may think the Oakridge Neighborhood is just an apartment complex, but when you take a closer look you will see it is so much more.

Inside the community center is where 10-year-old Teddy Barnada of Des Moines spends her after school hours.

"I like it because I like all the teachers, they are so nice," she said. "I like how we go on field trips and they are fun."

Her family came over to Des Moines straight from Sudan. They are one of the 1,000 residents that live in the Oakridge Neighborhood where 80 percent of the people are of refugee status.

"On our campus we probably have 15 countries represented and probably 15 or 16 languages spoken," said Teree Caldwell, CEO of the Oakridge Neighborhood.

Most of the families come with just the clothes on their back. Resettlement agencies assist for a few weeks and then many of them up end here.

"What we do is pick up where the resettlement agencies step off," Caldwell said. "The housing opportunities that we provide, the after school programs that we provide, and especially the investment we have in our early childhood program…pays huge dividends for those families."

This is where Variety the Children's Charity comes in. Without their financial assistance much of what the neighborhood does could not happen. Majority of these families don't have money for after school care and extra tutoring, but all of that is done here.

Just recently their new community center opened and Variety was the lead donor in that. Inside they filled the learning lab with brand new computers.  Anywhere from $40,000 to $150,000 a year comes from Variety and goes to benefit kids programs.

"Because of the investment of Variety we have been able to do a variety of things that quite frankly we would not have been able to do but for their investment and the true beneficiary of that are the children," said Caldwell.

The Variety Telethon begins this Saturday at 7:00pm on ABC5. You can donate to Variety right now by clicking on their logo in the Big Blue Box on our website at myabc5.com.

 More about The Variety Telethon

Variety, The Children's Charity Telethon for 2013 will be on March 9 & 10 at the Veterans Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Des Moines.

ABC5 anchors Amanda Krenz, Rachel Pierce and ABC5's Chief Meteorologist Brad Edwards will co-host the telethon this year.

Variety's first telethon in 1975 raised $150,000 and went to one grant recipient, Blank Children's Hospital.  Now 38 years later, Variety has raised over $90 million that has been granted to agencies serving children across the State of Iowa and have put over 300 Sunshine Coaches on the road transporting children to new adventures.  Thanks to the cast members, volunteers and donors who support Variety during Telethon and throughout the year, Variety is able to raise the much needed funds for Iowa's Children.

Variety, Children's Charity website:  www.varietyiowa.com

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