The OCP Blog

The Story of OCP is a Story of Change

On day one of my official tenure as Interim ED, as Ron announced his departure to the community, one community member turned to me and anxiously asked, “what changes are you planning to bring to OCP?” I wanted to assure the community that I don’t have an agenda, that I’m not here to overturn the hard work we’d done together over the years. My response? “I don’t know.” But, Leons, our Program and Activities Coordinator, had a more eloquent answer: we are here to be responsive to the needs of the community, and that mission to serve is what determines every decision about whether change needs to happen. And that mission will never change.

Organizations like OCP are products of human dreams and aspirations, and everything human grows and experiences change over time. OCP began with Ron’s dream of a community where everyone with a belly button is unconditionally welcome to the table, and the first incarnation of that dream was the Free Food for All soup kitchen at the Little Grill. With time, Ron came to believe that welcoming everyone in the world into a new kind of community meant more than serving free food, and so his dream morphed into a community center, a physical space where people could experience safety and belonging that encompassed other needs besides food.

The launch of Our Community Place as a community center in 2008 was driven by the energy and idealism common to any start-up initiative, but like many start-ups, there were few established policies and procedures to bring order to daily life. Things were chaotic, staff and volunteers were suffering burnout, and Ron learned that the community center that was meant to be a place of safety was anything but. That is why OCP closed for a re-boot in September 2011, and reopened a month later with a new mission statement and a more sustainable schedule.

Since then we have established the kind of policies and procedures and building safety rules that have made OCP a more stable organization and a safer, more hospitable space for our community. This has given us the margins to experiment with new programs and activities that are more responsive to the needs of folks suffering the effects of developmental trauma. This stability also made it possible to launch Ron’s newest startup initiative, our kitchen industries, a program that has injected fresh excitement and energy into the organization.

The departure of a beloved founder and leader like Ron is a reality that most organizations face eventually. It is a painful moment, and it is important to acknowledge that pain, experience it, and grow through it. Like the previous changes that came under Ron’s leadership, we don’t quite know what the future is going to look like, and OCP will not be the same without Ron. But we will come out on the other side healthier and with a new stability as we work together as a community to consolidate and build on the mission that he began. After all, Ron’s vision wasn’t about Ron. It was about Our Community.

Eric Olson-Getty

Interim Executive Director