It started twenty-five years ago with a simple construction project. Bill Yeagle, Bob Sanborn and Jay Briscoe were tasked with building risers for a choir room in Christ United Methodist Church. After completing the project, the three retirees deemed it a success. That’s when an idea struck.
Briscoe had been volunteering several weekends each year for Tulsa Habitat for Humanity, renovating houses across the city. He mentioned Tulsa Habitat’s work to Yeagle and Sanborn, who became interested in helping as well. The trio met with the executive director of the organization, gathered some friends, and began reporting to housing sites each Tuesday morning to help rehab homes. The group was dubbed the Tuesday Morning Miracle Workers.
Sanborn, who was the Tuesday Morning Miracle Workers’ coordinator for 20 years, remembers the variety of challenging projects the group faced in its early days. Some homes were derelict and dilapidated. Others were damaged by fire and other natural forces. In 1996, about three years after the group’s inception, the Miracle Workers undertook the first new build in the history of its organization. The project showed the group just what it took to build a home from the ground up. “We went out with no equipment. We hand-dug the footings with round-point shovels,” recalls Sanborn. “Two days later, we had three inches of rain. It collapsed the ditch and floated the rebar.” This was the beginning of three demanding months of work. The build was completed just before Christmas, and twenty or so volunteers attended the home dedication. It was a milestone for the Miracle Workers, an experience that ultimately would shape how the group functioned.
Today, the Miracle Workers are an integral part of Tulsa Habit for Humanity’s mission. “They build houses, they build cabinets, they fundraise,” says Larry Vitt, Tulsa Habitat for Humanity’s Director of Facilities and Real Estate. “You name it, these guys have done it. They’re huge.”
Kent Powers, the current coordinator for the Miracle Workers, says that the group currently boasts 35 to 40 volunteers. They now meet twice a week – on Tuesdays and Thursdays – to build cabinetry both for Habitat homes and for the ReStore, Tulsa Habitat’s home improvement retail outlet, as well as to work on build sites. Volunteer ages range from 50 to 92. But, Powers notes, all ages and skill levels are welcome.
“You don’t have to have woodworking skills,” Powers says. “You don’t have to be a carpenter. You can ride along and pick up these skills.”
“They’re de facto employees,” says Cameron Walker, CEO of Tulsa Habitat for Humanity. “They provide an invaluable service to the organization.”
Despite the group’s growth – in terms of members, volunteer hours, and financial contributions – over the years, their goal has remained the same. “The thing we do is give [homeowners] hope for the future,” says Sanborn.