Today we’d like to introduce you to Kevin Pranoto.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Kevin. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in Houston, Texas, in the most diverse county in America. Growing up, I was most fascinated by my Social Studies classes, especially when we discussed the sections on human and civil rights movements. For college, I attended Baylor University, where I received my Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences and was pre-med. The sciences was not a fulfilling track for me, and I quickly found out that I was meant to do something different. Shortly after working at MD Anderson Cancer Center as a nutritionist, I switched tracks and went back to Baylor to attend graduate school, where I received a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Social Work (MSW). My first MSW internship was working with homeless and unaccompanied youth in the Waco Independent School District. I primarily worked with high school students, many of whom had been kicked out of the house and were living in foster care or in group homes.
This was my first time to work with people who were suicidal, being sex trafficked, and dealing with so much trauma. Seeing the resilience of these youth was astounding to me, as many of them did graduate high school and some of them with honors. My second MSW internship landed me in Atlanta, Georgia, where I researched women in leadership. After graduating with my two master’s degrees, I was approached to serve as the Executive Specialist for a global Baptist denomination, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I took on this job to learn as much as I could about nonprofit leadership since I had the goal to become a nonprofit Executive Director by the time I reached 30 years old. There I was able to learn organizational development, board management, nonprofit administration, and leadership. The Executive Coordinator at the time was a former lobbyist in Texas, and I was able to learn a lot about advocacy from her. The denomination was in a lot of transition while I was there, and so I had to quickly learn how to manage crises and effective communication.
After two years of working there, I transitioned to a local nonprofit agency called Buckhead Christian Ministry (BCM), where I served as the Church Relations Specialist. As such, I became the social worker for 32 local churches of various sizes. I had really missed working in a more direct-practice setting, and it was important to me to be able to once again relate to the community I love in a more personal and direct way. While I worked for BCM, I received a call from the senior pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church about an opening for the Executive Director position at Mission Oak Cliff. He had met me at a conference in Atlanta a year prior and thought that my experiences and passions would make me a good fit for the job. After a couple of rounds of interviews, I was hired on and soon moved into the Oak Cliff community. As the new Executive Director of Mission Oak Cliff, I have worked hard to learn as much as I can about the community in which our clients live and work. We serve about 2,000 people per month through our food pantry alone, and over 200 people a month visit our Homeless Welcome Center. It has been a dream come true to be able to serve the Oak Cliff community in this way.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has not been especially smooth. It is challenging to break into nonprofit leadership as a person of color, and especially as a young person of color. I have found myself having to really take the initiative and push for a seat at the table in the communities I have been a part of. I am grateful for mentors and supporters who invest in me through the sharing of their wisdom and knowledge. Soon after starting the position at Mission Oak Cliff, I experienced my greatest challenge as the organization had to quickly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mission Oak Cliff was already in the middle of transitions because of my new leadership, and now because of the pandemic, we had to learn how to quickly and effectively adapt to the new realities of our community. Since the pandemic, we have seen a 50% increase in the number of clients we serve. We average about 30 new households signing up for our food pantry services per week, which will have lasting effects on our organization’s capacity.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Mission Oak Cliff – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Mission Oak Cliff is a community agency serving the North Oak Cliff neighborhoods of Dallas. We seek to break the cycle of poverty in the Oak Cliff community through improving food security, encouraging meaningful relationships, and teaching life skills. We have been a part of this community for over 70 years, and people in our community trust us. We are most known for our food pantry, as we help provide groceries for over 9,000 people per year. Additionally, over 50 people experiencing homelessness come to us to receive a hot meal, clean clothes, and a shower every day.
As an organization, our core values drive our mission. We believe in the dignity and worth of every person, in the power of mutually transformative relationships, and compassionate service. Our clients would say that they feel a sense of community when they walk through our doors. Most people are greeted by name by our staff and volunteers. We really take time to listen to their stories and try to provide them both material as well as emotional and spiritual encouragement for when life feels overwhelming. Many of our clients love how welcoming we are to them, and they also appreciate how they are given more power to choose and take ownership of their life at our organization. That is extremely important to us.
We are proud to have been selected as a Dallas Morning News Charities partner for the 2019-2020 year. This partnership has given us great exposure and connections over the past year. Not only have we witnessed an increase in donations because of it, but we have also seen an increase in the number of people asking to volunteer as a direct result.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Right now, I am focusing on my continued growth as a leader in this community. I have big dreams for Mission Oak Cliff, and I am anxious to work together with my staff, board, and community to see them to fruition. As I continue working with my board on our five-year strategic plan, I hope that Mission Oak Cliff will be able to expand its services and really help families in our community move towards long-lasting, sustainable progress.
On a personal note, I am also really forward to adopting my dog! I have been in conversation with a lady who is looking for a good home for her three-year-old dog, and I am in the process of adopting him.
Address: 111 S. Beckley Ave.
Dallas, TX 75203
This article first appeared in Voyage Dallas.