Celebrating Shannon Luper, 2017 Visions Honoree
by Kristyn Hale, OKCNP Fall 2017 Intern
The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits is honoring five nonprofit leaders at Visions: A Celebration of Nonprofit Leaders on November 28, 2017. We are spotlighting each of the five honorees.
Visions honoree, Shannon Luper, began with Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma in 2003 as a staff director. Luper now oversees Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, which ensures daughters are able to have meaningful family experiences and healthy relationships with their incarcerated mothers.
“Nonprofits allow me to serve others to the full capacity of my abilities,” Luper said. “In a different environment, I may only be able to contribute a small amount of time and effort. In the proverbial example, I want to teach someone to fish and give them the opportunity to succeed.”
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars is based on a 14-year-old regional program first introduced in Ada, Oklahoma in 2013. With the state of Oklahoma holding the highest female incarceration rate in the nation (130 female inmates for every 100,000 residents). Girl Scouts Beyond Bars is an important tool for Girl Scouts to make available to young girls within the state.
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars was created to help girls cope with the trauma of an incarcerated parent in hopes of “breaking the chain of incarceration.” Girl Scouts Beyond Bars teaches incarcerated mothers how to function outside of prison walls, and equips girls with the tools to cope with their anxiety and shame when they are reunited as a family.
The program offers pre and post release reentry services including nurturing parent classes where mothers learn constructs such as empathy, appropriate expectations and appropriate family roles. Mothers participating in the program earn credit for time served, reducing their sentence and increasing their chances of early release through the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Luper said her life experiences and the voice of children being able to be themselves have inspired the work she is doing.
“I have been homeless and struggled as a single parent,” Luper said. “It is life-changing to be a witness to a child making the connection of putting the face of their mother and secure the picture in their minds as separation due to incarceration can occur for many years.”
Twice a month a local council arranges to take Girl Scouts to and from prison where they attend community troop meetings alongside their mothers. Through the program, incarcerated mothers are able to meet for an hour every month with a Girl Scout council staffer or professional facilitator to plan meeting activities and discuss parenting issues.
The Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma troop started in Bartlesville a couple years after the establishment of the national Girl Scouts organization in 1912. The Eastern Oklahoma troop serves 30 Oklahoma counties with more than 10,000 girls and 2,000 adult volunteers.
The national organization, Girl Scouts of the USA, was founded by Juliette Gordon Low as a means to share what she learned abroad as an outdoor and educational program for youth. Girl Scouts holds an active membership of 1.8 million girls with more than 59 million alumnae of their leadership development organization.
Luper is being presented the Sarkeys Special Recognition Award, which honors a nonprofit employee who has exhibited excellence throughout the past year. This award is given to an individual who is selfless and works tirelessly to make a difference in the day-to-day work of a charitable organization.
Luper said after the initial shock, it feels amazing to be receiving the Sarkeys Special Recognition Award.
The award is sponsored by Sarkeys Foundation, who has awarded more than $80 million in grants to nonprofit organizations. The Sarkeys Foundation is committed to improving the quality of life in Oklahoma, following the vision of SJ Sarkeys.
“I think I am still in awe,” Luper said. “You do not do what you do to receive awards, you do it to help someone else.’
Visions is a celebration of nonprofit leadership and will recognize Luper, along with four other Oklahoma-based leaders and visionaries, on November 28th at the Skirvin Hilton in downtown Oklahoma City. For more information visit the Visions page.