Mike FitzGerald sees in 20/20/20 vision.
That is 20 acres, 20 houses and 20 families, which is his mission for the Stillwater nonprofit corporation My Father’s House.
In Oklahoma, there are nearly 2,000 foster children without a home and FitzGerald is trying to make a dent in that. My Father’s House is currently in the fundraising process to buy the land, but FitzGerald and his family have done their due diligence to make sure their dream becomes reality.
It all started in 2013 when FitzGerald retired from the United States Army after 39 years of service. Col. FitzGerald and his wife, Robin, decided to move to Stillwater, where Robin had graduated college at Oklahoma State University.
FitzGerald, a man of faith who was able to quit drinking because of his beliefs, decided to pray about what he would do next.
During their move from Virginia – where FitzGerald had worked at the Pentagon – to Stillwater, the family heard a story on the radio about five boys in California who had lost their parents and were going to be split apart because of the lack of relatives to take them in.
FitzGerald got the answer he needed. He would help foster children. He and Robin – who had taken a position at OSU’s Human Sciences Department – co-founded My Father’s House with the intent to do just that.
“It has favorably been met by anyone we have talked to,” FitzGerald said. “We talked to a couple of churches and civic groups and coffee houses. It is well received. Stillwater is a generous community and we have done everything we can. We have a website and are 501 (c) 3. It has taken a lot of time.”
FitzGerald has been getting all the paperwork and planning done for the past few years, but now has a solid foundation for My Father’s House. It took him time to travel to other nonprofits like his, including Lion’s Meadows of Hope in Perkins, as well as Willow Springs Boys Ranch among other places.
There, he got the advice he needed on how to get My Father’s House off the ground. With Robin, who is now the chairman of the advisory council, and Page Provence, the three were able to get My Father’s House recognized and on file with the state.
Currently, they have a plan to buy 20 acres east of the Payne County Expo Center, still plenty close to OSU, and branch out from there to Norman and even a location close to Tulsa in the works as well.
First, FitzGerald is working to get the Stillwater location up and running first, working toward raising the money, which he said is about $150,000. So far, he has received grants from businesses such as Walmart, which has given My Father’s House more than $10,000.
FitzGerald is confident with the promise of the nonprofit, as well as the marketing from the website – which has Venmo and PayPal – that the group will reach the goal.
While FitzGerald didn’t have any experience with anything like this idea in the army, as a college graduate with a Master’s in strategic studies, he knew how to organize something to get the job done.
One instance he gave was when he was deployed in Iraq, the bread industry was ravaged and the Mosul Province needed a serious influx of wheat. FitzGerald was able to get 1,000 pounds of wheat shipped from Houston, Texas, there.
The project helped Iraq with 1/3 of the wheat it needed for the bread industry. He might have played just a small role in it, but that type of can-do attitude has carried over to his work with My Father’s House.
Also during his time in Iraq, he led a project to replace 126 mud hut school in the Nineveh province to help out the children there.
When the houses are built, FitzGerald has listed what he promises to every family. First will be a 3,200 square foot home with state-of-the-art appliances, a master suite, and three children’s bedrooms. A storm shelter will be located inside each residence.
He also said My Father’s House will have a centrally located dining facility, something he saw at Cookson Hills in eastern Oklahoma. Clothes will be provided, as will tutoring and mentoring from OSU students and counseling support, as well.
Basketball courts and a volleyball pit are also in the works.
FitzGerald said once the money is raised, the timing of getting everything built won’t be any trouble at all as he already has talked to local churches about getting enough volunteers to get the homes built in a matter of hours, akin to Habitat for Humanity.
“It will be a community involved project once we get the land,” FitzGerald said. “Until then, any donations we get will go towards saving and purchasing the land.”
FitzGerald, who along with Robin and board members Provence, Kristen Draper and Robin Terronez, will keep up the fundraising work until they reach their goal. Once it is complete, then that number of foster children without a home will take a big dent, FitzGerald said.
“It is all about getting the synergy of a community and multiplying it with that of a university where a lot of these degrees need to have internships and service hours,” FitzGerald said. “We have already tapped into that and everyone is ready for us to get the money to buy the property.”
More information can be found at www.myfathershousecholdrensfoundation.org.