How one Oklahoma man is using renovation for reform
Lenardo Smith has worked his crazy home renovation magic again, for another good cause.
He’s turned another little everyday house that had seen better days into a showpiece of urban chic, to raise money to help everyday people have a chance at better days — by fighting systemic racism.
Ten percent of proceeds from his sale of the home, at 12716 NE 38, will go to a new fund he is putting together in the name of his late mother, the Ruby Mae Bloomer Smith Legacy Fund, administered by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.
It’s listed with Shia Sumpter, an agent with eXp Realty, and is under contract. Smith’s donation will come to $9,000-$10,000, and it will be added to the $20,000 he gave to start the fund.
“I established the fund to honor my mom, who served on the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, and to fight systemic racism in our criminal justice system,” he said. “I am so thrilled to be able to do something positive as opposed to just pointing the finger.” He said he’s not sure exactly how the fund will be used, but one likely possibility is making it available to people charged with crimes — and only charged — who can’t pay bail to stay out of jail until their case is adjudicated. Another likely possibility is using it to help people pay fines for missing a court date.
Those kinds of fines can add up to keep the charged-but-not-adjudicated locked up. They are real injustices.
“I am all for personal responsibility. I’ve got bills. You’ve got bills. I’ve also had things fall through the cracks,” Smith said.
Criminal justice reform, fighting system racism especially, is high on his wish list for use of the fund.
Possible beneficiaries include the nonprofit TEEM: The Education and Employment Ministry, which is “dedicated to breaking cycles of incarceration and poverty through education, personal development and work readiness training.” Another is ReMerge Oklahoma, which aims to “restore mothers and families through a comprehensive diversion program of treatment, recovery, and hope.”
Funding drug and alcohol rehabilitation, buying clothes for those who’ve paid their dues, “whatever they need to be productive,” Smith said, are possibilities. Details are being worked out. The Oklahoma City Community Foundation will work with him to determine the best use of the fund, spokesman Kasey Gardner said.
About his mom, who died at 87:
"She was a wife, mother and business woman owning, along with her husband, a variety of rental properties and laundromats in northeast Oklahoma City," according to her obituary in The Oklahoman on Dec. 13, 2018. "Among her professional activities, she was a cafeteria worker at Douglass High School, worked as office staff at Western Electric and later worked as the office manager for Congressman Mickey Edwards.
"Among her many civic activities, she served as a member of the Oklahoma State Pardon and Parole Board and she was member of the Wildewood Christian Church, where she ran the church food pantry."
The new Ruby Mae Bloomer Smith Legacy Fund is not the only Smith family memorial fund administered by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.
The Robert V. Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1999 by the family in honor of his long career with the U.S. Veterans Administration Hospital in Oklahoma City. He passed in 1997. In 2016, Ruby Smith was added to the name of the scholarship as a tribute to both parents.
About the house:
It is an exceptional remodel, as usual for Lenardo Smith: 808 square feet, three beds and a bath, built in 1955, and now on the cutting edge of urban design.
The red front door sets it off, to start. New siding. New windows. Recent roof. Nice landscaping. Slate tile porch. New wrought-iron fence. Recessed lighting. Open living-dining. Kitchen granite. Mini breakfast bar. Stainless appliances. New carpet. New wooden privacy fence. Big back yard with room for a garden.
"I think sometimes I need to be medicated," Smith said, wryly. "I can't help myself."
The house is great. Its sale, and Smith's commitment and example, will help the cause of justice, which is great.
"Please spread the word," he said.
"I just hope it encourages people to do something other than lip service. It does no good at all to sit and point the finger." he said.
You can reach Real Estate Editor Richard Mize at email@example.com.