In an ambitious and inspiring goal to end chronic homelessness in Tulsa, cousins Judith Z. Kishner and Gail Zarrow Richards serve as co-chairs of “Building Tulsa, Building Lives.”

Kishner and Richards engaged their family’s foundations and the foundations of others to leverage public funding for a debt free and sustainable 76 unit apartment building with single room occupancy and one bedroom apartments. The project provides “housing first”, housing that is safe, affordable, decent, and sustainable with supportive assistance available to residents. The model is unique to Tulsa, but it is attracting national attention in the efforts to address homelessness.

In addition to dining services, common living areas for activities and relaxation, outdoor seating and library and transportation services, the project also provides additional supportive assistance to the residents when needed. Through Kishner’s and Richards’ leadership more than 70 homeless, mental and physical health providers and organizations increased their levels of collaboration to serve residents.

Gail Zarrow Richards is a manager for the Zarrow Family Office, a director of the Zarrow Families Foundation and director and secretary for the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation.

She currently serves on the University of Oklahoma Education Board of Advocates, on the Advisory Board of Family and Children’s Services and the Mental Health Association of Tulsa. Richards serves on the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness and on the Governor’s Transformation Advisory Board.

She was selected as 2005 Volunteer of the Year by Tulsa People Magazine and received the 2009 Pinnacle Award in Community Service.

Previously, Richards served on the board of Directors of Gilcrease Museum, the Mental Health Association of Tulsa, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, CASA, Planned Parenthood, National Mental Health America, Trinity Hospice Foundation, Children’s Medical Center Foundation, Holland Hall School, Jewish Federation of Tulsa, Undercroft Montessori School, Tulsa Boys Home, Tulsa Community Foundation, and the women’s Health Center of Hillcrest HealthCare System.

Richards received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Special Education from the University of Oklahoma.

Individually and in collaboration, cousins Kishner and Richards have tackled problems believed to be intractable and created opportunities for many improving the quality of life for Tulsans in many generations to come.

Tulsa Historical Society & Museum
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