Clark Millspaugh, founder of nonprofit market to feed Tulsa's hungry, dies at 59
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Sunday, October 14, 2012
10/14/12 at 4:37 AM
Clark Millspaugh cried when he thought about her later - the little girl in the principal's office at Eugene Field Elementary School.
He had come to the school to learn about a gardening program. But seeing her there, curled up on a bean bag asleep, it was hard to think about anything else.
When he found out she had been caught stealing food, "he was really moved," said his wife, Anne Millspaugh.
"He asked, 'What can I do?' "
The school - in west Tulsa's Eugene Field neighborhood, one of Tulsa's poorest areas - had been the site of a mentoring program of First United Methodist Church, where Millspaugh was an active member.
But he had no clue just how far his personal involvement would go until he asked that question.
The principal's answer: "Well, what the community really needs is a grocery store."
As he left that day, the Tulsa oil-and-gas executive started thinking of a plan that would lead soon to the establishment of Westside Harvest Market, a nonprofit grocery store geared to serve the specific needs of the Eugene Field community.
The facility would also house a number of other ministries and services.
And the success of all of it, Millspaugh would say, was engineered by a higher power.
"God brings the people, we give them the space and let God move," he told the Tulsa World once. "We're here to see God transform lives."
Robert Clarkson "Clark" Millspaugh III, founder and former executive director of Harvest Market, died Oct. 7 of complications from leukemia. He was 59.
A service is set for 2 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church. Moore's Southlawn Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
After he sold his oil business in 2006, Millspaugh suddenly had the extra time he had long wanted. It didn't take him long to fill it up.
He saw the two buildings as he was leaving the school that day. They were next to the school and for sale. Within days, he was able to recruit 10 other people to join him, investing about $500,000 to buy and renovate the structures.
Westside Harvest Market would open there in 2009.
The nonprofit market, 2232 S. Nogales Ave., is the only source of healthy food within walking distance of neighborhood apartment complexes, with prices kept down by including some donated food and using volunteer staff.
Space is also provided for the 24-7 Prayer Room, Good Samaritan mobile health clinic, Global Gardens, Community Action Project's west Tulsa office and other programs.
The Rev. Daniel May, pastor of The Burgh church, which meets at the site and now has oversight over the facility and market, said the philosophy behind all of it is pure Clark Millspaugh.
"He didn't believe in just throwing money at a problem," May said. "He believed in coming along, side by side, and walking through life with people, giving them the tools to better their lives ... He truly loved the people on the margins."
May said that once a homeless man came into the market. He needed to get to a local shelter, and Millspaugh gave him a ride in his car.
"When Clark got back, the president of a large company, who was meeting with Clark, was here, and they drove off together in Clark's car. And I thought, 'What a great picture of who Clark was' - equally comfortable with people from all walks."
A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, Millspaugh moved later to Bartlesville, where he graduated from high school. He held degrees from the University of Oklahoma and Southern Methodist University.
A good athlete, Millspaugh had completed several triathlons, as well as the New York City and Boston marathons.
Of all his accomplishments, though, none was as satisfying as the Harvest Market.
"He was so proud of it, but he gave all the credit to God," Anne Millspaugh said. "The way things just came together, it never left any doubt as to the Lord's hand in it."
Millspaugh's survivors include his wife of 37 years; two children; four grandchildren; and his parents, Bob and Millie Millspaugh.
Original Print Headline: Exec founded grocery store to aid city's less fortunate
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Clark Millspaugh, pictured here in 2009 outside his nonprofit Westside Harvest Market, devoted himself to Tulsa's less fortunate. Millspaugh died Oct. 7 of complications from leukemia. He was 59. A service is set for Monday. Tulsa World file