Can you help us continue Father Dan Allen's work?
Limited edition collector’s book. Please help continue Dan's social justice work by sending your tax-deductible donation to the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice today. Any amount will help ($5 minimum online). While supplies last, with a tax-deductible donation of $100 or more, we will send you an autographed first edition hard bound copy of this distinguished book. Dan’s War on Poverty tells the story of the crusading priest who founded Tulsa's Neighbor for Neighbor program. Proceeds benefit the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, a nonprofit organization that fosters social justice through education.
Paperback edition now available. To order a paperback version, click here.
In the 1960s, Tulsa was sharply divided between the haves and have-nots, a two-city place where an affluent Southside could largely ignore the festering poverty of North Tulsa. It fell to Dan Allen, a Catholic priest turned social activist, to find a way to bridge the divide.
A unique book – Dan’s War on Poverty: A Grassroots Crusade for Social Justice – tells the remarkable story of Father Dan, those he inspired, and their fight for social justice for the poorest of the poor. It is a story of that traces the evolution of a social revolution in an American city.
A social action committee at Allen’s St. Jude Catholic Church began by turning the church vestibule, then the educational wing, then the parking lots into a gathering place for donated goods for the poor. Eventually it all spilled over into a nearby farm. It was ramshackle, untidy, and endlessly creative.
As their efforts to provide help mushroomed, so did their understanding. From this beginning, a new but unique social service agency, Neighbor for Neighbor, was born in 1967. In time, NFN would consume the lives of Father Allen and his followers, transforming both the lives of needy folk and those who sought to help them.
Many of today’s mainstream programs were birthed at NFN, such as Tulsa’s voluntary school desegregation program; food bank; credit counseling; and anti-poverty medical and dental clinics. Similar “neighbor” agencies sprung up around the region. But most important, NFN became, in the words of one founder, “the social conscience of this city.”
The genius of Neighbor for Neighbor arose from the curious psyche of Dan Allen himself. Like those he sought to serve, Dan Allen was no stranger to anguish. He railed against social injustice. Haunted by his own demons, Allen channeled his private pain into an uncompromising passion for service to what the Bible calls “the least of these.” “Give a damn,” shouted a banner on his office wall. He was never afraid of the unconventional, sometimes outrageously funny, scrap. He once staged a mock “parade of homes” for poverty housing. A reporter who came to interview was interrupted when volunteers carted off Allen’s office sofa to give to a burned-out family; before the morning was over, the reporter found herself sacking Thanksgiving canned goods for the poor. So it went, day by day, in Dan Allen’s world.
The important word, Allen said, was the humble preposition: Neighbor for Neighbor. He intentionally set neighbor to helping neighbor in reciprocal encounters. The idea was that one day a person needs help, the next day that person is helping his benefactor or others in need. From that mutual service comes self-respect that can lead to self-sufficiency. It wasn’t mere charity. The basis for Neighbor for Neighbor, Allen said, “is unconditional affirmation for that person on their own terms, period,” so that those who came for help could walk away with pride and dignity, helping others.
Dan Allen died in 1995, but his legacy continues on through service and a quest for social justice by countless disciples whose lives he changed. Dan Allen and Neighbor for Neighbor changed Tulsa in profound ways that have not been previously well documented. It is important to tell their story, because they have lessons to teach us all in today’s chaotic era, and the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice is committed to continuing Dan’s work in the spirit of this legacy.
What people are saying about
Dan’s War on Poverty: A Grassroots Crusade for Social Justice
"Ann Patton has done of brilliant job of portraying Dan Allen. By examining his life and outreach so thoughtfully, she reminds us, through his fine example, about what really matters in this world."
– Teresa Miller, Executive Director, Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers, Oklahoma State University.
"This important book is long overdue and should be required reading in this time of rising poverty and suffering. Congratulations to Ann Patton for telling the truth and showing how ordinary people can change their world."
– Wilbert Collins, retired Tulsa County Commissioner.
"Dan Allen’s life reflected how his joy of service to others moved all those he touched to step up to the challenges of ensuring a just society for all."
– Drew Diamond, Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Tulsa, and retired Tulsa police chief.
"If Tulsa history could sing, it would be in Ann’s voice, telling this story of Dan Allen, a truly selfless grassroots icon and saint, and the true believers he inspired."
– Sandra Downie Langenkamp, former vice president, Tulsa Metro Chamber.
"This book reflects Dan Allen’s conflicting rage and compassion, a city’s conflicting humanity and dismissal, and a spiritual determination that conflicted with much religious stance of the day. It's a great read by a great writer."
– Larry Silvey, former editor, Tulsa Magazine.
"The story of Dan Allen has universal meaning. Ann Patton does a masterful job of inspiring us through the story of Dan Allen’s life. She captivates us by the power of his example of what one single person can do to help those around them.
Dan Allen was not famous, but he profoundly affected the lives of untold numbers of people in need in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His story, which is told so well by Ann, reminds us that every one of us has the power within us to change the community where we live for the better.
Reading this book reminds us that we are surrounded by heroes, whatever the community in which we live. Dan’s life is an example of how one ordinary person was called to do things that profoundly affected the lives of untold numbers of people, and his life serves as an example of how we are all called to help those around us."
– Rodger A. Randle, Director, Oklahoma University Center for Studies in Democracy and Culture, and former Tulsa mayor (1988-1992).