Honoring 100 for the 100th: Gwen Allen

Photo of Gwen AllenMs. Gwen Allen holds a Bachelor Degree in Psychology (’79), Bachelor Degree in Social Work (’79), Master Degree in Social Work (’81), and Master Degree in Public Health with an area of concentration in Health Administration (’89). All of her degrees were earned at the University of Oklahoma, and she holds dual LCSW and LSW-Administration licenses.

She began her social work career on the Geriatric Unit at Griffin Memorial Hospital. Her other positions included Director of Social Work at the Norman Veterans Center, followed by Director of Social Work at Oklahoma Memorial Hospital. She was the ODMHSAS Housing Coordinator, in which she was charged with developing housing options for severely mentally ill clients. In this position, she was instrumental in the development of McKenzie Garden’s Apartments, which provide permanent housing specifically for individuals suffering from chronic mental illness. She also served as the Interim Director of the Oklahoma Youth Center as well as Assistant Administrator at Griffin Memorial Hospital.

After the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Ms. Allen was given the responsibility for developing and overseeing Project Heartland, the first crisis counseling program in the United States created specifically in response to a terrorist event. The program operated for six years. Ms. Allen oversaw a $10,000,000 federal grant and at the height of the program had 75 employees and contract counselors.

Ms. Allen has received several national, state, and local honors or awards. In 1999 she received the Award for Exceptional Achievement, an annual award given jointly by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Center for Mental Health Services, for her work serving victims of the bombing. She was also recognized in 1999 for Exemplary Service to Crime Victims by the Office for Victims of Crime division of the U. S. Department of Justice.

She is a member of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Social Work Hall of Honor, and received the Social Work Practice Professional of the Year award in 2001. In 2004 she was awarded the Ted Allen Humanitarian Award from the Governor’s Advisory Committee on the Homeless for her work in the development of McKenzie Garden’s Apartments.

Ms. Allen retired after 25 years in state service; however, in retirement she has remained active in volunteer and community service related to foster children. She has been honored at the county and state levels by DHS for her work as a community volunteer. She was instrumental in helping her church develop Royal Family Kids Camp, an annual camp held specifically for foster children. She and Sue Durrett, the DHS Cleveland County Administrator (retired), developed a mentoring program to serve the foster children who attended the camp. An adapted model of the mentoring program was used to develop the national and international Royal Kids Club programs.

She served on the Governor’s Advisory Committee on the Homeless as well as the board of McKenzie Garden’s Apartment program. She was also a founding member of Compassion Pointe, which was a faith-based program that served homeless, as well as battered and abused women and their children. Ms. Allen served on the Compassion Pointe Board of Directors and was also an active volunteer in organizing and implementing projects to serve these struggling families.

To Ms. Allen, the practice of social work is a “calling” as well as a profession. She is humbled and honored to be named one of the “100 for the 100th.

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