• 501.397.5331 Office
  • 501.301.4346 Call/Text
  • info@obefcommunity.org
  • 501.397.5331 Office
  • 501.301.4346 Call/Text
  • info@obefcommunity.org

About OBEF

The Ossie Barnes Empowerment Foundation, Inc. (OBEF)*, is a nonprofit corporation registered in the state of Arkansas with a 501c3 tax exemption February 16, 2017.

Who We Are...

The Ossie Barnes Empowerment Foundation, Inc. (OBEF) was incorporated February 16, 2017 in honor of Ossie Barnes, born on this day and great-grandmother of the founder Paula Withers, to revitalize and unite and revitalize the Hensley/Woodson community and ultimately underserved communities beyond.

Our Mission

Our mission is to improve and revitalize under-served communities and the lives of the residents residing in them.

Our Vision

Our vision is to assist communities and residents in becoming self-sufficient and sustainable. Empowerment through information and knowledge is the foundation for success.

Our Goal

Our plan structure includes first providing a common place for the community, providing socialization, activities and events to promote unity among the residents, providing essential access to factual information and resources to enable residents to effectively address the needs and issues facing their community and make informed decisions

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Who is Ossie Barnes

Ossie Elizabeth Gilliard
Johnson Henry Barnes
(02-16-1898 – 07-29-1990)

Great grandmother of OBEF Founder and CEO, Paula Rogers-Withers. Born February 16, 1898, Ossie Elizabeth Gilliard, The only child of AME Presiding Elder, Alex Gilliard and Delia Taylor-Gilliard in Hensley AR. In 1911 at the age of 13 she attended Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute under Booker T Washington and George Washington Carver. At that time, it was a 6-year program, she graduated May 24, 1917 with two diplomas, one the equivalent of today’s Associate’s degree and the other the equivalent of today’s Bachelor’s degree. She married Samuel H Johnson and had identical twins, Julius H and Junius H Johnson in 1920, these were her only children. She later married Al Henry, then to Lewis Barnes in 1947 until he passed in 1982.

At the beginning of her teaching career, she walked three (3) miles from Hensley south, to the Harris Plantation where she taught grades 1-8 in a one room schoolhouse. After the closure of the Hensley school she taught at Woodson Elementary with other educational legends like Mrs Ruby McMurry, Mrs Hazel Lawrence, and Ms Sadie Cook. When the Woodson school closed, she went on to teach at JC Cook Elementary where she retired from education and devoted her time to the community she loved so much.

Mrs Ossie, as she was known, started teaching children as well as adults to read and write in the one room schoolhouse on the Harris plantation.

She also taught crafts and practical techniques such as making mattresses, preserving food, money management and other skills to help people survive the difficult years of the Great Depression.

During this difficult time, she was instrumental in bringing assistance such as rations and commodities to the African Americans in Hensley. She organized community harvest events to help make the best use and way of preserving food while it was in season. These skills were directly derived from her education at Tuskegee and mostly from George Washington Carver which was her science professor.

Mrs Ossie put on plays, holiday programs, dances and other events to involve her students and the community to the arts and other cultural and social refinements. She implemented some of the first forms of special education, where she worked to teach those with developmental problems to write and recognized their names when seen, during a time when people that could not read and write, signed with an X.

In later years she attended Baptist College, Philander Smith College and Shorter College in Little Rock, AR to for supplemental education and advanced degrees. She taught in the Pulaski County School district for 54 years. She dedicated her life to education and Public Service. She served the Hensley and Woodson communities for over 70 years.