Tahlequah Daily Press

April 8, 2014

Music still in the blood of retired music teacher

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Kriss Harris knew that after she retired, she would do volunteer work.

“I knew I wanted to pay back the city that was a great place to grow up,” said Harris. “And I got a great education at [Northeastern State University].”

She describes her career in choral music for Tahlequah Public Schools as “a wonderful 23 years, teaching amazing students.”

In 1952, she moved here with family.

“I grew up here with family and close friends. There’s a strong connection of love and shared history that makes Tahlequah perfect for me,” she said.

Today, she is the pianist, bell choir director, organist and an elder with First Presbyterian Church.

“I also cook, help with dinner preparations and preparations for Lent and Christmas special services,” she said. “And I worked with our Fair Trade at the Home and Garden Show this past weekend.”

Being a good volunteer, for Harris, means being prepared to work hard, and it means being flexible.

Volunteer opportunities Harris supports include Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee Country, Feed My Sheep, and directing the Go Ye Village Women’s Choir. She’s also served for many years as musical director of Tahlequah Community Playhouse.

As treasurer of CASA, she’s completing her fourth year on the board.

“We help with all rallies and fundraisers,” she said. “I learned of CASA from [Executive Director] Jo Prout; her passion for CASA is impressive.”

The importance of CASA to children in this region cannot be overstated, said Harris.

“The volunteers who are trained and take court cases deserve credit for their hard work, compassion, perseverance and dedication. They’re the true champions of CASA,” she said.

Selling chances on the playhouse for children is the group’s next fundraiser. It will be on display at Reasor’s parking lot. Tickets go on sale May 1 and the drawing is June 7.

Every Thursday, a group of volunteers feeds those in need. That’s what Feed My Sheep is all about.

“I’ve been involved since its beginning, almost three years,” Harris said. “It’s an ecumenical mission to feed the hungry, and it takes place at the Methodist Church.”

Several other churches are involved as well.

Duties for Harris range from cooking and ordering food supplies, to consulting on menu items, and picking up and delivering supplies.

“When Janet Stucky called and asked me to be a part of this new mission, I was delighted to say ‘yes,’” Harris said.

Her love for music spurred Harris to another volunteer opportunity, with a choral group.

“The mother of a good friend had the good friend approach me with the request, so how could I say no?” said Harris.

About 22 members of the choir rehearse Friday mornings at Go Ye Village. They perform monthly at evening chapel service and on special occasions. It’s Harris’ second year to direct the choir.

“It’s a real blessing to be a part of this group,” she said.