Volunteering has taught Tonya Smith to use power tools and given her confidence.
A Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity volunteer for about four years, she’s helping construct the 19th home for the organization and hopes to one day use the skills she’s honing to build her own home.
This week celebrates Habitat for Humanity’s fifth annual national “Women Build” week, which helps empower women to learn skills to be self-sufficient as they complete a home for a family.
When her two daughters were younger, Smith and her husband, Robert, spent their volunteer time aiding Girl Scouts.
“It was fun to do stuff with my kids, fun stuff getting them involved in the community,” she said.
After they grew up, she missed having something to do that made a difference. Seeing the announcement in the newspaper about the Habitat’s tool workshop, Smith knew she wanted to get involved.
“I’ve always done community service through Girl Scouts and I like being able to help others,” Smith said.
Serving on the TAHFH board as secretary, Smith takes minutes and sends financial reports to Habitat International. A future goal is to go overseas and build a Habitat house.
Smith also enjoys coordinating fundraising events like next weekend’s Zumbathon, a first-time event for Tahlequah. In addition to volunteering, Smith is a Zumba instructor.
The Zumbathon will be Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. to noon, at the NSU Fitness Center. Registration is onsite with a $5 minimum donation.
“All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity,” she said. “All you need for the Latin dance exercise event are a bottle of water, a towel and lots of energy.”
Smith volunteers to get out of the house and meet new people. Habitat provides her with activities and new friends.
“It’s rewarding to see the new homeowner have a good place to live that’s not run down,” she said. “They made me feel very welcome and put me to work right away,” Smith said.
Learning skills also appealed to Smith.
“I like learning the new skills for building and using tools, and hopefully, one day I’ll be able to build my own house,” she said. “Power tools are fun, and I get to do stuff without my husband’s help.”
And she has a lot more confidence.
“They trust me to do more without supervision, and I can help new people. It makes me feel good to share knowledge and skills,” she said.
Habitat is always looking for volunteers and always need donations.
“People don’t have to have skills to help,” she said. “They just have to have a good attitude and be willing to work.”
One of her friends who came to visit a build site now serves on the board.
“We just opened up a resale store and we can take donations of household items, except clothing. We have windows, doors, cabinets, that kind of thing,” she said.
While she calls Tahlequah home, the Wagoner Teacher of the Year has taught middle school native culture for 10 years.
“The kids make me want to teach, and there’s never a dull moment,” she said.
Beadwork is her favorite part of native arts and crafts, especially making jewelry, which she likes to give as gifts.
After school, she works with the 21st Century program, which also offers a summer event.She also works with the Johnson O’Malley Indian Education program.
Next year, she’s hoping to start an archery program.
“I’m always looking for ways to incorporate activities in the native culture for our students,” Smith said. “Like bow shooting. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife has free classes for teachers and competition for students.”
As for Habitat for Humanity, it’s now a family project.
Her daughter Marisa, 23, also volunteers with Habitat.
“We’ve always done stuff together. I taught my daughters to give back to the community,” she said. “My dad taught me if you see something that needs to be done just do it.”
Volunteering has taught Tonya Smith to use power tools and given her confidence.
Stevens sharing love of God by volunteering
Ben Stevens said his wife, Karrel, first signed him up to volunteer, but he continues as a way to share the love of God.
“I volunteer because I see it as a way to give back, to share your own good fortune with others, to be part of the local and world community. In short, it is sharing God’s love,” Stevens said. “God provides the love, but we humans can provide the action to spread it.”
For three years, he’s been volunteering with Feed My Sheep, the ecumenical weekly meal, and Help-In-Crisis, doing shelter minor maintenance and the Walk-A-Mile fundraiser. He also serves on various church committees, and participates in activities to support church programs, such as youth, missions and maintenance, at First United Methodist.
Local coach involved in ID process for WWII soldier
An unusual name could lead to the identification of the remains of a World War II soldier, Norman Lloyd Miller, who was killed in action more than 70 years ago in New Guinea.
Earl Miller and Jim Miller, nephews of the soldier, and other members of the Miller family in the Joplin area learned of the development a couple of days before Thanksgiving. That’s when their brother, Elzy Miller, of Tahlequah, was contacted by a federally funded search firm that was looking for surviving members of Norman Miller’s family.
Cloth diaper exchange a boon for moms
Though disposable diapers may be far more convenient, a growing number of parents these days are choosing cloth diapers not just to save money, but for the comfort of their babies.
A local mom has started a cloth diaper-lending program and Facebook support group, PoofyPantsDiaperLendingProgram. She also has an online support group called, “Poopsmiths Anonymous of Tahlequah.”
Claremore, Grove ring in the holidays with seasonal treats
As the holiday season gets into full swing, those who enjoy short road trips have plenty of options when it comes to seasonal activities.
Local artist goes digital with OU logos
A traditional artist by desire and training, Buffalo Gauge turned an eye toward the electronic future and graphic design.
With everything going digital, Gauge wanted to see how his love of painting would translate onto the screen. He was skeptical at first of the medium many people relate to as computer drawing, but soon realized his talent translated well into the digital language.
“The creative process is the same as traditional; you have to think it out or it won’t work,” Gouge said. “You have layers you have to keep in order for the image to come together.”
A project he’s tinkered with while enrolled in the Graphics Communications program at Indian Capitol Technology Center has the potential of gaining popularity and commercial success. The geometric shape of the letters on many University of Oklahoma logo designs seemed ideal for native designs.
Area cities set holiday calendars
Cherokee County boasts its share of holiday events, but for those looking to travel farther afield to enjoy music, light displays and other seasonal fare, Green Country has a packed calendar.
Thanksgiving traditions vary across the United States, and sometimes across the street. But the memories made each year come up in conversations time and again, as family and friends gather to celebrate.
Favorite foods often boast cultural family flavors, from coastal seafood to Native American roots.
Freese growing with CUMC congregation
Rudy Freese likes to try new things, and he’s willing to grow with his congregation. That’s why he enjoys being a pastor so much.
For 2-1/2 years, Freese has led the flock at Cookson United Methodist. He’s served at Quinton UMC, Canadian UMC and Leonard UMC.
“We are appointed by the bishop, but Cookson’s love for each other and acceptance of new people is a wonderful church trait,” said Freese, who holds a Master’s in Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary.
Tour of Homes brings holiday cheer
For those dreaming of a white Christmas or a dream home, inspiration will be on display next month during the American Association for University Women’s annual Tour of Homes.
Each year, hundreds of people come from Tulsa and beyond to join with locals in picking up a map and touring select homes beautifully decorated for the holidays. This will be the 32nd year for the event.
‘President Is Assassinated; Johnson Takes Leadership’
Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Nov. 28, 1963 edition of the Tahlequah Star-Citizen, which later merged with this Tahlequah Pictorial Press. The Star-Citizen was, at that time, a weekly newspaper. It and the Pictorial Press later merged to become what is now the Tahlequah Daily Press. This story is reprinted in its entirety, as it was originally published.
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