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.
Wedding’s trifecta a boon for her beneficiaries
If Lou Wedding won the lottery, Cherokee County would have the best and biggest Humane Society in Oklahoma.
Humane Society of Cherokee County is one of three organizations, including her church and Relay for Life, to which Wedding donates her time and energy.
“Volunteering helps me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile,” Wedding said.
She believes volunteers create the community.
“It’s only as good as the people who give, who take time and give from their heart,” she said. “You look around at all the things people do, like clean up parks. There’s not enough workers to do the things that need to be done.”
Moulton touts importance of history
Northeastern State University’s motto is “Gather here. Go Far.” The phrase aptly applies to Dr. Gary Moulton.
Moulton, graduate of NSU and University of Nebraska Thomas C. Sorensen Emeritus Professor of American History, is perhaps the country’s leading authority on the history of Cherokee Principal John Ross, as well as being selected to review and edit the writings of Lewis and Clark.
Dr. Brad Agnew, chairman and professor of the NSU History Department, called Moulton the “world authority” on Ross.
Tahlequah Public Schools Foundation awards $30K
Tahlequah Public Schools Foundation recently awarded more than $30,000 to TPS teachers for education projects.
Tibbets: Art an important cultural element
The incomparable beauty of nature inspires Dennis Tibbits to paint.
“I believe my love of the Illinois River, especially the Barren Fork, has greatly influenced the type of material I prefer doing,” said Tibbits.
His love of landscapes – “riverscapes,” as he calls them – began about the same time he started floating the river in the 1970s as a student at Northeastern State University.
Tibbits, an instructor and clinical supervisor of Speech and Language Pathology at NSU, graduated from Stilwell High School in 1971. He earned a bachelor’s degree from NSU in 1975 and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas in 1976, both in speech-language pathology. He came full-circle when he took a teaching job at NSU in 2007, after doing clinical speech pathology for more than 30 years.
In the early ‘70s, he did his first oil paintings and three of them hang in his house today.
Senior Citizens dance makes mark in history
It was nearly 14 years ago when Charles Scott and Dorothy Crawford were sitting across the table from each other having lunch at the Tahlequah Senior Citizens Center, when Charles spoke up and said, “I think I’ll go see the mayor and city council and get a senior citizens dance started.”
Bright colors in for spring fashion
The occasional snowflake may still be floating down from the sky, but bright colors and textures are making local boutiques and stores look like spring has already arrived.
Bright colors, loose-weave accessories in scarves, jackets and vests and dresses are beginning to replace winter items in display windows and on the racks.
Neon and leopard prints are always on hand at Obsession Boutique, said owner Amanda Harris.
Floral and tribal prints, corals, melon and mint green and sequins for bling are beginning to brighten the store on cute sundresses, skinny jeans, leggings, and jeggings, said Harris.
- Polar Plunge raises thousands for Special Olympics More than 110 participants from local schools and organizations took part in Saturday’s Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics at Arrowhead Resort on the Illinois River. They raised a total of $15,400 for the athletes to buy uniforms and help with travel and lodging for the Oklahoma Special Olympics in May. Participating were groups from Cherokee Nation, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah Police Department, Tahlequah Public Schools, and others.
Ross shares gospel in variety of settings
Pastor Sean Ross uses a variety of classes to teach the word of God to his congregation, whether at church, a nursing home or elsewhere.
“Our church is small and precious. We enjoy singing the old hymns, as well as new praise. We are looking to grow in the Lord and in his favor,” Ross said.
Light Workers heal human energy
Light Workers are healers, but not in the traditional medical sense. They heal human energy.
Tinsley’s family an inspiration for teaching
Lessons from life on the farm are teaching tools for Greenwood’s newest Teacher of the Year.
Second-grade teacher Kym Tinsley’s family is important. In the summer, she works on Canyon Ridge Farm, owned by her parents.
“I use the experiences from the farm life in my classroom on a daily basis, through writing, reading, and math,” she said.
She has a happy, colorful and friendly classroom. She recently greeted two children at the classroom door with a smile. As she interacted with them, asking questions about a story, they searched for clues and find answers.
Tinsley rewarded each girl with a compliment, based on their answers and asked more questions. The girls searched for answers once more.
For Tinsley, children are definitely the best part of teaching,
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