The number of people facing serious financial challenges continues to rise in Cherokee County.
A report released recently by the Annie E. Casey Foundation indicated that the number of children living in poverty in the state increased by nine percent from 2005-2010.
A year ago, Cherokee County held the third highest poverty rate in Oklahoma, according to the numbers produced by the American Community Survey. Only Latimer, Marshall and Roger Mills counties had higher poverty rates. According to current U.S. Census Bureau statistics for people living below the designated poverty level, Cherokee County has a 26.3 poverty rate, while Latimer, Marshall and Roger Mills counties each had percentage rates under 15 percent.
Adair County’s poverty rate is at 26.5 percent, while Delaware County is at 21.2 percent. The only other neighboring county with a 20-plus percentage poverty rate is Sequoyah County, at 20.9 percent.
“The phone pretty much rings off the wall all day long with people who are needing utility assistance, help with rental payments, food, gasoline to be able to make doctor appointments and for other various reasons,” said Hope House Executive Director Laura Garner. “We’ve been busy, and unfortunately the need is higher than the funds available.”
Area shelters like Hope House, which provides services for families or women with children, and Project O-Si-Yo, which offers living assistance to men, stay at full capacity due to the many people experiencing effects from a bad economy or other circumstances.
“We’ve had about 450 people come through here in the five years that we’ve been here,” said Project O-Si-Yo co-manager Dave Stickels. “That comes out to about 90 people a year. That’s a lot of people. Some stay a couple of days. Some stay a couple of months. Some are here longer. We’ve got somebody who’s been here over a year. The individuals vary.”
Garner said another recent development is people are coming into the county from other areas of Oklahoma or even outside the state.
“We’ve been getting a lot more calls in past weeks from outside the county, because we’re the capital of the Cherokee Nation,” she said. “We get calls from people out of the state. They think that when they walk into the Cherokee Nation that everything is going to fall directly into place. It does take a long time. They will have depleted their resources, and then will be faced with a need for a place to stay or food. We’re also getting calls from Tulsa, because the shelters are full up there, and they’re referring them here. That’s something that’s has come up a little bit more over the last month or so. All the way around, the numbers are rising.”
The area shelters are not meant to be a source of permanent support for those who seek services. Helping each person who walks in the door reconnect with society to re-establish self-sufficiency is the goal, said Stickels.
“You’re suppose to go out and look [for a job] everyday,” he said. “I’ve been here since October. I started out just like everybody else. I got here because my wife and I had problems. I was without work, and I don’t have family around here. I needed a place to go, so I came here. So now I’ve taken on some responsibilities to help run this place.”
Garner and Stickels both pointed out their respective sites are always in need of monetary and other forms of support to help sustain services.
“It’s a non-stop need,” said Garner. “Unfortunately, we’ve had people lined up waiting for applications for utility and rental assistance. There’s been a quite an increase this year. It’s like an [annual] thing until we get a turn around in the economy, but it’s not going to happen soon. [The recession] has really hit here in the last couple of years.”
Stickels said Project O-Si-Yo was able to raise $2,000 recently through a pancake brunch and $400 was earned through two yard sales, but more funding is needed.
“Things are hairy now,” he said. “We’re trying to get the community behind us. We do have a lot of individuals who come by and donate clothes or food. We had Channel 8 news come in, and they did a story on us that broadcasted [the night of July 20]. It was the lead story and we got no response. We told people that we needed help here, that we’re in desperate need and that we’re probably going to end up closing by the end of July. We got very little response. Two people made monetary donations. We brought in some more clothes, but we only had two people respond in a monetary way.”
Stickels emphasized that the site managers or Project O-Si-Yo Director of Operations Tom Lewis do not draw salaries for duties performed in operating and managing the shelter.
“We’re trying to get the community behind us,” said Stickels. “We don’t get monetary incentives. We don’t get anything out of it. Tom Lewis, the CEO, he donates his time. Everybody here has a chore. Everybody helps out, like with the community garden. We donated stuff to Help-in-Crisis, the CARE Food Pantry and Hope House. We’ve tried to give back.”
The number of people facing serious financial challenges continues to rise in Cherokee County.
- Local News
Twins again for 018
Cherokee County’s twinning cow has done it again.
The cow, known as 018, has become a bit of a local celebrity as a frequent bearer of twins, a rare happening in the bovine world.
“Her last two births have been singles,” said Chester Bailey, a farmer and owner of 018. “But over her lifespan - she is about 12 years old - she has given birth to eight sets of twins.”
A cow with a propensity for twinning possesses an inherited trait. Bailey said he has not yet examined the calves closely to determine their genders.
KPS could build new band room
Some hurdles still remain to be jumped, but Keys Public Schools could have a new room for the band program as early as the start of the 2014-’15 academic year.
If constructed, the room would also serve as a shelter during tornados or other natural disasters.
“We’re in discussions with the architect and the funding needs to be worked out,” said Billie Jordan, KPS superintendent. “We also need to present our plan to the school board and receive approval. Our goal is to have it ready by the start of the school year, but we will be cutting it close.”
Shooter of hunter still unidentified
Cherokee County sheriff’s investigators continue to seek leads in the shooting of a Coweta hunter last Friday near Welling.
Undersheriff Jason Chennault on Wednesday said investigators had received no new leads after publicly asking for information that would help identify who shot 27-year-old John Mason on Nov. 29.
Impending bad weather spurs caution warning from TPWA, LREC
With wintry weather expected to move in to Cherokee County on Thursday, the Tahlequah Public Works Authority and Lake Region Electric Cooperative are preparing for reports of outages.
To report outages, call the TPWA at (918) 456-2564 or at the after-hours emergency line at (918) 456-3591. The LREC can be reached at (918) 772-2526 or (800) 364-5732.
Season of sparkle
Continuing a tradition dating back 20 years, officials for the city of Tahlequah and Northeastern State University jointly flipped the switch Tuesday for Lights On at Seminary Hall.
Held at dusk in front of the venerable campus building, Lights On was hosted by Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols, and Penny Turner, wife of NSU President Steve Turner.
Rooming house closes
Operators of The Stepping Stone Rooming House closed the facility doors Tuesday evening, three days ahead of a city-imposed deadline requiring residents to vacate the property if the building wasn’t brought up to code.
Emma Presley and Robert Clark have run the day-to-day operations of the facility for about six years. Now, the two are gathering their own belongings and cleaning up the building so they can be out by Friday.
“I’m ready to move on,” Clark said Tuesday afternoon.
Local authors are gaining popularity
As self-publishing gains popularity, more and more local residents have added the title “published author” to their resumes.
Northeastern State University graduate and Tahlequah resident Dustin Mitchell recently released her children’s book, “Alivia’s Angels,” and has met with success during book signings at NSU, the Cherokee County Community Building and Stage.
RAD courses available by arrangement
When a woman is being physically threatened, a bit of knowledge can provide the margin she needs to defend herself and escape danger.
Such is the reasoning behind the Rape Aggression Defense program, which is offered locally by law enforcement officers and deputy marshals.
“Fortunately for our community, we have several RAD instructors prepared to teach the classes,” said James Flores, investigator for the Northeastern State University Police. “There are four instructors at the NSU Police Department, five at the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, and one at the Tahlequah Police Department. We frequently work together when we teach courses.”
Accused child killer dies of cancer
A man accused of killing a 3-year-old child in Tahlequah last month died Tuesday morning, according to officials at the Cherokee County Detention Center.
Buford Ellison had been hospitalized in Tahlequah since early last week. Administrators at CCDC worked with District 27 prosecutors to have Ellison moved from the jail to the hospital when Ellison’s health conditions began to deteriorate.
According to police, Ellison was suffering from the late stages of cancer.
He and his common-law wife, Jeri Danyce Sanders, were arrested last month at the Stepping Stone Rooming House and accused of murder in the death of Sanders’ child, Dakota. Detectives claim a baby sitter realized Dakota had died several hours after Sanders left the boy’s “lifeless body” in her room.
City council extends Dumpster regulation compliance date
Tahlequah city councilors have given local businesses an extra year to comply with new Dumpster regulations.
Local businessman Bryce Felts has been asking the council to exclude businesses that existed as of June 3, 2013, from following the ordinance. He insisted the new regulations would cost businesses and the city too much money and wouldn’t solve the problem of containing and hiding trash.
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- Twins again for 018