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.
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A stitch in time
They may be seasoned sewing veterans, but local members of the Oklahoma Home and Community Education clubs learned a new stitching craft Monday morning.
Beth Corn led the class, and the objective was to create decorative items from strips of fabric and cotton clothesline cord. Corn and fellow OHCE member Ann Lamons had several completed items on display, including coasters, trivets, throw rugs and even baskets with lids.
“I learned how to do this just watching TV, but I found some instructions in a book and printed them out for everybody,” said Corn. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes while learning, but that’s part of the fun. Once you learn how to do this today, you’ll be able to branch out and use the technique for all kinds of things.”
The class was well-attended, with so many mem bers some attendees ended up having to share sewing machines.
Sheppard takes place of Tinnin on TPS board
Members of the Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education reorganized, swore in a new member, and passed a further adjustment to the 2013-14 school calendar.
TPS has missed 13 days during the school year due to inclement weather, and classes will not be held on March 31 for a professional development day approved by the school board in the consent docket.
The district has invited teachers, parents and community leaders to attend the Oklahoma Education Coalition rally at the state capitol to demonstrate support for increased education funding.
Cherokee Nation touts minimum wage hike, credit rating upgrade
Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. made an appearance at Monday night’s tribal council meeting, as both Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden were out of town.
“As you know, it’s a very busy and crucial time at the state capitol this week,” said Hoskin. “As such, Chief Baker is in Oklahoma City tending to issues that relate to the tribe. Joe Crittenden in Washington, D.C., this week, attending the National Congress of the American Indian.”
Hoskin touted the recent executive order raising the tribe’s minimum wage, as well as news that the Cherokee Nation’s credit rating has been upgraded to triple B.
Greenwood Elementary’s fourth-grade robotics team headed to world competition with innovative project
When five Greenwood Elementary School fourth-graders volunteered to be part of a newly-forming robotics team this past October, they never dreamed that six months later, they’d be competing in a world championship tournament in Anaheim, Calif.
Bryson Page, Lyndsie Kinney, Rylee Jafrie, Ryan Mattox and Ashton Kinsey, along with two robotics teams from Tahlequah Middle School, fared well enough at VEX robotics team regional and state competitions to earn slots among 72 other teams competing for world recognition.
“Back in October, we received a donation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum from the Cherokee Nation,” said Nikki Molloy, Greenwood parent liaison and robotics team coach. “The donation was a robotic kit, and each elementary site, along with TMS, received kits. The first time we gave the kids the kits, we just let them have at it.”
Seizure issues growing more controversial
Aside from the texts and the rights they enumerate, there are some stark contrasts between the Third and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Virtually no one disagrees about the Third Amendment. There are only rare instances of its being litigated, and it has never been the legal basis for a decision of the Supreme Court.
On the other hand, litigation and dissension over the Fourth Amendment is routine.
Education and consolidation topics at forum
State legislators enter the final week of bill hearings and committee meetings next week, and education and agency consolidation remain key concerns for local residents.
Friday morning, five area legislators made presentations and fielded questions from constituents during Legislative Focus at Go Ye Village. Lawmakers included Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee; Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove; Rep. Will Fourkiller, D-Westville; Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove; and Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah.
Plea deal arranged for ex-fire chief
A former Cherokee County volunteer fire chief has agreed to plead guilty to forgery and embezzlement charges in exchange for a suspended sentence and payment of restitution.
Third Thursday Art Walk
Shoppers will have a chance to visit downtown merchants in the evening during the Tahlequah Main Street Association’s first Third Thursday Art Walk and After Party on Thursday, March 20.
Participating downtown businesses will keep their doors open to offer specials until 8 p.m., and artists will display their work at different locations. Art exhibitors, including the Cherokee Art Center’s Spider Gallery, will stay open late.
Sex offender bill reaches House
By a unanimous 44-0 vote of the Oklahoma Senate, a bill that would make it more difficult for registered sex offenders to change their names has reached the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 1421, authored by Kyle Loveless, Oklahoma City Republican, underwent its first reading in the House on Feb. 27.
Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said he did not know of any instances, during his service with the department, of registered sex offenders evading detection with new names for any length of time.
SB 1497 may aid transparency
Government transparency advocates were pleased, and some were surprised, when a proposed bill designed to strengthen Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act passed the Senate Judicial Committee recently.
Senate Bill 1497, by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, would allow citizens who are denied access to public meetings to bring civil lawsuits, and if the court rules in favor, to collect attorney’s fees. A continuing resolution has already been filed.
Should the legislation pass into law, it would become effective Nov. 1 this year.
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