Sometimes, to better serve others, you have to help yourself.
Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit organization known for providing affordable homes for people in the community, is rehabilitating a building that houses several nonprofit agencies.
Habitat for Humanity staff and volunteers have claimed the corner at College Avenue and First Street for new purposes.
After opening an office and sharing the building with Kid Connections for four years, Habitat added a 4,000-square-foot Surplus Store in the back. This past September, the organization purchased the building and began renovating the administration area.
Work on the 8,500-square-foot space is nearing completion, and includes a new office space that is for rent. The nonprofits Kid Connections and Cherokee County Legal Services rent space there.
“It started with donations,” said Linda Cheatham, executive director of TAHFH, as she proudly showed visitors around the new and improved office space. “People called us all the time to donate used appliances and building materials and we didn’t have room for storage for those items.”
Many Habitat affiliates have ReStores, a Habitat trademark, Cheatham said.
“Our affiliate felt strongly that we could turn these donations into revenue to help build more Habitat houses in Cherokee County,” she said.
The Surplus Store carries everything - furniture, décor and other household items - including the kitchen sinks.
Habitat is applying for the ReStore trademark, and hopes to gain approval this year.
The purchase of the building came when it was realized that, for not much more than they were paying for rent, they could negotiate a purchase price with the previous owner and turn a rental fee into a mortgage payment.
“After purchasing the building, we implemented a plan to renovate and make better use of the space generating private offices for our current occupants, as well as Habitat,” Cheatham said. “We also have generated an additional private office that is available for rent Feb. 1.”
The space isn’t just for nonprofits
With a private entrance, windows and use of a conference room and kitchen, the office rents for $900, with utilities paid. It is available to any business seeking space, and not exclusive to nonprofits.
“It’s important to Habitat to have a safe and compliant building, so Fire Chief Ray Hammons has been invited numerous times to inspect our building,” she said. “And we’ve recently received out safety certificate, stating all systems are up to code.”
Decades-old HVAC systems were replaced, she said, and lighting was upgraded by Talking Leaves Job Corps students, working under the license of a local contractor. Now the bathrooms are being upgraded to allow wheelchair access.
“We used a lot of items from the Surplus Store; we pay for the items we use,” she said.
Other growth has been with staff.
“Experience Works has provided two workers, one as a cashier and one as an administrative assistant,” Cheatham said. “We hope to get a third to do maintenance and to repair donations. We’re trying to divert items that may be going to the landfill to be usable.”
The organization recycles what it can’t sell.
“We have to be careful what we sell in the store to be sure all the items meet federal guidelines. We’ve been lucky to be under Habitat International, our parent company, because they keep us up to date on federal regulations, which effect surplus stores and mortgage companies.”
Experience Works is a federal agency, formerly called Green Thumb, that puts senior citizens to work in nonprofit agencies.
As renovations are wrapping up, plans for House No. 21 are being made. Over spring break, 25 college students will be volunteering, and in June, 100 volunteers from the Maplesville, Ill., United Methodist Church will come to work on the house.
Sometimes, to better serve others, you have to help yourself.
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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.
Moulton: Sovereignty is John Ross’ legacy
When describing the Cherokee people, the words “well-educated” and “independent” may come to mind. Those attributes were principles held most dear by John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokees from 1828-1866.
Dr. Gary Moulton, University of Nebraska Thomas C. Sorensen emeritus professor of American history, discussed Ross’ history during a presentation at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center Thursday. The event was organized by the history department at Northeastern State University.
The bear facts
A joint project linking two state agencies with researchers at Oklahoma State University is gathering the “bear facts” on a growing population in the northeastern part of the state.
A six-year study on black bears in Cherokee, Adair and Sequoyah counties is being conducted as a precursor to possible establishment of a controlled hunting season in Green Country. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management of Oklahoma State University have partnered for the endeavor.
Drug task force seizes K2 at a Tahlequah house
The District 27 Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force seized between $200 and $300 worth of synthetic drugs during a bust Friday.
The Tahlequah Police Department and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service were also in on the raid. Members of the task force hope the seizure will aid in an ongoing investigation to find larger suppliers.
“We received information that sales were being made from a residence off Choctaw Street,” said Michael Moore, task force director. “Further investigation led to a state search warrant based on the federal Schedule I list of drugs.”
Citizens can report sight obstructions to city
On Feb. 25-26, the Tahlequah Fire Department responded to motor vehicle accidents at South Muskogee Avenue and South Street, and since that time, a few citizens have expressed concern about the sight lines at the intersection.
A visit to the intersection showed that, for traffic westbound on South, the view south down Muskogee is partially obstructed by shrubbery and a tree that appear to be on private property.
Spears: OSRC should help boost business
In a little over 25 years, Arrowhead Resort owner Jack Spears has grown his business from being the smallest float operator on the Illinois River to the second-largest, and he’d like to continue on that path.
Spears believes tourism is vital to the Tahlequah area. He says if the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission would eliminate a zoning issue along the river, both the agency and his own business would reap the benefits.
Spears recently asked the OSRC to consider doing away with recreational floating zones. Commercial flotation device licenses are granted to operators in each area for a total of 3,900 licenses.
Last-place swine earns top sale bid
Local businessmen drew regional attention through a record-setting bid of $10,000 at the Cherokee County Spring Livestock Show last Saturday, but now they say they don’t want the recognition.
The annual show, which ends with a premium sale featuring top winners, is a fundraiser for local FFA and 4-H participants. Proceeds help cover the animals’ expenses or are used for future projects or showings. Community members, organizations and businesses bid on the livestock, but it is not a purchase. The children showing get to keep their animals.
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