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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THS jazz band gets up early to hone performance skills
It means getting up an hour earlier, and it doesn’t count as a class, but the jazz band at Tahlequah High School enjoys the dedication of a group of enthusiastic students.
The THS Jazz Band practices every day at 7 a.m., an hour before the start of classes. It numbers 17, and is led by Director Orien Landis.
“They have to do this before school and they get no class credit, but we have a full band,” Landis said. “They are really excited about this.”
Easter traditions date back centuries
Some Christians may lament a partial shift of focus, but a Christian holy day - perhaps the most holy of all – is this Sunday, and it will be marked with celebrations all around the world.
The Christian holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. For centuries, the observant have fasted, reflected or done penance in the weeks leading to the holiday. But today, many also associate the holiday with the Easter bunny, candy, and kites. In 2013, Americans spent $2.1 billion on Easter candy.
Some oppose minimum wage hike; others decry strong-arming by state
President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate recently announced a push to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, to $10.10. On the heels of the announcement, an initiative petition was introduced in Oklahoma City to raise the minimum wage to the suggested $10.10. If it gained 80,000 signatures, it would be put to a vote of the people.
This legislative session, a bill passed prohibiting municipalities from setting a minimum was or vacation and sick-day requirements. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law earlier this week.
Phone scam takes $500 from couple
Authorities are warning Cherokee County residents to watch for a costly phone scam that recently targeted a local couple and ended in their loss of $500.
According to sheriff’s deputies, a couple contacted authorities after losing $500 to the scam. The couple received a phone call from a man who identified himself only as “Mr. Green.” He told the couple they had won $1.5 million through Publisher’s Clearing House, but to collect the money, the couple would have to purchase a $500 money card to cover various fees.
Missing local teen found dead
The body of a missing 17-year-old boy was found in southern Cherokee County on Thursday, sheriff’s investigators said.
Brikk Pritchett was reported missing earlier this month after disappearing on March 30, a day before his 17th birthday.
Flight of honor
World War II veteran Charles Harra flew missions for the Army Air Corps, and if you ask him which flight was his most memorable, he’ll say it was his 35th mission.
Man charged after leading authorities on wild chase
Prosecutors have formally charged a man who allegedly led authorities on a wild high-speed pursuit across Cherokee County in late March.
Sex offender bonds out after failing to register
A Cherokee County man is out on bond after being arrested last week for failing to register as a sex offender.
Crews this week began to demolish an abandoned radiator shop at the corner of South Street and Guinn Avenue.
SlutWalk shines spotlight on crime
“Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape; slut, slut, ho, ho, yes means yes and no means no!”
This was the battle cry across the campus of Northeastern State University, as the student branch of the American Association of University Women held its third annual SlutWalk Wednesday.
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