Cherokee Nation donates to Washington County food pantry, Bartlesville Indian Education Program

April 7, 2017

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation donated funds to an Ochelata food pantry and a Bartlesville Public Schools Indian Education Program during visits by Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Tribal Councilor Dick Lay Thursday.

The Ochelata United Methodist Community Outreach Association provides fresh produce to families every Wednesday and operates a daily food pantry. The group received $10,000 to help construct a distribution room.

“The Ochelata United Methodist Community Outreach Association serves thousands of people every year and has a large outreach in Washington County,” Lay said. “They’ve worked out of a little room in the church for years and will be able to do more for the community with a larger facility for the food pantry. They are providing a great service for Native and non-Native families who need the assistance.”

Ochelata is a community of about 400 residents 15 miles south of Bartlesville in Washington County.

A concrete foundation for the new food pantry room has been poured, and work on the structure is expected to begin soon. The facility will add more than 900 square feet for the outreach program.

Barbara Straw, a church member and leader of the outreach association, said nearly 7,000 people received fresh produce and other food items in 2016. Last month alone, more than 550 people were helped.

“It does our hearts good when people say, ‘If I couldn’t have this produce or this food today, I wouldn’t be able to pay my utility bill,’” Straw said. “Probably around 80 percent of the people who receive produce or other food are elderly or single mothers. It does you good to see little kids come in after school with a grandmother or mom and their eyes just light up if you have apples and oranges. We are so appreciative of the Cherokee Nation and Councilor Lay for allowing us to help more people in our community with this addition.”

At Madison Middle School in Bartlesville, the school’s Indian Education Program, Operation Eagle, received a $1,500 donation to help with its annual April powwow.

“Operation Eagle provides students with cultural classes and field trip opportunities, but also offers tutoring services. We have a really enthusiastic parent committee, and this donation will be used for our 39th annual Operation Eagle powwow,” said Jessie Haase, president of Operation Eagle’s parent committee. “This combined with the funds we raise throughout the year will help us take care of everything we need.”

The tribe donated the money to the Washington Country groups from its special projects fund.

“Utilizing special projects funds gives the tribe the opportunity to make greater impact on communities through partnerships with organizations and schools,” Hoskin said. “I commend Councilor Lay for identifying such great partners and worthwhile causes for the tribe to dedicate its resources towards.”

Projects funded through the special projects fund are selected by Tribal Council and Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s office and allow the tribe to partner with communities and organizations on projects that benefit both Cherokee Nation citizens and non-Cherokees alike.