October 10, 2017
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation will install storm shelters in its Head Start campuses after recently receiving an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The above-ground storm shelters will protect nearly 300 toddlers, preschoolers and staff at seven Head Start sites from severe weather and will be used as multipurpose facilities at the centers, as well. An internal notification system for staff is also being implemented during the project.
“Ensuring our most valuable resource, our children, are able to stay safe and keep sheltered during a life-threatening storm gives us all a better peace of mind,” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “Providing these additional levels of protection is a responsibility we take very seriously at Cherokee Nation. In northeast Oklahoma, dangerous weather is an inevitability we must prepare for, and these storm shelters will enable the tribe to offer Cherokee families a better sense of security when it comes to their kids.”
Cherokee Nation is one of 77 tribes in the U.S. to receive a portion of the $55.2 million awarded by HUD on Sept. 14. The Indian Community Development Block Grants are meant to improve housing conditions and community amenities and to stimulate economic development across Indian Country.
Shelters built at the seven Head Start campuses will be for the use of students, teachers, parents or visitors who are on-site during an emergency and will not be open for general community use.
“This grant is providing a great opportunity to keep our students out of harm’s way during severe weather,” Deputy Executive Director of Education Services Ron Etheridge said. “I can think of no better investment than in the safety of our children and the staff charged with teaching those students on a daily basis.”
Cherokee Nation’s Head Start program worked with the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service and Cherokee Nation Emergency Management to apply for the grant. Planning for the project is underway, and installation must be complete within 24 months.
Head Start campuses that will receive storm shelters are as follows:
• The Children’s Village in Tahlequah, Cherokee County
• The Cherry Tree campus in Stilwell, Adair County
• The Redbird campus in Stilwell, Adair County
• The Jay campus, Delaware County
• The Kenwood campus, Delaware County
• The Wauhillau campus in Nowata, Nowata County
• The Pryor campus, Mayes County