TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation recently donated nearly $9,000 to mental health and substance abuse support programs as well as food pantry services in Rogers County.

The tribe contributed nearly $8,000 to the Rogers County District Attorney’s office and $700 to Light of Hope when Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Tribal Councilor Keith Austin visited the groups on Friday, September 11.

“The Cherokee Nation has long been a supporter of organizations in northeastern Oklahoma and around the state that provide our tribal citizens and all community citizens with valuable resources,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Mental health awareness programs as well as food security programs are changing the lives of our people, and I commend the work these great organizations do every single day in and around the Cherokee Nation.”

The contributions to the agencies were provided through the tribe’s annual donations and charitable contribution funds, which are set aside to assist advocacy groups, food pantries, shelters, churches and other organizations.

“I am thankful for our partnership on this project,” said District 14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin. “We all must work together to help connect students who need support with mental health and substance abuse issues.”

The Rogers County District Attorney’s office in partnership with the Rogers County Sheriff’s office and the nonprofit organization Light of Hope created a program to bring awareness to issues surrounding mental health and sexual abuse in youth. The donation from Cherokee Nation will be used to create an education program that will open up conversation in families, resulting in better awareness and knowledge of the long-term impact that untreated sexual abuse can have on mental health.

“I really appreciate the cooperation in getting this public education piece out on such an important issue and we just really appreciate the tribe working with us to do that,” said Rogers County District Attorney Matt Ballard. “It’s important to the community, it’s important to everyone that we deal with these issues and the tribe’s assistance with this is very appreciated.”

In addition to being a support center for families and individuals who are facing the struggle of addiction and life difficulties, Light of Hope also provides food assistance through their community food bank. As the first step in the line of distribution, Light of Hope distributes food boxes each week to churches and organizations so that they can distribute to families and individuals in need. Light of Hope will use the funding for their food pantry to purchase a pallet jack.

“We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with Cherokee Nation. We are so grateful that we can work alongside each other, to build a better community together,” said Light of Hope founder and CEO Layla Freeman. “We love how Cherokee Nation understands the immediate needs, and always helps to meet those needs as we bring them to their attention. Collaboration is the key, and Cherokee Nation is a great collaborative partner. We are so grateful for Keith Austin and Chief Hoskin, and the impact they are having in our community.”

Chief Hoskin and Tribal Councilor Austin also visited the Boys & Girls Club of Chelsea to present a proclamation declaring September 11, 2020 Chelsea Boys & Girls Club Day in the Cherokee Nation. They also presented a $1,000 donation to the club for their community leadership and service through the COVID-19 pandemic, which included distributing about 12,000 meals to those in need in Chelsea and Vinita.