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Student officers at Canadian Valley Technology Center’s Dr. Earl Cowan Campus are not content to just hold an office.
The five students elected to offices in Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) this school year are collecting items needed at Bethany Children’s Center.
“There is no requirement for community involvement (by HOSA officers), so we decided to do something on our own to help kids,” said Chance Hernandez, a Yukon High School junior who is enrolled in Biomedical Sciences at CV Tech.
The Children’s Center provides long-term rehabilitative care to children with complex medical needs and rehab for children in short-term rehab who have experienced brain or spinal cord injuries.
Through March 7, the Cowan Campus officers are collecting items that range from non-nylon bristle hairbrushes to youth and adult socks.
“We’re not collecting money,” Hernandez said. “These children need specific things, and we’re going to do our best to collect as many of them as we can.”
Collection tubs have been placed inside the front entrance of the campus, 1701 S. Czech Hall Road (2 miles south of Interstate 40 on Czech Hall Road). Name brand items are requested, because children are used to them, Hernandez said.
Other items requested include:
- Diapers (Pampers or Huggies only)
- Pampers sensitive baby wipes
- Burt’s Bees lip balm
- Selsun Blue shampoo
- Arm & Hammer deodorant
- Neosporin Plus
- Jersey cotton clothing (4T-adult small)
- Pants with elastic waistbands
- Pull-over shirts, short and long-sleeve (boys and girls)
- Rubber-soled shoes or sneakers
- Backpacks (toddler and teen sizes)
- CDs (pop, instrumental, lullabies or kid’s music)
- Audio books on CD (toddler through teen)
- Batteries (AA, C, D, 9V)
- Flash/zip drives
- White washcloths and bath towels
- Black foam board
- Postage stamps
By Traci Chapman
United Way of Canadian County smashed all records for fundraising in 2013, making the campaign contributions the largest in the history of the organization.
“And not by a little bit,” county director Ashleigh Arnall.
Campaign Chair Dana Hall announced at the organization’s celebration luncheon contributions totaled $170,851 – far surpassing the $153,000 goal set last year. Funds raised will benefit social services offered to residents across Canadian County through United Way partner agencies.
United Way of Canadian County Board President Eric Anderson thanked and recognized numerous donors, companies, organizations, volunteers, and advocates for their support during the 2013 annual campaign, which is conducted primarily between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
United Way of Canadian County allocates donated funds to programs administered by 17 local partner agencies, Arnall said. The entities agree to adhere to “higher standards of accountability” than other organizations and participate in an annual review process, she said.
“Through this partnership, United Way serves thousands of Canadian County residents each year,” Arnall said.
United Way of Canadian County maintains an administrative agreement with United Way of Central Oklahoma to provide accounting, fundraising, marketing and other services to United Way of Canadian County in order to keep overhead expenses at a minimum, Arnall said.
For more information, visit www.unitedwayokc.org or www.unitedwaycanadiancounty.org or contact Arnall at 405-523-3580.
By Traci Chapman
A month later but not any less sweet, say the organizers of Mustang Library’s annual Chocolate Festival.
Set for Friday, March 7, the festival will feature tastings and chocolate treats for people to purchase for themselves or as gifts. There is still time for anyone wishing to participate in the festival as a vendor to get on board, said Nancy Keiser, Chocolate Festival event chair. Because of inclement weather, this year’s festival is being held a month later than its traditional early February scheduling.
“Businesses, civic groups and individuals who are interested in having a table at the festival should contact me as soon as possible,” Keiser said. “It is a fun community event that benefits the Mustang Public Library.”
Tables are provided at no charge, and Friends of the Mustang Library will provide tablecloths, Keiser said. The festival will be held in Town Center’s newly expanded banquet hall.
In addition to chocolate tastings and gifts, those participating will vie for awards, and a silent auction will be held to benefit the library.
“Awards will be given for Most Unique Chocolate, Best Tasting Chocolate and Best Decorated Table,” Keiser said. “Winners will be chosen by popular vote and announced before the end of the evening.”
It is not too late to make a donation to the silent auction. To do so contact Tawni Phelan at , Keiser said.
“The silent auction will have all kinds of great prizes, such as limousine rides, hotel packages and more,” she said.
Proceeds from the festival will be used to purchase equipment and hire instructors for the library’s computer training lab, a part of the newly constructed education room, made possible by a recent bond election. Library computer classes are always free to the public, Keiser said.
“Over the years, the Friends have purchased public computer workstations, laptops for the computer training lab, software and books for the library,” Keiser said. “The community can come and enjoy a wonderful chocolate festival and support free, educational programming at the Mustang Public Library.”
The festival will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 7. Keiser said in years past, $8 would purchase six treats; this year, $8 will pay for eight treats. Anyone wishing to use a credit or debit card in the silent auction or to buy tickets may do so, she said.
For more information about the festival, contact Keiser at 376-6071 or via email at .
By Traci Chapman
New Willowood at Mustang executive director Willie Ferguson knows first-hand what it is like to watch a parent age and need help beyond a single caregiver’s abilities.
Ferguson had reached a point where they needed more help than what she and her siblings could provide, she said. Looking for information, she found more questions than answers as she tried to help her parents.
“I was ill-equipped in knowing what to do,” Ferguson said. “So began the search – after visiting many homes and shedding many tears, I’d convinced myself I couldn’t leave my loved ones in the institution-like settings I’d visited.”
While investigating her options, she found a place calling itself a “senior living residence.” Soon, Ferguson’s parents had a private apartments in a home – not an institution – and they had round-the-clock care, while not feeling they were in a nursing home.
While that ended Ferguson’s search, it was by no means the end of her journey. A recent retiree, Ferguson began volunteering at her parents’ residence. She would serve meals, call Bingo, give hugs – and she said it changed her.
“At the end of the day I realized I was was more fulfilled emotionally from the time she spent with the seniors than I’d been during the 30 years I worked in the corporate environment,” she said.
When the center director took another position, she convinced Ferguson to take the position. She finally agreed, and she said her life changed forever – for the better.
Ferguson said she has learned a lot working with seniors.
“Pain is real, even when you can’t see it,” she said. “Our bodies fail us. Our minds fail us. Behind every blank stare is a story wanting to be told. Behind every retold story is a cherished memory. Hugs are more important than bank accounts. Hugs are priceless. Experience is etched in the wrinkles at the corners of an eye. Experience can be forgotten… the list is endless.”
Residents come to assisted living, leaving behind the life they’ve always known, Ferguson said.
“It’s hard for the resident’s to give up the life they once had and move into a house full of strangers….so it’s up to us to make them feel special,” she said. “People move into assisted living because they need something–even if it’s just companionship because they’re lonely.”
The change can be difficult for residents and their families alike, although sometimes the move is the best thing for people who have found themselves alone and isolated in their own homes, the director said.
“Family members will often tell us that mom or dad is very reclusive and will not participate in activities – After a few weeks they call because mom is never in her room,” she said. “Once they get around people their age on a daily basis, they blossom again.”
Always remembering her own parents, Ferguson said her philosophy is to make each person’s “their left years, their best years,” something she shares with her staff, as well as a work ethic that means everyone is a team player and no job is below anyone.
“You’ll find her assisting with all aspects of the resident’s activities of daily living, whether it be the task of doing laundry, serving meals, or just taking the time to stop in and visit with a resident who is feeling under the weather,” marketing director Dana Hall said of her new boss.
Now in her 12th year caring for seniors, Ferguson has worked to continue her education and takes being an advocate seriously, she said. She attended the Oklahoma Aging Advocacy Leadership Academy, a 10 month program sponsored by the Aging Services Division of Oklahoma State Department of Health and has a certificate of Gerontology.
Hall said the residents at Willowood say they feel lucky to have her – Ferguson said feels blessed to have them.
“I never planned to take on a second career, it just happened when I needed the care for my parents,” Ferguson said. “Now I can’t see my life without the elderly in it. I now feel I have a sense of purpose.”
Lighthouse Baptist Church on March 9 will celebrate its annual “Big Day” service, featuring special music and dinner.
The church was started by Pastor Rick Carter Sr. in 2001, with the first service held Sept. 9, 2001, in a storefront on state Highway 152. At first called Tabernacle Baptist Church, 10 people attended that first service. The name was later changed to Lighthouse Baptist to avoid confusion with Faith Tabernacle.
Three years later, the congregation had outgrown the storefront and the church purchased land at its current location at 516 West Park Place Drive. Groundbreaking took place in April 2004, with church members writing Bible verses on the red iron outer walls, and each cross beam also displays Scripture. Big Day celebrates the first service held in the new location on March 6, 2005.
Sunday school will begin at 10 a.m., with worship service starting at 11 a.m. The celebration is open to the public.
For more information, call the church at 376-6522 or see its website at.
By Traci Chapman
A new playground at Youth and Family Services’ shelter is a step closer after area children leant their voices and ideas to the project.
Community members braved the cold last week to take part in the design session, which will result in an April 12 construction of equipment to replace the playground destroyed by last year’s May 31 tornado, YFS executive director Dee Blose said. It was through residents’ generosity, as well as a partnership with an Oklahoma energy company and KaBOOM!, that allowed the project to move forward, she said.
“We’ve been so blessed with everyone’s generosity and help,” Blose said. “We’ve been overwhelmed at the support we’ve received.”
Devon Energy worked with KaBOOM!, a national non-profit agency dedicated to helping children have access to activities that make their lives better, Blose said. Representatives from the organization assessed hard-hit areas throughout Oklahoma after the May 31 storm and selected YFS as a candidate for assistance. KaBOOM! Then partnered with Devon, which had pledged $2.5 million for tornado relief programs throughout the state.
“We will have more than 200 volunteers out here to construct the playground equipment this spring,” Blose said. “It’s an exciting undertaking.”
Along with KaBOOM! Organizers and YFS employees, Devon employees and other volunteers will gather April 12 to build the playground, Blose said.
Youth and Family Services works in Canadian, Blaine, Kingfisher and Oklahoma counties, Blose said. Of those areas, 55 percent of services are rendered to people in Canadian County, she said.
The 10 programs offered by the agency include the children and youth emergency shelter; foster care; transitional living services; youth and child homeless programs; community counseling; youth workforce investment programs; Smart Start; maternity services; Bee’s Knees, an art program for young adults with special needs; and The Spot, a meeting place for youth highlighting health and wellness in Watonga. Of Youth and Family Service’s roughly $2 million annual budget, the vast majority funds the emergency shelter and transitional/homeless programs – which comprise 23 percent and 29 percent of the agency’s total expenditures, respectively, Blose said.
While the shelter is only part of what YFS does, being able to move forward with something important to those children goes a long way toward healing after the storm, Blose said.
“When a child comes into the shelter it’s a traumatic experience for them, and it may seem small but being able to go outside, to play and to run, can be very therapeutic,” she said. “For the children to have been a part of designing this is very gratifying.”
“A playground is more than a playground – it helps these children get out and move, get exercise, make friends, have clarity,” she said. “This is much more than what it might seem on the surface, and we are so lucky to have this opportunity.”
To volunteer or learn more information, contact John Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org or (405) 262-6555.
By Traci Chapman
Lost pets in Mustang will have a better chance of making it home, thanks to the efforts of three local girls.
The girls – Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Boydston and BreeAnna Martin – are members of Girl Scout Troop 3107. After working on a pet tagging project last year – the Paw Pound Project – the girls told Mustang City Council members Tuesday they realized something had to be done for lost pets.
“There are only three working days to get your pet if it’s lost,” Boydston told council members. “How are you supposed to pick up your pet if you work full time?”
The girls first met with City Manager Tim Rooney, who then conferred with Mustang Police Chief Chuck Foley and Capt. Dennis Craig, who is instrumental in the city’s animal control efforts. Taking ideas from Lawrence, Boydson and Martin, a new city ordinance – Ordinance 1099 – was formulated.
Under the ordinance, the time allowed for owners to pick up lost pets increased from three to five days and animals must be held at least 60 days for possible adoption, rather than the 30-day time mandated by earlier city codes, Rooney said.
“Please note this will likely be the first of several changes,” the city manager said.
Council members unanimously voted to adopt the new ordinance in a 6-0 vote. Ward 6 Councilman Donal Mount was absent. Council members applauded the girls’ efforts and action to address an issue they had discovered.
“What a great opportunity to see the legislative process work,” Ward 1 Councilman Matt Taylor said.
“We strongly ask that people get involved,” Mayor Jay Adams said. “You set the example in a way most adults don’t.”
“Ninety percent of lost pets never make it back home,” Martin said.
Maybe in Mustang that number just went down, thanks to the work of three young girls. For more information, see Paw Pound’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pppmustangok.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang Police Chief Chuck Foley believes in the mission and the people who are a part of Special Olympics. On Feb. 15 he’s going to take the plunge to prove it.
That day, the chief – along with hundreds of others, many of them law enforcement officers and officials – will participate in the Polar Plunge. A major fundraising effort for Special Olympics, it is Foley’s second year to take part in the event, he said Tuesday.
“I was never able to take part in the Polar Plunge until last year,” the chief said. “It was a chilly experience, but there’s so much festivity going on, it’s just a great, great thing.”
Last year, Foley established his own record, as the oldest participant in the local plunge effort, he said. But while this might be new, Special Olympics has been part of a police career spanning more than 35 years, the chief said.
“I’ve always had employees who were involved in Special Olympics, and I encouraged them, but then they basically got me involved,” he said.
Law enforcement has a unique role in Special Olympics, Foley said. Members carry the torch and participate in a myriad of events, he said. In Oklahoma, members of law enforcement run, ride bikes and use other means of transportation to carry the torch from the Oklahoma state Capitol to Stillwater, where the summer games are held.
Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma both take their turns to be part of the Special Olympics efforts as well, the chief said.
“It’s actually an international process,” Foley said. “In Oklahoma, the summer games are held on the OSU campus, while winter games take place at OU.”
This year’s polar plunge, one of several plunge events held across the state, will take place at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 15 at Whitewater Bay, Foley said. The chief is hoping to increase the number of donations he has collected before the event. With a goal of $1,000, he now has $690. Foley has collected more than $1,465 in the last year, according to his plunge page.
“We have several Special Olympians in Canadian County and particularly in the Mustang School District,” he said. “I want to do this for them, to help raise money and also to support them in their efforts.”
To learn more or to donate to the chief’s efforts, go to http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/chuck-foley/oklahomacitypolarplunge20141 or www.sook.org.
By Traci Chapman
“I have been incredibly lucky, it’s been a blessing to work with these guys, with this family,” says Dylan Ross.
Those words marked the end of a 25-year career with Mustang Fire Department. Ross, who loved his job and his fellow firefighters, hated being in the spotlight, even as he was celebrated upon his retirement, Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman said.
“Dylan’s been a huge asset to this department for a long time,” the chief said. “He’s a hard act to follow.
“We basically had to trick him to get him to be recognized as he really deserves,” Hickman said.
The man selected to take on that task was Andy Willrath, the department’s newest captain. Five firefighters were eligible to test for the captain’s position, and three went through the process, Hickman said. Willrath earned the promotion after a selection process that included testing, skill assessments and even a simulated media briefing.
“It’s an exciting time, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
The “changing of the guard” was official last week, as Ross’ fellow firefighters said goodbye to their longtime colleague and Willrath was officially pinned in his new position. It was a time for everyone to look ahead – and back – at how the department has changed over the years, Hickman said.
“We’ve certainly grown and we’ve seen a lot of changes,” he said.
Willrath joined the department in 1995 as a volunteer while working at United Parcel Service. He went full time in 2003 and was made lieutenant in 2009. Since becoming a Mustang firefighter, Willrath has become well-known in the community as one of the leaders in efforts like Santa’s Toy Shoppe, as well as the department’s school fire safety program, among others.
“Andy was the one who came out on top,” the chief said. “I have the fullest confidence that he’ll do us a good job.”
“No one could love or appreciate a job more,” Willrath said. “I’m the luckiest guy I know.”
Mustang’s Friends of the Library annual Chocolate Festival has been postponed until March 7 because of impending bad weather this week, library director Desiree Webber said Monday.