A Group of Concerned Citizens meets with BKL, Inc. and County Commissioner Bob Jackson to discuss issues surrounding study of courthouse renovation or new construction

Bill Knowles of BKL, Inc. and Carol Crews

Top Photo: Retired Architect Frank Lorenzo with District One County Commissioner Bob Jackson
Middle Photo: Bill Knowles of BKL, Inc. and Carol Crews
Bottom Photo: Kim Reeve of BKL, Inc., Frederick Ford Drummond and Kathy Swan

Photos and Story by Roseanne Sutton

Recently, a group of concerned citizens met at the Pawhuska Library with BKL, Inc., the company that completed the courthouse feasibility study, in order to get a better understanding of the issues in anticipation of the public hearing set for 6 p.m. on April 26 at the Osage County Fairgrounds Ag Building.

The citizens attending the meeting, who did not represent any organization in an official capacity, included some who were members of the Osage County Historical Society. In attendance were: Hank Benson, Carol Crews, David Crews, Lu King, Kathy Swan, Frederick Ford Drummond, Frank Lorenzo, Roger Lloyd, Terry Loftis, Lloyd Smith, Nancy Woodyard and Shirley Roberts.

County Commissioner Bob Jackson attended the meeting as did representatives from BKL, Inc.: AIA and President Kim Reeve and Bill Knowles, AIA, NCARB, and Preservation Consultant Cathy Ambler, Ph.D., invited by BKL, Inc.

Bill Knowles and Kim Reeve both have ownership interests in BKL, Inc., a civil engineering and architectural firm founded in 1946, which the Osage County Commissioners had employed to complete a study regarding the feasibility of either renovation of the courthouse or construction of a new one. BKL, Inc. has an impressive record of having done courthouse renovation plans and courthouse construction plans in this region. For more information about their work, visit their website at http://www.BKLINC.com.

At the meeting, the tone of citizens was respectful but concerned as each person had an opportunity to speak with BKL, Inc. representatives and Commissioner Jackson. Once everyone had been heard and BKL, Inc. had responded, it became clear that these citizens, who supported the idea of preserving the courthouse, felt troubled that the County Commissioners had not instructed BKL, Inc. to do the feasibility study from the perspective of the District Ten Courthouse being preserved — an historical structure which attracts tourism to Pawhuska.

Situated on the highest hill, the courthouse, constructed in 1914 for $80,000, can be seen for miles around and is beautifully constructed – reminiscent of an earlier time in Pawhuska.

County Commissioner Bob Jackson pointed out that some county employees and Osage County residents who come to Pawhuska to do various kinds of county business, taxpaying, visiting the zoning and planning department or the district attorney’s office, find it more convenient to go to one centralized location. Out-of-towners come to Pawhuska and have a hard time navigating around town to find out where county offices are located, Jackson said.

However, the concerned citizens at the meeting, challenged the premise that all of the offices needed to be in one location. Lu King brought up the problem of parking on the hill if the courthouse were renovated or rebuilt. The new construction would decrease what is already limited parking. King and others wanted a study which would evaluate the idea of having the county offices in a downtown location, such as the Whiting Building along Kihekah Ave. “There’s a huge parking lot behind it,” King added.

“Let’s take a look at some of these things that can help preserve the downtown and meet the needs of the community offices,” said Frederick Ford Drummond.

“The Whiting Building could be renovated to be lovely and meet the needs of the county office and preserve the historic character of the downtown community,” said Lu King.

County Commissioner Bob Jackson who had voiced concerns about abandoning the downtown at public county commissioner meetings previously, appeared to see both sides of the argument. However, Jackson said that security was a concern in determining the best solution.

Kim Reeve said, “Security is one reason to separate the public from the criminals, to separate the traffic patterns.” He told of judges expressing the awkwardness of having to share restroom facilities with the public which came before them in court. Summing up the dilemma Reeve said, “Courthouses are space inefficient.”

Frank Lorenzo, a retired architect, asked, “The planning commission has a strong connection to the assessor. Could those be moved downtown?” Lorenzo added, “City planning for growth needs to be considered.”

BKL, Inc. representative Bill Knowles said that his company was well acquainted with, and sensitive to the concept of architectural historic preservation. However, BKL, Inc. had not been instructed to focus on this in the feasibility study, he said. After the meeting adjourned, Knowles told Pawhuska Community News, that he had begun the feasibility study process with County Commissioner Clarence Brantley, who had told Knowles he would personally speak to the Osage County Historical Society. However, Brantley became ill and died unexpectedly. As a result, Brantley’s intentions could not be carried out.

Instead, the study evolved into a very analytical approach to the most efficient method of bringing all of the Osage County offices under one roof.

The challenges of bringing the courthouse up to current building codes, while making room for the departments currently scattered in offices on Kihekah Ave., were emphasized by Bill Knowles in public meetings with the county commissioners in the last quarter of 2010.

Reeve introduced Dr. Cathy Ambler. “She’s very valuable to us. She has a very strong body of knowledge. We would use her consulting services in this instance. We didn’t discuss this with her because we didn’t want to spend money unless it was going to happen,” Reeve said.

Overall, the meeting was an opportunity to examine the validity of the premise that all of the county offices should be either put under one roof or in a renovated courthouse/annex.

Instead, the citizens at the meeting wanted to consider a third option – updating the courthouse and moving other related county offices to a renovated location downtown.

“The county commissioners need to give the architects the latitude to really look at it and come back with what really makes sense,” said Kathy Swan.

With the feasibility study complete and BKL, Inc. already paid in full, this raised another question, voiced by Terry Loftis. If a third option were considered, who would pay for it? “You’re not doing this out of the kindness of your heart. What will this cost?” Loftis inquired of BKL, Inc.

Reeve responded, “We don’t make money on every project … We are under contract … We set a dollar amount because clients need to be committed to it – otherwise they’re not invested in the project.
“We’re committed, although maybe not contractually, to talk to groups … Obviously, it’s in our best interest long term …

“We have some responsibility long-term because we did not educate the owners to other possibilities … and we didn’t address the historic preservation …

“Maybe we have not done all the professional services we should have.”

Pawhuska, a town originally build with oil money, which is the home of the Osage Nation, is currently in the process of redefining itself.

The Osage Principal Chief John Red Eagle elected in 2010 has publicly, and repeatedly, expressed his commitment to partner with the city of Pawhuska on projects to showcase Pawhuska’s historical significance.

He has already demonstrated this commitment by partnering with the city in the Pawhuska Business Center project, the city’s splash pad for children, and in the joint application between the city and the Osage Nation for an Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) grant application. If awarded, the ODOT grant would facilitate the first phase of renovation of downtown Pawhuska for pocket parks and/or plazas containing bronze statues of people such as: Osage Chief Pawhuska and Actor Ben Johnson.

Local leadership in Pawhuska and the Osage Nation’s Principal Chief have expressed their desire to preserve the uniqueness of Pawhuska while improving its infrastructure.

With the issues now in focus, the stage is set for Tuesday night’s meeting to really discuss these issues and, rather than pointing fingers, commit to finding the answers.

Plan to have your voice heard by attending the meeting at the Ag Building of the Osage County Fairgrounds on April 26 at 6 p.m.

Recipe for Chocolate Cheese Cupcakes served by Janice Cranor, Osage County OSU Extension Educator Family & Consumer Sciences at the April seminar

Chocolate Cheese Cupcakes

This tasty recipe was provided to Janice Cranor over 30 years ago by Betty Kloeckler of Checotah, Okla.

Makes 18 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


1 & ½ C. flour

1 C. sugar

¼ C. cocoa

1 tsp. soda

¼ tsp. salt

Mix all dry ingredients above & add wet ingredients below and beat until smooth.

1 C. water

4 T. vegetable oil

1 T. vinegar

1 tsp. vanilla

Fill muffin tins ½ full. Set aside and mix cream cheese mixture.

1-8 oz. package cream cheese (softened)

1/3 C. sugar

1 egg

6 oz. package chocolate chips

Cream together and place 1 T. on top of chocolate batter in muffin tins. Optional-sprinkle finely chopped nuts on top.

Bake for 25 minutes in 350 degree oven or until the top springs back when touched.

Served at Extension Café-Salsa Savvy-April 2011

Janice M. Cranor, OSU Extension Educator
Family & Consumer Sciences, Osage County


Ruby Duke speaks in Pawhuska to GFWC – Heeko Club of ranch life in western Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression

Ruby Duke, seated, surrounded by her family. (L-R) Kelly Duke’s son/Ruby’s grandson Kasey Duke, Ruby’s son-in-law Jim Kerwin and daughter Gayle Kerwin, Ruby’s son Kelly Duke and daughter-in-law Kathy Duke.

By Roseanne Sutton

Ruby Duke, born Aug. 12, 1916 in Shattuck, Oklahoma , was the guest speaker at the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Heeko Chapter meeting on April 11. Ruby Duke has been a very active volunteer in Pawhuska since she and her late husband purchased a ranch and moved to the area in 1952.
However, her speech to the Heeko ladies focused on her experiences as a newlywed rancher’s wife during the Great Depression and the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.
Seated at the front of the room with over 40 guests and members of Duke’s family, she recounted stories of her life.
“I’ve lived a varied life — mountains and valleys. I’ve been told that if you don’t have the valleys, you don’t appreciate the mountains.”
Ruby said that the lessons she had learned during this period had stayed with her.
Her father had an automotive garage business in Shattuck, Okla. “1929 is when I first noticed the depression. In those days people came to have their car batteries recharged, and Daddy lost the garage. There were a lot of sacrifices made.”
Ruby described her life: “In 1935 everyone was poor. We were poor but we didn’t know it. We were happy.
“Life was much more simple. Even though you were poor, you shared with those who had less than you … The Santa Fe Railroad ran through our town. We fed many homeless men who were riding the rails looking for work. They were daddies riding from town-to-town looking for work,” Ruby said.
“Mom baked homemade bread twice a week. We shared what we had. My mom said, ‘We can’t afford to give both jelly and butter – you get one or the other.’ If we had milk, they got that too.
“They rode under the box cars. It was dangerous,” she added.
“When the class of ’35 graduated, we were too poor to get a class picture. No class rings – our families were too poor to buy them, but no one whined,” Ruby explained.
After graduation, college was not affordable, so Ruby became the society editor for the Ellis County News, working Wednesday through Friday. “I got $1 a day. We would go to press late Friday and if I stayed to hand-fold the newspapers, I got an extra dollar.”
“My best source of information was an old dentist, whose office was on the second floor above the drug store,” she said. “Dr. Fulton was the most gossipy person I knew.”
At this time, the dust had already begun to blow,” Ruby said. On Saturdays, Ruby also cleaned house for her boss and his wife, Gladys. “Gladys always had smothered steak. We didn’t have that much steak at our house,” she said with a chuckle. As time went on, Gladys reduced Ruby’s cleaning duties a bit because the daily dust made her efforts moot and Gladys said no one would notice.
Soon, a young man came on the scene. “There was a misplaced Texas cowboy in Oklahoma who bought a ranch northwest of Shattuck — Kay Duke. We started dating. He had a car, could take me to the movies, buy me a steak dinner once in a while and he loved to dance,” she said. They spent many an evening together at local dance spots.
“He had no plan of getting married, and I didn’t either, but we sort of grew on one another.” The next thing she knew, she married Kay Duke and moved out to the ranch.
“There was no electricity, no running water, no piped-in gas. You had to be young, dumb and happy and in love, but I was happy – extremely happy,” she said smiling as she thought of those days.
“As a pioneer ranch woman, we had some funny happenings,” Ruby said.
“Ranching is hard work. You hit the floor at five o’clock and you’re set for the day – all day.
“My first wash day, I looked like I could bite a tin-penny nail in two and I felt the same,” she said.
“There was a stick that moved the dash to make the wash go. Then you had a boiler – and you boiled your whites a while,” Ruby explained with a look of exasperation.
When the Oklahoma Dust Bowl began in earnest, everything changed. They went into a survival mode. Ruby took the down the curtains and bed spreads. She just put sheets on their bed because the dust made it impossible to keep them clean. She covered the furniture with sheets to protect it.
Fortunately, this was before the couple had their four children.
Each night the dust blew. The next morning there was a dirty film over everything it reached. “This was like powder. You couldn’t wipe it off. You had to wash it off. That didn’t start you for a happy day,” Ruby said. Before she could make breakfast, the kitchen floors and cabinets had to be scrubbed with soap and water daily, she explained.
Her husband, wearing a bandana around his nose to block the dust, would head to the barn to tend the livestock. “Before he got to the barn, he would just be a shadowy figure,” Ruby explained.
She described Black Sunday, April 14, 1935, when black blizzards of dust rolled across Oklahoma. “We were at home and Kay went out on the porch and he called to me. All you could see was rolling thumping coming toward you. We went back into the house. It was so black, you couldn’t see your hand in front of you. We stood in the living room with our arms around each other. I was crying and Kay was trembling. It rolled over us and went on. Gradually, the light returned.
“In Beaver [Oklahoma], the sand would blow over the fences and you could walk right over the fence in the corners.”
Of the experience, Ruby said, “I guess it must have fortified me, because here I am!”
After the Dust Bowl days, “Kay had wanted to enlarge his ranching business and go where there was better grassland. We were sitting on the porch one evening and looking out across the landscape and it seemed the sage brush took on a silvery hue. There were two creeks and lots of trees in the background and further to the south there was a high flat hill where it was rumored that in the early Indian days, when the Indians roamed, that was a lookout for them. I said to Kay, ‘Isn’t that the most beautiful scenery?’
Kay Duke responded, ‘Ruby, cattle can’t eat scenery.’
“This in turn caused me to do some serious thinking. We decided to tour all of Oklahoma. We stopped in many places and talked to real estate people,” Ruby Duke said.
“When we came to Pawhuska, there were red vinyl curtains blowing out of a window on Kihekah. My husband said, ‘Should we stop here?’ Nope, I said, let’s go on,” Ruby Duke said.
They went on to visit Ponca City that day, but nonetheless ended up purchasing a ranch near Pawhuska soon thereafter.
“We moved to Pawhuska in 1952 and we were happy and never looked back,” she said. “Our cattle felt like they had found heaven and we did too. That was good ole’ bluestem grass.”
She and Kay had four children – three sons and a daughter. The youngest son, Ricky, was born after the move to Pawhuska. Kay Duke died in December 1975 and their son, Ricky, graduated from Pawhuska High School the following year.
At the time, they were living at 403 E. 7th Street in Pawhuska.
“When Ricky left to go to college I didn’t cry and didn’t show much emotion until after he drove away. For the first time in my life, I realized I was all alone. I went back to the house and threw a ring-tail fit. If you’d seen me, you’d have thought I was crazy – and maybe I was,” she said.
However, soon thereafter, she threw herself into GFWC – Heeko and volunteerism. “I became involved,” Ruby said.
As a GFWC – Heeko Club member, Ruby chaired or participated in many projects. Here are a few highlights as described by Eileen Monger, who introduced Ruby at the meeting.
Ruby spearheaded efforts to clean up Pawhuska, meeting with the city manager seven times in 2003 to discuss the need to clean up the town. As a result, a code enforcement officer was hired to put teeth in the project.
Ruby also wrote to absentee property owners in Pawhuska’s historic district and organized a committee to decorate empty businesses on Kihekah Avenue.
She was instrumental in the renovation of the Blacksmith House, which now serves as the offices for the Chamber of Commerce. She chaired a two-year community improvement committee, enlisting the help of the city manager, chamber of commerce and the newspaper. “We worked together,” she said.
Ruby was given the “Outstanding Volunteer Award” in 2002 for her many efforts.
In addition, she has served in several capacities for the GFWC – Heeko Club, including as its president in 1957-58.
As a leader in GFWC – Heeko, Ruby was always full of fun. She organized, what became the first of many, “style shows” for the club and has participated in many skits.
“Ruby has always been our mentor,” said Eileen Monger. “Today we wore our hats for Ruby Duke Day.”
Of her warm introduction, Duke said, “No wonder I’m so tired!”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Heeko member and Oklahoma GFWC President Joyce Ward thanked Ruby for her contributions over the years and gave her a gift of the first newly-released Oklahoma GFWC lapel pin.
These days Ruby, who will be 95 on Aug. 12, is still going strong. She lives in Norman, Okla., and spends time with her family.
Several family members accompanied her to the meeting including: son Kelly and his wife Kathy Duke of Bixby, Kelly’s son/Ruby’s grandson Kasey Duke – a youth minister in Gore, Okla., and daughter Gayle Kerwin and her husband Jim Kerwin of Norman.
Summing up her life experiences, Ruby said, “I’m so glad I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people along the way, and have been fortunate to participate in so many interesting activities with a wonderful family with me all the way.”

Plan to Attend the One-Day Ben Johnson Film Festival June 11 at the historic Constantine Theater in Pawhuska

By Roseanne Sutton

The Osage County Historical Museum’s Ben Johnson Film Festival will be held for one day only, June 11. Two family-friendly movies starring Ben Johnson will be shown at the historic Constantine Theater in Pawhuska.

“Chisum,” which will be shown at 2 p.m., with costars John Wayne and Forrest Tucker. “Chisum” is historical fiction loosely based on the Lincoln County War of 1878 in New Mexico territory, said Museum Manager Barbara Pease. Infamous characters as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid are depicted in the film, she added.

The evening film, “Bite the Bullet,” will begin at 7 p.m. In this film, Ben Johnson’s co-stars are: Gene Hackman, Candace Bergen and James Coburn, among others. This film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Sound Mixing and Best Music.

The Constantine Theater will open at 1 p.m. so that patrons may meet members of Ben Johnson’s family and view memorabilia on display.

Souvenirs and copies of the book “The Nicest Fella,” a biography about Johnson, will be available for purchase. The author, Richard D. Jensen, hopes to attend and be available to sign autographed copies of the book, which will be on sale for $35 each.

Concessions, such as freshly made popcorn, fountain sodas and candy, will be available at very reasonable prices.

Tickets for the two-film event, which include one free souvenir per ticket, are $15. Children 12 and under are free, when accompanied by a ticket-holding adult. The museum is asking patrons to purchase their tickets in advance, to facilitate planning.

A visit to the Constantine Theater is an event in itself. The opportunity to celebrate Pawhuska’s own Ben Johnson should not be missed.

This unique film festival will bring to the silver screen two classic movies and give patrons the opportunity meet the Johnson family, and celebrate one of Hollywood’s most talented actors.

For more information, call the OCHS Museum at 918-287-9119.

Agape’ Mission and its expanding role in feeding the needy in Bartlesville

“I want to replicate myself as much as I can. I want to teach people what I’ve done, because I can teach people to do this in their own city,” said Agape’ Mission Director Sherri Smith.


Five years ago, Agape’ Mission Director Sherri Smith, began the Food 4 Kids program to provide food on weekends for public school children in need. In March 2005, volunteers began assembling about 150 bags of food per week.

Over the years, that number has grown to 450 bags per week, serving these public schools located in Washington County: Wilson, Hoover, Mid High, Kane, Central Junior High, Jane Phillips, Oak Park, Caney Valley and Dewey.

They also provide bags of food for two public schools in Osage County: Osage Hills and Bowring.

In a recent interview, Smith shared how she became Director of the Agape’ Mission.

The Agape Mission, located at 309 S. Bucy in Bartlesville, had been operated by another organization. Smith was sorry when it closed. She had been a volunteer in Bartlesville for many years, and knew how needed it was.

Her involvement started with conversation she had with her pastor at Bartlesville First Assembly of God. “One Sunday afternoon, we took my pastor out to lunch … and I thought who better to ask than him. By the end of the conversation, it was agreed I’d give a presentation to the church board,” Smith said.

The church board agreed to open the Agape’ Mission again and put Smith in charge of it. She had been a commodities broker for the previous eight years. However, believing God had led her to this crossroads, she left her job and agreed to take on this new role.

“On Jan. 17, 2000, there was nothing but an old icemaker and an old freezer, that didn’t work,” Smith said. “In a two-week period, God put this together. I opened Feb. 1, 2000, serving two meals a day. If that’s not God, I don’t know what is.”

Smith said that the first major victory was that the Mission was able to purchase all the needed kitchen equipment, even silverware, from a closed restaurant in Ramona for $5,000. The church congregation stepped up and provided the needed funds.

At that time, Smith cooked the meals as well. After much thought and prayer, at the end of Nov. 2000, Smith scaled back to one meal a day, which the Agape’ Mission still serves six days per week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Mission is closed on Sunday.  “I think we’re the only United Way non-profit in Bartlesville that’s open on Saturday,” Smith said.

Two and a half years after opening, the Mission was able to hire a cook, and Smith became the full-time director of the Mission.

Because feeding the community is central to the Mission’s purpose, developing the Food 4 Kids program just made sense.

The Food 4 Kids program began in March 2005 with volunteer Rissie Soderstrom as its coordinator. Soderstrom organizes a team of seven women, who meet each week at the warehouse and assemble the backpacks during the school year.

Agape’ Mission has a truck which then delivers the food to the schools each week.

Additional volunteers such as: Church groups, home-school children, ConocoPhillips employees and others pitch in regularly to help. For example, five employees of the CIT Project Services Department at ConocoPhillips volunteer once a month assembling the food sacks.

There is a corporate giving program whereby ConocoPhillips gives $500 to Agape’ Mission for every 20 hours of service provided by its employees.

As part of her duties, Soderstrom schedules the additional volunteers to help. “If you have a group or even children, they can come in and volunteer,” Soderstrom said. Some of the groups that have helped are: Civic groups, church and youth groups and the Boy Scouts. To arrange for your group to volunteer, Soderstrom may be reached at 918-331-7815.

Asked their motivation for volunteering to the Food 4 Kids program, the team of ladies agreed, “God’s love is the reason we serve.”

“When people come to help, they have fun,” Soderstrom said. “And we’re not known … We’re behind the scenes.”

Soderstrom also coordinates the unloading of inventory from the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.  In addition, she sees to it that double-grocery bags are prepared. God has always provided the volunteers she has needed to help her accomplish these tasks, she said.

Each week, the food bags for elementary school students include: One chocolate milk, one regular milk, one pudding (either chocolate or vanilla), one fruit cup, one juice, one Pop-tart or cereal bar, one package of crackers, one package of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, one individual serving of cereal and one raisin box.

For students in junior high through high school, the bags include five extra items: Beef jerky, Vienna sausage, macaroni and cheese, one serving of oatmeal and one serving of Ramen Noodles.

“We don’t give metal flip-top cans to the younger children because of possible cuts,” Soderstrom said. “Many of these children are preparing this food alone without a parent there to help.”

“We pray over the sacks too,” Soderstrom said. “When the kids come to school on Monday they ask ‘are we going to get our sacks this week?’ Even if the kids are sick, their parents come and get them,” she added.

“Our feedback is positive – how it’s helped,” Soderstrom said. “If we help the children when they’re young, they’ll have fewer health problems as adults,” she added.

Speaking of the Agape’ Mission Director, Soderstrom said, “Sherri [Smith] is delightful to work with on this.”

Sherri Smith said after the program had finished its first year, she got some feedback that hit home for her how vital the food backpacks are. “I received a message right after spring break from one of the kindergarten teachers that a student had returned to school in the same clothes he’d been in on the day he went home for spring break. Upon being asked, he said the only food he had eaten that week was the food we provided. Also, he had been left home alone that whole week. DHS (the Department of Human Services) stepped in at that point and took the child out of the home.”

Smith said that teachers have come to her in tears saying, “Don’t ever stop the program.”

Regarding how they determine which children should get the weekend food, Smith said, “We get our information from the school administrators themselves. The teachers know a lot more about their students. Between what they know, and who is on the reduced school lunch program, they can see who needs it. We don’t want any child to be hungry over the weekend.”

In order to meet community childrens’ summer needs, the Mission will begin a summer Food 4 Kids program on June 4 called Acts in Action in Bartlesville. “We’re going into four quadrants of the community: the Brookhaven area at Girl Scout Park, Oak Park, and near Wilson at the Spruce Baptist Church parking lot,” Smith said.

“We’re going to feed them, have prizes and it will be like sidewalk bible school. Everyone has to have background checks – it’s a big deal. Mary Martha’s is also working with us to provide prizes and what we need,” Smith said.

Regarding her work as director of the Mission, Smith said, “Every day is a new day. It’s exciting going to work because I never know what God’s going to do. To be in the center of God’s will every day – what could be better?”

“I want to replicate myself as much as I can. I want to teach people what I’ve done because I can teach people to do this in their own city,” Smith said.

Agape’ Mission accepts food donations. They especially appreciate monetary donations because the food can be purchased in bulk from the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma so they get more for the money, said Smith. Soderstrom agreed.

Donations are tax deductible and can be made payable to Agape’ Mission with Food 4 Kids on the memo line of the check. The mailing address is: P.O. Box 1085, Bartlesville, OK 74005.

For more information, Agape’ Mission Director Sherri Smith may be reached at 918-336-5410.

Pilot backpack program, “Food 4 Kids,” in Pawhuska seeks Sponsorships for 2011-2012 School Year

Backpacks contain shelf-stable meals, which the children can prepare themselves.


Organizers are seeking donations so that a backpack program called “Food 4 Kids” in Pawhuska, which began during 2010 summer school and continues through the end of the school year, will be able to continue.

The program provides shelf-stable snacks to 42 children in kindergarten through third grades, who attend Pawhuska Elementary School.

Coordinator Kacee Poteet said, “We’re looking for annual sponsorships which will help sustain the program for the entire year, including summer school,” Poteet explained. 

A recent story on 60 Minutes about childhood hunger in the United States underscored the problem. When children come to school hungry, they cannot concentrate or learn effectively. Plus, hunger hurts. Many children go to the school nurse with pains, which are hunger related, Poteet said.

According to Pawhuska Elementary School Principal Beverly Moore, the poverty rate is 77 percent, which is a strong indicator that children in Pawhuska need this program.

It costs just $150 for the 40-44 week school year to adopt a child and the donation is tax deductible, Poteet said.

Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Osage County, Christi McNeil, wanted to lend her support to the Food 4 Kids project. McNeil provided much-needed space for food storage in the Cedar Ridge safe room closet in a temperature controlled environment, which gives the food a longer shelf life.

“Three pallets [of food] fit into the closet of the safe room,” Poteet said.

In addition, approximately 20 Cedar Ridge seniors volunteer at the safe room to assemble the bags of food weekly. 

Another volunteer who is central to the project is Jenny Perrier. Poteet said of Perrier, “I couldn’t do it without her.”

Perrier shared her thoughts about the collaboration of efforts which make the project happen. “I think this is an intergenerational thing — the older people helping the younger people.”

She added, “The school kids at Indian Camp School adopt the [Cedar Ridge] residents at Christmas, so the residents want to give back.”

Poteet and Perrier want the program to continue next year and grow. “We want this to be a program that lasts long after us,” Perrier said. “It just serves kindergarten through third grade now. There are others who ask if there are bags for their older siblings too,” Perrier said. For now, the program only serves four grades, but Perrier and Poteet look forward to a time when this can be expanded to serve grades pre-k through twelve.

Donations by civic groups and individuals are welcome. “It would be nice if civic organizations would say they’re going to give a certain amount each year,” Poteet said.

“If there’s any way we can continue, we’d like to,” Poteet said.

The Backpacks 4 Kids program gets its food at a much lower cost by buying in bulk from the Eastern Food Bank of Oklahoma at their on-line website, Poteet said. In fact, some items are offered free from the food bank, including fresh fruit. The program provides non-perishable food items, which the children can prepare themselves.

The food items include things like: pudding cups, raisins, beans and franks in pop-top cans, cereal in individual servings and juice boxes. Peanut products are not used due to the risk of allergies.

Students participating in the program are told they have won a prize in a drawing and are given drawstring backpacks, which on Fridays were filled with food to last through the weekend.

On the Friday before spring break, the students were given double portions of food in their backpacks to help over the week-long holiday.

If the children forget the backpacks, they still get the food in plastic grocery-style bags.

Parents are notified in writing, and are able to opt out if they do not want the food for their children.

Children are chosen to be included in the program based on information from various public agencies, which serve low-income families, such as Department of Human Services and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).

 The Edwin Fair Community Mental Health Clinic receives the donations on behalf of the Food 4 Kids program because it is set up as a non-profit 501c(3) program, Poteet explained.

Donations are made payable to Edwin Fair with “Food 4 Kids program” listed on the memo line of the check, and may be sent to: 124 E. 6th Street, Pawhuska, OK 74056.

Recently, the Pawhuska Elementary School began accepting the donations on behalf of Edwin Fair.

For more information about donating or volunteering, call Kacee Poteet at 918-287-5266. This number accepts voice messages.

Look for another story, coming soon, about Agape’ Mission’s Food 4 Kids program in Bartlesville, now in its fifth year.

Osage Nation Sovereignty Day — March 11, 2011

By Roseanne Sutton

John F. "Sandy" Johnston in his gourd dancing ensemble

On March 11, 2011, the Osage Nation held its fifth annual Sovereignty Day celebration at the Agriculture (Ag) Building at the Osage County Fairgrounds.

Traditional gourd dancing began shortly after 2 p.m.

Gourd dancer John F. Johnston, known to many as Sandy Johnston, spoke as he prepared for the afternoon’s dance.

In the center of the room was a large drum with chairs circling it.

Around this was open floor space for the dancers.

The outer perimeter of the room had groupings of several rows of chairs facing the center of the room.

Various Osage Nation department and organizations had booths set up along the walls of the Ag building including: the Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino, Osage CASA program, which trains volunteers to be advocates for children going through the court system, and the Osage Nation Education Public School Support Program.

The emcees for the afternoon were Osage Congressman Archie Mason and John Henry Mashunkashey, who announced upcoming Osage cultural events during breaks in the gourd dancing.

Johnston sat on the front row, facing the center of the room. He explained that after having grown up in Pawhuska, he moved to Parsons, Kan., and then Coffeeville, where he had made his living as a butcher and meat cutter for over 30 years.

Now single and retired for five years, Johnston has three grown children – two daughters and a son. One daughter and the son participate in Osage traditional dances, he said. Johnston’s son has just recently begun to return to the Osage traditions, he added.

Johnston said that his biological mother, Beatrice Hunter, and his adoptive mother, Marian Coshehe, were both full-blood Osage.

A bench in front of Johnston held a cedar chest. Johnston opened the chest and from it took his wardrobe accessories for the dance.

First he tied a navy cloth sash around his waist. The ends of the sash, which were aqua, hung from his right hip to below his knee.

Next he added a bandolier, which he placed over his left shoulder and diagonally across his chest, which were fastened with a silver disc at his right hip.

The bandolier consisted of two strands of decorative beads – red peyote beads, silver beads, longer cylindrical beads of real cattle horn and brown rectangular leather spacers. “At traditional dances you wear two strands of bandoliers,” Johnston explained.

Johnston then placed a long cloth shawl around his shoulders.  One half of the shawl was navy and the other half was red. “The red side is always worn over the heart,” Johnston said.

“My clothes were smoked and prayed over,” Johnston explained. “That’s what we do with all our things,” he added. “I’m a Catholic, and raised that way, but with Osage ways too.”

From the cedar box, Johnston took a silver shaker on a wooden staff with cotton strands at the bottom and embellished at the top with aqua and red beading and pale horse hair, which he held in his right hand.

In his left hand, Johnston held a cluster of five eagle feathers bound at the bottom with decorative multicolored beading. The feather quills were painted in bands of bright colors — yellow, red, green and black. Below this were cotton strands.

Soon, the Osage performers began their song with the all-male circle seated and striking the drum at once. A group of Osage women sat in chairs behind the Osage performers in a semi-circle. “The women are behind the men; this is traditional,” Johnston said.

The gentlemen gourd dancers moved from their seats to the outer rim of floor space and began to shake the gourds and move their feet solemnly to the beat of the drum. They often stood in groups of two during the dance.

Across the room, several female gourd dancers participated.

At times during the dance, male and female gourd dancers formed two large semi-circles behind the seated Osage performers and danced.

Large group gourd dancing

As the song continued, the drum and the voices became louder and faster. Some Osage participants had closed eyes and focused expressions.

Asked the meaning of the dance, Johnston said, “The main thing is respect of your elders and the ground – mother earth.”

During the afternoon, Osage Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle and Assistant Principal Chief Scott Bighorse also participated in the gourd dancing.

There were many more in attendance, but these are some of those who spoke to Pawhuska Community News.

Event organizer Otto Hamilton attended with his wife Geneva and twin sons.

Osage Attorney General Jeff Jones attended with his wife, daughter, newborn grandson and two-year-old granddaughter.

Osage Minerals Councilman Myron Red Eagle was one of the Osage performers seated at the drum.

Cultural Center Director Vann Bighorse participated in the gourd dancing.

Osage Congressman Daniel Boone took time to share his thoughts about the day, “We’ve come a long way in a short period of time … This is our fifth year of our new government. We’ve experienced some growing pains. We’ve learned what not to do and hopefully … we will experience great growth in the coming years.”

Shortly after 5 p.m., servers began to place the evening supper serving dishes onto buffet tables.

“I don’t get to dance as much as much as I’d like to, but I started learning about my heritage again about 15 or 20 years ago,” Johnston said as he carefully placed his bandolier, gourd shaker, sash and eagle feathers back into the cedar chest.

Chief Red Eagle prayed over the meal in the Osage language and then prayed in English as well.

The meal, which had several traditional Osage dishes, consisted of: steam fry, which was made of pork, fry bread, chicken and dumplings, salad, chocolate or white cake and iced tea.

When supper was finished, Johnston, who said he was pleased to have been able to participate in the dance, said he was going to head back to Coffeeville before nightfall.

The celebration continued into the evening with more gourd dancing at 6 p.m., a Grand Entry at 7 p.m. and a Pow Wow.

Although the gourd dancing and Pow Wow are open to the public, the traditional dances held during the summer in Pawhuska are by invitation only, and are not to be photographed because they are spiritual in nature. “It is very spiritual because it’s the closest you are to your creator, Wah-Kon-Tah,” Johnston said.

Bandolier Closeup -- worn by John F. "Sandy" Johnston.


Osage meal served at Sovereignty Day celebration