August 31, 2013

By Julie Hubbard

For the eighth straight year, the Cherokee Nation teamed up with volunteers from the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church, and this round had 400 volunteers tackle 50 projects for several Cherokee citizens in need.
    
“It’s hard to measure the importance of this program and impact it has on the Cherokee lives it touches,” said Karen Ketcher, director of Cherokee Nation’s Community and Cultural Outreach office. “The Cherokee elder who receives a handicap ramp, a roof or someone to listen to their life experiences; the community organization struggling to finish its community building and receives a helping hand; the life-changing experience of volunteers working in our communities and learning of our Cherokee culture; or simply the friendships that are made, they are all invaluable.”
    
The volunteers worked July 8-18. In the Blackgum community, Cherokee citizen and World War II veteran Roy Simmons had a group clean up and mow his yard and add siding and a fresh coat of white paint to his house. Volunteers also built the 90-year-old a wheelchair ramp over his porch steps.
    
“It’s something else,” Simmons said. “The Cherokee Nation has been the only ones to ever recognize me for my war service, and now this. I appreciate every bit of it. Some of the kids are 12- or 13-year-olds, and they’re trying to teach them to work a little rather than sit and watch the television.”
    
At the Vian Peace Center, a community food bank that previously benefited from an $85,000 Cherokee Nation community project grant to expand, volunteers hung sheetrock to the center’s new building.
    
“They took such a load off us because of the volunteer labor hours, which our grant doesn’t provide for,” said Richard Tyler, Vian Peace Center founder. “Not only that, but the tax dollars they’re bringing into our community from buying all of their food, gas and supplies locally is boosting the local economy.”
    
The Cherokee Nation worked with Vian Schools for volunteers to sleep in classrooms and use their cafeteria in exchange for building the school a sidewalk. The Cherokee Nation is also hosting a traditional hog fry so volunteers can learn about the Cherokee culture. 
    
For more information on the Cherokee Nation, go to www.cherokee.org