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From March 24, 2009
Owasso, Okla., Reporter
A fire at the home of Sperry residents Chasity and Daily Hansen Feb. 9 devastated their family in more than one Way Six-year-old Derrek, one of the couple's two adopted boys, perished from smoke inhalation in the tragedy.
And in the midst of that grief, as is so often the case, their home was a total loss, leaving the remaining family — which includes four girls — with nothing left of their memories but ashes.
Thanks to a gift from Owasso’s Saint Henry Catholic Church and Robin Hausner House Movers, however, the family can begin rebuilding their home and filling it with newer, happier memories. That gift got rolling onto the streets of Owasso March 20, as a two-story house began its lumbering journey to the Hansen’s home site in Sperry, Where Danny is a trucking coordinator and supervisor for L & S Trucking. Chasity works at Mike’s Supermarket.
The way the Hansen’s built their family shows they're special people, said Jerry Roberts, Chasity’s father, said as utility representatives and workers With Robin Hausner House Movers made the final checks on the structure at the end of the cul de sac directly behind Saint Henry’s. “Anybody would adopt two more, l think that's pretty remarkable.”
It seems appropriate then that this remarkable family would see a remarkable effort on the part of three communities to restore to them at least part of what the fire had taken.
“The communities — between Owasso, Sperry and Skiatook — they’ve been great to
them,” Roberts said. “They’ve had fundraisers. The church here in Owasso donated the house, and Robin Hausner donated the moving of the house."
Roberts said the Hansen’s land has been cleared, new footings have been poured, and the family could be in the home in two or three weeks. He said that when the call went out for help to haul debris and dirt from the original house, dump trucks began lining up, waiting for their chance to help get the work done. And thanks to that, what would have been a major time commitment was reduced to just a few hours.
Saint Henry’s recently received approval from the Owasso City Council to proceed on its plans for expansion, which includes adding parking lot space where the Hansen’s soon-to-be home was removed. Robin Thoendel, coordinator of ministries at the church, said they had contracted to receive a payment from the house movers for the property, but instead chose to turn down
that payment to help facilitate the donation.
Several special benefit events were put on in the Sperry community, including a concert by the “Kirk and Melissa Acoustic Show,” a bull riding benefit and a dinner at the Country Corner Fire Station. The Owasso Wendy’s restaurant even donated 10 percent of its Feb. 14 proceeds to the family.
The Owasso and Sperry police departments donated the time of several officers to help with traffic during the house’s move, and utility workers from the Public Service Company of Oklahoma, Cox Communications, AT&T and Verdigris Valley Electric Coop also helped coordinate the transition.
Memorial funds have been set up in Derrek’s honor at Exchange Bank locations in Owasso, Skiatook and Sperry. A Web site, www.hansenfamilyhelpcom, has also been set up so residents can track the family’s progress as they rebuild their home.
Owasso, Okla., Reporter
The ice storm that devastated much of northeast Oklahoma in December 2007 was particularly hard on hundreds of thousands of trees, most of which buckled under the extreme weight of the thick layer of ice left on their already brittle appendages.
The large tree in the front yard of Charles and Pamela Roden on West 17th Street in Owasso was no exception. The tree never recovered from the ice storm’s ravages, and, nearly three years later, was reduced to a tall, lifeless stump -- an eyesore in front of the couples home.
But Charles wasn't quite ready to just have the lifeless stump torn from the yard. He remembered seeing several beautiful wood carvings at Utica Square in Tulsa in the past and, not knowing who had created them, did some research to discover who was behind them.
“I saw the Coss [signature] on there and tried to figure out who he was,” Roden told the Reporter. “I always wanted one of those things. It took a while before I actually had the money and a tree stump at the same time.
Roden eventually looked Clayton Coss up and was able to negotiate a design idea with the Inola-based artist that was within his budget — less than $1,000.
“We talked about what he was going to do,” he said. “But I just basically said...l'll just let you take a look at it and see what you can bring out of that wood and see whats going to work."
Starting a little alter 10 a.m. Sept. 28, Coss -- who has been transforming tree stumps in the Tulsa area into art for nearly a quarter-century made several fine-tuned adjustments to his saws and went to work on the Rodens’ tree stump.
First, the artist used a rougher saw, shaving off sheets of dead bark and chiseling many sharp angles at the top of the post. In just minutes, a slightly-recognizable knob resembling a bear’s head began to emerge from the stump.
After switching to a chainsaw with a smaller, more articulate bar, Coss went to work on the finer details, standing on makeshift platforms around the stump to give him the right angles from which to work.
A mere two hours later, an animated bear head was peeking out of the top of the stump, ready for finishing touches -- eyes, mouth, nose and other details, which were added with a small torch. Coss completed the project with a thick vanish stain.
Charles Roden is quite happy with the unique piece of art now standing where a lifeless reminder of an ice storm once dominated his front yard.
“I think it looks great, he said. “It really gives another dimension to the stump, the whole property.”
From April 23, 2009
Owasso, Okla., Reporter
I love doing what I do — I cant think of another occupation I would rather find myself in. But I cant say I love getting to the place where I do what I do. Like thousands of other Owassons, I have to make the daily trek from the residential area near 145th East Avenue and 86th Street North toward points east-in my case downtown.
That 2 1/2 mile stretch, which typically proves a headache for commuters throughout the day, has become particularly treacherous now that a stretch of 129th East Avenue north of 86th has been shut down for road improvements.
The addition of that factor to an already clogged artery has made the crux of the congestion —the intersection of 86th Street and 129th East Avenue in front of the high school — perhaps the most undesirable stretch of concrete in the city. In fact, Deputy Police Chief Scott Chambless told me a few days ago that 22 accidents had been recorded at the intersection since Septem-ber of last year.
But a funny thing happens at that very location every morning and every afternoon five days a Week. While most of us who pass through that gauntlet are checking and double-checking to ensure our seat belts are fastened and our life insurance policies are current, a few brave souls, armed with only a small stop sign and an orange vest, are charging out in front of distracted motorists to safely convey teenagers across the street and to their classrooms.
Wondering what kind of hardened individual would dare step away from a perfectly good, reinforced steel frame and advanced airbag technology to risk life and limb every day in such a manner, I cautiously approached the intersection earlier this week to find out for myself.
What I found was two surprisingly pleasant ladies — Lisa Lumm and Amy Raines — who showed no hesitation at all as I watched them shepherd ever-larger groups of teens across the intersection as a chorus of squealing brakes, honking horns and chugging exhaust pipes reached a deafening pitch.
And the two certainly didn’t seem crazy — as I had expected — from the dangerous job they do every day. The school district does compensate them for their time, which includes more crosswalk duties at Bailey and Mills elementaries and lunchroom duties at the sixth-grade center and Northeast Elementary. But money seems an unlikely motivation for a person to brave this kind of rush hour traffic.
“I like the kids and I like to be outside — I’m an outdoor person,” Lisa explained to me as she waited for another batch of kids to gather. “You get to know them by name, and see them every day. Like the sports kids: you get to talk to them about sports, you get to know them personally. It’s rewarding.”
Lisa’s been shuttling kids across busy Owasso streets for eight years now, four of them
at this intersection. Her own son, a high school junior, got a wave from his mom as he turned his Ford pickup in front of her.
“I watch him like a hawk,” she told me. “But I watch a lot of kids.”
“My daughter graduated from here two years ago,” Amy said. She’s spent 13 years in harm’s way on these streets, watching kids grow through the school system on a day-to-day basis. “I started with her in elementary school, and just stayed.”
That daily routine has developed into an art form for the pair over the years. They’ve developed a good system of communication, much of which is shouting information back and forth across five lanes of traffic as each watches turn lanes and impatient motorists for the other. But even working together cant prevent potential trouble.
Lisa remembers being hit and knocked to the ground her first year at the intersection.
“I was just bumped and knocked down,” she remembers.
Though that’s the most serious incident the two have experienced, the near-misses continue, thanks to drivers with other things on their mind.
“We’ll have kids out there with our stop signs and there’s still people running through the light,” Amy said.
Lisa demonstrated how she had to suddenly roll backward onto her heels to avoid being hit during a recent scare with an elderly woman who accidentally pressed her accelerator instead of the brake pedal.
She said she’d seen drivers engaged in all sorts of dangerous behavior at a place where they should be paying the most attention.
“Everybody’s eating,” Lisa laughed. “We’ve seen men shaving, Women are putting their makeup on. We saw a lady one day with a book on her steering wheel — she was reading.”
Amy remembered watching a dog fall out of one driver’s truck.
“The guy didn’t know the dog had fallen out,” she told me. “So all the kids and us are yelling, and then he realizes it. The kids were hanging onto the dog over there.”
As Owasso’s explosive growth shows no sign of slowing, Lisa and Amy will likely face more and more traffic — and even more bad drivers — as more students make their way across this dangerous intersection. But they seem ready for the challenge.
“We’re like the postman,” Lisa smiled. “We’re out, rain or shine. It’s not for everybody, but we love it.”
From March 24, 2009
Owasso, Okla., Reporter
lt’s no secret – motorcycle enthusiasts enjoy the power, performance and wind-through-your-hair experience only a bike can offer. But a rash of area thefts has Owasso police concerned that someone is exploiting the relative vulnerability of the vehicles to get that high-performance rush in a completely different way.
“From the beginning of the year, we’ve had four reports of motorcycles being stolen in our community,” Deputy Police Chief Scott Chambless said. “According to our detective division, there appears to be a rash of these motorcycle thefts in the entire Tulsa metropolitan area.”
Among the bikes reported stolen was a 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa, taken from the Villas at Bailey
Ranch March 17. The Hayabusa features a 1,340-cubic centimeter engine that offers riders a top speed of more than 190 miles per hour and a nine-second quarter- mile. The bike retails for $12,000.
Chambless doesnt expect to see any joyriders racing up and down the streets of Owasso on
this or any of the other stolen performance bikes, however.
“lt’s our understanding there is apparently an extensive black market for stolen motorcycle parts, particularly for people who do various types of racing,” Chambless told the Reporter. “They’re parting these motorcycles out and then selling the parts. lt’s basically a chop shop.”
The engines from these performance motorcycles — manufactured by the likes of Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha-are used widely by dwarf car racers, which may be where those stolen
in Owasso may be headed. Dwarf cars are a specific type of modified racer designed to look like a scaled-down replica of a 1930s or 1940s roadster.
Though the problem may be a new one here, it’ s not new in other parts of the country. A major motorcycle theft ring was broken up in 2005 in New York after authorities staged a “sting” operation that netted 16 arrests. The perpetrators, who had stolen 81 bikes valued at more than $1 million, according to the New York State Insurance Department, utilized fences, locators and “steal men” to obtain the vehicles. The bikes were then chopped and marketed via the Internet to buyers in the Midwest, California and overseas. Many of those buyers, according to the agency, were dwarf car racers.
Unless they are recovered fairly quickly, Owasso police may never be able to pinpoint exactly where components of the bikes might end up, whether in a parts shop on the East Coast or in a dwarf racer in California. But Chambless emphasized some common-sense tips for motorcyclists who want to hang on to their rides.
“The bikes are being stolen from apartment complexes or…outside storage areas,” Chambless said, “and we think the community needs to know that the best way to store a motorcycle is inside some type of locked garage or other locked container that will keep people from being able to drive up and throw one on a trailer and drive off with it.”
Chambless also cautioned motorcyclists that fork locks, often used to secure bikes, are proving ineffective in warding off criminals.
“The fork locks that some bikes come equipped with, or the aftermarket fork locks that you can buy, are just being busted off,” Chambless warned.
Anyone with information about the thefts should call the Owasso Police Department at 272-COPS.
From August 4, 2009
Owasso, Okla., Reporter
A dispute over who should have provided water to Owasso’s Saint John Hospital when it opened its doors in 2006 — and who will provide it in the future — may soon finally have its day in court.
Despite more than three years of legal wrangling, a failed negotiation and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, a sharp philosophical divide between the city of Owasso and Washington County Rural Water District No. 3 remains over both financial and public safety concerns.
The lawsuit between the district and Owasso is just one of a growing number of encroachment cases across the country pitting municipalities against rural utility providers as the residential
demand for services spills over into areas only a few years earlier beyond the reach of cities’ service lines.
“I think it was a matter of a decision,” Jerry Gammill, Washington County RWD No. 3 executive director, told the Reporter about why he believed the city decided to connect its water lines to the hospital, though the development is within the district’s service area. “This is just my opinion, but l think the city had just made the decision.”
The rural Water district filed suit against the city April 25, 2006, soon after Owasso had begun selling water to the Saint John Owasso, and shortly be- fore the 60-bed hospital’s completion.
Gammill said they were aware of the city’s intention to serve water to the development as early as July 2004, when the plans were still under discussion in the city’s technical advisory committee. But legal advisers told the water district action could not be taken until water was actually flowing from the city’s lines.
The district is seeking to not only recover financial losses from water sales — estimated at around $60,000 as of mid-2008 — but to enforce the water district’s right to provide water service to the development, according to Tulsa attorney Mike Davis, who represents the district. And enforcing that, Davis said, would require the hospital to be connected to the district’s lines, which run adjacent to the property.
“Every building that is, or has been, or will be built [at the site] is a potential loss of sales for us,” Gammill said. “My board of directors have the opinion that the water district can serve the hospital, based on engineering.
But its that engineering, said Owasso City Manager Rodney Ray, that prompted his staff to direct developers to connect their water lines to the city system in the first place.
“We went through numerous engineering studies to determine whether or not the rural
water district’s supply would meet the state requirements for hospitals’ fire flow and water flow, and meet other requirements,” Ray said. “And based on the engineers reports to us, and discussions we had, they were going to be unable to do that.”
Ray said as a result of those studies, he directed the city’s public works department to review the hospital’s construction plans and the community development department to “tell the developer that they would use Owasso water because of the service requirements by the
state for hospitals and our fire department’s service requirements.”
Ray cited the water supply system for the Owasso Market — the complex which contains the Wal-Mart Supercenter — as an example of the city’s concerns. He said that development, which receives its water from the rural water district, relies on an emergency “tap-on” to a nearby city water tower to provide it enough water pressure for fire suppression.
“So technically, the rural water district couldn’t even supply fire flow to the Owasso Market property,” Ray said.
“We were going to put Owasso residents in a four-story building, and we were going to have a campus up there that consisted of about 60 acres of medical buildings over the next 25 years,” Ray added. “And it just appeared to all of us that it was going to be impossible to ensure the safety of the residents without the people [putting in] the hospital having to run miles and miles of large lines.
A court-mandated settlement negotiation early in the legal process failed to resolve the dispute, either. Gammill said the water district rejected what Ray said was the city’s initial offer at that meeting, and the talks broke down.
The lawsuit was just weeks away from trial in late 2008 when the federal judge in charge of the matter placed a stay on the case, citing similarities between it and litigation between the city of Guthrie and Logan County Rural Water District No. 1. But with a decision on an appeal to the 10th Circuit in the Guthrie case expected at any time, the deposition of experts on both sides of the Owasso case and court proceedings may be — again — only weeks away.
To date, the city of Owasso has spent just over $315,000 in legal fees related to the lawsuit, ac- cording to City Attorney Julie Lombardi. She said the technical nature of the issues in the case required them to retain a lawyer who specializes in water law, Tulsa attorney Jim Milton.
Gammill indicated the water district has spent more than $170,000 in legal fees for the case.
From October 22,, 2009
Owasso, Okla., Reporter
Monday night, Oct. 19, I took part in something I never thought I would experience — being on the receiving end of a stern talk from the mother of a murder victim, a police officer and a personal injury attorney who told me in no uncertain terms that my decision to drink and drive could result in the death of an innocent stranger, myself or even someone close to me.
I was one of nine men sitting in the small classroom at Bailey Medical Center that night, experiencing a victims’ impact panel, a special program designed to force DUI offenders to face the potential consequences of their poor judgment. It was the first to be hosted in Owasso by the Victims Impact Panel of Oklahoma.
Of course, as with so many things I experience, I was there as a journalist, not a participant. I was the only one of the nine who was not there under court order, and who did not have to pay $50 at the door. But despite those important differences, that cramped room afforded me no opportunity to separate myself from the stark reality organizers presented to the eight men sitting silently behind me.
A slideshow of drunk driving victims blared from a screen in the corner When I entered, just a few minutes later, the video ended and, after asking us to turn off our cell phones and pagers — a phone would begin jingling a few minutes later anyway — Offender Program Coordinator Deborah Lindsey got started. She reminded us we should remain seated and quiet for the length of the presentation, and we could not receive court credit for the event if at any time we left the room prior to the end.
“This entire presentation is entirely for your benefit, and for the benefit of those who love and care about you,” Lindsey told us. “The stories you Will hear tonight are real, the pain is genuine and the tears are shed from the heart. This presentation is about death, pain, tragedy, loss, emptiness and depression, some or all of Which have been experienced by the panelists seated at this table tonight.”
She recited a few facts about drunk driving, like how an American dies every 32 minutes at the hands of a drunk driver, and how 200 drivers are arrested every month in Tulsa County alone for drunk driving. I didn’t hear a peep from the eight men behind me, about these numbers, but thats no surprise — numbers agent people. They’re cold, lifeless and easy to ignore.
Next up in the session was a video presenting the stories of many Oklahomans who, though from all Walks of life, and every socio-economic caste, were joined together in an instant When a drunk driver made them all part of the same statistic.
The video flashed from images of news headlines to accident photos to family photos of innocent men, women and children. In the midst of those images, the documentary zoomed in on two men, one serving 14 years, the other 20, for DUI-related manslaughter.
After the video came the real, tangible look at the effects of drunk driving.
Brenda Montgomery, an Owasson Whose son was killed by a drunk driver in Missouri in 2008, stood up and talked to the men about the losses she and her family have suffered at the hands of drunk drivers.
As We have related in a number of stories in the Reporter recently, Montgomery’s first
loss was the loss of a niece in Texas, who Was killed along with her two toddlers after a drunk driver racing at over 100 miles per hour collided With her. Her parents had just bought the children a pair of birds at a local pet store for Christmas, but had told the store to hold them until the kids returned. They, of course, never did.
Montgomery’s life was revisited with an even greater tragedy when her son, Aaron Gillming, Was killed in Noel, Mo., in 2008. Gillming and a friend died after the car they were in, which was driven by the friend’s boss, collided With a bridge.
The driver, Ricky Crase, was an habitual drunk driving offender who had spent the last 20 years getting breaks and second chances, and didn’t even have a driver’s license. He broke a single rib in the crash, but was recently sentenced to several years in prison for the two murders.
Montgomery told us she had to pick up her son’s last commission from Owasso’s Classic Chevrolet, where he was a salesman. How did she spend the check? She bought a toy boat for her grandson, Ryder, that his dad had planned to buy him for Christmas. But most of the money was spent buying a gravestone.
“I don’t get paid to be here,” Montgomery told the men. “I’m here because I want to be here, because its part of my therapy. It’s What I look forward to — to hope that I could get through to just one of you guys, that instead of putting those keys in that car and driving drunk, you’ll hear my son’s name, Aaron.”
Owasso Police Officer Jack Wells stood up next. Wells asked the men if they had children, or wives, or girlfriends, or even their mothers and fathers.
“You getting behind the wheel after having done some pills, done some weed, done some drinking,” Wells told us, “you’ve got just as much a likelihood of killing your family as you do a stranger.”
Wells also related his memories of the first fatality accident he responded to, in 2005, when a car crashed at Hwy. 169 and 76th Street. After first approaching the vehicle and talking to the driver, who was seriously injured, and noting the passenger appeared dead, he returned to his vehicle to get a blood sample kit.
When he returned just minutes later, after the fire department arrived, the driver, Whose body had been crushed, was dead. The passenger, however, survived.
Owasso attorney Holly Cinocca shared with the offenders her experiences a personal injury attorney, having seen many forms of death attributed to drunk drivers. Cinocca also talked about her father, who three decades ago had been nearly killed when his motorcycle was hit by a drunk driver.
“I’m one of the luckiest children in this state,” Cinocca told the men. “I grew up With my dad. Almost no one on a motorcycle in a drunk driving crash survives.”
The eight men behind me said probably fewer than 10 words collectively throughout the presentation, so it’s hard to know whether it had much of an effect — I certainly hope it did. There are far too many Brenda Montgomerys out there who have had to live with the death that drunk drivers deal out on a daily basis.
I would encourage anyone who has been impacted by a drunk driver to get involved with this new program in Owasso. You can get in touch with the area group by calling (918) 281-6304, or log on to www.vipofok.com.
From December 3, 2009
Owasso, Okla., Reporter
Different people collect different things. Some collect fairly common items, like postage stamps or sports memorabilia. Others go for the more exotic, like rare American Indian pottery or even banned Cuban cigars, and have to put in a lot of effort and expense to acquire each item.
But for Owasso resident Charley Brown, his biggest collection — golf balls — has required only a short trip to his back yard every day for the last three years.
“Since we’ve been here, we’ve had 2,600 balls,” Brown told me recently. “It just happened to come out even yesterday. 2,600 balls have hit my house, broken out $400-worth of windows, banged in my metal door, and the roof’s probably gone on this side. We’ll be sitting here and the gosh-darned things’ll hit — it’s very disturbing.”
Brown, 78, a golfer and 33-year employee of the claims office at Farmers Insurance in Texas, retired with wife Jerry a few years agoto Owasso to be near their children. He’s an Okie himself, though, a graduate of Tulsa’s East Central High and Oklahoma City University, having also worked for Kerr McGee and as the assistant county attorney for Okfuskee County in Okemah.
From the front, his home, which the couple purchased in 2006 and which borders the Bailey Ranch Golf Course’s driving range on North 102nd East Avenue, is idyllic, an attractive house that would likely be a prize for any retiree, particularly a golfer.
But inside the couple’s garage are boxes, bags and buckets filled to their brims with golf balls, miniature monuments to their frustration over the series of towering metal frames and nets aligned behind his home and his neighbors’ properties which have fallen into disrepair. Most of the nets, in fact, are dangling by a single hook from the corners of their posts, offering little or no protection from stray golf balls to the homes behind them.
And Rebecca Merritt, who owns and leases out one of the homes next to Brown, says she's had difficulty selling her property because of the condition of the nets.
Brown took me into his backyard and showed me the nets, which are standing on the golf course, beyond where he said his property line ends and the golf course — owned by the city of Owasso — begins.
Brown said that he and neighbor Marlin Kerr have been in communication with the city since 2007, urging them to repair the nets, but their requests have been largely ignored.
Merritt said the city did send a marshal out to the site for a short period of time, which resulted in a virtual end to the hail of golf balls threatening her tenants every day. But the marshal did not remain long, she said, and the situation was back to its original state after he was gone.
“They were afraid that we were going to insist that they replace [the nets],” Brown said, noting that at one point they’d received a quote from an Alabama company to replace the nets entirely — to the tune of $90,000. “But we didn’t insist, we just wanted them repaired.”
Of course, as with most things in civic life, there are two sides to this proverbial golf ball.
Owasso Director of Golf Corey Burd told me in an interview that the nets themselves were installed by the property developer, and not by the city. Further, he said because the city did not authorize their construction, they were turned over to the local homeowner association, which has chosen not to maintain them.
Burd also emphasized that there is a certain risk inherent with living on a gold course, and those risks were made clear in the property owners’ covenant established there.
The covenant says, in part, “…golfs balls are not susceptible of being easily controlled and accordingly may land or strike beyond the golf course boundaries. Neither declarant nor any employee or agent of declarant nor the golf course owner or operator nor the association shall be liable for personal injury or property damage caused by golf balls….”
Burd said that while the city if sympathetic with the residents’ situation, if they were to agree to maintain the nets, “all of a sudden we’re taking responsibility” and making the city liable to maintain them indefinitely.
So, we reach what appears to be an impasse.
But I believe something can in fact be done, and should be done. Considering the reality that the Bailey Ranch Golf Course is in financial trouble — a fact reinforced by city staff recently — the last thing it needs is to look trashy and unkempt, which is exactly what one looks at every time they visit the driving range and see the remains of the nets. And I think such a fix could end up “netting” some gain for Owasso in its quest to be a “city of character.”
Since no one seems willing to take full financial responsibility for the nets, why don’t all the parties do it? The city has the manpower and the bucket trucks to work their way around the nets and get them repaired, and for a fraction of the cost of replacing them outright. This sort of project seems akin to some of the early successes the new Strong Neighborhoods Initiative has boasted of lately.
And, it seems reasonable that if the city would be willing to help provide the labor, the homeowners and the HOA could turn over a few dollars to compensate the city for the labor hours and the few supplies needed to complete the repairs.
At the end of the day, it seems all would win — the homeowners would have the added security of the nets being back in place, and an eyesore on the already-struggling golf course could be removed.
From April 15, 2010
Owasso, Okla., Reporter
Owasso resident Jeanette North’s new book, “Charity Genie: Fundraising is More Than Wishing,” features an eye-catching bright pink cover and multiple images of the author in what is becoming her signature regalia — a pink genie costume.
The bright colors and brighter ensemble certainly match North’s personality, which is reflected throughout the pages of the book that focuses on her experiences running charitable organizations and facing the daunting task of raising money to keep them functioning.
“The book wrote itself in six weeks,” North, the former director of Owasso Community Resources, told the Reporter. “I’ve heard of people struggling for years and years, and I didn’t even really intend on writing a book.”
But difficult experiences with a charity and a politician convinced North that her philosophy on fundraising was something that needed to be shared — and the best way to do that was in a bound, printed format.
“I had a foundation refer me to this charity that was doing absolutely wonderful work with teenagers,” North remembered. “[They] loved the mission, and they said, ‘Jeanette, go try to help them.’”
So that’s what she did. But the challenges became apparent quickly. North said that while the director of the charity had an excellent vision, she was terrible at fundraising.
“She brought me in and she basically redid everything I did,” she said, “and was going to tell me how to fundraise. I’ve been in sales and marketing for 25 years — I’ve sold widgets, and now I sell causes, but sales is sales.”
She said a negative encounter shortly thereafter with a political candidate was the breaking point. The candidate, North said, hired her to raise campaign funds but then flatly refused to accept her direction.
“I went home. I was frustrated,” she said. And that’s when the idea to write her techniques down in book form came to mind.
“I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to take everything I know, I’m going to put it in a book, take it, leave it, throw it in the trash, I don’t care,’” she recalled of that day. “So, when people come to me and say, ‘Jeanette, I have no money in the bank, how can you help me?’ I’m going to say, ‘Here’s the book.’”
“O-Ville” and “C-More”
Much of the experience North gained toward her education in all things fundraising is scattered through the pages of the book, a large part coming from her work with Owasso Community Resources, where she served as executive director from June 2006 until April 2008.
North had just completed an associate’s degree at Rogers State University in Claremore early in 2006. She wanted to take some accelerated Spanish classes and located a tutor in Owasso. While the Spanish didn’t work out well for her, the tutor, who was serving on OCR’s board at the time, urged her to get involved with the non-profit.
North agreed to serve as executive director on a volunteer basis at OCR for a month to
see if she and the group might make a good fit. She said she would then expect to go to half-salary, and eventually full-salary as OCR’s funding picture improved.
“By that next month they started paying us,” North said. “Different support from around came in. I went to media and I told them what we were dealing with. The more media that I got, the more needs showed up on our door. We made a commitment that we would meet need at the door. That was our philosophy from day one.”
She uses the thinly-veiled code words “O-Ville” and “C-More” to represent the communities she worked with while at the head of Owasso Community Resources — the cities of Owasso and Claremore, respectively — to “protect the identity of humble, innocent and a few guilty parties.”
North describes in the book a conflict that arose between her and what she terms “unexpected political resistance” to the effort to bring the services of public transportation provider Pelivan Transit to Owasso, which at the time lacked a service to provide rides to elderly, disabled and impoverished residents. She blames that conflict for her eventual dismissal from OCR.
“I think it was one of the things that cost me my job,” she said. “But every time I see a Pelivan pass, I almost cry. I say, ‘Six hundred needs a month are being met, and all it cost me was my little job.”
“Twenty-two months later, I rode this whole roller coaster,” North said of her time with OCR. “I don’t regret a minute of it. It gave me a real insight into charities, it gave me an insight into communities.”
She said that while ending her tenure at OCR was painful, she has found in consulting with others that it is common for boards and organizations to eventually want to take different paths.
“The people in Owasso are wonderful,” North added. “They were so supportive of their poor. [It was] just a few people with agendas, and that’s all it was.”
More wishes than the usual genie gives
Charity Genie is divided into 15 short chapters, which North calls “wishes.” The sections take readers through her strategy for success and non-profits.
The “wishes” range in subject from “Wishing for Passion” to “Wishing for Vivacious Volunteers” to “Wishing for More Fun in Fundraising.”
“So many charities do not know what they’re asking for,” North asserted. “They have wonderful missions, but they never take the time to dit down and say, ‘What is it that we need, how much is it going to cost, and who will give it to us?’”
North breaks fundraising down to very basic concepts she believes will help charitable groups prosper, even i tough economic times.
“People that own businesses — not just charities — will enjoy reading the non-traditional marketing stories,” North said. “So, it was just taking sales and marketing techniques and taking it from widgets to causes.”
The book can be found on most major online book sites, like amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, as well as through North’s website, charitygenie.com.
From February 11, 2010
Owasso, Okla., Reporter
Owasso residents Steven and Kelly Jacobson are very proud of their three biological children Madeleine, who goes by “Cat,” 17, Aaron, 16, and Elaina, 14. But in spite of the love they were able to give the trio, they knew they wanted to share that love with other children, too — even children who had not been able to enjoy the type of nurturing environment their children were given. They wanted to share that love so much, in fact, they added four more children to their already-bustling household.
“We had three kids, and we thought we were done,” Steven told the Reporter. “We actually did foster care for a year. So, we had a baby through [the Oklahoma Department of Human Services] in foster care for about a year, and then he went to live with his dad’s aunt and uncle, which was hard.”
Kelly had been a regular volunteer at the Jenks-based Crisis Pregnancy Outreach since the couple had relocated from Dallas in 1995, and was familiar with the organization’s adoption program. So the pair decided to submit a “life book” — an adoption application of sorts, with the hope they might be considered.
And the Jacobsons told the director at CPO they were interested in adopting a child that might otherwise have difficulty being matched to other families.
“If she needed somebody, if there was nobody else, we wanted to do it,” Kelly remembered. “At the time we called it a ‘special needs adoption.’ This was 12 years ago, [and that included] having a child of color.
Jewel, 12, Nate, 8, and Zachary, 2, are black. Isaac, 10, is of Middle Eastern descent.
“It was kind of funny, because after working with DHS, we didn’t think that they would let us adopt a child of color,” Kelly said, “because at the time, DHS really didn't like to place African-American children [with white families]. They felt like they needed to be placed in a black family. And that makes sense.”
But a scant two weeks after turning in their life book to the outreach, the Jacobsons got a call. And shortly after that they were able to add Jewel to their family.
Jewel was born nine weeks premature, and was very sickly at first, but she caught up quickly.
“We met her birth mom, and her birth morn was concerned about us being a white family,” Kelly said, “so we agreed to adopt a second African-American child later on, so that Jewel wouldn’t be the only one in the family.”
In keeping with their promise, the Jacobsons once again submitted a life book to CPO two years later, with the intention of adopting another African-American child. Instead, they were blessed with Isaac, now 10.
“Then, we were pretty much done," Kelly recalled.
It was about this time that Steven was laid off by MCI in the wake of the MCI-WorldCom scandal in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when CEO Bernard Ebbers and others used fraudulent accounting to prop up the company's appearance of profitability, leading in 2002 to what was at the time the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.
But in spite of more difficult finances, the Jacobson family wasn’t done growing.
“We got a call saying they needed a family, and they knew we’d been talking about it,” Steven, who now works for Level 3 Communications, said. “Financially, we weren’t quite ready, but we talked about it and we went ahead and put our life book in — and we got Nate.”
Zachary, at a very energetic and talkative 2, would bring the Jacobson family to a very happy nine.
A colorful family
The fact that our family is multi-colored is an awesome thing,” Kelly said. “We’re really proud of it.”
She said they still occasionally get awkward questions when they’re in public, like, “Do you have a daycare?” and “Which ones are yours?”
“Honestly,” Cat interjected, “since I was eight years old when we got Jewel, I grew up with it. Until people started pointing it out when l was in high school, I honestly didn't
notice. They were all just annoying, and they were all just my siblings.”
Keeping things open
The Jacobsons credit at least a part of their success in including children of different races ln their home with the open adoption process required in all CPO adoptions.
“All our adoptions are open adoptions — we have relationships with the birth moms,” Kelly said, noting that each adopted child has presented them with different levels of involvement with birth
“With Jewel and Isaac, we don’t have any contact with their birth parents,” Kelly said. “But there are no secrets, either. We could find them if we needed to.”
She said they visit with Nate’s birth mother usually once a year, though cards and photos are exchanged during the holidays. Zach’s mother is a regular part of the Jacobson family, visiting often.
“One way we like to put it,” Kelly said of CPO’s approach, “when [birth parents] make an adoption plan, it's not that they’re giving up family; they’re gaining family. We feel like
those birth moms are a part of our family.”
lsaac’s mother lives in another country, so she has not been directly lnvolved in his life, though
he’d like for that to happen someday.
“I do wish my birth mom could be here right now,” he said. “But I think l'm really, really happy being in this family. I think I just be long here.”
Is seven enough?
The Jacobson’s home is quite full of the constant chatter of seven very busy children today. But is there room enough for another child in need of a loving family?
“Yes,” Kelly quickly responded.
“Not planning on it,” Steven chimed in a moment later.
It was oldest daughter Cat, though, who cleared up the family opinion.
“But you said you weren’t going to adopt when we got Jewel,” Cat reminded her parents. “Then you said we were done when we got Jewel and we got Isaac. Then you said we were done adopting and we got Nate. Then you said we were completely done and we weren't ever going to do another one, and we got Zach.”
“We’ve learned not to say ‘no’ anymore,” Steven conceded, laughing.
“We never really sat down and planned it like this,” Kelly said. “But, it was one of those things where God blew our socks off. God’s plan was better than anything we could have come up with.”