Nation citizen Danielle McGavock stands next to boxes containing
food and hygiene items that were collected through the Bear
Necessities Coalition. The coalition will distribute 500 care
packages to at-risk students who attend Tahlequah Public Schools
during the anticipated Oklahoma teacher walkout on April 2.
(photo by Brittney Bennett - Cherokee Phoenix)
Bear Necessities Coalition received donations of canned goods,
pudding and nuts from individuals and area businesses, but
was still in need of non-perishable food items such as pop-top
entrees. (photo by Brittney Bennett - Cherokee Phoenix)
addition to food, the Bear Necessities Coalition is also collecting
hygiene items such as deodorant, tampons and wet wipes for
students during the April 2 teacher walkout. Items can be
dropped off through March 29 at the Bank of Cherokee County,
Mark Hodson State Farm and Chili's in Tahlequah. (photo by
Brittney Bennett - Cherokee Phoenix)
Tahlequah, OK Tahlequah Public Schools students who are
at risk of hunger during an anticipated Oklahoma teacher walkout
on April 2 will have a container filled with a week's worth of food
and hygiene supplies thanks to the Bear Necessities Coalition.
"There's a group of us, moms who have children in Tahlequah
Public Schools system, and once we heard about the possible school
suspension in April, we were just wanting to support our schools
and our children here," Danielle McGavock, Cherokee Nation citizen
and coalition organizer, said.
McGavock is one of several organizers for the group, which stemmed
from a discussion with her friend, Nicki Scott, about what parents
could do ahead of the walkout.
The coalition reached out to TPS, which had teachers confidentially
identify students who could benefit who were not already enrolled
in the school's Backpack Program. Teachers identified 500 students,
who were then given a voucher with details on pickup times and locations.
Numbers obtained from the coalition detail that of the 3,574
students attending TPS, more than 2,300 receive free or reduced
meals. Additionally, more than 2,000 students identify as Native
American, a fact that weighs heavily on McGavock.
"We don't know who the students are. We don't know any of the
information about the students, but some are probably Cherokee,"
McGavock said. "I feel like, the Cherokee people, we're a family
and we're to take care of each other, and I think that's why my
heart is for this. Also, three of our children are adopted, and
these (students) could be my babies. These could be my children
in school possibly, not having what they need."
McGavock said she also has friends who teach and knew their
concerns about the walkout.
"We have a lot of friends who are teachers, and they fight and do
everything they can for our children, and so one of the big concerns
they had was 'how are our children going to eat?' if they do this.
Basically, how are their babies going to eat while they're doing
this walkout to stand up for them," McGavock said. "They're momma
bears to 20-something kids everyday, and they make sure that their
needs are met and they're cared for outside of trying to educate
McGavock said the coalition's efforts help take the "burden"
off teachers. "They are very thankful that their little cubs will
be taken care of, so to speak, during that time that they are fighting
for them. They're doing this all for the children so we are happy
to assist them."
If the Oklahoma Legislature reaches an agreement to fund teacher
raises and the walkout is suspended, McGavock said the supplies
would be donated to the Backpack Program. However, according to
an Associated Press story, the leader of the state's largest teacher's
union said the April 2 walkout over low pay and funding for schools
could end up being more of a one-day celebration if lawmakers can
approve a deal.
"Teachers will be here on April 2," Oklahoma Education Association
President Alicia Priest sad. "They may be saying 'thank you.'"
While the issue of a teacher walkout has divided some people,
McGavock said she's seen the ability of the Tahlequah community
to come together and support students.
"A lot of my friends and family are one side or the other, but
one thing that we can all agree on is our kids," she said. "No matter
if you're for it or against it, we all agree our kids need to be
provided for and loved on and taken care of. I think that's where
the community comes in and puts aside its differences."
The Bear Necessities Coalition is still in need of non-perishable,
pop-top food items and hygiene items, including deodorant, tampons
and wet wipes. Items can be dropped off through March 29 at the
Bank of Cherokee County, Mark Hodson State Farm and Chili's in Tahlequah.
The group is also accepting donations and asking for volunteers
to pack bags on March 30 and work at distribution sites on March
31. Those interested are encouraged to message the "Bear Necessities
Coalition" page on Facebook or call 918-257-6243.