POTEAU – The Choctaw Nation broke ground Thursday for three all-new facilities in Poteau.
A Choctaw Nation Child Development Center, Food Distribution Center, and Wellness Center are coming to the LeFlore County town. The three buildings will be located on the grounds of the Rubin White Choctaw Nation Health Clinic, 109 Kerr Ave.
Chief Gary Batton, said, “It’s nice to come to the Poteau area and see the 12 million dollars the Council is going to invest in Poteau. We always want to make sure we invest in our communities, grow our communities, provide jobs for our tribal members, but this is also about health. We can provide wellness programs for all of our people and focus on our youth with the Child Development Center. With the Food Distribution Center, we want to make sure we can provide food for our elders and to our families, so we can keep them all together.”
The groundbreaking ceremony for the three new projects saw city, county and tribal officials, as well as Poteau citizens and tribal members in attendance.
Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. served as emcee and welcomed the gathering.
“We are breaking ground for a Head Start and Child Development Center, a Food Distribution Center, and a Wellness Center – all in one groundbreaking,” said Austin. “It is truly a tremendous day for the Choctaw Nation.”
The planned Wellness Center will be a 9,700-square-foot facility that will include a half-court basketball gym and indoor walking track. A 2,500-square-foot space will be dedicated to top-of-the-line cardio- and strength-training machines – and have a dedicated Crossfit area.
Another 2,000 square feet will be for group fitness classes, such as yoga, spin class, and karate. Other Wellness Center amenities will be men’s and women’s showers and restrooms, as well as lockers for day use. The Wellness Center staff will offer free personal training programs, nutritional counseling, and comprehensive fitness assessments to Wellness Center members. It was also announced that after construction is complete on the new Wellness Center, the Pharmacy Refill Center will occupy the space currently used as the Wellness Center.
The Food Distribution Center operates under guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. According to Jerry Tonubbee, Director of Choctaw Nation Food Distribution, more than 600 families are served by the current Poteau facility.
The new building, he said, is expected to be of similar construction to the three others built in the past three years in southeastern Oklahoma: A 6,500-square-foot metal building with brick-and-rock base, and traditional Choctaw design details. It will likely house both Food Distribution and the Next Step program, another food assistance program for families. It will provide similar amenities as the Broken Bow and Durant facilities, and will have a kitchen area for food demonstrations.
Dan Adams said, “When I first started working for the tribe in 1978 there wasn’t anything here. The nutrition center was in the college (Carl Albert).” He enjoys working for the Choctaw Nation, and now part-time, he serves as the sergeant-at-arms for the Choctaw Tribal Council and drives the bus for the Poteau seniors.
The Choctaw Nation Child Development Center will house both the Head Start program and Poteau’s first Choctaw Nation Day Care. The center will not only provide a safe and nurturing environment to prepare children for school readiness, but teach Choctaw culture through art, physical activities, and language lessons. The building will enhance the program with added space, and state-of-the-art safety and educational features, such as Smart Boards. DeAnn Reeves, Choctaw Nation Head Start Center Manager in Poteau, said that the program will accommodate 17 children and have seven staff members. The dining room will serve as a walk-in safe room in the new facility for staff and children.
Amanda Johnson, Director of the Choctaw Nation Child Development Program, said, she is “super excited” about the new center. “The need for child care has expanded in this area,” she said. “The center will have four classrooms for child care and accommodate up to 66 children from 6 weeks old to 5 years old. Adding the Choctaw Nation Day Care in Poteau will create 17 new jobs.”
Faylin Lasalle, a senior from the Poteau area, is amazed at everything the Choctaw Nation is doing in Poteau and throughout the Nation’s 10 ½ service counties. She was with a group of seniors that recently visited the new Choctaw Nation Regional Medical Clinic and Choctaw Nation Headquarters campus in Durant and thought it was “Wonderful.” She moved to Poteau from northeastern Oklahoma in September. Lasalle said, “It amazes me, the care and concern the Choctaw Nation has for the elders and children.”
Speaking of the partnerships in Poteau, Choctaw Tribal Councilman for District 4 Delton Cox said, “We are all in this together. We need to work together and help each other. The new facilities will bring in more jobs and the current facilities will be repurposed for things such as physical therapy, pharmacy refill, and office space. There are currently about 140 employed at the clinic and the expansion will provide more jobs.”
All of the construction is expected to be complete in 2018.
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