TULSA, Okla. – The 2018 year will start with a new Osage Nation WIC Clinic to serve clients in the southern part of Osage County, as well as the north part of the state’s second largest city.
On Aug. 24, tribal officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the planned 3,000 square-foot WIC Clinic along North 36th Street across from the Nation’s flagship Osage Casino. Construction is scheduled to be complete in December, said Bruce Cass, director of the Nation’s Tribal Development and Land Acquisition Department.
That day, tribal officials shared congratulatory remarks at the event, which opened with an Osage prayer delivered by Osage elder and master language teacher Herman “Mogri” Lookout.
Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said: “Our future is with us now, it’s with us in every pregnant woman and every child, it’s with us in this program today: Women, Infants, Children, that’s what WIC stands for. And for those of you that understood that prayer, ‘Uncle Mog’ reached out into those categories and asked for blessings upon those categories and among our people and all the people in the communities.”
“The Osage Nation WIC program serves thousands of women and children through nutrition programs, nourishing foods, education programs and referrals,” Standing Bear said. “They’ve done a great job, they cover the largest county in the state of Oklahoma, they have several locations and we need more facilities like this.”
Congress members Otto Hamilton and Alice Buffalohead attended the event with other ON government officials and WIC employees on hand for the groundbreaking event. “I’m excited to see groundbreakings like this and progress go into these and thanks to everyone for being here,” Hamilton said.
Manon Taylor, director of the Nation’s WIC Department, said the new Tulsa WIC site has better accessibility for clients to reach the clinic and she hopes for a January 2018 opening. The current WIC facility is located in the northern-most portion of the former Tulsa Airpark complex next to the casino, meaning people must drive through complex traffic that includes those who work at or visit Osage Casino Central Services and construction vehicles working on the nearby Tulsa casino and hotel project. The site is also convenient for clients who use the Tulsa bus system to reach the clinic, she said.
Taylor said the Nation’s WIC location in Tulsa is a necessity because three nearby metro WIC clinics closed in recent months and “I potentially see that our participation count will increase in the next few months as those (client) benefits start to expire.”
Taylor said the new building amenities will include “a food demonstration kitchen with a viewing area for the participants. We will prepare healthy WIC-approved foods while the participants learn and ask questions. We will show them new ways to prepare the foods and will provide the recipes and samples to try. There will be six offices, a breastfeeding room for participants to provide privacy, if they prefer, and consultations with breastfeeding staff in the room is available also, two laboratories for height, weight, and iron measurements, two family bathrooms, a teaching and demonstration kitchen with gallery seating, a breakroom, reception and waiting area, children’s play area and a storage room.”
Expressing emotion, Taylor thanked fellow Nation officials and construction crews who are working on the project plans and her WIC staff members, adding “I’m very passionate about my staff, they always believe in my crazy ideas to improve our program and our services and I just want everyone to know they are dedicated people to serving our WIC participants and they have integrity every day.”
Also, that day, USDA/Food Nutrition Service Program Specialist Victor Agosto attended and presented the ON WIC Department with an award for “Loving Support” for making breastfeeding work. The “Loving Support Award of Excellence” was developed to recognize and celebrate local WIC agencies that provide exemplary breastfeeding programs and support services, according to a news release.
Taylor said in July 2017, WIC had nearly 1,976 enrolled participants at the Tulsa location. As for Tulsa WIC operations, Taylor said: “There are usually four nutrition staff and one or two breastfeeding peer counselors there Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We may look at adjusting our days and times once we open.”