Club distributes $30k to benefit Muskogee youth

·3 min read

Oct. 20—Exchange Club President Jon Hawke said Tuesday marked his favorite time of year.

That was when the Exchange Club distributed $30,000 in proceeds from its annual Chili & BBQ Cook-off, held in June. The money was distributed to 11 community programs, as well as for its own coat and shoe fund, during a Tuesday luncheon.

"We've been waiting a long time to do it," Hawke said. "With COVID we weren't able to have our luncheon, and it's fun to show our sponsors where the money they donate go."

Cook-off Chairman Robert Smith said the Exchange Club was not able to have its cook-off in 2020 because of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We love all the effort that was put into one of our major events, the Chili & BBQ Cook-off," said cook-off chairman Robert Smith.

This year, the club raised $32,000, he said.

Of that, $5,000 will go to the Exchange Club's shoe and coat fund, which provides shoes and coats for school children during the winter, Smith said.

"We work behind the scenes with counselors at schools and say 'hey, here's some money we'll put on debit cards you have control of, and just secretly meet the needs you see who are unfortunate and make sure they have shoes and coats," she said. "It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to make that happen."

Three programs received $5,500 each: Kids' Space Child Advocacy Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children, and Education Foundation of Muskogee.

Kids' Space Executive Director Haley Poffel said she's thrilled about the donation.

"It means continuation of our advocacy and therapy," she said, adding that the program saw a need for therapy during the pandemic.

The program works with front-line responders to help child victims of abuse or neglect.

CASA Outreach Coordinator Jenny Crosby said the Exchange Club funding allows CASA "to retain, recruit and support volunteers in their roles as advocates for abused and neglected children."

"We couldn't do what we do without these funds every year," Crosby said. "They're used for recruitment, training costs, anything we need to support the volunteers we have advocating for the children."

Education Foundation treasurer Jason Hughes also welcomed the contribution.

"I think all public education is suffering from funding challenges," Hughes said. "Certainly that affects the teachers' ability to purchase materials for the classroom to benefit the children."

He said money from the Exchange Club, as well as other donors, is important "to provide the best educational opportunities for the children of Muskogee."

Remaining funds go into a reserve for future requests.

"I really appreciate the fact we've got a community that's taking care of the things that are needed in our community," Smith said.

EXCHANGE CLUB GRANTS

—CASA: $5,500.

—Kids' Space: $5,500.

—Education Foundation of Muskogee: $5,500.

—Shoe and Coat Fund: $5,000.

—Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center: $1,500.

—Fostering Hope: $2,500.

—R.I.S.E.: $1,500.

—Warner Junior Fire Department: $1,000.

—Muskogee County 4-H: $500.

—Shriners: $500.

—MONARCH: $500.

—Lake Area United Way — Dolly Parton Imagination Library: $500.

—Reserve for future requests: $2,000.

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