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2016 Issue 9 : Community Development Edition

Develop, Innovate, Prosper

NEOCAA Garden Project is a Growing Success Northeast Oklahoma Community Action Agency (NEOCAA) has launched a garden project to provide fresh, organic vegetables to low-income families in the Jay area.

“Produce and Posies” is located on the Triple Cross Ranch near the Delaware County fairgrounds in Jay. The area is considered a food desert in which local produce is both prohibitively expensive and inaccessible for many area families because of the distance to markets and grocery stores. It is the result of NEOCAA Executive Director Jean Cooper’s efforts to develop a food initiative to ease the burden of the area’s food desert on low-income families, create jobs, and encourage economic development. “Our five counties are very rural and many areas have no local grocery stores. Also the cost of fresh food is prohibitive for low-income families,” said Cooper. “We are trying to fill the gap for these people to enable a healthier lifestyle. We wanted to create jobs and low-maintenance beds to make the production affordable. The result is organic, fresh vegetables with almost no maintenance, perfect for anyone who wants to grow food.”

NEOCAA Produce and Posies’ first community garden that helps low-income families.

Cooper found project start-up funding by applying for a discretionary grant with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Once approved, NEOCAA worked for several years to develop the garden and meet the goals for the community. “The agency (NEOCAA) had no resources for this pilot project. The funds from the Department of Commerce enabled us to build the first ten beds and have staff to develop and work the garden,” said Cooper. “Produce and Posies” has produced between 7,000 and 10,000 pounds of produce for the community. Continued on page 6

Rhonda Sloan Garden Manager with church youth group volunteers in the community greenhouse.

Weatherization Assistance Program Celebrates 40 years p. 3 Community Development Block Grant and Rural Economic Action Plan p. 4 Make Oklahoma Grants Work for You p. 7

RX for Oklahoma helps Oklahomans access prescription assistance programs. Free and discounted medication assistance has proven to be a much needed service for Oklahomans since the inception of RX for Oklahoma on December 1, 2005. RX for Oklahoma provides better healthcare, improved medication compliance and fewer medical complications for those who qualify. TX

Oklahoma residents, regardless of age, who are uninsured or underinsured are encouraged to apply. Medicare Part D and Medicaid beneficiaries with unique circumstances may qualify.

When applying, please have the following information available: • Age • Residential address • Gross annual household income

Call RX for Oklahoma at 1-877-RX4-OKLA (1-877-794-6552) or go to one of the regional processing centers designated for your residential county. RX for Oklahoma staff will take your information including name, age, address and income as well as prescription(s) needed and dosage(s). This information is then entered into a special database that generates the appropriate paperwork for the pharmaceutical companies for which you are eligible. RX for Oklahoma staff will assist you with the completion of the applications and required documentation for submission. The entire process takes approximately one month to complete, so only long-term medications will qualify.

• Complete list of medications you are taking • Physician information • Insurance coverage (if applicable)

There is no charge for RX Oklahoma services. Staff are available to provide assistance with the application process.



Weatherization Assistance Program Celebrates 40 Years of Helping Low-Income Households

Because of this foundation, my home is in great shape. I should see a great reduction on my electric bill. I am so grateful to all involved. - Weatherization funds recipient

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce administers the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) in the state with funding from the Department of Energy. The program focuses on improving the energy efficiency of lower-income households with priority given to the elderly, disabled, and families with children. Through the Oklahoma Community Action Agencies, Oklahoma weatherizes approximately 200 homes per year.

reduce total residential energy expenditures, and improve health and safety. Specifically, the program was targeted toward particularly vulnerable populations such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, and families with children.

This year WAP marks 40 years of serving low-income families nationwide. President Gerald Ford signed H.R. 12169, also known as the Energy Conservation and Production Act, on August 14th, 1976. Title IV gave the Federal Energy Administration (now the Department of Energy) the ability to establish a weatherization program. The goals of the program are to increase the energy efficiency of dwellings owned or occupied by low-income persons,

By decreasing the amount of income spent on home energy, weatherization stimulates economic growth by providing increased spending power for families. The average savings per family from the program is $283 per year. The savings to investment ratio for WAP is 1.4, meaning that every dollar invested results in $1.40 savings for families.

Today, the program has served over seven million families in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and three Native American tribes.

a weatherization beneficiary wrote, “Because of this foundation, my home is in great shape. I should see a great reduction on my electric bill. I am so grateful to all involved.� In addition to helping lowerincome households, the benefits of weatherization help society. When factoring in health and safety benefits, every dollar invested in weatherization returns $4.10 to society. Within Oklahoma, the energy savings are approximately 6,000 MBTU (million British thermal units) each year from the program. WAP has had a successful 40 year history and it looks forward to continually serving a critical population and achieving the goals set out at its inception.

In a thank you letter sent to one of the foundations that distributes the funds,


The Community Development Block Grant and Rural Economic Action Plan Program Investing in rural Oklahoma Many of Oklahoma’s rural communities face serious community and economic development challenges: outdated water and wastewater systems are prevalent; many streets, sidewalks, community centers, and fire protection services are in poor condition; dilapidated housing and out-migration is a serious concern. For those rural communities striving to improve their quality of life, investing dollars in infrastructure can help make a big difference. The federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the state appropriated Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) grant program can help provide a solid foundation for communities to be in better position to attract, develop, and retain diverse and higher-paying jobs while improving the quality of life of local residents. The CDBG program’s primary national objective is the development of communities by providing decent housing, a suitable living environment, and expanding economic opportunities, principally for persons of low income. The program focuses on rural Oklahoma as no projects can be funded in communities with populations greater than 50,000. The program is highly adaptable to the needs of communities. Projects that can be undertaken with CDBG funds include water, sewer, streets, drainage, community centers, fire protection, and other publicly owned infrastructure. The CDBG program focuses on rural areas with well over 60% of funds allocated to communities with populations of less than 1,500.

In 2016, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce was allocated a total of 12.8 million to be distributed statewide. Numbers for the 2016 CDBG program year are not finalized, however for 2015 there were 103 new projects funded totaling $12.7 million. This benefited an estimated 328,000 Oklahomans and helped create 148 new jobs.

By legislation 10 categories of projects are eligible for REAP: • Water Quality • Solid Waste • Sewer Projects • Roads and Streets • Health Care Services • Economic Development • Fire Protection • Telecommunication • Municipal Energy • Public Buildings

In 1996, the Oklahoma legislature created the Rural Economic Action (REAP) program. The purpose of this program is to provide funding to rural communities with population less than 7000. Priority is given to communities less than 1500.

Community Reports & Analysis Available through ODOC

REAP funds are distributed to each of the 11 regional Council of Governments (COG). The state legislature appropriated a total of $9.6 Million in 2017 REAP to be distributed to the 11 COGs. Each COG administers the application process in awarding specific projects to rural communities. Last year the COGs awarded approximately 175 projects totaling $10.5 million. Investing federal and state resources on community infrastructure is important to keep rural communities viable. Focusing on community infrastructure helps ensure an overall better quality of life by allowing availability, accessibility, and affordability of local services. It provides a foundation whereby communities will be in a better position to retain and create better paying jobs. The CDBG and REAP programs are the funding cornerstone for rural community development. These programs work together to strengthen communities, improve quality of life, and spur opportunity through job growth. For more, information contact Director of Programs Scott Myers at 405-815-5356 or email

Increase your community’s sales tax revenue with ERSI Community Analyst Reports and analysis from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce’s Research team. Attract the right mix of retail to your community with expert analysis and detailed demographic and consumer spending reports. Reports include: • • • •

Expenditure Reports Market Potential Reports Profile Reports Locators and Maps

Contact: Lesli Crofford, Research Analyst Call 405-815-5120 or 800-879-6552 or e-mail Reports are available at no cost to Oklahoma’s Main Street Communities when requested by Program Directors and approved by Oklahoma Main Street.


NEOCAA Garden Project is a Growing Success Continued from page 1

“Produce and Posies” gets additional income from selling hanging flowers, flats of flowers and potted plants. They’ve worked with local food growers to operate a farmers market in Jay on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Sarkeys Foundation has awarded NEOCAA $10,000 for the construction of a mobile farmers market. “Produce and Posies” has grown successfully and continues to find new ways to better the community, the NEOCAA five county area, and beyond.

“Produce and Posies” utilizes the help of many community volunteers as well. They accept SNAP payments and donate food regularly to local food banks and senior centers. They also partnered with the Cherokee Nation to purchase canning equipment with Delaware County Community staff to use local produce year round.

“We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response of people in the community. People are so eager to have fresh, organic produce and to have a way to teach their children to grow food. We are working on developing a system that we can provide to schools, day care centers, and Head Start centers,” said Cooper. “We are developing a curriculum for the children and we think it will be a great asset for these programs and children. We hope to expand our efforts to teach people to can and cook vegetables. We are taking one step at a time and are hoping that businesses and individuals will contribute to our efforts so we can continue to expand.”

Rhonda Sloan and Rhonda Cunningham are managing the project; community volunteers have donate time and materials. They use the garden to teach local school children how to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and the importance of nutrition and healthy living habits. The gardens are now self-sustaining as a result of their efforts. A major contributor has allowed them to fund garden projects in nine area schools and libraries and more are scheduled be installed. The

KOB’s Annual Environmental Excellence Awards Keep Oklahoma Beautiful (KOB) will hold its 26th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards Celebration on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Organizations will be recognized for their outstanding efforts in environmental stewardship and beautification. This year’s board commendations include: Champion Volunteer Award - Dixie Harper (Ardmore). Presented to a person who shows a record of at least 10 years of consistently going beyond the scope of his or her job to provide community, statewide, global environmental improvement as it relates to the mission of KOB. This person operates clearly out of devotion and commitment. Towering Spirit Award - Latta High School FFA, Seth Reeves. Presented to a person, program, business or organization for upholding the mission of KOB in a unique way, garnering public acclaim and having far-reaching positive impact.

Visionary Leadership Award - Global Gardens, Maryann Donahue. Presented to a person, community, business or organization with a unique view for environmental or community improvement and has inspired others to emulate or adopt that philosophy. Vanguard Award - OGE Energy Corp., Scott Milanowski. Presented to a person, institution, community, business for embracing cutting-edge technologies and concepts in support of a sustainable planet. Lifetime Achievement Award - Tom Terry (Shawnee). Presented to an individual for a body of work spanning at least 25 years which has shown outstanding achievements in leadership, environmental stewardship and efforts that have produced obvious improvements, enhancements and/or preservation of Oklahoma’s environment. Make reservations online at or by calling KOB offices at (405) 286-9141.

Make Oklahoma Grants Work for You OKGrants Tips: Become familiar with the materials in the “My Training Materials” tab on OKGrants. Training materials include an ODOC Sub Grantee User Manual, ODOC Monitoring Instructions, ODOC Reimbursement Claim Instructions, ODOC Request for Funds Instructions, ODOC Closeout Instructions, ODOC Expenditures Instructions, and ODOC Modification Instructions. Know the organizational roles in OKGrants and what tasks those roles can and cannot perform. The role of an Agency Administrator in OKGrants cannot perform the tasks that an Authorized Official can perform. Passwords expire every 90 days. If you attempt to enter an incorrect password 3 times, OKGrants will lock you out.

OKGrants is an online grants management system used to electronically capture all grant information from the initial application through the closeout process. The system was developed to significantly reduce the processing time of reviewing, approving and executing federal and state contracts. OKGrants also allows for quicker processing of advances, expenditures, modifications and contract closeout documents. By using the OKGrants system, the grantee can monitor the status of executed grants and ensure supporting documentation is downloaded and processed in a timely manner. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce uses the OKGrants management system for all grants administered by the agency. Any county, community or organization applying for a grant through Commerce must submit its application using the OKGrants system.

Make sure your organizations roles in OKGrants are current. You do not want to have an Authorized Official listed that is no longer part of your community. If you have more than one role in your organization in OKGrants, you will need a separate username for each role. The system will allow you to use the same password for each role. Follow these steps to change your password: 1. Go to 2. Input your username and select “Forget Password?” at the bottom of the login box. A second page will appear. 3. Input your username and email address and the system will e-mail you a temporary password. Make sure you are using the same e-mail address that is associated with your username in OKGrants. 4. Login with your username and temporary password and change your temporary password to a password you want to use.

For more information or assistance contact Kathy Gain at 405-815-5267 or email


Upcoming Events FY 2017 STATE CONSOLIDATED PLAN PUBLIC INPUT SESSION & PUBLIC HEARING The Oklahoma Department of Commerce’s Community Development team has scheduled a Public Input Session and Public Hearing to discuss the upcoming FY 2017 State Consolidated Plan. The State Consolidated Plan formal Public Input Session and Public Hearing are designed to get ideas, comments, suggestions, and feedback from the public regarding the State Consolidated Plan. The State Consolidated Plan is a single, annual document that incorporates the planning and application aspects of the following programs: • • • •

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Home Investment Partnerships (HOME) Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)

The Public Input Session and Public Hearing are part of the overall State Consolidated Plan citizen participation process which is required annually in order to obtain continued program funding from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).

Input Session: Sept 20, 2016 - Oklahoma City 2 PM, Metro Technology Center (Springlake Campus) 1720 Springlake Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73111 Business Conference Center (Room J) Public Hearing: Oct 20, 2016 - Oklahoma City 2 PM, Metro Technology Center (Springlake Campus) 1720 Springlake Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73111 Business Conference Center (Room F) Questions can be addressed to Scott Myers (405) 815-5356 or Steven Hoover (405) 815-5268 or

LABOR DAY Monday, September 5, 2016 State Offices Closed

OKLAHOMA MUNICIPAL LEAGUE, ANNUAL CONFERENCE AND EXHIBIT The Community Development team and Oklahoma Main Street Program from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce will be in the exhibit hall ready to meet and answer your questions. September 13-16, 2016 Cox Convention Center For more information visit: or contact OML at (405) 528-7515 or (800) 324-6651.

NEW PIONEER, A PRODUCT OF THE OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE EDITOR IN CHIEF: Kimberly Hickerson CONTRIBUTORS: Bryan Boone, Kathy Gain, Victoria Hui, Scott Myers PHOTO CREDITS: Oklahoma Department of Commerce FOR NEW PIONEER SUBMISSIONS AND STORY IDEAS CONTACT: Kimberly Hickerson Editor-in-Chief Oklahoma Department of Commerce 900 N. Stiles Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73104 (405) 815-5240 @OKcommerce

Issue 9 2016  

NEOCAA Garden Project is a Growing Success, Weatherization Assistance Program Celebrates 40 years, Community Development Block Grant and Rur...

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