Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bits & Pieces: Hello 2016

A new year, new start.

As I type this, the new year is almost here. We are just days away from ringing in 2016.

Once again, standing on the cusp of a new year brings on the discussion regarding setting resolutions and goals.

For me, the days following Christmas becomes a time to pick a new a word (or two) that will represent the upcoming year.

In a way, the word becomes a verbal roadmap to what's ahead. It becomes my word to focus on, to ponder and well, to use as it presents itself as life happens.

I started this practice in 2007, with the adoption of wonder as my very first word. During the year, seek emerged as a guiding word, because of a job change and new life opportunities.

Other words followed including simplicity and joy (2008), dream and hope (2009), half-full and see (2010), new and renew (2011), rest and sabbath (2012), imagine and rejoice (2013) and laugh and love (2014).

Obviously, most years, I've had two words. It seems as if something presents itself mid-year, as a guiding word of importance.

My only defense is, well, I like words.

Usually, I pick the word at the beginning of the year. However in 2015, my "one little word" did not present itself to me until early July. I found them as I tried to deal with a life that included a plethora of crazy wedding preparations and the unexpected death of the Lawman's daughter.

Those two words - grace and dignity - have become almost a mantra as I closed out the year, as I've tried to extend the meaning of the words throughout my life regardless of the situation. 

As this year ends, life is different. Let's face it. I'm different. 

This is the first year - in my 43 years of existence - I'm facing Jan. 1 married. My world, and perception of it, has changed. I'm no longer a "me" but instead a "we."

Even after five months, I'm still learning to grasp that new reality. I have to remind myself that I'm not walking through life alone. I have someone I can rely on and trust. Someone who is with me for better and for worse. Someone who is part of my life in a rich way.

I've thought a lot about what word will become my road map in 2016. I know I want this year to become one where I intentionally focus on things outside of the newsroom. 

I want to create a life, together with the Lawman, which is full and rich.

A life that includes more than just eating, sleeping and working. A life that is full of meaning, creates memories and is filled with a plethora of emotions.

So with that in mind, my word for 2016 is "be."

I want to be in love, be fulfilled, be happy, be alive. I simply want to be.

I want to find out what it means to be present in life, rather than simply existing.

The question, to mangle Shakespeare, is not IF I want "to be or not to be." The answer is, instead is, simply I want to "be."

I want to live a life that no longer just occupies space and takes up air.

I want to find ways I can be available to friends and family - even if it means I turn off my phone. 

I want to be connected with The Lawman, because I'm learning that my presence, means more than presents in the long run.

I want to be a person of faith. I want my faith, and ultimately my relationship with God, to be stronger on Dec. 31, 2016. 

So, for 2016, I want to "be."

It's kind of fun to stand on the edge of a new year and see it as a blank canvas waiting to be filled. It's exciting, scary and well, an amazing opportunity, all wrapped up in 365 days.

Here's to 2016. May it bring joy, happiness, peace and all that you desire to you and yours. 

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. Have an idea for a column or story? She can be reached at or 918-786-2228.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bits & Pieces: Presence or Presents?

Is there anyway you can come?

With those words, life changed for me last weekend.

On Friday morning, I received the call that my good friend Kim's grandmother died.

Its been a long process, but Nana, as she was known, was able to die at home in her own space, thanks to the efforts of Kim and her mother.

On Friday evening, as the events of the day began to settle, Kim called.

Her simple question put things into perspective.

Trying desperately to hold things together for her family, her voice cracked as she asked, "I know it's a deadline day, but is there anyway you can come Monday for the funeral?"

Kim and I have been friends since 1998. She taught me to quilt (first by hand, then by machine). We were in the same book club.

I've watched her son, who was just an elementary student at the time, grow up to become a married father of three.

It's a friendship that has spanned both the years and miles. We talk on Facebook and when she "pocket dials" me, or when something significant happens in our lives.

She, along with her husband, drove three hours to be at the epic proposal when the Lawman decided to surprise me.

In July, they returned so Kim could serve as the "Girl Friday" at my wedding, helping me with a variety of tasks and basically keeping me calm before I walked down the aisle.

(She likes to regale people about how she had to "help" me get into those dreaded things known as spanxs. Let's just say, it took a village and leave it at that.)

Kim's only asked me to come like this once before. When Kaleb was a teenager, he was involved in a dreadful wreck. With things touch and go, Kim asked me to come - and I did. I sat with her at the hospital, and helped her stay sane.

It was like that on Monday. Thanks to a variety of people, some on staff and others in the community, the contents of Tuesday's issue of The Grove Sun were completed by the time I rolled out of town.

I drove those three hours, expecting to take my turn as Kim's "Girl Friday," or in today's terms, be her Minion.

But instead of doing things, I found myself simply being present.

We laughed, we cried, we hugged. I held her hand (boy does she have a tight grip) through the visitation and funeral.

I'm a do-er by nature. I want to fix things.

In this instant, there was nothing to do or fix. Instead, my gift to her on this day was simple.

I was present.

I didn't give her anything or do anything. My presence at the funeral was what she needed.

Oh I did get to hold all of Kaleb's children - one of which is just a couple years shy of Kaleb's age when I first met him - and I did help a bit at the post-funeral dinner.

But primarily, my gift was that of presence instead of presents.

It's something to think about as you worry about what will go under the Christmas tree. Maybe what your friend or family member needs most isn't another thing, but rather, time with you.

I learned Monday, that my presence alone was truly the best gift I could give my friend.

This originally appeared in the Dec. 11, 2015 issue of The Grove Sun.

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. Have an idea for a column or story? She can be reached at or 918-786-2228.

Wishes come true for Grove girls

Braelon Vannoster & Angelica Wilson • Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller /
Wishes came true this fall for two Grove girls, as they both received trips to Disney World through the Make A Wish Foundation.

For both Angelica Wilson, a fifth grader, and Braelon Vannoster, a sixth grader, the trips to Florida in September and October came after medical personnel connected to their care nominated them for the experience.

The Make A Wish Foundation in Oklahoma awards between 150 to 180 trips to children, with life threatening illnesses, each year.

Kiyana Baird, the state's wish coordinator, said volunteers are on tap to end the year with 180 wishes.

Baird said children can choose a wish from multiple options. They can go on trips, become someone for a day, request an item, ask to meet someone, or even request to give something away.

Wilson and Vannoster both picked traveling to Disney World as their primary wish. During the trips, they each stayed at the Give Kids the World resort, an all-encompassing resort and mini-amusement park and received tickets to a variety of attractions.

Wilson nicknamed the resort "Villa Villekulla" because it reminded her of the fictional home of Pippi Longstocking. At the resort, students were given ice cream for breakfast, presents each day, and as both Wilson and Vannoster described - spoiled.

Baird said a trip to Disney World is one of the most requested wish for children, because it means they can take family members.

"It's a great place to go for the whole family," Baird said. "Children can take their immediate family. Others can go if they pay their own way. It gives children a family vacation."

The average wish costs approximately $7,500. In the event of a trip, like Wilson and Vannoster picked, it includes all travel expenses, tickets to activities, and even spending money for souvenirs.

"Wishes give hope and joy at a time they are both needed most," Baird said. "it gives [students] something to look forward to, and be excited about. We've heard stories that it's given some children the extra push they needed to finish [treatment].

"Wishes are powerful."

Wilson, a student at Cowboy Junction in Vinita, traveled with her mother and father, Carey and John Wilson, and her grandmother, Martha Peck of Pryor.

Vannoster, a student at Grove Upper Elementary School, traveled with her mother, Keslie Leonard, her father, Jeff Vannoster, and her sister, Byntlee Dawn Vannoster - also a student at Grove Upper Elementary.

About the trip
Wilson's trip included stops at the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, SeaWorld, Universal Studios and Island of Adventures.

Her trip to Universal also included a stop at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - something she found quite, amazing because it included a stop at Ollivanders Shop where she was given a chance to "let a wand choose her."

She also had a chance to have visits with Mickey Mouse, Pluto and a variety of other Disney characters.

"It was a carefree week," Carey Wilson said of the trip. "We didn't worry about our next doctor's appointment, or her health prognosis.

"We did whatever she wanted to do. She got to pick and choose. The trip was flawless."

Carey Wilson joked that Wilson's choices meant that the family walked a combined 45 miles as they traversed the various amusement parks.

The Vannosters trip included stops at Disney, as well as SeaWorld, Universal Studios and more.

"She was a princess for a week," said her father, Jeff Vannoster. "They spoiled her. This trip was priceless. You can't spend enough money to get the same experience."

Vannoster said she had the most fun, spending time meeting the various princesses; admitting she filled her autograph book with their signatures and pictures.

Her favorite princesses to meet - Elsa and Anna from the movie Frozen.

Jeff Vannoster said the best part about the trip, was watching his two daughters interact without worrying about health issues.

"We just wanted Braelon to have a good time," Jeff Vannoster said. "Just seeing [the enjoyment on] her face, was the best part."

More about Wilson

Wilson has pilocytic astrocytoma, a brain tumor that occurs in children or young adults, that is typically slow growing and benign.

Since 2013, she has undergone two surgeries to remove a non-malignant brain tumor. In July of this year, doctors at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas determined the remnants of the tumor remain, and continue to grow..

Working with her physicians, Wilson's parents have tentatively scheduled her to undergo a third surgery in May, pending the results of a MRI and further tests set for Dec. 17 in Texas. The hope is she can recover from the surgery without missing school.

Earlier this month, Wilson had a mass removed from her arm. Doctors determined on Thursday it was a benign spindle cell tumor and she will not need to undergo additional treatment.

More about Vannoster

Vannoster was born with CHARGE syndrome, a birth defect that impacts a child's vision - the retina or iris does not fuse normally; causes heart defects, retards growth, causes renal effects, as well as hearing loss and a variety of other things.

Since birth, Vannoster has undergone 28 major surgeries, five of which were open heart procedures. Her last surgery took place in August 2013, when she received an artificial valve and pacemaker.

Jeff Vannoster said he's confident his daughter, who has already exceeded expectations, will have "endless possibilities."

"She gets As and Bs, and has been active in the Special Olympics since she was four," Jeff Vannoster said. "Her size is an issue, but she's growing.

"I don't know what the future holds for her, but I know she touches a lot of people wherever she goes. Hopefully it will be something good."
2015 Pelican Festival Grand Marshals Angelica Wilson (left) and Braelon Vannoster are driven through the Pelican Festival parade by Chrsti Lungren and Kathy Lungren Baker. Both girls received Make A Wish trips this fall.
Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun
Spreading Christmas Cheer
For the third year in a row, members of Angelica Wilson's church, Foundation Free Will Baptist, will celebrate Christmas by passing out "stuffies" to children throughout Grove and northeast Oklahoma.

On Saturday, volunteers - known as Angelica's Angels - plan to hand out the stuffed animals during the 2015 Grove Lighted Christmas Parade.

The event, set for 6 p.m., rain or shine, will take place on Saturday, Dec. 12, in downtown Grove.

Angelica's Angels will walk alongside the Foundation Free Will Baptist float and pass out this year's stuffies, which have been donated through the efforts of Mark Gibson, manager of the Lifeway Christian Store in Hurst, Texas.

Others will be given out during the church's Living Nativity presentation, set for 5 to 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13, at the church.

The program begin in 2013, as a way for Wilson to give back to the community.

"It's good for her to be giving back," her mother, Carey Wilson said at the start of the program. "She's gotten so much because she needed it. But she needs to give back, to see that (life) is not all about getting things."

This originally appeared in the Dec. 11, 2015 issue of The Grove Sun

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bits & Pieces: Fear

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •

Fear is a powerful emotion.

I've watched as the events which took place last weekend Paris have had a crippling effect on people around the globe.

Rational people become, well, irrational, as the fear of ISIS creeps over them like a black cloud of doom.

Decisions, some of which could have long-lasting ramifications, are being made on a reactionary basis.

People are saying things on social media and doing things in the public realm out of character, all because of one word - fear.

ISIS didn't need to attack American soil. By instilling fear through its actions in France, the organization has created a tide of panic and angst sending ripples of fear around the world.

It's causing us, as Americans, to do and say things that harken back to actions taken during WWII.

Actions, which if history has taught us anything, were not part of America's finest hour.

It has politicians and common folks alike turning against refugees - much like the American government did in 1939 when Jewish refugees from Germany and eastern Europe on the German transatlantic liner St. Louis were denied entry even as it sat off the coast of America, inches from freedom.

It has people, it seems calling for an identification system for Syrian refugees already living in the United States. Similar, it seems, to the same identification system used by Hitler to separate out the Jews from others.

It seems as if we are one step away from establishing detention centers for refugees. A decision that ultimately led to the forced relocation and detention of Japanese Americans during WWII. Several of the camps existed in the western portion of the United States. Remnants of two can still be found in southeastern Arkansas.

It all comes from fear.

Fear of how the unknown will impact our families, our friends, our lives. Fear that our country could once again know the pain and loss of hundreds, if not thousands of lives, because of an act of terror.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

The anticipation, or fear, of an ISIS attack in the United States causes more distress for the time being, than an actual event.

Winston S. Churchill once said "Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”

It takes courage to put aside fear.

It takes courage to choose to help the widows, orphans and the oppressed fleeing ISIS.

It takes courage to remind our leaders we have learned a great deal since WWII, so history is not repeated.

It takes courage to lend a helping hand to someone in need.

Courage is the opposite reaction to fear.

May we all choose to have courage as we face the fearfulness of the future.

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. Have an idea for a column or story? She can be reached at or 918-786-2228.

Editor's Note: This was previously published in the 11.20.15 issue of The Grove Sun. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moving History: A piece of DelCo finds new home at Har-Ber Village

The cabin, which once sat on a farm near Whitewater Road, travels down Main Street in Grove on Thursday, Oct. 22, to its new home at Har-Ber Village. - Patti Elliott / Special to the Grove Sun

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •

A cabin, which once sat on a rural Delaware County farm has a new home thanks, in part to the combined efforts of volunteers with Har-Ber Village and members of the former owner's family.

On Thursday, Oct. 22, the cabin, built by William Anderson McElroy, traveled by way of a semi-trailer from its former location off of Whitewater Road to the Har-Ber Village grounds.

The 16-foot by 15-foot cabin, which housed members of the McElroy family until 1954, will now serve as the trailhead cabin for the upcoming nature trail expansion project.

As the cabin moved from Whitewater Road to Har-Ber Village, McElroy's distant relative Patti Jo Brewster Elliott, was on hand to watch.

Elliot is the granddaughter of Nellie Opal and Hugh Wilson, McElroy's step-daughter.

With the donation, the cabin becomes the first log cabin from Grove to be placed on display on the museum grounds.

The McElroy cabin in its new home at Har-Ber Village, Grove. - Samantha Edwards / Grove Sun

Patti Elliott snaps a photo of the cabin, which once housed her great-grandfather William Anderson McElroy, before the structure was moved to Har-Ber Village.  - Kayla M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun

About the Donation
Late last year, Amelia Chamberlin, executive director of Har-Ber Village said Elliott contacted museum officials about the log cabin, concerned that a piece of Grove’s history might disappear.

Elliot first approached the property owners of where the cabin was located, Clint and Tootie Longan, about moving the cabin to Har-Ber Village.

Tootie Longan said the couple had discussed donating the cabin in the past, but the timing was not right. She was pleased to see the cabin find a new home at Har-Ber Village.

Chamberlin said the cabin, made of round logs instead of flat, hewn logs like most of the Village’s cabins, is in need of restoration.

She said a group of volunteers, led by Pete Churchill, vice president of Har-Ber Village board of directors, plan to work on the cabin's restoration.

Churchill said now that the cabin has been moved to the Har-Ber Village grounds, officials plan to take it apart and begin a lengthy restoration process.

Churchill likened the process to a life-size Tinker Toy project. The structure is in need of new chinking and some rotted boards need to be replaced.

Pete Churchill watches as volunteers remove a lean-to which had been added to the McElroy cabin. The lean-to before the cabin could be moved to the village. - Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun

A New Use
Churchill said the structure will be used as the nature center for the revamped and remodeled nature trail - a project volunteers hope to undertake and possibly complete in early 2016.

As the nature center, the cabin will include maps of both the trail system and Har-Ber Village. Churchill said people will be able to access it year-round when completed.

"This is the beginning of a major undertaking for us," Churchill said.

Originally, Harvey Jones had created a nature trail on the village grounds. Heavy rains in 2007 and again during this past summer caused significant damage to the trails.

Churchill said the trails will be reconstructed and added to, and will be accessible year-round once completed. He said the trails will be pet friendly and contain some ADA compliant areas.

"Since the city wasn't able to compete the walking trail between Wolf Creek Park and Grove Springs Park, there isn't a walking trail in our area," Churchill said. "We plan to take our existing trail - which is a little more than a mile - and expand it into something in the neighborhood of two miles.

"This cabin will become the focal point of the project."

Churchill said he is working on the cabin reconstruction project with Richard Cannon. They anticipate using volunteers from the Grove Rotary Club to complete the project. The $1,100 needed to hire the house mover has been provided by a private donation.

Churchill said Crossland's Construction is assisting the board of directors with developing an updated plan for the walking trail. Churchill expects the board of directors will undertake some fundraising to complete the trail project.

"I think this is exciting," Churchill said. "When we started thinking about redoing our trails, at the same time we hears about this cabin.

"It's all come together, and we're to the visualizing stage. This is a neat part of northeast Oklahoma's history."

Churchill said he hopes the cabin will help students of all ages develop a feeling of how this area's forefathers lived.

"This cabin can be used to tell the story of Delaware County," Churchill said. "It dates back to pre-statehood times, and [McElroy] lived in it until 1954.

"I hope we can research this, and tell the story of the cabin and early Delaware County. It's a great story to tell and will add a lot to the history of the village."

About the McElroy Family
The cabin was built by William Anderson McElroy (b. 1862, d. 1954). He lived in the cabin with his wife Edna Wight McElroy (b. 1875, d. 1956) until he died in 1954 at the age of 94.

When the two married, Edna McElroy already had two children from her first marriage to Albert Wight: a daughter, Nellie Opal Wight, and a son, Paul Wight. When the two divorced, Edna took Nellie to live with her and Albert took Paul.

Nellie Opal Wright lived in the cabin with her mother and stepfather until she married Hugh Wilson, the seventh son of James Calvin Wilson—one of the men known to have camped at Grove Springs because it was a “good spring of water.”

Hugh Wilson set up a blacksmith shop, and another man by the name of Bill Watson, put in a store. These two businesses were the start of Grove.

This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 27 issue of The Grove Sun.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Moving beyond cancer: Couch enters 2016 'cancer free'

Carrie Couch, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Turkey Ford Elementary, has said the love and support of her "boys" husband, Ricky and sons, Brody and Cooper, have helped inspire her throughout her illness. - Courtesy Photo

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •
Editor's Note: This is a part of a series of stories highlighting those impacted by breast cancer during the month of October, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

As this year ends, Carrie Couch of Grove is counting her pennies and blessings.

She is ending the year enrolled in a clinical trial designed to help prevent the reoccurrence of breast cancer, thanks in part to an organization known as Pennies In Action.

The clinical trial, with Dr. Brian Czerniecki, is based at the University of Pennsylvania. It uses a patent's own white blood cells to create a vaccine, which is then used, as Couch describes it, to remind her white blood cells how to fight off disease.

In all, 2015 is ending better than it started for Couch, who started the year anticipating a completion of treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer.

The pre-kindergarten teacher at Turkey Ford Elementary planned to finish her radiation treatments and return to the classroom and students, hoping her days of chemotherapy and radiation were behind her.

She had already underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a bilateral or double mastectomy. She was scheduled to complete radiation treatments on Jan. 27. All signs pointed to having good reports from her oncologist.

Then things changed. As Couch returned home on Jan. 27 from her last treatment, she experienced first of at least two seizures. The first at home, the second at INTEGRIS Grove Hospital.

After an assessment at INTEGRIS, doctors transferred Couch to Joplin, where tests showed that her HER2-positive breast cancer had metastasized, causing a brain tumor. Her cancer had progressed from Stage 3B to 4.

According to doctors, HER2-positive breast cancer is a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells. It makes cancer cells multiply at a faster rate.

Because of the high growth rate, doctors later told Couch it's common for the disease to metastasize into a patient's bones, lungs or brain.

Two days later, instead of having an end-of-treatment party with members of her bible study, Couch found herself undergoing another surgery - this time to remove her brain tumor.

Since then, she has completed 10 rounds of brain radiation and finished a year of chemotherapy treatments.

Pennies In Action

One night, while surfing a Facebook support group for breast cancer survivors, Couch saw a post about Pennies In Action and a series of clinical trials taking place at the University of Pennsylvania involving immune restoration therapy.

Couch completed the form on the foundation's website, outlining her story and treatment.

"I filled it out randomly," Couch said with a smile. "I've never done anything like this before. I just thought, 'what's it going to hurt.'"

A few short hours later Uschi Keszler, the organization's CEO, called Couch for her medical records. She indicated that Couch was a strong candidate for the study.

Couch said Keszler started the organization after talking with her grandson about the need for cancer research and funding. Her grandson gave her two pennies from his piggy bank and the idea for the group was formed.

Pennies in Action is based upon the belief that one does not have to be wealthy to have an impact on raising funding.

"The amount one person may give may be relatively insignificant, for a penny alone has little value, but many pennies make many dollars," the group's website states. "Success in funding the research and the power to make a difference can come from just a few pennies if everyone takes part in even a small way."

Since that initial phone call, Couch has made multiple trips to the University of Pennsylvania to meet with Keszler and Czerniecki.

On the first trip, which was delayed by this summer's heavy rains, staff drew Couch's white blood cells to create the vaccine. Since then, she has returned to Philadelphia six additional times to receive the shots.

On Monday, she returns to Philadelphia to have the blood drawn to create the final three shots. She will receive them in December of this year and February and June of 2016.

Funding for the first airfare to Philadelphia came from friends hosting fundraisers and through private donations. Since then, Couch has received financial assistance through the INTEGRIS Grove Hospital Foundation cancer fund.

"It's been amazing," Couch said, of the assistance from INTEGRIS.

Couch hopes the vaccine she receives in the trial will help her body continue to fight off a recurrence of cancer.

Funding for the trial, which costs up to $33,000 per patient, comes from the Pennies in Action foundation.

As of now, tests indicate there is no evidence of cancer in her body. For the next year, she will undergo a brain MRI on a regular basis to ensure the tumor does not re-develop.

Couch sees the clinical trial as a bonus treatment, rather than a replacement for chemotherapy and radiation.

"My oncologist told me if he was in my position, he would do exactly the same thing," Couch said. "I was beyond excited to get into this trial. The treatment is individualized."

Couch encourages other cancer survivors to research and find out if they may qualify for one of the thousands of clinical trials taking place throughout the country.

"Without the woman who posted this - I haven't been able to find her since then - I wouldn't know about this trial," Couch said. "You just have to find the one that fits you."

Did You Know?

Carrie Couch has received funding for her trips to the Univeristy of Pennsylvania from the cancer fund through the INTEGRIS Grove Hospital Foundation.

Monies donated to the cancer fund are used to help patients with costs associated with their treatment. One hundred percent of the funds donated to the cancer fund are used to help patients.

This story initially appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of The Grove Sun.

The Grades are In: Grove earns A's, B's on state-wide report for second year

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller /

The Oct. 22 release of the state’s third A-F report card of public school and school district performance has some Delaware County district officials rejoicing, while others are left disappointed.

For the second year in a row, the grades for Grove schools were all A's and B's, while the nearby Jay school district brought in one B-, one D and two F's.

Three area schools, Kenwood, Colcord Elementary and Oaks-Mission High School each had an F on the various report cards. A total of 183 schools state-wide received the F grade.

As a district, Grove Public Schools earned one A and three B's. The lower elementary campus earned an B+, while the upper elementary school had an A. The middle school campus earned a B while the high school had a B-.

Because of the state's grading system, the early childhood center does not receive a separate score. It is instead included in the lower elementary grade.

In comparison, in 2014, Grove schools earned two A's and two B's. The lower elementary campus earned an A-, while the upper elementary school had a B+. The middle school campus earned an A- while the high school had a B.

In 2013, Grove scored A's for the lower and upper elementary campuses, while the middle school earned a B- and the high school earned a B.

In 2012, the first year the state used the grading system, the district received on A and three B's.

Both elementary campuses received 10 bonus points for student attendance, while the middle school's attendance earned six points. The middle school also earned four additional points related dropout rates and advanced coursework. The high school earned two bonus points for advanced coursework and for year to year growth.

State-Wide View

With the testing scores release on Thursday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister indicated she has no confidence in the validity or reliability of the report cards in their current framework.

The reports are determined by Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) officials using a formula mandated by a 2013 state law.

Hofmeister release states the OSDE supports strong accountability for education, but problems with the A-F Report Cards "have seriously undermined the system’s credibility."

"Even the U.S. Department of Education has criticized the report cards and required modifications as a condition for receiving the No Child Left Behind waiver," Hofmeister said in the release which accompanied the grades.

House Bill 1823, which took effect in June, requires the State Board of Education to submit a report on the "transparency, statistical trustworthiness and credibility" of the current A-F system to the governor and legislative leaders by Dec. 31.

Hofmeister said research scientists at Oklahoma’s two leading research universities are among those currently conducting that review and will have recommendations by December.

“I am committed to a system of accountability that is accurate, reliable and meaningful,” Hofmeister said. “In its current form, the A-F Report Cards are too flawed to be useful. I am optimistic that we can have a better system.”

Grove Public Schools

While Grove Superintendent Sandy Coaly said she was pleased by the district's results, she, like Hofmeister recognizes the grading system contains flaws.

"Our administrators and teachers work hard," Coaly said. "Our teachers go above and beyond, have countless hours of professional development, but as the State Superintendent will tell you, the system is flawed. It is not a true picture. We certainly cannot put a lot of faith into it.

"I personally feel as if all of our schools are A schools."

Coaly said she hopes Hofmeister's plans to reform the system will create an equal playing field for all schools.

Coaly said much of the district's success can be linked, in part, to the efforts made by the parents - from helping with homework to ensuring students are in class every day.

Jay Public Schools

The Jay school district earned a mixture of grades, ranging from B- to F.

This year the lower elementary received an F, the upper elementary a D, the middle school an F and the high school a B-.

In 2014, three campuses earned D's including the lower elementary a D, the upper elementary a D+ and the middle school a D-, while the high school had a C+.

In 2013, the elementary and middle schools earned D's, while the high school earned an B. The upper elementary school scored the lowest, with an F.

"I don’t think it really reflects what goes on at school every day," said Jay Superintendent Charles Thomas. "I know that we have to have some type of measurement and accountability to see where we are, I just don’t think its a fair measure of where each student and teacher is in their knowledge the curriculum that’s being tested."

Thomas, like Hofmeister, questions how the system grades each school's performance.

“I think if you read all the research about the A-F report card, the system does not accurately measure the performance of the schools or the work, time and expertise those teachers have in directing those students in the classroom," Thomas said.

Turkey Ford School District

Locally, the Turkey Ford School District, which is part of the Grove transportation district, earned a C+ dropping from B in 2014 for its pre-kindergarten to sixth grade campus in rural Wyandotte.

In 2013 it had an A- on its report card. In 2012 the district received a B+.

"We're a little disappointed," said Turkey Ford Superintendent Tamyra Larson. "

Larson, like Hofmeister, questions the validity of the grades.

"I can see results of specific kids, and how we are doing for example, and I know it's not showing up in the grade," Larson said. "The public knows the school, they know what we are doing with their individual kids, they can see the growth.

"I don't like it because anyone who has been in school knows you always strive to do better. C+ isn't better than a B. However, this isn't a true reflection of student academic growth.

"It's a little bit of a morale buster and disheartening for teachers, who know they've put in all that work.

Larson said efforts continue to help students improve reading and math scores.

Cleora School District

Cleora Schools earned an A- on this year's report card.

The grade is an improvement from the B- earned in 2014 and the same score the school received in 2013.

While Cleora Superintendent Kenny Guthrie said he was pleased with the district's score, he has concerns similar to those of Hofmeister and Coaly.

"We're proud of the grade, we think it's reflective of our school, however, we don't have much confidence of the validity of the A-F report card," Guthrie said. "The easiest way to explain it, it's bad math. It just doesn't add up or make sense in a lot of areas."

For example, Guthrie said, schools are graded based upon how the students in the "bottom 25 percent" of a subject show improvement.

In one instance, involving math, Cleora students in the bottom 25 percent were considered "proficient" or already at grade level. Because they continued at grade level, but did not show improvement based upon the way scores are ranked, the district's grade was reduced.

"This is just one small component of everything," Guthrie said. "My opinion would stay the same if we had an A- or a D-.

"We have a great grade, but we don't have a lot of confidence in it."

Chloe Farmer contributed to this story.

More Information

Mandated by state law, the A to F school grades are designed to provide parents, students, businesses and communities with a clear, easily understood snapshot of how local schools are performing.

The 2015 school grades, as released by the Oklahoma Department of Education, are as follows:

A - 212

B - 497

C - 536

D - 333

F - 183

In 2014, by contrast, the state-wide grades were:

A - 284

B - 470

C - 492

D - 292

F - 196

A searchable database of the schools and their scores can be found online at

A Look At The Scores

Area schools with their grades for 2015, 2014 and 2013.

Delaware County School

Cleora: School: A- 2015, B- 2014, A- 2013.

Leach: School: C, D, D-.

Kenwood: School: F, F, F.

Mosley: School: D+, D-, D-.

Jay: Lower elementary: F, D, D; Upper elementary: D, D+, F, Middle school: F, D-, D; and high school: B-, C+, B.

Grove: Lower elementary: B+, A-, A; Upper elementary: A, B+, A; Middle school: B, A-, B-; High school: B-, B, B.

Kansas: Elementary: C-, C, D-; Middle School: D-, D+, C; High School: B, B, C+.

Colcord: Elementary: F, D, C; High School: C-, D, C.

Oaks-Mission: Elementary: D+, F, D; High School: F, B, B-.

Ottawa County Schools

Schools of local interest include:

Turkey Ford: School: C+, B, A-.

Wyandotte: Elementary school: B-, B-, C; Middle school: C, F, F; High school: B, B+, A.

Afton: Elementary school: D+, D+, C.; High school: A-, D+, B+.

Fairland: Elementary school: C, A-, A-; Middle: B-, B-, C+; High school:B-, B-, A.

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of The Grove Sun

Investigation continues into American Grill shooting

Kaylea M. Hutson •

The investigation into the overnight shooting at the American Grill on Sunday, Oct. 11, continues, but has slowed.

Grove Police Chief Mark Morris said his detectives continue to follow up leads and are working with officials from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations to analyze evidence collected since the shooting.

Morris expects it will take some time for OSBI investigators to analyze the evidence.

During the incident, Todd Merrill, owner of American Grill, received a gunshot wound to his left leg. He told authorities that an unknown male confronted him at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, while Merrill was working late at the restaurant located at 1623 Main.

Morris said the unknown male allegedly entered the restaurant through the unlocked front door. He said the suspect apparently discovered Merrill’s presence in the restaurant as Merrill was in a hallway at the rear of the business, near the restrooms.

Morris said the suspect fired multiple shots from a gun, striking Merrill once in the left leg. The shooter then fled the scene and Merrill was able to call 911 for assistance. He was taken to Mercy Hospital in Joplin for treatment, which included eventual surgery. He has since been released and is recovering from his injury. He has not returned to work full-time yet.

Morris said it appears the suspect fled the scene without taking anything from the restaurant. He has declined to identify how many shots were fired, only stating the suspect fired his weapon multiple times.

Morris declined to identify the caliber of weapon used in the incident. The surgeon was able to recover the bullet, which struck Merrill’s leg, for detectives.

Because the incident took place in the dark, Merrill was unable to give law enforcement personnel a description beyond identifying the man’s gender. At this time the alleged suspect remains at large.

Morris said anyone with tips or information concerning this incident may contact the Grove Police Department at 918-786-6121. All information will be kept anonymous.

This story initially appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of The Grove Sun.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Images from the 10.20.15 Grove Sun

Scenes from the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony/Concert
Held Friday, Oct. 16, at the Muskogee Civic Center
Photos by Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun

Long-time friends and music partners Tim DuBois and Scott Hendricks induct Restless Heart into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. The duo, whose friendship dates back to their days at Oklahoma State University, formed Restless Heart more than 30 years ago.

Tim DuBois (center) celebrates at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame with his family.

Steve Ripley inducts his long-time friend Tim DuBois into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. Ripley and DuBois' friendship dates back to Stillwater and their days at Oklahoma State University.

Tim DuBois and Scott Hendrix listen to Restless Heart with their families during the induction ceremony concert.

Greg Jennings with Restless Heart takes a moment to visit with two of Oklahoma's newest musical stars, Zach and Colton Swon, who appeared on The Voice.

Restless Heart performs Friday night in Muskogee at the 2015 Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony concert.

Tim DuBois celebrates before Friday's induction ceremony with Jim Blair, executive director of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

Becky Hobbs performs a song from her musical Nanyehi during the induction concert for the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. The musical will return to the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa in November.

Les Gilliam and Smiley Weaver share a hug as Gilliam helps induct Weaver into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. The pair have been playing music together for decades.

Alaska and Madi were among the Oklahoma musicians who attended the induction ceremony and concert.

Becky Hobbs (center) one of the newest members of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame celebrates during the pre-induction ceremony reception with members of her family. Hobbs created the musical Nanyehi-The Story of Nancy Ward, in addition to her multiple music country honors.

DuBois among five Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame inductees

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •

Quite an honor.

Three words sum up Tim DuBois' thoughts concerning his weekend induction into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

DuBois, a native of Grove, was inducted during a ceremony on Friday, Oct. 16 at the Muskogee Civic Center alongside his friends, Scott Hendricks and members of Restless Heart, as well as fellow Oklahoma music legends Smiley Weaver and Becky Hobbs.

His music career stretches the decades and includes time as a music executive. He, along with his long-time music colleagues Scott Hendricks and Greg Jennings, formed the band Restless Heart.

His time in Nashville includes multiple awards for songwriting, having penned Restless Heart's award-winning song "Bluest Eyes In Texas" and Vince Gill's 1991 Country Music Association's Song of the Year "When I Call Your Name," among others.

Not bad for the graduate of Grove High School who said he once played guitar "badly" in a band known as the "Deadbeats" while a Grove High School student in the mid 1960s.

DuBois, the son of Jessie and Everett DuBois, credits a music theory class taught by the late James Roe at GHS for much of his success as a songwriter.

"It taught me the cord structure and projection I used as a writer," DuBois said. "It all did start here in Grove."

Initially, DuBois planned to work in the accounting field. A meeting with Scott Hendricks at Oklahoma State University and a love of writing lyrics led him to change directions in the late 1970s, to move to Nashville to pursue a music career.

"I'm a true left brain, right brain conflict," DuBois told those gathered at Friday's ceremony, "but it has served me very well."

DuBois credits the support of his parents, as well as his brothers, Randy and his late brother Ed, for much of his success, telling those gathered in Muskogee that Randy was "a better writer and better guitar player" but that he was "better looking."

"I'm tremendously thankful for what he did for the family," DuBois said, giving him the opportunity to pursue his dreams in Nashville.

He said activities, such as the public speaking he learned as a Delaware County 4-H member also helped shape his life, giving him the self confidence he needed to succeed.

Eventually, DuBois would continue to teach at Vanderbilt's University for many years before moving into artist management. His career has come full-circle as he continues to serve as an adjunct professor of management at Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management.

"I'm in the twilight years of my career," DuBois said. "I like to say I'm in my fourth failed retirement. I'm in the process of creating a blog and a podcast which will start in late 2015 or early 2016.

"I'm also doing some public speaking, but I'm trying to slow down."

Career Highlights

DuBois said managing Gill while with Fitzgerald-Hartley, as well as helping to found and manage Restless Heart are among the highlights of his long-standing career.

Other highlights include working with Keith Urban, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley and Pam Tillis.

During Friday's induction ceremony, presenter long-time friend Steve Ripley joked that artists coming before DuBois for consideration were given an additional 25 points just for being from Oklahoma.

Two songs he is proud of include Gill's When I call Your Name and Jerry Reed's "She Got the Goldmine (I got the Shaft). He is also proud of Restless Heart's "Bluest Eyes in Texas" which the band used to close out Friday's induction concert.

"Love in the first degree, recorded by Alabama 30 years ago is still probably the biggest hit I've had," DuBois said, among his five number one songs and the multiple pop and international hits.

"Picking a favorite song is like picking a favorite child," DuBois continued. "I like them all for different reasons."

But he said, his song with Gill remains one of the favorite, because it helped define Gill's career.

DuBois said he is a firm believe in collaboration, adding that his projects either have co-writers or co-producers attached.

"I believe in helping people be the best they can be," DuBois said, adding that he often speaks about helping develop and motivate creative people to become leaders.

"I've had a lot of success standing on the shoulders of people who have worked for me and with me," DuBois said. "I've had lots of partners. It's always somebody and Tim DuBois."

More About DuBois

DuBois' career includes being one of the most successful executives in the recording industry having led both Arista Records and Universal South Records.

An adjunct professor of management at Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management and long-time ASCAP member, DuBois’ career has included recognition as a songwriter, manager, record executive and producer.

Five songs that he has co-written have been No. 1 hits. DuBois’ songs have received numerous awards, and two Grammy Award nominations. As a producer, his accolades have included more than 20 No. 1 and top 5 singles and more than a dozen gold, platinum and double platinum albums.

Tapped to open a Nashville division of Arista Records in 1989, DuBois discovered and signed Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley, BlackHawk, Pam Tillis and Diamond Rio.

DuBois quickly turned the new label into one of the most successful in country music history, selling more than 75 million records worldwide in just four years. After serving as president of Gaylord Entertainment's Creative Content Group in 2001, DuBois went on to head Universal South Records with producer Tony Brown in 2002, a position he held until 2006.

DuBois was recognized as the most powerful person in the music industry by Business Nashville in 1996, Record Executive of the year in 1992 by Pollstar, and was included in Entertainment Weekly's list of 101 Most Powerful People in Entertainment in 1994 and 1995.

DuBois currently sits on the board of directors of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, and has served as a board member of the Country Music Foundation, Nashville Songwriters Association International, Leadership Music, and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

He is the former chairman of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, and is a board member of Sun Trust Bank in Nashville. DuBois and his wife, Pam, reside in Nashville. He has three adult children: Michelle, Chris and Jamie.

Additional Honors

In addition to his induction into the OMHF, DuBois' has been named an influential leader with the AACSB International. In 2014 he was named one of 100 most influential alumni over the past 100-year life of the Oklahoma State University's Spears School of Business.

Earlier this year, he was honored with the Mae Boren Axton Award by the Academy of Country Music. That honor recognizes years of dedication and service by an outstanding individual with the Academy of Country Music.

This story was originally published in the Oct. 20, 2015 issue of The Grove Sun.

A Royal Moment

Miss Delaware County 2016 Sara Massey watches as 5-year-old Savannah Smith, Grove, tries on her crown during the 2015 Grand Lake Women's Fair, held Saturday in Grove. Additional photos from the event can be found inside today's issue of The Grove Sun.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Kickin' Cancer: Snell hopes to conquor cancer in 2015

Angie Snell
Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •
Editor's Note: This is a part of a series of stories highlighting those impacted by breast cancer during the month of October, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Getting cancer once is tough. Getting it twice in less than 16 months is devastating.

Yet Angie Snell, 43, of Grove, is not letting the double diagnosis of breast cancer keep her down.

Instead, the words printed on the shirt worn by Snell's supporters sums up her attitude: "Kickin' Cancer's Ass Once - Awesome. But Kickin' It Twice - Priceless."

Snell's first diagnosis of stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma came in April 2014, when a mammogram indicated there was something located in her right breast.

After a double mastectomy, Snell underwent treatment and resumed life.

In April, she celebrated her one year anniversary with doctors, confident she was cancer free.

That elation changed in August, when Snell discovered a lump in the scar tissue on her right chest. Surgery conducted on Oct. 2 removed the remaining five lymph nodes on her right side and removed the cancer located on her chest wall.

"It was right in the scar, it felt like a little marble," Snell said, adding that she discovered the lump on Sunday and by Friday, knew it was cancer.

Her doctor told Snell the fact that her cancer returned was rare.

"He said most likely there was one cell so deep, against my chest wall - which is why it occurred again," Snell said. "He said I had such a low percentage chance of it coming back because it was caught early the first time. He was blown away [by the second diagnosis]."

Next week, Snell will return to her oncologist. During that visit her doctors will determine the next course of treatment - which is expected to include radiation and chemotherapy.

While Snell's aunt had a form of breast cancer, Snell's tests to determine if it was genetic in nature came back negative. Doctors believe her illness was estrogen-based.

Angie Snell added this tattoo, to her
left hand after her diagnosis
with breast cancer, as a way to keep her
spirits up during her treatment.
- Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun
Continuing Life
In April, the eve of her first anniversary following her cancer diagnosis, Snell accepted a job at Pride Plating in Grove - her first desk job in years.

Snell knows what it's like to face adversity. She went into welding after the Eagle Pitcher plant in Seneca closed - an unusual second career choicer for a woman.

Snell jokes that one of her proudest moments in life came in 2003, at the age of 30 when she was the only woman to pass the Tig pipe stainless steel welding test at the Northeast Technology Center-Afton Campus.

"I did that [class] with a bunch of high school boys," Snell said with a laugh. "It was great. So much fun."

After working as a welder for companies in southwest Missouri, Snell returned to Grove when the economy changed and welding jobs dried up.

Before working at Pride Plating, Snell worked at the Seneca Cayuga Tobacco plant for five years.

Now, at Pride Plating, Snell works not on the line or behind a welding machine. Instead she helps complete paperwork as a painter's assistant.

"It's the desk job I never though I'd have," Snell said. "It fell in my lap and has been great."

Snell said her supervisors at Pride Plating have been very understanding as she prepares for round two of her fight against cancer.

In fact, the company gave her time off for her surgery earlier this month, even though Snell has not been employed there long enough leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

"They told me to go, get well and come back healthy," Snell said. "We'll move on together."

After her second diagnosis, Snell had t-shirts made with "Angie's Got This" on the front - at the request of her supporters.

Of the 80 some shirts she had printed initially, more than 50 were sold to co-workers at Pride Plating.

"Hopefully there won't be a third time," Snell said.

Employees at Pride Plating sport shirts saying "Angie's Got This"
 in support of their friend and fellow co-worker.
 - Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun
Snell said her physician, Dr. Chad Johnson at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, has indicated he plans to develop an aggressive form of treatment.

Snell said she gained strength for her fight from attending the Green Corn Ceremony, held in August by members of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe.

She also drew support from her girlfriend, Melissa, who has walked beside her since the first diagnosis.

"I've put her through hell a couple of times and tried to run her away, but she's stood by me," Snell said, adding that her parents, Homer and Stella Snell have also provided support.

The back of the Angie Snell's shirts takes note
of her double diagnosis in less than two years.
 - Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun
Moving Forward
Snell decided to forgo reconstruction surgery after her double mastectomy.

"I figured it would be more trouble than it was worth," Snell said, adding the thought of never wearing a bra again was also a factor in her decision.

She said she took the bra, worn to the hospital before her mastectomy, dunked it in the trash as she left the hospital and said "minus one." She burned the rest of her bras once she returned home.

"At first, I had a bad case of social anxiety because it was hard to get used to not wearing a bra," Snell said. "Now it's not such a big deal. I'm proud of what I did."

Snell knows that once she reaches the "one year" anniversary of being cancer free, her next goal is to reach the five-year milestone.

She's been told her attitude will help her become a survivor. Nurses have told her some women receive the diagnosis but never return for treatment - because they fear losing their breasts.

"They don't want to lose their boobs, but they don't realize they will lose their life," Snell said. "It's not about saving your boobs, it's about saving your life."

This story initially was published in the Friday, Nov. 15 issue of The Grove Sun.

Images from the 10.16.15 issue of The Grove Sun

Photos from the 10.16.15 issue of The Grove Sun

Little Stars in Waiting

Miss Delaware County's Star Ava Good and Miss Grand Lake's Stars Leighla Childs and Brooklyn Hayhurst before the start of the 2015 Pelican Festival Parade. The trio, along with Kynlee Schultheis, are part of the Miss Oklahoma mentorship program. The stars travel with their Miss contestants to various events and will have the opportunity to take part in the 2016 Miss Oklahoma pageant.
- Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun

Senior Royalty
Bob and Shirley Allen ride in the 2015 Pelican Festival Parade as the "king and queen" of the Grove Senior Citizen's Center. Additional photos from the parade can be found online at - Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Promoter of Grove: Lebow earns honors as 2015 Grand Lake's Most Inspirational Woman

Sharon Lebow
Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •

An ingenious person, who is always working to find ways to promote Grand Lake and Grove.

That's how the 2015 Grand Lake's Most Inspirational Woman is described in her nomination for the honor.

On Saturday, at the beginning of the Fourth Annual Grand Lake Women's Fair, long-time Grove businesswoman Sharon Lebow will be honored as this year's inspirational woman.

"Her mind never stops working on how to make lives better," said Pam Sitton in her nomination of Lebow. "She's a gifted, natural promoter. She's done nothing but promote this town and community.

"If I had to list all of the nice things she's done for people it would surround Grand Lake."

Lebow moved to Grove 36 years from southwest Missouri in order to be near family. She worked at Betty Ann Nursing Center and Walmart when she first arrived in town.

After marrying her husband, Jack, within a year of arriving in Grove, she first worked along side him at his motorcycle business. Later, she opened and managed Full Figure Fashions for five years.

After selling that business, she worked at Christy's Holiday Express for a year.

Shortly there after, she opened and operated Victorian Accents, retiring in December after 22 years, to spend additional time with her family.

During that time, Lebow helped organize other small business owners in Grove to establish Grove Area Merchants Association. In her role in that organization, Lebow created the first community-wide Christmas and spring open house events.

"We wanted to find a way to bring people into Grove," Lebow said. "Having all of the merchants involved brought [people] to town and got a variety of people into Grove to spend money.

Since retiring, Lebow has been exploring "what's next" for her future. She is currently studying to become a real estate agent. She dreams of opening a business that helps home owners and realtors stage a residence.

Lebow has also been assisting various organizations with their projects. This spring she worked with the Downtown Revitalization committee with the Grove Area Chamber of Commerce to secure a photo from the Joyce Gibson archives to place in the window of an empty storefront on Third Street.

Earlier this month she helped Har-Ber Village officials organize the second Chuckwagon cook-out fundraiser.

In the next few months, Lebow plans to help Delaware County United Way officials organize the Chocolate Affairé, tentatively set for early February 2016.

"We're planing some really cool stuff," Lebow said, as she described plans for the venue and t-shirts which she hopes to have available for purchase.

In April, Lebow and Chris Lietzke worked together to create 2,000 visitor packs which highlighted local attractions and local businesses. The packets were then distributed to the hotels/motels in Grove to be given to out-of-town guests.

Lebow and Lietzke funded the first printing; with GAMA and later Grand Saving Bank officials helping to pay for the second and third printings.

"Businesses have had a good response," Lebow said. "It didn't cost [them] anything except the discount [coupon] or what they gave away in the packet.

"It was a win-win for everyone."

Plans for the 2016 edition of the visitor packs are already underway. Lebow and Lietzke hope to set the next printing for January 2016, to be out in time for the 2016 season.

"I really see this town in a different light," Lebow said. "I see the potential for Grove. and I want it to be that. I work to promote Grove and new businesses because I want to see Grove grow."

Outside of her volunteer and career aspirations, Lebow prides herself on being a "great" aunt to her nephew Josh McElhaney and his children, Cooper McElhaney, 3, and Parker Shaffer, 12. She also spends time with her mother Ann West.

Of being named this year's outstanding woman, Lebow just shrugs her shoulders.

"I think it's a great honor," Lebow said. "My Granny always said 'always help where you can.'

"That's the best advice I've been given."

This story initially appeared in the Friday, Oct. 16 issue of The Grove Sun.

Bits & Pieces: A Cleansing Moment

Last weekend, the Lawman and I spent most of Sunday working to get the house soon to be known as "our home" ready for moving in day.

As a way to help our landlords, we offered to clean the carpets and power wash the house.

Initially, I planned to wash the carpets so the Lawman could use the power washer.

I figured he would have more fun playing with the new power washer my parents bought for the occasion, also known as "the excuse dad needed to buy a new toy."

Alas, being an editor has made my attention span shall we say, short. In the end, the Lawman's dedication to detail made him the perfect person to wash the carpets, while I attacked the outside of the house.

So I spent much of Sunday afternoon power washing the house. Washing away the mud dobbers nests and the accumulated dirt from the past year.

Here's where I should insert the "I'm sorry if I interrupted your Sunday nap" apology to my new neighbors. It took me most of the afternoon to wash the house (yes, I made a Sonic run in the middle - it was Happy Hour of course). I finished just as the sun set and headlights began to appear on cars driving in the neighborhood.

It turns out power washing a house is similar to washing a dairy barn - my daily chore growing up.

While washing the house gave me lots of flashbacks to autumn mornings on the farm, it also struck me as something, well spiritual.

In fact, the words of Keith Green's song, written a multitude of years ago, based on Psalm 51:10 came to mind.

My efforts to wash the outside of the house, and the Lawman's efforts on the inside, not only cleaned the house physically, it also seemed metaphorically, as a cleansing that lets this structure not only become our home, but also sanctuary from the outside world.

We have lots of dreams for this home. We hope it becomes a place of hospitality. A place where friends can gather for laughter and fun. A place family can visit during holidays to find joy and make memories.

Ultimately, we hope it's a steadfast place to call home.

This column initially appeared in the Friday, Oct. 16 issue of The Grove Sun.

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. Have an idea for a column or story? She can be reached at or 918-786-2228.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Images from the 10.13.15 issue of The Grove Sun

A few favorites from the 10.13.15 issue of The Grove Sun.
Photos by Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun

Caleb Russell, 8, eats a snow cone during the 2015 Pelican Festival. 
He is the son of Josh and Rebekah Russell of Grove.

Members of the Grove High School band take part in Saturday's Pelican Festival parade. The band, led by Joe Willhelm II, also took part in the Pryor Invitational Band Competition, later that day in Pryor. In the preliminary competition the band won second place in its class and color guard won second and a captain's award in its class. The band finished the competition in sixth place (out of 12 bands).

2015 Pelican Festival Grand Marshals Angelica Wilson (left) and Braelon Vannoster are driven through the parade by Chrsti Lungren and Kathy Lungren Baker. The two girls, both from Grove, recently returned from their Make-A-Wish trips to Florida.

Carnival goers get an upside view of the 2015 Pelican Fest 
on Saturday, Oct. 10 at Wolf Creek Park, Grove. 

Seen On Scene: Pelican Festival 2015

From the 10.13.15 issue of The Grove Sun 

From parade floats, bands and politicians walking in the parade, to folks hanging out at Wolf Creek Park, there were lots of things to see at the 2015 Pelican Festival.

Here's a few scenes from the event. Additional photos can be found online at

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