Relief project underway to assist at risk children and families in need
In just a few short weeks, Walton County resident Ann Tucker’s path in life has taken a new turn as she embarks on establishing a rural relief project in Walton County’s Bruce community.
Ann, Chairwoman/spokeswoman for the Walton area Muscogee (Creek) Indian nation, was approached in January by Elaine Barrow, the pastor of the Bruce Methodist Church about an ongoing problem that has reached crisis proportions. More than 35 children in the Bruce community are not getting adequate nutrition or health care and the local families are struggling.
Elaine asked Ann what the local Creek Indian Nation could do to help the area’s poverty-stricken community, as the economic downturn has forced many to make difficult decisions such as choosing whether to pay the electric bill or eat.
“Something as simple as a flat tire can push some of the families into a downward spiral even further,” Ann stated.
Realizing the enormous task at hand, and the long-term commitment needed for such a project, Ann presented the idea of a rural relief project to the Indian Tribal Council. The Council supported the idea and advised Ann to do whatever was needed.
“I don’t believe in the welfare system. I want this to be a hands up effort and not a hand out” Ann said.
In just a few short weeks, the ball has started rolling fast, as help from the local agencies and the community has started pouring in.
Pan Care of Panama City hosted a health fair in January. Expecting approximately 25 locals to attend, more than 70 people arrived for health checks. Pan Care has also supplied more than 2,600 lbs. of food for $265.00 to help start the program.
Several local agencies will be providing services with the project including the Walton County Health Department, COPE, Angel Food Pantry, Tri-County Services, Children and Family Services and the Community Health Center-Walton County providing health care.
A small building has been donated and relocated in front of the Muscogee headquarters building. It will be used to house a food bank in addition to counseling services and a washer and dryer. There will also be a computer available for those in need to apply for food stamps and get online to job search.
A generous South Walton group has pulled together to help as well. Local resident Susan Breeden had heard about the situation from Walton County commissioner Sara Comander, and quickly rallied local churches along with other volunteers Kate Johnson, Jan Stevens, Jane Burns, Kim Pall and Ann Stone. Together the group has raised more than $6,000 in funds and more than $4,000 in food and clothing from donations throughout South Walton.
Future plans include teaching the at risk children self-sustainability, with classes on beekeeping, fishing and gardening. Plans also include expanding the project beyond Bruce to other small communities in the Northeastern portion of Walton County.
The Florida Extension Office will be providing a workshop on building a community garden on Feb. 5. Plans are to get the local children involved – working a garden and reaping the benefits.
“You never know what path God is going to lead you on,” Ann Tucker said with a smile.
To contact Ann Tucker at the Muscogee Indian Tribal office in Bruce, call (850) 835-2078
278 Church Road
Bruce, Fla. 32455
About the Muscogee Nation:
The Muscogee Nation of Florida has a long history in the Walton County area. In the early 1800s, the excommunicated Indians headed south from Alabama down the Choctawhatchee River and settled on banks of the river in an area now known as Bruce.
Headquartered in the original schoolhouse built in the late 1800s, the building now houses its historic documentation, and serves as the tribal office.
A gift shop sells an assortment of handmade crafts, jewelry, carved gourds, pottery and woven baskets crafted from local long-leaf pine needles.
Struggles for federal recognition with the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs has been an ongoing battle for more than 33 years. In Mar. 2009, Ann Tucker represented the tribe with support from Sen. Bill Nelson, Sen. Mel Martinez and Rep. Allen Boyd, before the Senate in Washington D.C.
To view the legislation, go to: http://thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.530:
The Muscogee Indian Tribe headquarters is located approximately .5 mile north of SR20 on SR81 in Bruce. The entrance is on the east side of the road, 278 Church Road.
Phone: (850) 835-2078