Osage Nation receives grants for first-ever Tribal Operation AmeriCorps Project & TA-WA AmeriCorps

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, and Osage Nation Communities of Excellence (ONCOE), today announced that the Osage Nation will be one of 10 communities nationwide to become a partner of the agency’s new Operation AmeriCorps initiative.

The first-ever tribal Operation AmeriCorps grant will support 76 AmeriCorps members over the next two years to develop the Wah Zha Zhi Eco Park on the Osage Reservation, Pawhuska, and Osage County. AmeriCorps members will also assist in creation of Bird Creek Farms, which will hold a community and collective garden to supply the Farmers Market segment of the Wah Zha Zhi Eco Park. This initiative will empower Osage communities to engage and learn about their food systems, leading to healthier, happier lives.

“I salute the Osage Nation for its visionary program that will have a significant impact on the community and its residents,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “We are thrilled to partner with the Osage Nation in the very first tribal Operation AmeriCorps project. Through Operation AmeriCorps, Osage Nation will lay the groundwork to ensure residents lead healthier, happier lives.”

Starting this summer, 15 AmeriCorps members began assisting in the creation of Bird Creek Farms and Wah Zha Zhi Eco Park. Three AmeriCorps VISTA members will begin this fall in capacity building for the project by researching and assisting in grant writing and creating a sustainable volunteer base. Over the next two years, four AmeriCorps NCCC teams will serve one term each establishing nature trails, outdoor classrooms, and creating handicap accessible fishing and scenic areas.

Operation AmeriCorps is an initiative launched by CNCS last fall for local and tribal governments to use national service as a transformative catalyst to address a high priority community challenge.

The federal agency’s investment includes $918,788 in AmeriCorps funding over two years, contingent on appropriations and performance. In addition, AmeriCorps members completing their service are eligible to earn a total of $206,280 in education scholarships to pay for higher education or pay back student loans. This federal investment of $ 1,125,068 is projected to generate an additional $273,066 in local cash and in-kind matching contributions, bringing the total two-year investment to nearly $1.4 million.

Spencer also announced new grant funding for the Osage Nation Communities of Excellence (ONCOE) TA-WA AmeriCorps Program. The ONCOE will receive a $207,518 AmeriCorps grant from CNCS to support 15 AmeriCorps members who will serve in the Wah Zha Zhi Youth Academy and Elder Programs throughout the Osage Reservation. AmeriCorps members will help improve community health and decrease obesity within the community. AmeriCorps members will conduct the Jr. Nutrition Warrior Program, Half-Pint Academy, and work with health organizations and garden workshops. They will also be instrumental in the development and support of Bird Creek Farms.

CNCS will make available $71,625 in education scholarships for the AmeriCorps members funded by the TA-WA AmeriCorps grant. The federal investment is projected to generate an additional $97,018 in local support to increase community impact and return on federal investment, bringing the total funding to more than $376,000.

There are various opportunities with Bird Creek Farms and Wah Zha Zhi Eco Park. To learn more about the farm and park, or if you are interested in knowing more about Operation AmeriCorps contact ONCOE at 918-287- 5267 or visit the Nation’s website www.osagenation-nsn.gov.