NEWS

October 30, 2020

Everyone Has a Story

By Patrick Ford

Published in Okmulgee Times (10-30-20)

COVID-19 has affected everyone both locally and around the world.

During these trying times, many have made changes and adapted to make the best of the situation. One woman whose life was turned upside down this year decided to make the best of the situation she was facing.

Michelle Fishburne of Chapel Hill, N.C., start-ed “Who We Are Now 2020”  to collect stories and share how people are making the best of life during the pandemic. 

 

In January, Fishburne lost some of her hearing, and most of her balance. In the spring, she lost her job as a national director of public relations and partnerships for an organization she worked for.

The site which covers every genre including Lifestyle, Art/Music/Performing, Racial Justice, Remote Work and Community.

Okmulgee Main Street Director Heather Sumner shared her story with Fishburne, which is posted on the website.

Sumner detailed how the downtown water re-placement project was used to help raise funds for the non-profit agency. 

“It has been a hot mess here in downtown Okmulgee. In the middle of the pandemic, a construction crew came in and started tearing up our main street to replace our 100-year-old water lines. But there was a silver lining.

“Under the asphalt, our original streets were made of bricks and a lot of bricks said Okmulgee on them. A lot. So we contacted the city manager and he told the construction crew we wanted the bricks. We bought a wagon and literally every day I, or  my assistant Debbie or my kids or the Okmulgee football team would be there, collecting bricks. For three months. It didn’t matter if it was in the pouring rain or 100 degrees. We sold the bricks for $10 each. And then, with that money, we were able to give out micro grants of $500 to go towards rent, mortgage or utilities, to our small businesses to help them through the pandemic. We raised $11,000. That’s a lot of bricks.”

Sumner also shared how a local business helped start a movement to help ailing restaurants during the pandemic. 

“The downtown restaurants also got a great boost from the Covington Aircraft plant. Covington wanted to keep their plant workers safe, so instead of having their 90 employees leave for lunch each day, the company wanted to cater in. So my friend Aaron called me, explained what they needed, and we came up with a game plan to share the love between the restaurants. I  personally would go and pick up the food every day and deliver it safely to the company. The company workers would come out and take it from my vehicle and then they would disperse it to all of their different facilities because they own sever-al facilities on the north side of town. The economic impact that had on our restaurants was huge during that time. It’s what kept them afloat. 

“It worked so well we started the Covington Challenge. Some companies did it every day, like Covington, and others did it once or twice a week and encouraged their employees to order in on the other days. The challenge was a huge success. I really felt like, you know, we came together as a community to not only support our businesses but also to make sure our citizens were be-ing as safe as possible.”

Also sharing their story are the Been Brothers from Dewar, Jared and Kerry.

The brothers, both pipeliners, found themselves laid off during the pandemic.

Jared: “What happened next was the start of Beens’ Workshop. Somebody hit me up on Facebook and asked if we could build them a set of cornhole boards. Kerry has a shop in his back-yard and has built furniture in there. We built the first set, not really having a clue on how to do it. From there, it just kind of took off overnight. We made a Facebook page and it’s been nonstop ever since. Even when we tried to slow it down, it didn’t slow. We tried…That news started to spread more and more.” 

Kerry:  “We’ve turned out quality work, so we are kept busy with return customers, word of mouth and customer referrals; even from other states. We’ve been shipping these heavy boards to other states and people have been coming here from other states as well to pick them up. I mean, it’s not just the corn hole boards, it’s also the furniture...We stay busy. It’s just Jared and me. We need to figure out the next step in this endeavor.”

Kerry: “Now, it’s turned into a business. And I hate to say this, but COVID was the perfect storm for us. People were told to stay home. Cornhole gave them something to do, and it’s a game everybody can play.” 

Kerry: “For a lot of people, it has been a bad thing, but for us as a small business getting started, it was perfect.”

Fishburne is continuing her tour of the country before making a final stop in Ft. Myers, Fla. on Nov. 20, according to her website.

NEWS

October 30, 2020

Everyone Has a Story

By Patrick Ford

Published in Okmulgee Times (10-30-20)

COVID-19 has affected everyone both locally and around the world.

During these trying times, many have made changes and adapted to make the best of the situation. One woman whose life was turned upside down this year decided to make the best of the situation she was facing.

Michelle Fishburne of Chapel Hill, N.C., started “Who We Are Now 2020”  to collect stories and share how people are making the best of life during the pandemic. 

 

In January, Fishburne lost some of her hearing, and most of her balance. In the spring, she lost her job as a national director of public relations and partnerships for an organization she worked for.

The site which covers every genre including Lifestyle, Art/Music/Performing, Racial Justice, Remote Work and Community.

Okmulgee Main Street Director Heather Sumner shared her story with Fishburne, which is posted on the website.

Sumner detailed how the downtown water replacement project was used to help raise funds for the non-profit agency. 

“It has been a hot mess here in downtown Okmulgee. In the middle of the pandemic, a construction crew came in and started tearing up our main street to replace our 100-year-old water lines. But there was a silver lining.

“Under the asphalt, our original streets were made of bricks and a lot of bricks said Okmulgee on them. A lot. So we contacted the city manager and he told the construction crew we wanted the bricks. We bought a wagon and literally every day I, or  my assistant Debbie or my kids or the Okmulgee football team would be there, collecting bricks. For three months. It didn’t matter if it was in the pouring rain or 100 degrees. We sold the bricks for $10 each. And then, with that money, we were able to give out micro grants of $500 to go towards rent, mortgage or utilities, to our small businesses to help them through the pandemic. We raised $11,000. That’s a lot of bricks.”

Sumner also shared how a local business helped start a movement to help ailing restaurants during the pandemic. 

“The downtown restaurants also got a great boost from the Covington Aircraft plant. Covington wanted to keep their plant workers safe, so instead of having their 90 employees leave for lunch each day, the company wanted to cater in. So my friend Aaron called me, explained what they needed, and we came up with a game plan to share the love between the restaurants. I  personally would go and pick up the food every day and deliver it safely to the company. The company workers would come out and take it from my vehicle and then they would disperse it to all of their different facilities because they own sever-al facilities on the north side of town. The economic impact that had on our restaurants was huge during that time. It’s what kept them afloat. 

left to right: Sumner carts bricks back to the Main Street office. The Been Brothers with their cornhole boards.. Okmulgee FFA Instructor Tim Taylor and Heather Sumner with an Okmulgee brick uncovered during the water line project downtown. STAFF PHOTO / COURTESY PHOTO

“It worked so well we started the Covington Challenge. Some companies did it every day, like Covington, and others did it once or twice a week and encouraged their employees to order in on the other days. The challenge was a huge success. I really felt like, you know, we came together as a community to not only support our businesses but also to make sure our citizens were be-ing as safe as possible.”

Also sharing their story are the Been Brothers from Dewar, Jared and Kerry.

The brothers, both pipeliners, found themselves laid off during the pandemic.

Jared: “What happened next was the start of Beens’ Workshop. Somebody hit me up on Facebook and asked if we could build them a set of cornhole boards. Kerry has a shop in his back-yard and has built furniture in there. We built the first set, not really having a clue on how to do it. From there, it just kind of took off overnight. We made a Facebook page and it’s been nonstop ever since. Even when we tried to slow it down, it didn’t slow. We tried…That news started to spread more and more.” 

Kerry:  “We’ve turned out quality work, so we are kept busy with return customers, word of mouth and customer referrals; even from other states. We’ve been shipping these heavy boards to other states and people have been coming here from other states as well to pick them up. I mean, it’s not just the corn hole boards, it’s also the furniture...We stay busy. It’s just Jared and me. We need to figure out the next step in this endeavor.”

Kerry: “Now, it’s turned into a business. And I hate to say this, but COVID was the perfect storm for us. People were told to stay home. Cornhole gave them something to do, and it’s a game everybody can play.” 

Kerry: “For a lot of people, it has been a bad thing, but for us as a small business getting started, it was perfect.”

Fishburne is continuing her tour of the country before making a final stop in Ft. Myers, Fla. on Nov. 20, according to her website.

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