“It was a hot mess down here in downtown Okmulgee. In the middle of the pandemic, the state came in and started tearing up our main street."
“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 that 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.
Thankfully, we have not lost any businesses downtown. They have really adapted and they're doing what they have to. 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 several 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 that 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 being as safe as possible.”
-- Heather, Okmulgee Main Street (October 2020).