Reflecting on a fulfilling career, Ardmore resident Roxanna Newsom considers herself fortunate to witness the progress of the Chickasaw Nation’s programs and services, all of which are designed to improve the lives of Chickasaw citizens.
Throughout his 31-year career with Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services, Newsom, along with all staff, has worked diligently to fulfill the Chickasaw Nation’s mission: “To improve the overall quality of life for the Chickasaw people”.
Her role in this mission has changed over the years as the Chickasaw Nation developed and expanded innovative and compassionate nutrition services to serve the community.
“I am very proud that Nutrition Services have worked really hard to have a staff that has a caring heart and that customer service is a priority, and to make sure that people get what they need and that they need it. receive it in a caring and respectful manner, ”Newsom, a Chickasaw citizen, said.
“We are service-oriented people. I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to be a part of the Chickasaw Nation and to live the mission and serve our people.
Recently retired, Newsom began working with the Chickasaw Nation Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in 1989.
Early in her career, she coordinated food distribution services from her office on the former Carter Seminary campus. When it was first launched in the Ardmore area, the food was distributed through “tailgate” events in the 13 counties of south-central Oklahoma that encompass the Chickasaw Nation.
“We started with 16 hatchbacks,” she said.
A few years later, the first Ardmore Chickasaw Nation food distribution center opened west of the city. The new facility was designed as a grocery store, allowing attendees to shop for their food selections.
“We knew it would provide an environment of dignity and respect where people could come in and choose the food they wanted. For many it is very difficult to ask for help, and by offering help (services) in a non-judgmental environment, I saw that it made a difference for people to come and get the help. help they need. Often people just need this contact.
The creation of the Ardmore center was followed by the opening of the Ada Nutrition Services building. In 2006, a new 10,000 square foot Ardmore Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Center was opened at 2350 Chickasaw Boulevard. The new facility houses nutritional information and support through the Food Distribution Program, WIC Services, Farmers Market Programs and the Get Fresh! Cooking classes.
A few years later, similar facilities were opened in Purcell and Duncan, and last year the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Center opened in Tishomingo.
Newsom took pride in seeing the positive impact of the programs on families. She told the story of meeting a family through the WIC program and, years later, of having the opportunity to see the grandmother and granddaughter, who was now a mother, of visiting the Ardmore store at the same time, shopping and spending time together.
“They spent time visiting and the grandmother saw the baby. It was just perfect, an added bonus.
The Chickasaw Nation was only the second first American tribe in the United States to operate nutrition services through a store concept.
“We’ve had visitors from all over the United States to see how we’re doing it and how they can implement it in their tribes,” she explained.
Newsom said the continued leadership of Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby has kept the programs moving forward.
“The fact that we have established long-term leadership is just crucial. It helped us to move some things forward, to make the changes and improvements that needed to happen, because of the government-to-government relationship that was established. “
Countless hours of work have improved the selection of foods available through the program, she explained.
“It’s amazing food packaging,” she said, listing dishes such as ground beef, bison, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, squash and potatoes.
“It’s really nice healthy food packaging. We have worked really hard and are really happy and proud of this package.
Since the early days of the hatchback events, a wide variety of Chickasaw Nation food distribution programs have been implemented; such as summer feeding programs for school-aged children, Farmers Market programs, nutrition education, expanded WIC services and, recently, “Farmers to Families”. In collaboration with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Nation has provided over 375,000 pounds of food at Farmers to Families events in 13 communities, serving nearly 8,500 families during the COVID-19 pandemic .
Newsom said many of these programs started out as sublime ideas envisioned during staff brainstorming sessions.
“This is one of the wonderful things about the Chickasaw Nation. If you can dream it from the perspective of “does it improve the overall quality of life for the Chickasaw people” then there is a good chance it will become a reality, because we have seen it. We asked, “What if we do this? Is it possible?’ and made it happen. It is amazing what is available. It’s just amazing, ”Newsom said.
The Farmers Market program is an example of a program that has moved from a seasonal program to one that meets the nutritional needs of seniors throughout the year.
The program provides funds to Chickasaws and other First Americans for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables at licensed farmers’ markets throughout the Chickasaw Nation. It has expanded to provide Chickasaw Elders, members of the Chickasaw Warrior Society and disabled citizens with monthly packages of winter fruits and vegetables.
“If a senior can drive to one of our locations, they can pick up a package. In Ardmore, there is a large group from Texas. It’s fun to see how he grew and developed.
Oklahoma City and Tulsa were also recently added as pickup locations, she said.
Developing the futureAlthough she retired in June 2020, Newsom is busy working with the Chickasaw Nation on special projects; including the development of a grocery pickup application for food distribution centers.
“We have been testing it for several months,” she said.
Once the app is launched, staff will retrieve the customer’s order, load it, and prepare it for curbside delivery. COVID-19 precautions from March 2020 have allowed a trial and the delivery process has been changed to allow responsible distancing.
“Since (the pandemic), staff have been calling customers, finding out what they want and scheduling a pickup time. Even with the new process, staff can order for the customer if they are not able. The customer will receive an email or SMS notification when it is time to pick him up, ”she explained.
Newsom is grateful to continue working on this special project which was only an ambitious goal a few years ago.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to work on these projects and to really devote the time to them, to see if we can do it and get there.”
Fulfilling the mission of the Chickasaw Nation continues to motivate Newsom.
“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Chickasaw Nation and to live the mission, and to work with so many people who have this servant heart and who want to serve people and help. Chickasaw Nation employees don’t just speak it, they live it and put it into action.
A lifelong native of Ardmore, Newsom has a son and daughter who live in the area, as well as five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
“Grandma status is so much fun,” she laughed.
She appreciates the Chickasaw Nation programs that her children and grandchildren have been able to access.
“My kids were able to participate in the Summer Youth program and we thought it was just amazing. Now my oldest grandson has graduated with his associates. He works part-time for the Chickasaw Nation, and between his grants from the Chickasaw Nation and his job, he was able to graduate debt-free.
“It’s just amazing that things have grown and developed over the years,” she said.
When asked if she was considering changing her career path, she replied, “Absolutely not. You just think you come in, work, and do your job. Then you look back and you see that we have really been able to make an impact on lives. “