Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Cookson Hills Center: Bishop cuts ribbon on debt-free property


Cookson Hills Center has a new ministry hub.

On the front steps of Cookson Hills’ main building are, from left, Emery Mason, missionary Meri Whitaker, Bishop Hayes, Kathleen Masters of GBGM, Margaret Johnson, and Darrell Cates.
Photos by Paul Staat

By Joseph Harris, Director of Communications

The recent purchase of one building has enhanced ministry on all 20-plus acres of Cookson Hills Center, a United Methodist mission on the state’s eastern edge.

On April 21, community leaders and members of the Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conferences gathered for a Service of Consecration & Dedication for Cookson Hills’ new main building. Formerly a restaurant, on adjoining property, the foreclosed building was purchased at a sheriff’s auction in November.

It was both dedicated and consecrated because it is put into service debt-free. Funds for the purchase came from a Woodworth Foundation grant and gifts from United Methodist churches, groups, and individuals across the country.

The building becomes the mission’s central hub, with offices and reception area, and sections for food, clothing distribution, and counseling services.

The additional space has enabled Cookson Hills’ cottage industries to now be located in one facility, too. The cottage industries — including God’s Handiwork, the Native American crafts store, the pottery project, Cookson Jewels, and Recycle Rebound -- now are housed together in the former main building. They employ persons from the rural Cookson area, teach marketable job and social skills, and produce products such as Communion chalices, doormats, screen printing for clothing, and embroidered clergy stoles and church paraments.

The acquisition of another building also freed space to expand the child daycare program, which has been operating at maximum capacity.

Bishop Hayes remarked that the new main building stands as testimony to "where our skill ends and God’s grace begins." He reminded those gathered that what might have seemed foolish -- the original building goal of raising $600,000 -- was transformed by God’s grace. Through God’s faithfulness, the actual amount raised, $340,000, was sufficient to purchase a building originally valued at more than $800,000.

In her remarks, Cookson Hills Director Meri Whitaker expressed, "People long for a little faith." The building certainly enhances the center’s many efforts to faithfully respond to needs in three counties, especially among the Native American population. Rev. Whitaker said, "We have always been in partnership with the community, and this continues that partnership."

Both Cookson Hills Center and Whitaker, a missionary, receive support through the United Methodist Advance, a second-mile giving program.


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