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Bruce Heikes, 57, has built Johnnie’s Sweet Creations into a household name when it comes to cakes and cookies in Oklahoma City.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

Growing up in the tiny borough of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, Bruce Heikes would travel most weekends and summers to nearby Hershey around midnight to don an apron.
At age 15, he worked for Louis Memmi, who owned G. Memmi and Sons Bakery.
“Man you roll down the window on the way there and you can just smell the chocolate,” Heikes said. “It’s overpowering it smells so good.”
It was in the shadow of the Hershey’s Chocolate empire that Heikes’ career began to rise.
More than 40 years later, Heikes continues to pour his artistry and love for what he does into everything he bakes at Johnnie’s Sweet Creations in Oklahoma City.
The shop at 8419 S Western is not only Heikes’ livelihood, it’s his life.
It’s easy to see when children walk into the shop and a big smile spreads across his face.
“Who wants a cookie?,” he says, with a grin that’s always returned with one just as big.
IN IT FOR THE DOUGH
Growing up, fresh-baked goods were the norm.
The bakery where Heikes learned to bake bread had a delivery truck that made daily rounds to all the supermarkets.
There were no plastic-wrapped, preservative-laden loaves that could sit on store shelves for weeks at a time.
“You’ve got to worry when you take a loaf of bread you just bought and put it on top of the refrigerator where the heat comes up from the back and it keeps for a month,” Heikes said. “They’ve got so many preservatives in there you could die and still keep going for weeks.”
His brother-in-law brought Heikes and his brother, Ron, to Oklahoma to work for Skaggs Albertson’s.
A move to Buy For Less as a bakery and deli manager followed as did a stint in Ingrid’s Kitchen.
He eventually became a food broker for a company that sold bakery products to the warehouse that sells to many Oklahoma grocery stores.
It was a Monday through Friday job, something Heikes never had.
But for some strange reason, he wanted to own a bakery.
Heikes knew the previous owner of Johnnie’s Sweet Creations, who purchased the store in 2000. An illness forced her to put the business up for sale in 2012.
She called up Heikes and he was sold.
A few weeks later so was the business.
Now he makes less money, works Monday through Saturday – Sundays, too now through Christmas this time of year.
“Sometimes I think, why do I do this?,” Heikes said. “But mostly there is so much pleasure in making something good for these people and when they taste it and their eyes roll in their head … that stuff makes it all worthwhile. It really does.”
A RISING BUSINESS
Heikes’ daughters work at the store. His brother’s daughter works there. Both his wife and Ron’s wife – who are registered nurses – come in just before Christmas or Valentine’s Day when the store really needs the extra hands.
“We get such huge orders and I don’t want to turn them down,” Heikes said. “I don’t want to turn them down because of the money but I also don’t want to turn them down because I want to be there for them.”
With more than 40 years manning the ovens Heikes can take a loaf of bread in his hands, give it a squeeze and a quick smell and tell you what’s right – or not.
It’s why his employees come to him when something’s not quite right.
It’s truly an art.
That’s one reason he cringes every time he walks past a grocery store “bakery” aisle.
“I used to sell that stuff as a broker. Those cakes come in a box. They have a year shelf life and all of the icing comes in a bucket,” Heikes said.
Every week Johnnie’s makes six to seven 55-gallon barrels of butter creme icing from scratch.
“I probably go through at least 100 sheet cakes and just multitudes of eight-inch rounds and cutouts – not to mention the weddings,” Heikes said.
Heike’s favorite sweet in the store is his butter pecan brownies. He’s made them for 20 years at home.
“I could not show up to Thanksgiving or Christmas without bringing those butter pecan brownies,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a real simple recipe but it’s so rich and so good and it’s unique. You just don’t find them any other place.”
Ten years from now Heikes will be 67.
He hopes his son, Justin, is working the ovens.
“I hope I could bring him in here – maybe even one of my other sons – and teach him the legacy of doing this and carry this on,” said Heikes, who has eight children.
But whatever the future holds, Heikes doesn’t see himself venturing too far from the ovens.
After all, who doesn’t want a cookie?

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This National wood-burning stove still resides in the 1890s January family home in Moore.
Myron January, 77, (left) and Moore City Councilman Mark Hamm are intent on preserving the history of Moore along with this 400-square foot house that dates back to early 1890.
Myron January, 77, (left) and Moore City Councilman Mark Hamm are intent on preserving the history of Moore along with this 400-square foot house that dates back to early 1890.

 

story and photos by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

Mark Hamm knows that someday in the not-too-distant future, central Oklahoma will be one giant metroplex.
“In the next 20 years they’re projecting another 20,000 people moving to Moore,” the Moore City Councilman said. “They’re all brand new and they don’t know anything about this and it will just be forgotten.”
Hamm was referring to Moore’s history, which dates back before statehood.
And as he discussed the city’s constant progress he was standing on the porch of Myron January’s family home, built in 1895 and believed to be the oldest structure in Moore.
The town’s history – and Myron January’s childhood home – are something Hamm and community members want to preserve for all to see.
In November Moore voters approved the continuation of a quarter-cent sales tax. Part of that money will go the development of an Old Town park, similar to what Norman has near its train depot.
The vision is much bigger than the old January home.
An interactive trail, a sitting area and hopefully a visitor center located near the railroad tracks will spring up some day soon. City officials already have their eye on procuring the original train depot, which is currently being used as an office on Shields Boulevard in south Oklahoma City.
Right in the middle is expected to be the January house, which Myron is giving to the city.
“It’s great. I think it’s a miracle,” January said of home’s impending move. “It’s going to have to be done pretty soon because you can tell it’s getting in bad shape.
JURY AND JANUARY
When you look back in the annals of Moore history you’ll see a couple names stick out – Jury and January.
The Land Run led to the Jury family settling on 160 acres in what now is southeast Moore. Next door was the January family.
“Two Jurys and two Januarys married – two brothers and two sisters,” January said. “So the Januarys and the Jurys have been very close all their lives.”
So close in fact that the Jury home now sits on January property, at least until the City of Moore can get it moved and preserved.
Even though it’s bare wood and has an addition missing, January still navigates the 400-square-foot, two-room house like it was yesterday.
“It wasn’t a whole lot more than this … but you would come in a door here and this was the back porch where (his grandmother Artie) did the washing,” January said. “There was a wall here and a built-in cabinet there.”
Myron January moved to Moore at age three. He left home as a teenager when he got married at 17. He’s lived within two miles of the current house ever since, keeping cattle on the remaining 75 acres.
Things have changed, as subdivisions have sprang up all around.
A new Sam’s Club sits less than a mile away. Target, Home Depot, JC Penny’s, Lowe’s and the busiest IMAX theatre in the world are just across I-35.
“I’ve dreaded it for many years,” January said with a laugh. “That’s life. Progress.”
Just down the street dairy silos dating back to the 1940s still stand as Moore’s only skyscrapers.
At one time, 400 head of cattle were milked at the Mathesen Dairy, which dispatched trucks daily to grocery stores across the county delivering fresh milk with cream on the top.
WHEN MOORE WAS LESS
Moore was founded during the Land Run of 1889. The early settlers came on train, horseback, wagons, and some on foot.
According to local historians, the town’s original name was Verbeck as designated by the railroad company.
However, a railroad employee named Al Moore, reported to be either a conductor or a brakeman, lived in a boxcar at the camp and had difficulty receiving his mail.
He painted his name “Moore” on a board and nailed it on the boxcar.
When a postmaster was appointed, the name stuck and he continued to call the settlement Moore.
Hamm got into politics to preserve that small-town feel, even though the city is now the state’s seventh-largest.
“I like politics but I’ve always liked local politics more than national,” Hamm said. “It’s where things happen, people see their government working for them. You call me about a problem in Moore, hopefully, we can get it fixed before you get home.”
And Hamm knows the past should play a part in Moore’s future. That’s why the city and a team of volunteers have set out to preserve it.
One of the first efforts is inviting people to help document that story online at www.historyofmoore.com.
Currently, there’s lots of gaps and missing stories.
And it’s in need of more people like Myron January to help fill in the blanks.

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Michelle Freeman, a Heaven House advanced medication aide and a supervisor, at left, and Heaven House owner and administrator Diane Timmerman-O’Connor, provide a beautiful and comfortable home for Heaven House assisted living residents.

by Jason Chandler
Staff Writer

There is something different about assisted living at the Heaven House, a state licensed group home for assisted living in Oklahoma City, said the owner, Diane Timmerman-O’Connor.
O’Connor also serves as the administrator for all four Heaven House locations in OKC.
Heaven House began with one residential state licensed home for assisted living in 2010. The growth of the Heaven House locations is complimentary to the quality of O’Connor’s legacy for senior living.
“They are all just the same. They offer all the same things. They’re just located in different neighborhoods,” said O’Connor, who was recently married.
Heaven House gives the elderly a choice as to where they might like to live, she said.
“This is more of a family atmosphere. It’s in a home, it’s in a lot smaller environment than the bigger places, the institutional places,” she explained.
O’Connor cared for her mother at home for 13 years. Heaven House reflects the only type of environment she would have agreed to have her mother live if needed, she continued.
“But she ended up living with me until she passed away,” O’Connor said.
Her mother was part of O’Connor’s inspiration to create Heaven House. But it was really a calling.
“God just put it on my heart to do something for the elderly,” O’Connor said.
So she proceeded to do all the necessary research needed for assisted living by visiting every group home in Oklahoma County. O’Connor began all the training needed to become a licensed administrator.
She purchased and remodeled a fine house not to far from Nichols Hills so that every resident there would have their own bedroom and private bathroom, she said. Each house has five and a half bathrooms.
Michelle Freeman, an advanced medication aide and a supervisor, has been in her field for about 25 years. She said knowing that she makes a quality difference in the lives of the elderly keeps her intent on serving them.
“I love the elderly,” she said. “I love taking care of them and make sure they are taken care of.”
O’Connor said the residents have formed a close bond with Freeman. That attachment is common in all of the Heaven Houses. O’Connor is blessed to be able to retain her staff for a long time.
“At first I was doing at-home daycare,” Freeman said of her career. “At first it took some getting used to. But when you feel like you are making a difference in somebody’s life, it just keeps you coming back. I love it.”
Freeman said all the resident’s have different personality traits that are endearing to her life. They make it easy for her.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to keep going,” she said of the continuum of care offered at Heaven House. “It’s like when I come in, Ted says, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful.’ Everybody has their own different thing.”
There is always a certified nurse aide at Heaven House or a trained and certified medication administration technician at Heaven House. All of the houses have two staff members present in the mornings for a five-to-two ratio.
O’Connor also provides a registered nurse, Vicki Bogartis, to serve residents at all of the houses. She has both scheduled hours and PRN hours and is in charge of all of the CNAs and ACMAs.
“She has certain duties during the month that only she can do,” O’Connor said. “She does all of our assessments and all of our care plans.”
Freeman was hand-picked by O’Connor for her staff when she met her at a funeral. O’Connor knew her sister and was getting ready to open her latest house.
“I went up to her at the funeral. Just talking to her at the funeral reception, you could just tell that she was intelligent. She was caring and sort of soft-spoken.”
“And I didn’t know anything about her organizational skills, but I was really ready for her to try. She came to work here and she has never ever disappointed me. She has stayed the course. She is organized and she is great with the residents. She’s just a loving, caring person who also has some office type skills that are required in keeping the paperwork straight.”
Each house has a supervisor similar to Freeman who is in charge of their staff. O’Connor and her son both serve as administrators of the four houses.
As for Bogartis, O’Connor said she is “straight-forward and tells it like it is.” O’Connor likes that quality and needs it as part of the structured environment of Heaven House.
“The other night we had a bit of an emergency and she got out of her bed and pajamas and came to the emergency,” O’Connor said. “She is just very dedicated.”

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John Dobson has served as a Salvation Army bell ringer for more than 25 years now

by Bobby Anderson
Staff Writer

Christmas is coming. All you have to do is close your eyes and listen.
Amid all the hustle and bustle and mall parking lot tussles you can can hear the ringing of a familiar bell.
Some 127 years ago the Salvation Army started hanging kettles from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Legend has it it first began as a fundraiser to feed people on Christmas Day.
A San Francisco Salvation Army officer remembered that during his days in the Navy a pot was kept on the dock.
The pot had a sign on it that read “Keep the pot boiling.”
“It started a tradition and it spread quickly across the United States,” said Maegan Dunn, development marketing manager for the Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command.
And for the last quarter century, John Dobson has manned his post and rung that bell.
Full disclosure – Dobson serves on the group’s board of directors.
But it’s more than an obligation.
“Twenty five, twenty six, thirty – I don’t keep track of it. It’s just an act of love,” Dobson said of how many years he’s run that familiar bell and worn that red apron.
Dobson credits his volunteer spirit to a former boss.
“He told me I needed to take a look at life,” he said.
So as an accountant by trade he started picking up the annual financial reports of the various charities.
“Salvation Army just stood out there all by itself,” Dobson said. “It doesn’t pay its national president $2 million a year. It’s because they’re committed to Christ.
“Literally, it’s a church.”
Dobson quickly learned that every one of those employees wearing the military-looking uniforms are ordained ministers.
It speaks volumes.
Dobson rings for two organizations each season. The first is the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City. The second is as a Salvation Army board member.
“I promise, give me someone for an hour and I’ll make believers out of them,” Dobson said of the annual campaign. “The people you just know because of your life’s issues you just think these people can’t pay and they put these pennies and nickels in these kids hands and they come running up. You pick them up so they can drop them in there.
“They just thrive for that and they remember from year to year.”
Dobson always rings the bell at the same location each year – the Belle Isle Wal-Mart.
“It’s significant but it’s nothing close to everything we need,” Dobson said. “The Salvation Army goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week 365 days a year. A lot of people just think of us as just Thanksgiving and Christmas but it’s full time for everybody.”
At any time during the holiday season the Salvation Army literally has thousands of bell ringers at the nearly 80 locations.
Rotary groups, businesses, churches – there’s groups that come out of the woodwork to get their hands on a bell.
But some of those positions can’t be filled with volunteers so some positions are paid.
“It’s not only to man the kettle but it’s also a ministry for us,” Dunn said. “There are individuals who have seasonal jobs where they don’t have work in the winter and it helps give them a little extra money. We also have some homeless individuals and it makes extra cash for them to help keep them through the next few months.”
It’s in his nature to be a bottom-line type of guy, but Dobson knows there’s much going on here than nickels, dimes and spreadsheets
“It’s a life-altering experience,” Dobson says. “It is amazing.”
There will be several volunteer opportunities this month with the Salvation Army including:
• Angel Tree Workshop: You can come help prepare each Angel’s gifts at the distribution center. For ages 13 and up. Dates: December 5-17
• Angel Tree Distribution: Help Angel Tree families collect their gifts and assist them to their vehicles. For ages 13 and up. This is a great opportunity for corporations, businesses and individuals. Dates: December 19-23
• Ring the Bell: Schedule your family, club or business to ring the bell at one of the red kettle locations for a four-hour shift or adopt a whole a day. This raises funds for The Salvation Army’s programs like the food pantry, senior centers, homeless shelter, youth and after-school programs, and soup kitchen. Dates: Through December 24.
To volunteer, contact Lt. Kyle Madison at kyle.madison@ uss.salvationarmy.org or 405-246-1063.
To find out more about how you can get involved, visit www.salvationarmyokcac.org/volunteer today. Questions about volunteering can be answered by contacting the volunteer coordinator, Liz Banks, at 405-246-1107 or liz.banks@ uss.salvationarmy.org.

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Sheila Swearingen is the president of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma.

by Bobby Anderson
Staff Writer

For nearly 35 years now Sheila Swearingen has been involved in advocacy.
And for the last 15 years the president of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma has been deeply involved in helping Oklahomans take full advantage of one of their most precious civil rights – the right to vote.
“I’m very interested in advocacy and getting more people involved in what happens after voting to be honest,” Swearingen said. “I think it’s incredibly important for people to get themselves registered and vote but that’s not the end of it. As citizens we really do, in a democracy, say that we the people are the ones upon who the government rests.”
As Oklahomans get ready to vote in the coming days, Swearingen wants to make sure everyone has the information they need before they head to the polls.
PLUGGED IN
MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, CNN, and hundreds more online – there’s no shortage of media outlets from which to receive information. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week voters are bombarded with a non-stop barrage of political information, covering candidates’ every single move.
While the access to information may be unprecedented, Swearingen says it’s not always a good thing.
“It comes back to the individual to take it upon themselves to get non-partisan information,” Swearingen said. “I think people are plugged in but the problem with being plugged in all day is not pulling back and getting the overview, not listening to both sides of the issue and not being able to discern. They may be plugged in and often the media, whether you’re listening to NPR or Fox News it’s appealing to our emotions. I think we need to be using some logic and think deeply about the issues when we go vote.”
GET INFORMED, GO VOTE
The League of Women Voters provides a wealth of information online at www.lwvok.org as well as on Facebook.
The League of Women Voters never supports or opposes any particular candidate.
The message simply is always be informed and exercise your right to vote.
“Take any opportunity get information that is nonpartisan and unbiased,” Swearingen said.
To that end, the League was part of a broad coalition that produced the Oklahoma Voter Guide which is available at libraries across the state.
Online you can go to www.vote411.org fill in your address and it will automatically pull up all the races that will appear on your ballot down to state representative.
The League of Women Voters has chapters in Lawton, Tulsa, Stillwater, Norman and Bartlesville. The group is also in the process of reforming the Oklahoma City Chapter.
“In the Oklahoma City area we have members who are my age, and I’m definitely AARP generation, and we also have millennials,” she said. “What we’re finding is those groups can work really well together if they listen and find out that sometimes they’re on the same page about issues but they may have different ways about communicating those issues.”
Swearingen was recently trained as a precinct official.
“One of the interesting things that was reaffirmed is that you don’t have to vote every single race,” Swearingen said. “If you have a strong preference for a candidate running for county commissioner and you just can’t make up your mind who you want to choose to be the next president you don’t have to vote for president but you can vote for county commissioner.”
“We have a wonderful system in Oklahoma. Our scanners can scan whatever races you choose to vote in. You don’t have to vote the complete ballot. You can pick and choose.”
Volunteers are always needed in helping across the 77 counties and municipalities in getting ballot information. You can go online to the group’s website to learn more.
Starting November 9 Swearingen said the attention will turn to the 2017 legislative session and what issues will likely appear.
Social events are also scheduled throughout the year as well as candidate and issue forums.
Beginning in January school board elections will come into focus and the League will begin pursuing candidate forums.
“We think that school boards are just as important, and in some cases more important than whose going to Oklahoma City,” Swearingen said.
And no matter what party you belong to or whom you support, Swearingen says it’s important to do your part in keeping America great.

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Christina Wornick is the recipient of Watermark for Kids scholarship award.

Oklahoma City ballet dancers Valerie McDonald and Christina Wornick are the recipients of Watermark for Kids scholarship awards. The scholarships are presented by The Fountains at Canterbury and Watermark for Kids, a non-profit organization committed to empowering underserved kids, helping them pursue their passions and thrive. Watermark for Kids was founded by Watermark Retirement Communities, which manages The Fountains at Canterbury.
McDonald, a 17-year-old ballet dancer, will use the scholarship award to continue her Level 5 classes at the Dance Center of Oklahoma City Ballet. The school provides classical ballet technique instruction and prepares dancers for a professional role in the arts. McDonald hopes to pursue dance on the professional level after her formal training.
Wornick is a previous recipient of the scholarship award who has been dancing since the age of four. The 12-year-old dreams of becoming a famous ballerina. The Watermark for Kids scholarship will allow Wornick to continue her training at the Dance Center of Oklahoma City Ballet as a Level 4 student.
“Watermark for Kids is an amazing program that The Fountains of Canterbury is proud to facilitate in support of local students,” said Jim Story, liaison for Watermark for Kids at The Fountains at Canterbury. “Our community is passionate about Watermark for Kids because it provides children an opportunity to pursue their dreams. We are looking forward to watching our two recipients thrive while working towards their long-term goals.”
Residents and associates at The Fountains at Canterbury host fundraisers throughout the year to donate funds to the Watermark for Kids program.
For more information about Watermark for Kids visit www.watermarkforkids.org. To learn more about The Fountains at Canterbury please call (405) 381-8165 or go online to www.watermarkcommunities.com.

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Richie Splitt, FACHE, has been named the President and CEO of the Norman Regional Health System.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

An eight-month executive search ended this month with the word “interim” removed from President and Chief Executive Officer Richie Splitt’s title.
The first weekend in November saw the Norman Regional Hospital Authority Board name Splitt, FACHE, to the position permanently after he took over for David Whitaker in March.
“Since his first day in 2013 and while serving as Norman Regional’s interim President and CEO, Richie’s dedication to this health system was evident,” said Tom Clote, chair of the Norman Regional Hospital Authority Board. “He is a visionary leader who empowers Norman Regional’s team of more than 3,000 employees to achieve superior quality patient care and operational excellence.”
Largely popular among staff and highly visible throughout the halls, Splitt served in the interim capacity through a nationwide candidate search as the hospital board brought a number of candidates in to interview.
Throughout the process he continued in his role helping the hospital re-open Norman Regional Moore, which was destroyed in the May 20, tornado, as well as overseeing the system’s re-accreditation in several high-volume service lines.
He guided the system’s major investment in its cardiothoracic and vascular surgery program, adding state of the art robotic surgery under vascular surgeon Dr. Jim Neel.
“It was extremely important to continue the good work of the great people already here,” Splitt said. “One constant in healthcare is change and I knew we could not stand still or we would lose ground. While it was an important and top priority for me to sustain those gains … I knew I was going to have to keep pushing for better results, better outcomes and all of those types of things.”
“Healthcare is changing every day and we have to change along with it or we get left behind.”
Before serving as the interim president and CEO, Splitt was the Chief Administrative Officer of the Norman Regional HealthPlex in Moore. He helped guide the rebuilding of Norman Regional Moore, after a tornado destroyed the former Moore Medical Center on May 20, 2013 and then expanded EMSSTAT, the health system’s ambulance service, to the City of Moore. He has led the expansion of both the robotic surgery and cardiovascular service programs for the Health System. Norman Regional recently celebrated 25 years of heart surgery and its 70th year of providing lifesaving care to the community with Splitt at its helm.
“There are tremendous pressures whether it’s declining reimbursements or unfunded mandates for technology or systems, data collection and submission – all of those things are high priorities for us and all the while we’re in a heroic industry and have that privilege of providing sacred care,” Splitt said. “We have to always remember our patients and at the same time be mindful of those requirements.”
Splitt has nearly 30 years of experience providing direct patient care, leading high growth operations in a multi-facility environment and driving operational integration and new business development. He earned his Master of Business Administration from Oklahoma City University. He earned both a Masters of Science in Health and Exercise Science and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Communication/Psychology from the University of Oklahoma. He is a fellow with the American College of Healthcare Executives. Splitt has served on the board of both the Moore and South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
“Hands-down are greatest strength is our people,” Splitt said. “At Norman Regional we call them healers. We have nearly 3,000 healers who make a difference every single day all in the name of great patient care. By far the greatest asset for our organization is our people.”
“I feel so empowered by the people because when we work together we can really achieve some big things.”
The last decade has seen tremendous growth for the health system, which has now grown to three campuses across Norman and Moore.
More recently, the hospital system finished its last fiscal year meeting nearly every one of the quality, patient satisfaction and financial benchmarks set by the Norman Regional Hospital Authority Board.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t say what an honor and privilege it is for me to serve the great people of Norman Regional and I know our future is quite bright because I know the people,” Splitt said. “I know their commitment to our patients and the community. When we work together, align our mission and our vision then nothing will stop us.”

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Sugared pecans are ready for sale in a pecan orchard gift shop.

The annual pecan harvest is shaking up orchards across Oklahoma. Nuts are falling from Miami to Idabel as orchard owners shake their trees and fire up their pecan shelling equipment. The state ranked sixth in the nation for pecan production in 2014 with a harvest of 12 million pounds.
Pecans grow naturally across central and eastern Oklahoma. The nuts are favored by wildlife and people alike. Pecans provide nutritional benefits in addition to edible enjoyment. They add protein and fiber to our diets and are low in cholesterol and sodium. Pecans are often recommended as a source of healthy fat. In a nutshell, pecans are a treat with their buttery, rich flavor.
Gift shops at pecan orchards have lots of creative ways to enjoy these health benefits. Bags of pecan halves or pieces are available for holiday recipes. Pecan oil is another gourmet option for cooking with heart healthy flavor. Irresistible sweets include chocolate-covered pecans, praline pecans and other flavors like jalapeno and pumpkin spice. Pecan honey butter and pecan brittle also make great gift options.
“There are many pecan orchards to visit in Oklahoma,” said agritourism coordinator Meriruth Cohenour. “Each one has a different selection of products and some will shell and crack your own pecans for you.”
Examples of the diverse pecan products available include whole pecans in the shell, papershell or native pecan halves, pecan oil, and gift tins of flavored pecans. For those who love grilling or smoking meat, pecan firewood and pecan smoking chunks are perfect choices.
The Oklahoma agritourism website, www.oklahomaagritourism.com, is an easy way to find a pecan orchard near you. An interactive map on the Specialty Crops page shows the locations of pecan orchards and links to their websites.

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What do you hope to find under the Christmas tree? Salvation Army Central Oklahoma

I hope to find a new cast iron skillet with a lid.  Jeff Lara

Just to be home. That will be my only day off. Maj. Carlyle Gargis

Really, I’m not looking for gifts. I’m just the type of person who enjoys serving and doing for others.

James Dixon

I have everything I need. God has blessed me with everything. Meiing Ong

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Nurses like Amy Baden, RN (left) and Mark Macklin (middle), paramedics and other departments are helping AllianceHealth Midwest become a Oklahoma leader in chest pain treatment.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

More than two years of work and planning by multiple AllianceHealth Midwest departments culminated recently in a prestigious accolade that will benefit patients throughout the metro.
For the first time, the hospital received full Chest Pain Center with PCI (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention) Accreditation from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.
To receive accreditation, AllianceHealth Midwest demonstrated its expertise and commitment to quality patient care by meeting or exceeding a wide set of stringent criteria and completing on-site evaluation by a SCPC review team.
AllianceHealth Midwest is the only hospital in the state of Oklahoma to receive this level of accreditation.
“This accreditation is another large step in our commitment to providing superior emergency and cardiac care to the residents of Midwest City and Eastern Oklahoma County” said Damon Brown, CEO, AllianceHealth Midwest. “This accreditation was made possible because of the dedicated work and commitment of a multi-disciplinary team that included employees, physicians and paramedics.”
Cardiology Director and Chest Pain Coordinator Mark Macklin, RN, BSN has spent the last 12 of his 22 years in nursing in cardiac care after an emergency medicine and trauma background.
“The most important reason to pursue this is it’s the right thing to do for patient care,” Macklin said. “It’s a standardized system for evaluating and treating patients from the lowest risk patients to the care and treatment of the STEMI patient.”
“It encompasses the entire gamut of cardiology and chest pain.”
It is estimated that over 60% of all cardiac arrests are directly caused from an acute myocardial infarction.
The addition of the Resuscitation designation to Chest Pain Center with PCI accreditation enhances outcomes because the facility will have initiated early strategies such as early recognition, CPR and defibrillation, early intervention with Primary PCI simultaneously with post arrest hypothermia treatment.
“It standardized our practice, making sure we used evidence-based practice, best practice protocols and we’re all doing it the same way, every time with no deviation,” said Amy Baden, RN, BSN, MBA, and AllianceHealth’s network director of cardiology services. “It’s our roadmap that every patient will be given the exact same care no matter who their cardiologist is.”
Baden said that resuscitation element is one all employees are trained in.
“Any type of employee is also educated in the signs and symptoms of an early heart attack,” Baden said. “From a kitchen worker to a nurse on the floor – even the valets – have all been educated. It’s a multi-faceted education process.”
That education has been introduced to the surrounding communities. AllianceHealth Oklahoma, in partnership with the American Heart Association, donated CPR kits to high schools throughout Oklahoma.
Locally, AllianceHealth Midwest donated one to the Mid-Del School District and one to the Choctaw school district.
Nurses are also going into the schools and educating students and teachers on how to properly perform CPR.
Macklin said each week the board room was filled with representatives for nearly all departments.
“We were empowered to do that,” Macklin said. “Our administration and the board signed off … and we went in there every Monday with a sense of empowerment that we need to get from here to there and who’s best to drive the bus to get there.”
“Some days it was our Chief Nursing Officer (Gloria Ceballos, PhD, RN) who could roll out to all of nursing what needed to be done. Sometimes it was the Chief Medical Officer (Dr. Rockey Talley) who needed to get our hospitalist team on board with the protocols we were rolling out. It changed from Monday to Monday to get from where we started to where we ended.”
“It really kind of brought our whole hospital around that table with a single focus.”
By achieving SCPC’s Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI with Resuscitation Accreditation status, AllianceHealth Midwest demonstrated expertise in the following areas and others:
– Integrating the emergency department with the local emergency medical system
– Effectively treating patients at low risk for acute coronary syndrome and no assignable cause for their symptoms
– Supporting community outreach programs that educate the public to promptly seek medical care if they display symptoms of a possible heart attack
Baden said with the help of AllianceHealth Midwest’s EMS service door-to-balloon intervention time has dramatically decreased.
“We’ve had STEMI’s that come directly to the cath lab,” she said. “There’s a lot of elements … and we’re trying to rule in these patients quicker. We’re decreasing the amount of damage and decreasing the length of stay.”
“Through this we’re all doing it the same way and the patients are happier. We’re all talking the same talk. Patient satisfaction scores in these units have elevated as well so we’re excited about that.”
The SCPC is the accreditation services arm of the American College of Cardiology.
AllianceHealth Midwest, located in Midwest City on the eastern edge of Oklahoma City, is a 255-bed acute care facility with nearly 300 primary care and specialty physicians.

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