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The Bond: Connecting through the Space Between Us (cont.)
By Lynne McTaggart

Although the water line would have cost some $579,000 to lay down, more than half of that cost was deferred because the citizens offered to do digging themselves and provide their own equipment. By subtracting what the labor would have cost, Hix was able to drastically reduce the federal funding necessary to get the project approved.

Because of Tailholt’s willingness to invest in “sweat equity” to build the community center as well, the Cherokee Nation offered $72,000 to provide the basic materials for the 3,700-square foot building. Tailholt’s request for small amounts of federal funding again made it through the fierce approval process precisely because volunteers offered to carry out the construction for free.

The community began scouting out potential locations for the building, but once again they were faced with money problems. Where would they get the funds to buy the land? At one of the evening meetings, 80-year-old Pauline Sanders stepped forward. She had the perfect site for the building on her substantial acreage, and she was willing to donate nearly five acres, on the proviso that the center offer a literacy program for children and a nutrition program for the elderly.

The building and pipeline were both operational by 2006. Tailholt had clean water and a community center with a library, with free computer use, and a place for everyone to meet.

But the bigger payoff in Tailholt was the effect on the community of engaging together in a common goal. Before the building work had begun, the town’s population had felt isolated from each other. “The whole process of getting this community building started has brought our community together,” said Jeremy Marshall, who is president of the Tailholt Community Organization. While the men showed up with hammers, squares, and levels, Pauline and other women from the community would show up at the site every day to cook lunch for the volunteers.

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