Osage Nation Women Infants and Children hosts 2017 Game Changers: Nutrition and Administration Conference in Oklahoma City
From Osage Nation WIC
Oklahoma City, Okla. (Tuesday, October 3, 2017)--On July 26, 2016, the ten OK State WIC agencies met in Ada at the Chickasaw Nation by invitation from Melinda Newport, Director of Nutrition Services. It was an opportunity for the 10 programs in OK to get together and catch up on key WIC topics such as EBT, food packages, and any sharing of ideas. At the meeting, Terry Bryce, State of Oklahoma WIC Director, asked for someone to host the annual conference that they had hosted for years. Due to budget and administration constraints, they would be unable to continue to host. This is a very important conference for all agencies, as it is not only an opportunity to network but provides invaluable continuing education for those in WIC such as nutritionists, dieticians, lactation consultants and more.
Being one of the new WIC directors, I raised my hand and volunteered Osage Nation to host. And so it began, the year-long journey to conference planning. We contracted with the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Public Management team to handle the execution of the event. It was a rocky start, but once OU awarded the bid for the hotel to the Sheraton Midwest City Reed Conference Center, we picked up steam. Mandy Caid-Jefferson, Education and Training Specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Health, who has been instrumental in planning the previous conferences, was a valuable source of help and information. We worked together, along with a committee of accomplished WIC ladies from other tribal organizations to brainstorm the planning details.
The conference had a “bedlam type” theme with “Game Changers” being the title to support the teamwork we utilize within the state. It was held on September 12-14 and we had 15 speakers, 334 attendees, and 8 vendors. We also had nine OU staff who helped with the event. On the last day of the conference, attendees were dressed in their favorite team colors or jerseys.
There were activity breaks where everyone danced to the music led by Adrienne Jacobs of the Chickasaw Nation and prayers given by Cheryl Richardson of the Potawatomi Nation. Also, we had Jay Mule and Marty Thurman from the Morningstar Dance performers. They are competitive powwow circuit dancers and demonstrated several native dances. The National WIC Association also presented a training on social media and how to utilize it to enhance your WIC programs. Greg Hawks was our opening keynote speaker and brought an enthusiastic message to everyone in the workplace by asking “are you an owner, renter, or a vandal”, meaning at what level do you participate at your job? David Rendall was the closing keynote and he didn’t disappoint. His intriguing “Freak Factor” delivery was comical and highlighted how to use your weaknesses to your advantage. The other speakers talked about a variety of subjects including ethics; cultural competency; Heart Button Counseling; breastfeeding; toddler behaviors; postpartum depression; trauma-informed practices; mealtime blessings; caregiver stress, excellence in service, and avoiding burnout. All of these inspirational and educational speakers breathed new life into all the attendees. Everyone has a passion for WIC, most have been in the WIC world for many, many years and this affords them the opportunity to replenish themselves and keep striving to help the participants they serve each day. These same people truly make a difference in the lives of thousands of families.
Overall, the conference was a huge success thanks to everyone who had a part in organizing and planning. I would especially like to thank the Food Nutrition Service Southwest Regional Director, Darrell Allen for providing the funding, the Osage Nation Executive Branch for their support, and my staff for all the amazing ways they stepped up and helped during the past year and while they attended the conference, introduced speakers and were room monitors.