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Cherokee Nation donates nearly $500k to 136 rural fire departments

Posted at 4:33 PM, May 20, 2024

WAGONER, Okla. — Each year, the Cherokee Nation hosts a dinner to honor fire departments across the reservation, and every time — more than 100 fire departments take home money.

In the 2024 edition of the event, tribal leaders announced a donation of nearly $500,000 to 136 departments.

Each one took home about $3,500, including the Whitehorn Cove Fire Department.

The department's chief, Jordan Lancaster, is focused on spending the money on a community-driven project.

“We’re trying to see what we can put it back into our community that would help them serve us as best we can,” Lancaster said.

Hear more from Chief Lancaster on the gift's impact:

Whitehorn Cove Fire Department Chief Jordan Lancaster talks donations from Cherokee Nation

In 2023, Whitehorn used the money to purchase tornado sirens for the community. For 2024, they’re hoping to spend the money on a similar project.

Lancaster tells 2 News the yearly budget for the department is approximately $8-10,000 per year.

The basic needs of the fire department are covered by property tax revenue.

All 22 firefighters are volunteers, and most of them have day jobs.

Lancaster said the familial atmosphere sets his department apart from the rest.

“Everybody comes, and everybody gets along. Everybody knows their job, so I think that’s probably the reason why,” Lancaster said.

Shearon Bevens, who lives near and works at the Whitehorn Cove Marina, said that’s right in line with the rest of town.

“The people are a family,” Bevens said, “I mean, the people that come out here, they’re all family. They’ve been coming out here for years.”

Lancaster does not yet know exactly how the money will be spent. Though, he does know the community is top of mind.

“I hope they enjoy us, and hopefully, we can help them when they’re in need,” Lancaster said.

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