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Local woman urges donations for Native tribe toy drive

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Known for the Pow Wow, Lebanon's Cindy Yahola organizes toy drive for her Native tribe in Oklahoma

To say Cindy Yahola is a proud Native American woman would be an understatement.

She's spent her life sharing her culture with others and took over the Mt. Juliet Pow Wow for her father. It was a deathbed promise she holds dear, and this single mother has made her father proud as organizer of one of Tennessee's most popular Pow Wows, held in Mt. Juliet each fall.

However, this salute to her Muscogee Creek Nation tribe is yearlong.

For the fourth year in a row, Yahola has organized a toy drive for those less fortunate in her tribal nation based in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

"I know, people ask, 'why not collect toys for local children,' and I just say my heart goes to the less-fortunate Native children that nobody notices," she explained. "My Native culture is my passion. I have deep feelings, and I'm so happy people support these children as well."

The Muscogee Creek Nation was embroiled in the Indian removal in the 1830s-plus era, many from Tennessee.

"It's also know as the Trail of Tears," Yahola noted.

They settled in Oklahoma, which is about 595 miles away. This year, said Yahola, about 300 families were laid off just from the tribe's health department because of budgetary cuts. This means Christmas will be lean there.

Last year Yahola's toy drive garnered enough donated toys to bring Christmas to about 200 kids there. Her great grandfather was a Muscogee chief and it does her good to know somehow, all the way from Tennessee, her small effort to garner donations from generous Wilson Contains will bring so many smiles to unfortunate Native kids so far away.

She has an open house this Saturday, Dec. 3, at her home in Lebanon, located at 213 Maple Hill Road. Those who wish to donate can bring along their children, and Santa will be there to greet them and gratefully accept any type of toy or item for kids up to 18 years.

She'll then, with her daughter Aspen, a sixth grader at Walter J Baird, will take to the road Sunday morning to deliver the donated presents to the Muscogee Creek nation in Oklahoma.

"I can't say how honored I am to those who go this extra mile for Native kids in another state," she said. "I'd say if you want to get some warm fuzzy feelings by donating to less fortunate kids, come on out Saturday."

Also important to note, if you can't drive up to Lebanon to donate, there are donation boxes at Belk's at Providence in south Mt. Juliet.

Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at

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