Indian mission plans for leadership change

04/18/2019 01:15 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Don Marshall, executive director of Oaks Indian Mission, attends an alumni reunion on April 6 in Oaks. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
OAKS – The Rev. Don Marshall considered himself semi-retired when he agreed to fill in as executive director at the Oaks Indian Mission in Delaware County.

Now, more than two years later, the mission boss is planning his exit at year’s end.

“I said I would do it for two years to buy some time to search for a new director,” Marshall said. “The board asked me to serve one more year, so my time is up at the end of this year.”

The right candidate, Marshall said, “loves children and feels confident working with tribes and the church, and appreciates the history and beauty of this place.”

“It’s a very critical moment right now for the Oaks Indian Mission,” Marshall said. “I couldn’t be more excited for the future of the place, built upon this strong, firm foundation that it is. I think the future is really exciting, but we have to get the right person in that position.”

Oaks Indian Mission cares for abused, abandoned or neglected children from different tribes and tribal backgrounds across Oklahoma. Currently, 20 youth call Oaks Indian Mission home.

Marshall has a decades-long relationship with the institution in varying capacities.

“I came in the late ‘70s to be pastor and chaplain,” he said. “I’ve worn a lot of hats here in the past.”

The last long-term director, James Morrison, died Feb. 13, 2006, at age 56.

“He’d been here 25 years when he died suddenly,” Marshall said. “It just threw this place into kind of a turmoil. The board was not ready for his departure, his sudden death.”

Following Morrison’s death, Oaks went through “a rocky time in a way” with several directors, Marshall said.

“We’ve been through five directors and some interim,” he said. “It’s been rocky for our kids, those leadership changes, rocky for the staff and rocky for our donors. Churches begin to wonder what’s going on at the Oaks, and why can’t they keep an executive director. I won’t get into why; it just hasn’t been a good fit. The board is going to spend time, hopefully now, getting into an active search for the new director.”

Oaks Indian Mission was established in 1801 in Georgia, according to records. The Moravian Church opened New Springplace near present-day Oaks in 1842 following the Trail of Tears. In 1902, the Moravian Mission passed its heritage onto the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Eben Ezer Lutheran Church was established in 1903. The mission for children was opened in 1926.

Today, the mission is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and is a Lutheran social service-related organization.
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