Paoli in the census 'hunt'

As the 2020 U.S. Census nears the end of counting, several Oklahoma communities, including one right here in Garvin County, have increased the percentage of residents responding to the once-in-a-decade event.

One community is currently in the top spot for the challenge with several looming closely, including Paoli.

These communities are “in the hunt” to win the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) “Census Community Challenge.”

For the Oklahoma community which has improved its response to the census by the greatest percentage, OICA will award the school district a $250 cash prize.

Currently, Wann is atop the leader board, followed closely in the top five by Drummond, Sterling, Paoli and Medicine Park.

Wann is in the top spot for the challenge with an improvement of 47.4 percent. Starting at 3.4 percent on May 17, the community now has a response rate of 50.8 percent.

It is not out of reach for Paoli to overtake the lead with a current percentage of 49.5 percent, an improvement of 38.2 percent since May 17.

It's estimated that for every person not counted, the state loses approximately $1,700 each year.

If the census misses even one out of every 100 Oklahomans, that will add up to $72 million per year – a whopping $720 million over the 10 years between census counts.

People can respond online at www.2020census.gov, by phone at (844) 330-2020 (English), or by mailing back the paper form that was delivered to the household.

According to Joe Dorman, OICA’s chief executive officer, the idea was to use the existing school and community rivalries to encourage greater census response.

“We have seen some communities that have really upped their game,” he said. “We have seen communities all across Oklahoma focus on getting a full count in the Census, and we are getting close to the end of the ‘Community Challenge.’”

“Then, we will have the honor of making a cash donation to the school in the community that has most improved their Census response over the past four-and-a-half months.”

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Garvin County District Judge Leah Edwards is among a handful of judges who will have the final say when it comes to who the winners will be for a 37th annual Political Hacks Chili Cookoff.

The event by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is scheduled for noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17.

Proceeds from this event go to OICA with donations also going to the Donna Nigh Foundation and Children's Hospital of Oklahoma.

Those judging the cookoff are actual judges. Along with Edwards they include Justice Noma Gurich, Judge Trevor Pemberton, Judge Thad Balkman, Judge Kevin McCray and Judge Sheila Stinson.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic chili chefs will set up tailgate style in the OICA parking lot and maintain a safe distance from each other.

Chefs can enter for free online and receive an event apron as a thank-you for competing.

OICA staff will mark each contestant's sample and box them up for attendees to drive through and take samples home where they can vote for their favorite online.

Anyone attending can also donate to a blood drive being held by the Oklahoma Blood Institute.

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