MAY 12, 2004

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Joseph Blundell, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College graduate near his home in Cliff Village, Mo. where he is establishing a community greenhouse and recycling program that earned him the Howard R. Swearer Student Humanitarian Award. Blundell, 25, is also mayor of Cliff Village. He graduated from NEOA&M this spring.

NEOA&M student receives humanitarian award

Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College sophomore Joe Blundell has been selected to receive the Howard R. Swearer Student Humanitarian Award, presented annually for outstanding public service.

Blundell, one of only five students to be selected nationwide, will receive $1,500 towards the development of a community greenhouse at Cliff Village, Mo., where he resides. Blundell’s award will be presented during an Education Leadership Colloquium scheduled July 12-13 in Orlando, Fla.

“This is really a great honor and it’s kind of nice to know that people are willing to help,” Blundell, a Native American History major, said. Blundell began developing the greenhouse project following an accident in 2001 that left him paralyzed from the waist down and hopes it will support Cliff Village residents not only during the summer growing months but also year round.

“The advancements in horticulture and hydroponics growing technology could make this dream a reality and our village a model of the tremendous health benefits gained from eating natural foods,” he said.

Blundell supports viable organic food sources, “anything from greenhouses to editable landscapes” and said that as a Native American history buff, he believes tribal spirituality “goes hand-in-hand and is in tune with what Jesus teaches about living in harmony with each other and with the earth. I believe everything we need is growing straight out of the ground and it seems like a sacred way to live,” he said

Besides the greenhouse project, Blundell has developed a recycling program for Cliff Village and as the community’s youngest mayor at age 25, has been instrumental in securing new city water lines that will be installed in the summer of 2005.

“I moved into this small town in 2001 and discovered that many of our pets, and more disturbingly, our people were getting sick and dying very young. There had been a chemical dumping up-stream about 13 year ago, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to calculate the risk,” he said.

Blundell asked the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources to test the city’s water wells but, “there was a lot of stonewalling and eventually, it was the American Water Company through the Harry S. Truman Foundation that was most helpful,” he said.

“We hatched a deal, and I am happy to say that soon not only will we have safe drinking water but also fire protection. Now, I can begin working on other programs for Cliff Village.”

Blundell graduated from NEOA&M this spring and plans to move to Peru for a short while to study horticulture in the Amazon and to continue his education. He is the son of George and Katherine Blundell, Cliff Village. Katherine Blundell is NEO’s Social Science Department Chair.

Contact: Una McElhaney, 1-918-540-6209