Helen Wheeler: McAlester's been great to us

Courtesy photo 

Helen Wheeler said moving from McAlester will be bittersweet.

She led the community's chamber of commerce and the McAlester Regional Health Center Foundation, she served on many advisory boards for local non-profits and organizations, and has been active in several roles in the city. She and her husband, Vic, have been active in the community since 2005, but will soon move — after Helen said the community has felt like home.

"It was a real conscience decision to put down roots here and that's why it's definitely very sad to leave," Helen said. "It's exciting, it's another adventure, but McAlester's been great to us."

Vic is president of Arvest Bank's McAlester and Eufaula branches and is taking an expanded role in a move to Jenks.

Helen is originally from Houston and attended Oklahoma State University, where she met Vic and they later married.

They moved to McAlester in 2005 when Helen started working at the McAlester Area Chamber of Commerce and Vic was a coach and teacher at McAlester Public Schools.

"It became really apparent to me that this was a community that raised your kids," Helen said.

Helen said she saw parents in McAlester more willing to watch over all children instead of just their own at little league games and events.

She said the couple chose to stay in McAlester despite having family close and due in large part to a sense of community.

"It was a real conscience decision to put down roots here and that's why it's definitely very sad to leave," Helen said. "It's exciting, it's another adventure, but McAlester's been great to us."

Helen started with the chamber and got to know business people, coordinated community events and became more familiar with the community members.

She was the chamber executive director 2006-2008 before working for an architecture firm. She became the executive director of the McAlester Regional Health Center Foundation in 2009 and worked in several roles at the hospital until 2015 — including marketing, with the foundation, and helping to start the residency program at MRHC.

"That was super exciting because that kind of helped us grow our own doctors for this community and kind of keep things here," Helen said.

Helen retired from the hospital to spend more time with the couple's children, but she also kept working and remained involved with the community.

She works remotely part-time with an oil and gas company, has been involved with the MPS parent-teacher organization, and has served on several local boards — some of which include Shared Blessings, Hope House, and the Puterbaugh Foundation.

Helen said the first few years the couple lived in McAlester, they got involved in as much as possible before being able to focus their efforts in the last six years to make more of a difference.

"The community's really been great and I think a lot of it's because Vic and I have felt from the very beginning that if we're going to be part of a community we were going to jump in and give everything we got," Helen said. 

Helen said the move is bittersweet and she will be focused on helping the family settle into their new home.

She said ensuring the children find their fits in Jenks will be a big priority.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III by email at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com or on twitter at @aohanlon3.

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