Sense of Community

Our ongoing, 10-part Community Journalism series airs quarterly

From poverty concerns to major policy decisions, this series dives beyond the headlines to provide in-depth coverage of issues facing people and organizations in the Ozarks. KSMU's team of reporters come together to produce 10 stories, four times a year. Past espisodes of our Sense of Community series are available below.

Flickr User Nik / Creative Commons, Used with permission

In this segment of our Sense of Community Series on the impact of poverty on education, we're bringing you an update on an organization that’s rounded the corner on its 10-year-mark here in the Ozarks: Care to Learn.

"I’m just amazed at how resilient these kids have to be. But at the same time, that’s what hurts. That’s the thing that we need to solve,” said Care to Learn founder and board member Doug Pitt.

You may have heard that Care to Learn tries to meet the health, hunger and hygiene needs of kids in schools with local chapters.

(Photo courtesy Ozark String Project)

This afternoon we’ll look at arts education and participation among children in economically-disadvantaged circumstances—and how area educators, artists and arts administrators are attempting to counter the problem. 

For Marty Moore, Executive Director of Learning Support and Partnerships for Springfield Public Schools, the problem is that families in poverty always have to make choices about where that money’s going to go. 

"It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out those arts experiences are going to fall to the bottom of that list,” Moore said.

Pamela Bates via Flickr (Creative Commons 2.0)

Every day at school, Kenzie Warren, a sophomore at West Plains High School, sets her backpack down at one of the six rows of rectangular tables that line the cafeteria. She walks over to the small table in the corner and pulls a knob on a glass dispenser to fill a disposable, plastic cup. A thick, maroon-colored smoothie blend folds into the cup at her fingertips. Walking back to the table, Kenzie and her friend, Kaley, pluck their straws into their smoothies.


File photo / US Department of Agriculture


Welcome back to our Sense of Community series looking at the impact of poverty on education. In this segment, we look at the percentage of free and reduced lunches that kids qualify for in Springfield Public Schools. That's usually seen as an indicator of poverty levels since it's based on household income.  Here's a chart provided by SPS listing individual schools in the district and how their rates have changed over the last decade.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

At the end of a long hallway in the West Plains High School’s career center building, there’s a room with racks of clothing and shelves of canned meat and beans. Retired science teacher Cyndi Wright is going through the supply of hoodies.

Springfield News-Leader

He said his name was Omar Palmer, although he answered no questions about his past. It’s been said he arrived by train in Crane Missouri around 1929-1931, then made his way about 10 miles east through Stone County to the very small farm community of Oto, to establish the first of 3 medical clinics in the area. 

Within a few years after his arrival, Omar Palmer was treating 100, 150, and even 200 patients a day at his Oto Clinic, and he was treating them for free. 

Steffen Zahn / Flickr via Creative Commons

In the Ozarks, caves serve as geological landmarks and a testament to the region's Karst topography. But some caves in the region are woven into the legends and folklore passed from one generation to the next.

One particular cave in the tiny village of Smallett, Missouri near Ava has been shrouded in mystery since the Civil War.

Today, the cave is on a farm off of Highway A. The farm belongs to the Sellars family.

Atchison Daily Globe

A woman’s alleged horseback ride through a small Ozarks boomtown in 1913 caught the attention of newspapers throughout the Midwest.

The Atchison Daily Globe in Kansas was one of the many newspapers to publish the shocking story of a bizarre night gone wrong in Old Horton, Missouri. The small community was in a part of the Mark Twain National Forest in Howell County near Cabool.

Here’s part of the newspaper’s account:

Barry County History Museum / Barry County History Museum

As we continue our series “Mysteries of the Hollers,” we now travel to Roaring River State Park, where a so-called Mountain Maid once resided in a cabin tucked away in the woods.

When people usually think of clairvoyants, they envision a woman at a carnival wearing a turban, staring ominously into a crystal ball. Jean Wallace, on the other hand was much more down to earth—though just as mysterious.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

Near a winding, country highway, an old cemetery is nestled between a pasture of cattle and a corn field a few miles southeast of West Plains, Missouri. The Howell Valley Cemetery, originally known as the Langston Cemetery, dates back to shortly after the Civil War; several relatives of President George Washington are buried beneath these towering Oak trees.

The volunteer caretaker shows up in a rusty, green truck and steps out to greet me.

Around these parts, he’s known as Mike, or as “Dr. Moore,” a family doctor…but to me, he’s always been known as “Dad.”

Lou Wehmer

About 20 years ago, historian Lou Wehmer bought a collection of old negatives from a longtime photographer in Willow Springs.  The negatives were each four-by-five inches, from an antique, large format camera.

And one negative in particular made Wehmer gasp.

“It was a photograph of an older gentleman standing in front of a harp,” Wehmer said.

The historian in Wehmer thought, “Hm. We didn’t have harpists in northern Howell County.”

“We had fiddlers and we had guitar players. But I had never heard of a harpist. So that was a mystery to me,” Wehmer said. 


This is the story of a mysterious man, a pianist and music teacher by profession, who showed up in the small Northwest Arkansas town of Cincinnati in Washington County in the 1870s. He went by the name of Edwin Dolgoruki—sometimes reported as “G. Dolgoruki,” but usually as Edwin. But to this day no one is sure of who the man was, where he actually came from, or what was his real story.

(courtesy Minneapolis Star and

Former Springfield News-Leader columnist Mike O’Brien wrote in May of 2001 that in 1946, a publishing house in Kansas put out a 32-page booklet called “True Stories of Peculiar People and Unusual Events in the Ozarks.”  It was written by former Kansas City newspaper reporter William R. Draper.

Michele Skalicky

Welcome back to our Sense of Community series, "Mysteries from the Hollers."

Stories of buried treasure in the Ozarks have intrigued people for decades. 

Michele Skalicky

Welcome to our Sense of Community series, "Mysteries from the Hollers."

Before modern medicine was readily available, people would turn to home remedies to treat various diseases. 

When someone was bitten by an animal, especially if it was believed to be rabid, folks in the Ozarks as late as the 1930s, would pull out the family madstone or go to a local person who possessed one.