Sarah Sentilles, left, of the Alliance of Idaho stands next to Mary Fauth (Blaine County Charitable Fund), Sara Gress (Wood River Trails Coalition), Terri Bullock (Wood River Women’s Foundation) and Becky Lopez (Alliance of Idaho).
Express photo by Willy Cook
With Bald Mountain framed neatly in the distance, about 200 women gathered under the tent at Trail Creek Cabin last Wednesday to honor local nonprofits and the role they played in the pandemic response.
The philanthropists—members of the Wood River Women’s Foundation—were there to celebrate more than a dozen organizations that received a collective $288,000 this year as part of the foundation’s most recent grant cycle.
Now in its 15th year, the Wood River Women’s Foundation grants over $330,000 annually to local nonprofits. Of its annual $1,100 membership fee, $1,000 is distributed among all grant recipients, and $100 goes to operating expenses.
Fourteen nonprofits received grants this year between $10,000 and $25,000. Several of those organizations, like the Blaine County Charitable Fund and the Blaine County Housing Foundation, serve the valley by providing emergency financial aid for housing, utilities, healthcare and legal fees.
According to foundation director Terri Bullock, one goal of the Women’s Foundation in 2021 has been to close the opportunity gap in education.
“Together, we can raise the test scores of all children in our community and work through the barriers that currently exist for families without the tools to support their children’s education,” she told the crowd.
Another focus has been fighting social injustice in Blaine County. The Alliance of Idaho, which received $25,000 this year—and nonprofit status in 2020—supports contracts with immigration lawyers to help asylum seekers and parents separated from their children at the border. The Bellevue-based organization also provides financial assistance when a family’s primary wage earners are detained, executive director Becky Lopez said.
Lopez said the $25,000 grant has gone toward hiring a nationally recognized immigration lawyer, Luis Campos, who comes to Hailey from El Paso, Texas, every month. In April, Campos served 25 families in just three days, she said.
“The Alliance is one of the only local organizations that takes on asylum cases, and we’ve seen huge growth in the number of people seeking asylum recently,” Lopez said.
Mary Fauth, executive director of the Blaine County Charitable Fund, said most residents helped by her organization during the pandemic were immigrants who could not receive government stipend checks. Now, members of the general population have found their way to the Charitable Fund after exhausting other government resources, she said.
“With the moratorium on evictions lifted, this month will be really telling. Landlords will start to send eviction notices to people who aren’t paying their rent, and we are prepared to help,” Fauth said.
As members dined in the tent Wednesday afternoon, keynote speaker Teresa Beahen Lipman, executive director of the Senior Connection, recalled the time when Blaine County had the nation’s highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita.
The Senior Connection had never seen such a demand for home-delivered meals and home care, she said. Its Meals on Wheels program grew 400% in a matter of weeks, for example.
In 2021, the Women’s Foundation allocated the Senior Connection $15,230, which helped it land about $51,000 from the Idaho Transportation Department for a new bus, Beahen Lipman said.
“Next to their health, transportation is the second largest concern for the elderly,” she said
In 2020, The Senior Connection received $18,600 from the Women’s Foundation for replacement heating and cooling units. Beahen Lipman said the organization was then able to leverage that funding to secure $207,000 from the Idaho Commerce Department for a complete air quality improvement project that, come September, will add outside air exchange along with increased filtration to the new air-conditioning and heating units.
“This is to make our facility as safe as possible for a very vulnerable population. The risk of pathogens spreading at the center will be minimal,” she said.
Other recent projects at The Senior Connection have included providing homebound seniors with iPads and wireless data plans to communicate with volunteers face-to-face. The organization has also expanded its curbside meals service into Ketchum with support from The Community Library, Beahen Lipman said, and plans to open a vision and hearing center for those who are unable to afford eye exams or hearing aids.
“Over 40% of seniors worry about being a burden to others,” she said. “Our goal is for seniors to feel a part of, versus apart from, the community.”
Other 2021 grant recipients
- Blaine County Education Foundation: $25,000 to compensate teachers and staff for after-school tutoring and new digital software to help students with pandemic-related learning loss.
- Blaine County Housing Foundation: $11,000 for households facing challenges paying rent or mortgages.
- Blaine County Recreation District: $25,000 to fund access and infrastructure improvements on nonmotorized winter and summer trails in the south valley.
- Friends of the Hailey Library: $25,000 to install movable furniture that will help maximize space for lectures and community events.
- Girls on the Run: $9,950 to run two eight-week group sessions for girls ages 8-13. The sessions will culminate in a 5K run.
- I Have a Dream Foundation: $25,000 to fund an intensive bilingual academic program for first grade students at Alturas and Bellevue Elementary Schools.
- Lee Pesky Learning Center: $25,000 to supervise and teach 25 incoming first grade English language learners.
- Little Wood River District Library in Carey: $10,000 for an outdoor patio to be used for a family gathering space.
- Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center: $15,000 to replace footing material in the main indoor arena, to ensure the safety of both the horses and 100-plus weekly riders.
- Wood River Community YMCA: $25,000 to fund this year’s Power Scholars program, a five-week, six-hour daily enrichment program for first and second graders.
- Wood River Trails Coalition: $22,500 to train eight “trail bosses” who will supervise 200 volunteers as they maintain 400 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails in the valley.
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