We’ve all seen the effervescent teens bopping along the sidewalks many weekends, waving signs offering car washes to raise money for this senior trip, or that band equipment overhaul. We don’t often ask as we pull in for a rubdown exactly what it is that our money will be doing—we just have faith that it’s a community project worth funding and one that we will get something back for—a clean car for pocket change.
But there are many more causes in this Valley that we don’t know about, such as those that provide a service, perhaps someone who consoled you when your dog died, or helped cure your winter blues with an art workshop, or sang you a song that left you humming all day. Who was that person that just brought Grandma prints from that CD her grandkids sent of the Christmas party she couldn’t attend? Who feeds the hungry we know must exist, but don’t see sleeping in nooks and digging through garbage cans like in bigger cities? Where can I send my kid when I have to work late?
For all these needs this community has found it had, it has also found an answer for many of them by establishing not-for-profit organizations that can do those things that can’t be done alone.
It’s unlikely, though, that an 8 p.m. call from the National Center for Something or Another that comes in like clockwork once a week will ever be from any of these humble operations. Instead, they devote their time to doing their best and hoping their best gets them the recognition and funding they deserve.
We invite you to learn about a few of these organizations, chosen randomly as much for their unique services as their anonymity. If you are engaged by what you read, we encourage you to take some time to join them. >>>
Photography: Courtesy of St. Thomas Playhouse and Heather Black; Boulder Mountain Clayworks, Sun Valley Summer Symphony; Caritas Chorale
Every musician, every artist, every talented person had a childhood. Thanks to these organizations and others like them, our Valley’s children can explore their talents early, or return to them later in life. Amateur or professional, if your heart is in the arts, the opportunities to sate your desires are all here.
St. Thomas Playhouse
St. Thomas Playhouse was founded seven years ago by St. Thomas Episcopal Church’s former rector, the Rev. Brian Baker, with Dick Brown serving as musical director, Sara Gorby as education director and Anna Johnson as artistic director. The idea was to provide opportunities to enrich the spiritual lives of children, youth and adults by presenting plays, musicals and summer camp programs that celebrate the human experience, build relationships and explore theological and real-life themes. Programs include: Intergenerational Family Musicals, Touring Children’s Theater, A Summer Theater Project for Youth and Young Adults, Company B Performing Arts Day Camp and our Summer Performing Arts Conservatory Sleep-away Camp. More than 200-plus children, youth and adults participate in programs per year, and more than 3,000 audience members attend their productions on an annual basis. The programs offer another avenue to building bonds in our growing and changing community. Nearly 80 percent of the funding goes directly to the program. Fundraisers and regular donors comprise the budget and volunteers absorb the administrative and actual work. The St. Thomas Playhouse Charter Committee of Rebecca Waycott, Kris Miller, Heather Black and Jane Reynolds lead the volunteer base. Volunteers are always invited to join in the fun as actors, singers, dancers, ushers, box office, scenery building and more. For more information call 208.726.5349 ext. 13.
Now in its 10th year, the Caritas Chorale was founded by Dick Brown—conductor and musical director—to encourage and promote musical education and appreciation in the Wood River Valley, free of charge. They accomplish this through the establishment of a non-denominational community chorus, presenting performances of classical and traditional choral music with instrumental accompaniment as appropriate. Caritas strives especially to promote choral music appreciation and education in our community schools. This organization directly benefits our area songbirds who wow audiences with several free concerts each year. The entire economy benefits as Caritas draws from the Boise Philharmonic to engage an orchestra, soloists and fans to the Valley several times a year as well. Caritas Chorale is the Valley’s premier choral ensemble that feels like family. As such, they are always willing to step up to provide support to the community in times of national grief or need. In their 10 years, they have performed approximately 20 major choral works as well as holiday sing-alongs and collections of traditional music. They uniquely commissioned an original choral work to celebrate Lewis and Clark’s meeting of the original inhabitants of Idaho, and many of the singers have spent their own money to take American music on three separate tours of Europe. For more information call 208.726.6602.
Boulder Mountain Clayworks
Boulder Mountain Clayworks, Inc., was started by Susan Ward in 1996 because she was a clay artist without a place to work and, soon after opening her doors, she found she was hardly alone. She created a space for like-minded artists to share ideas, grow and thrive in a creative atmosphere and soon realized that she could reach children as well. Subsequently, the studio began holding numerous classes after school and clay camps in the summer months. They have worked with the YMCA and Sun Valley Adaptive Sports to provide special classes for their youth. Theme classes and family nights are crowd-pleasers for all skill levels. Boulder Mountain Clayworks holds free lectures, has an annual Studio Potters Holiday show and sale, and hosts the annual Empty Bowls project benefiting the Idaho Food Bank. Nesbit Hatch, Pam Sabel, Martha Hollenhorst and Marjolaine Renfro are counted as tireless volunteers. Boulder Mountain Clayworks occupies a special niche in our community’s arts. Open 12 hours each day and on weekends, experienced potters are always on hand to help the inexperienced. Ward would like to see other disciplines like painting and etching model similar programs so artists will have access to studios that keep their hands on art. For more information call 208.726.4484 or visit www.bouldermtnclay.com.
Sun Valley Summer Symphony
This year, Sun Valley Summer Symphony celebrated 24 years of bringing free classical music to the Wood River Valley with the debut of its new pavilion. Providing free concerts every summer to the entire community is what they are widely known for, but what is less obvious is what they accomplish for the area’s youth behind the scenes. Education director Kim Gasenica, with the support of Judy Smooke, vice president of education for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony Board, ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy and perform classical music with their School of Music programs and week-long Summer Music Workshops. Through private lessons, outreach programs in string, voice and piano, partnerships with local music teachers in Blaine County schools and developmental music programs, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony proves their dedication to promoting the personal growth of future musicians. To contact Sun Valley Summer Symphony Summer Music Camps call 208.622.5607 or visit www.svsummersymphony.org. >>>
Photography: Courtesy of Citizens for Smart Growth and Kris Olenick, Yellowstone to Yukon and Gary Glass
Living in a place like ours, it is not hard to embrace the Native American theology that all humans have an animal spirit within. It’s why the wolf’s cry sends shivers to our souls, and the change of seasons drives us wordlessly through the rituals required to prepare for each one. There are people more connected than we who take the time to make sure the eagle flies, the groundhog sees a shadow and the food we eat and water we drink nourish us to the strength required to appreciate it all. These are a few of them.
Snake River Alliance
Snake River Alliance was founded 30 years ago by a group of Idahoans who were concerned about the nuclear waste being pumped into the aquifer at the Idaho National Laboratory. Since then, they have defeated projects others thought impossible including: INL no longer injecting nuclear waste directly into the Snake River aquifer; beating back three nuclear weapons plants and a plutonium incinerator; ensuring high-level waste is no longer abandoned in underground tanks, unlined pits and trenches; and working to cancel the 700-ton Divine Strake Bomb Test. The guiding philosophy is simple: The state of Idaho must protect the air, land and water from nuclear waste and promote clean and affordable sources of energy. The effort the Alliance makes, with Andrea Shipley serving as executive director and John Gifford as board president, is on behalf of all Idahoans, the state’s precious natural resources and wild places, and the health and well-being of the air, land and water across the globe. The majority of this organization’s resources go to fund experts to run programs in two distinct and vital programs: clean energy and nuclear watchdogs. Their mission is to conduct the research and educate the public on their findings and to aid in finding alternatives. This is a membership-based organization with volunteers providing much-needed support in the areas of promoting sustainable solutions to our energy crossroads. The Alliance’s position is that: “There is no solution to nuclear waste. The cost of renewable resources like wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, conservation, and energy efficiency are still proving to be the cheapest, fastest and safest way for us to reach energy independence.” For more information visit http://snakeriveralliance.org/.
Citizens For Smart Growth
By 2025, it is estimated that the Valley will grow by 12,000 residents. New residents will add about 5,000 homes and more than 9,000 vehicles to our roads. For more than a decade, Citizens for Smart Growth has been at the table when growth and development discussions take place so that Blaine County grows in a sustainable and equitable way. CSG was founded in 1997 to give local citizens a voice in development issues at a time when well-funded, big-time developers were, as CSG saw it, “outmanning and outmaneuvering local government.” The organization works to preserve Blaine County’s natural assets—rural charm, open space, air and water quality and wildlife habitat—while encouraging economic prosperity. The organization does this by evaluating development projects according to the 10 Smart Growth Principles and community values. CSG representatives then meet with developers to help mold projects into valuable community assets and mitigate potential problems, advise local government and report on pertinent issues to members and the general public. CSG also works to codify Smart Growth Principles into law and as a regional collaborator on various sustainability projects. CSG has worked with cities and the county to: protect our night sky and historic features; keep development off of critical lands; establish maximum retail building size in order to protect the small businesses we value; limit berm sizes along our roadways that block scenic views and increase wildlife fatalities; promote affordable housing and access to public lands and water. For more information call 208.788.8813 or visit www.citizensforsmartgrowth.org.
The Sawtooth Society
The Sawtooth Society is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization formed in 1997 to work on behalf of the 756,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area (Sawtooth NRA) and those who live, work and visit there. Bethine Church, widow of Senator Frank Church, inspired the Society’s creation because she believed in a need for a citizens’ organization to serve as an advocate for the Sawtooth NRA, preserve open space and prevent inappropriate development in the Sawtooth Valley and Stanley Basin, and enhance recreational facilities and services in the area. With a small staff and volunteers, the Society has accomplished much in the past decade, including: mobilizing policymakers and the press to address the threats facing the Sawtooth NRA; lobbying Congress to appropriate nearly $17 million to the Forest Service for the purchase of conservation easements in the area, resulting in the protection of 13 properties totaling nearly 3,000 acres; negotiating an end to the most immediate threat of high-density development in the Stanley Basin; investing nearly $500,000 for trails, camping areas, interpretive programs, emergency medical services and wildlife protection; and initiating Sawtooth Vision 20/20, a long-term collaborative management strategy for the Sawtooth NRA. The Society is currently addressing three potentially serious threats to the Sawtooth NRA: inappropriate development, in particular the use of lands owned by the State of Idaho in the Sawtooth Valley; catastrophic wildfire; and out-of-bounds motorized recreation. For more information visit http://sawtoothsociety.org/.
Yellowstone to Yukon
Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) was officially established in 1997 by conservationists and scientists who believed that true conservation requires both an understanding of the landscape and the ability to set conservation priorities for the region. Through the integration of scientifically sound research, stewardship and strategic partnerships, Y2Y seeks to maintain and, where needed, restore the wildlife, native plants, wilderness and natural process of this ecosystem, which stretches 2,000 miles from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon. Based in Canmore, Alberta, Canada and Bozeman, Montana, the organization connects and supports a network of organizations, agencies, and individuals doing on-the-ground conservation work across the region. Every year Y2Y provides grants to organizations in support of their conservation efforts and in 2008 the organization provided $38,000 in funding to groups in Canada and the U.S. Y2Y receives support from U.S. and Canadian foundations, private donors, and its emerging membership program. Y2Y has been named by the International Union for Conservation of Nature-World Conservation Union as one of the planet’s leading mountain conservation initiatives. For more information on this large-scale conservation initiative, and to check out employment and volunteer opportunities across the region, visit www.y2y.net or call 800.966.7920 ext. 7. >>>
Photography: Courtesy of Make a Difference Now Lee Pesky Learning Center, Rotarun Ski Club, Inc., St. Luke’s YAK!
Any barrier to learning is a potential detriment to a young person. A child must be whole in mind, body and spirit to succeed. No one organization or person can tackle the problem, nor is there any one right answer for every question, except, perhaps, in math. But when 2 + 2 is a problem that can’t be solved, when the body is unfulfilled or the home-front is lacking love and support, help is needed. Gratefully, people here care, a lot.
Make A Difference NOW
Make A Difference Now was founded by Hailey resident, Theresa Grant, with the goal of ending poverty and AIDS by sending orphaned children to school, educating them about HIV/AIDS, malaria and sanitation, as well as offering job skill training and income generators. Make A Difference Now consists of a working board in Ketchum, Idaho led by Executive Director Grant and a small board overseeing the effort of local managers working in Zambia, local partners in Tanzania and two directors in India, as well as house mothers, cooks and drivers. More than 50 volunteers from around the world have traveled abroad to assist with various projects. Ninety percent of MAD’s funds—largely from private donors—go straight to the program. Other income generators include a jewelry and sewing program where older children from the orphanages make items for purchase locally at Tully’s Coffee House and Ketchum Dry Goods, as well as Friedman Memorial Airport. The money earned is used for schooling. Madi and Lexi DuPont and Emily O’Reilly are heralded for launching the Kilimanjaro Fundraiser Climb. Enough money was raised to send 22 children from the Tanzanian orphanage to school for a year. Make A Difference Now relies heavily on volunteers from 13 to 60 years old, who help teach HIV/AIDS and health awareness classes, construction, computer classes, art, music or drama, cooking, fitness and English. Volunteers can choose the country they want to work in and for those wanting to vacation afterwards, Make A Difference can help set them up. For more information visit http://www.makeadifferencenow.org/.
Lee Pesky Learning Center
Lee Pesky Learning Center was started in Boise in 1997 by Alan and Wendy Pesky in memory of their son, Lee. Lee grew up to own Ketchum’s Buckin’ Bagels, among other achievements, despite challenging learning disabilities. Upon Lee’s untimely death, his parents decided to honor him by creating a resource for others with similar obstacles to achieve their personal best. Today, the Center provides one-on-one services (assessment, counseling, and remediation) to individuals with learning disabilities and addresses wider needs in Idaho through teacher training, early literacy education and programs that help low-income populations overcome learning challenges. The Center annually serves more than 10,000 Idaho individuals, primarily children, with learning challenges; parents of children with learning disabilities; and schoolteachers across the state; childcare providers; and school and community leaders. Through partnerships with schools and other organizations like the new Ketchum YMCA, the Center has become a major player in helping Idaho communities address the educational needs of at-risk children. Seventy-five percent of the revenue goes straight into the Center’s programs, with 10 percent coming from fundraising events like the annual Sun Valley Scavenger Hunt dinner and auction. The rest comes from individual donations. Learning disabilities can be lifelong obstacles to educational success and personal happiness. The Center’s work literally saves lives. For more information call 208.578.1676 or visit http://www.lplearningcenter.org/.
St. Luke’s YAK!
St. Luke’s YAK! (Youth Adult Konnections!) is celebrating 10 years of commitment to proving that the youth in this community do amazing things. Founded by a group of community members and organizations working with area children, the goal was to promote and build developmental assets and to offer programs and services for young people to keep them safe, healthy and active members of the community. Frances Nagashima has long been the fearless leader, but recently passed the torch to new coordinator, Kelly Nicholson. Youth leaders include Mary Van Zeipel and Chauncy McGraw, current Blaine County Teen Advisory Council Executive Council members. YAK! relies primarily on funding from its partnership with St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center and holds the Jay Owenhouse Magic Show every summer for added support. YAK! youth and volunteers provide thousands of hours of community service to a multitude of community partners and community efforts. Adults are encouraged to join in the efforts—whether it be working side-by-side with a teen doing community service or using their expertise on one of their many teen issue panels.
—Lee Pesky Learning Center
Rotarun Ski Club Inc.
Art Richards founded Rotarun Ski Club Inc. in 1963 in order to provide affordable skiing to the community. Families and children in the Wood River Valley benefit by having Rotarun Ski Hill because it is accessible and affordable. The hill provides a healthy environment and offers a recreational activity to occupy kids and keep them out of trouble. It is a jewel for Hailey, giving the city an alternative ski community to Ketchum. Paying the employees on the ski hill and mountain manager consists of about 50 percent of their overall budget while the remainder goes to hill maintenance. Everything else is provided by volunteers. Twenty-five percent of their money comes from annual fundraising efforts such as an annual summer concert and winter ski races. Donors in general make up about 75 percent of the income. Rotarun is in the middle of a hill upgrade project. The fundraising campaign is called “Bringing Rotarun into the 21st Century.” The goal is to afford the installation of snowmaking at Rotarun, a new day lodge and a chairlift. Organizers say they are halfway there, but more is needed. Volunteers are always welcome to help out on the hill or with special events. For more information call 208.788.6204 or visit http://rotarun.org/.
Camp Rainbow Gold
Twenty-five years for Camp Rainbow Gold
“We have the most amazing organization here and we have the most giving and charitable Valley I have ever witnessed,” says Kris Cronin, who along with husband Rob have made this camp for children with cancer their life’s passion. “We wouldn’t be here without the generosity of this Valley.”
Started by a Twin Falls oncologist, a former scout leader who was spurred to action by the inquiry of a young patient seeking some diversion for kids like himself, the camp last year had grown to accommodate 83 kids. Dr. Dave McClusky makes the trek to Cathedral Pines for the camp every summer and “Quietly observes,” says Cronin. “He takes so much joy watching his dream unfold year after year.”
When Cronin and husband entered the picture 10 years ago, the camp was struggling financially, running on heart and stamina but needing some structure for fundraising. Their first event was held at The Red Elephant, “and we were hooked,” she recalls. Soon after came the enormously successful Share Your Heart Ball, the primary fund source for the camp each year.
“There are so many volunteers in this community that give and give and give,” says Cronin. People who take weeks out of their every day lives to accompany these children to camp, show them how to have fun and cuddle them when the blues set in. The impact of the mission is felt outside of the camp having years ago gotten the attention of members of the biker community, who now—300 strong—escort the kids to camp each year. Volunteers have carried the load so successfully that they are now able to offer family camp and sibling camp. Additionally 12 former campers received college scholarships this past summer.
“It is the greatest place on earth,” says Cronin. “To be able to fulfill this dream for the kids is just incredible.”To become a volunteer or to donate call 208.422.0174, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.camprainbowgold.org . >>>
Photography: Courtesy of Expedition Inspiration, La Alianze, The Senior Center. Souper Supper photography Dev Khalsa
Any community is a sum of all its parts, but if the community is a viable one, it is growing and changing, greeting the new, caring for the old. Keeping a community sound through good times and bad requires unity, understanding, open minds and creativity. There is no better way to make decisions that affect the whole than by consulting those that comprise it. We are lucky to have diversity, to have a place for our community pioneers to share their days and their stories, and people interested in building bridges to the future.
The genesis for Expedition Inspiration was in 1990, as Laura Evans ended her seventh week in isolation during a bone marrow transplant to fight a stage 3 breast cancer. During her personal struggle, she developed the idea of forming a team of breast cancer survivors and others to climb a mountain to raise awareness and financial support to fight breast cancer. It would be a visible tribute to the courage of breast cancer survivors everywhere. From this spark of an idea came the plan to climb Argentina’s Mt. Aconcagua which, at 22,841 feet, is the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere. In January 1995, Laura Evans and Peter Whittaker, a premier international mountain guide and founder of Summits Adventure Travel, led a team of 17 breast cancer survivors to the top of Aconcagua, raising awareness, research funds, and hope for the breast cancer cause. With the triumph of Aconcagua, Laura and her team were able to send a powerful message about the determination of women everywhere to fight what is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in America. From this initial effort, there have been several successful expeditions, various hikes, special events, speeches and fund-raising activities across the U.S. These important works have allowed Expedition Inspiration to fund numerous research projects and to host the important “high energy” discussions and sharing activities that occur during EIFBCR’s annual research symposium. Expedition Inspiration leaders want the public to know “with the mapping of the human genome, we are on the cusp of finding a cure. Every dollar counts.” For more information call 208.726.6456 or visit http://expeditioninspiration.org/.
The Souper Supper Dining Room began with a group of women from various faith communities whose mission was to serve hot meals to those who need them. “We serve anyone who is hungry, without question. We know there are lonely older people and hungry young people in our community and encourage them to come and eat with us.” More than 20 “Head Soupers” and their crews vary from three to eight people and are comprised of students, religious groups, neighborhoods and just friends who wish to perform a wonderful service in the community. All meals are provided thanks to donations, either in the form of cash or food. Souper Supper volunteers served their first meal in December 1997 and in 2007 served more than 3,000 from the church hall adjacent to St. Charles Catholic Church. They spend no money to fundraise or advertise and rely on donations and volunteers. To join a crew, prepare food, serve a meal and make people smile, contact Tara Martin 208.726.5453 or Lynn Flickinger 208.726.5227.
The Senior Connection
For 34 years, The Senior Connection at the Blaine County Senior Center, 721 South Third Avenue in Hailey, has offered meals and support to older adults for little or no cost. Led today by Kimberly Coonis, the gathering spot which started in the miners’ hall on North Third and now operates from a generous room across from Roberta McKercher Park in Hailey, reaches out to adults 60 years and older. The Senior Connection is a community campus offering field trips, programs, information, in-home care assistance, social and educational programs, exercise classes, meal programs and meals on wheels, all geared to help people age with grace, dignity and good health. Their goal is to keep people in their homes for as long as they are safe while offering enriching programs to keep them intellectually, socially and physically fit. The majority of the clientele are the original pioneers that built this community. The connection is here to help make sure that these pioneers can maintain a quality of life that without us they would not have. For more information call Blaine County Senior Center 208.788.3468 or visit www.wrvseniors.com.
La Alianza (The Alliance) Multicultural Center has only been in action for a short time, but the motivation behind it has been percolating for years. In 2007, concerned community members led by former Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael met to talk about the demographic shifts in our community and the ensuing cultural divisions. The group—comprised of local Anglos and Latinos—created the new organization to build cross-cultural alliances in Blaine County. Currently, about 85 percent of La Alianza’s clients are Spanish speakers who come to the Multicultural Center to access local information in Spanish and about 15 percent are English speakers who contact La Alianza for assistance in building cross-cultural relationships and in including Latinos in their community events. The result is a resource center that not only assists those who actively pursue the information, but trickles out to the extended community to improve relations as well. Volunteers are sought to help with everything from taxes to college applications. For more information call 208.578.5408 or visit http://laalianzaidaho.org/.