EVANSTON — The COVID-19 pandemic seems to carry with it an abundance of negative and scary news; however, here in Uinta County there have been multiple organizations, businesses and individuals that have stepped up to help others and provide some good news during these trying and uncertain times.
Uinta County Public Health and Emergency Management staff have asked for those volunteering or donating to community needs to please contact them to share details on their projects. The hours and dollars spent on volunteer projects can be used to count toward cash matches required for grant funding, which helps the county secure those grant dollars for community needs. As of Friday, May 15, the value of various projects reported to public health was at approximately $125,000 and counting.
Uinta County Public Health Nurse Manager Kim Proffit encouraged folks to keep volunteering and donating and particularly emphasized the many cloth masks that have been made and donated. Proffit said all masks that had been donated to the public health office had been distributed to local organizations and they were still receiving requests for more so there is still a need.
In a prime example of the kind of generosity being displayed throughout the pandemic, Spire Energy has provided a $10,000 grant to Festival for Families to be used for multiple purposes. Festival for Families Chair Loretta Howieson-Kallas said the money will be split in half, with $5,000 going to address food insecurity in the community and the other $5,000 to support local small businesses, senior citizens and youth.
The food insecurity portion will be utilized to provide some support of the open air pantry at Coldwell Banker but will primarily be used to provide prepared, ready-made meals for 320 senior citizens in Evanston and the Bridger Valley through the Uinta Senior Center as well as food stabilization for some of the 291 enrolled members of the Evanston Youth Club for Boys and Girls and their families.
The other $5,000 will be utilized as a Spire Community Reinvestment fund to arrange for opportunities for youth and some senior citizens at county businesses. Some of those businesses include Aspen Cinemas, Uinta Lanes, Valley Theater, Purple Sage Golf Course, 7K Fitness, Flex Fitness and hair salons and service providers throughout the county, where arrangements will be made for free movies, bowling, haircuts, field days and more.
Howieson-Kallas said, “Our (Festival for Families) board has met and determined that our communities are in need of not only support and programs for our seniors and youth, but directly to our local businesses. We are blessed that many of these small businesses know best how to provide that (support).” A further comment from Howieson-Kallas said, “With the grant from Spire we can not only support food insecurity for identified populations who are hungry but also help to promote and sponsor our local businesses through programs that benefit the business and our general community, through our children, to return to a sense of normalcy.”
Evanston Youth Club Director Holly Slade-West said the club appreciates the funding from Festival for Families and Spire Energy “to assist us in our efforts of providing healthy food for vulnerable teens and their families. Food boxes include meats, fresh vegetables and fruits, canned goods and baking supplies.”
Spire President and CEO Suzanne Sitherwood said, “As the pandemic began to sweep across our communities, we asked ourselves, ‘How can we help right now?’ That’s very much who we are. Partnering with food pantries and meal programs seemed like the perfect fit because providing the energy needed for warm meals and moments around the dinner table is part of our daily business and a real need we can help meet.”
The grant funding from Spire joins donations from Wyoming Credit Association, Coldwell Banker Evanston, 19th Hole Tools, Main Street Deli, Walmart, Clean Way Energy, Morcon Industrial Services and other individuals in support of Festival for Families’ work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other examples of community good deeds include those mask-making efforts and donations. Numerous folks throughout Uinta County have stepped up to provide cloth masks to organizations throughout the county, including local school districts. Evanston resident Tera Lawlar worked with Wyoming business Atmosphere, based in Laramie, to secure masks with $5,000 in grant funding through the Wyoming Community Foundation. The business has been a Wyoming supplier of outdoor gear but transitioned during the pandemic to keep folks employed while meeting changing needs.
The masks obtained with the grant funding were distributed through Uinta County Public Health and the Uinta Senior Center to high-risk individuals, while a few dozen were donated to the Festival for Families’ open-air food pantry. Lawlar said she worked with Senior Center Director Aimee Ottley, who was “amazing” in helping coordinate mask distribution.
Uinta County School District No. 1 Director of Transportation George Dickerson expressed his appreciation for Collette Zaring and Angel Miller for donating hand-sewn masks for bus drivers to utilize while delivering meals throughout the various sections of the school district while in-person school is not taking place.
Jacque Turner, meanwhile, expressed appreciation for those bus drivers themselves, as well as the folks working at the district central kitchen. Turner, who lives outside of city limits, said meals are being delivered to kids in her area by district staff who are waiting at each stop for around 30 minutes, providing not only food but friendly greetings to kids who may be missing that social interaction.
“I’m just really grateful. It’s such a blessing to the community,” she said.
Evanston Regional Hospital, and the patients who utilize it, has benefitted from the generosity of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, which has donated $4.7 million worth of life-saving LUCAS mechanical CPR devices to hospitals across the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming, including ERH, which received five of the machines.
According to ERH Director of Business Development and Marketing Jessica Kendrick, the LUCAS devices are “mechanical chest compression devices that help lifesaving teams deliver high-quality, guidelines-consistent chest compressions to sudden cardiac arrest patients.” The devices can be used in the field, on the move, as well as in the hospital. The hospital received one of the machines from the Helmsley Charitable Trust several years ago, which is utilized in the emergency department, and the addition of five more machines will be helpful for everything from ambulances to surgery, said Kendrick.
Other ways local businesses and people are stepping up include helping community members locate difficult to obtain products. Real Kleen has been selling items like cleaning supplies and disinfectants, paper towels, toilet paper, Clorox wipes, masks, gloves and more throughout the pandemic, during which time those items have become increasingly difficult to obtain at grocery stores.
Real Kleen Owner Joe Archuleta says they regularly receive new stock for people in the community who need to purchase some items but haven’t been able to locate them elsewhere. That’s particularly important as businesses are able to begin opening only if they have a supply of cleaning supplies and protective gear.
Another business stepping in to fill a community need is Dang Good Smokehouse and Bar-B-Que, which has been offering access to hard-to-find food products through their bulk buying ability. Owner Rachel Sons said they are able to get items like flour, yeast, rice, beans, meat and more at cost a couple of times a week for those unable to find those items on grocery store shelves. “We’re just trying to help out in some small way,” said Sons.
From all of these actions to the folks at Union Tank reportedly having different local restaurants cater meals for staff to the community turning out in celebration of high school seniors and more, the pandemic crisis is highlighting the many ways Uinta County residents and businesses are stepping up to support one another in ways large and small. If past experiences are any indication, those supportive efforts will likely continue for months to come.