Local nonprofits still rebounding

PINEDALE – Local nonprofits receiving funds from the Town of Pinedale in the form of contracts for services gave their semi-annual progress reports to the town council on Monday, Nov. 22.

In addition to outlining an agency’s progress over the past six months, the presentations offer a perspective into the community’s well-being, particularly for vulnerable segments of the population.

Representatives from 11 organizations reported a rebound in 2021 following a difficult 2020 and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for crucial services provided by the nonprofits continues to rise as 2022 approaches, the delegates added.

Mayor Matt Murdock thanked each organization for improving the quality of life in the community. From early childhood education to home-care services for seniors, the agencies make Pinedale a place where people want to and are able to live, he said.

Adult, family and senior services

The Sublette County Sexual Assault and Family Violence Task Force (SAFV) assisted 61 clients in the county during the previous fiscal year, reported Robin Clover, executive director.

In the first three months of the current fiscal year, SAFV delivered services to 26 clients, Clover added.

Approximately 70 percent of SAFV’s clients in Pinedale last fiscal year lived below the poverty level or were eligible to receive funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Clover told the council.

Clover reported a “huge need” among clients to pay for basic necessities like gas and food this year, compounding “emotional anxiety” for individuals and families across the community, Clover added.

Bridges Out of Poverty continues to expand, said vice chairman Sarah Murdock.

Grant money allowed the agency to hire a part-time community resources officer to help families and individuals navigate various agencies to receive financial assistance, Murdock stated. The goal was to create a “one-stop shop” for anyone in need, she added.

Bridges Out of Poverty is currently building a website for people seeking resources and hoped to start seeing clients soon, Murdock said.

Rendezvous Pointe used its funding from the town to obtain state and federal grants to assist senior citizens, said Kevin Warren, executive director.

The center provides transportation to senior citizens through a grant with the Wyoming Department of Transportation. During normal operations, when COVID-19 restrictions are not in place, Rendezvous Pointe averages 200 rides per month, Warren told the council.

The nonprofit offers home-care services through a second grant to 26 Sublette County seniors, Warren added. Demand for senior home-care increased significantly this year, Warren reported.

Remaining town money went into a grant through the federal Older Americans Act to maintain activities to “keep seniors engaged,” Warren said.

Early childhood education

Enrollment rebounded in 2021 at early childhood education facilities after a sharp drop due to COVID-19 mandates and shutdowns in 2020.

“This year has been awesome and really busy,” said Becky Gregory, development director at the Children’s Learning Center.

The center experienced a “huge influx” of preschoolers this year, what Gregory called a “fantastic” development, as children returned to the classroom after spending months at home.

The center’s special education team carried out 90 developmental screenings this year, Gregory said. Enrollment in the half-day preschool program was up to 31 and the center provided services to a total of 36 children in Sublette County, Gregory added.

Families with young children continue to feel the financial pinch, Gregory told the council. The Children’s Learning Center received a grant through TANF to provide free preschool for 15 students, she told the council.

The center received an additional grant to “dramatically reduce tuition for all families,” Gregory announced, making “quality and affordable preschool” accessible.

Gregory praised collaboration between early childhood education facilities across the county, particularly in addressing staffing shortages.

Pinedale Preschool used the town’s funding it received to provide scholarships for families struggling financially, a need that grew considerably this year, said executive director Teresa Sandner.

The scholarships were “vital” to “get kids started on a good footing” developmentally, Sandner added.

Pinedale Preschool’s numbers rose from the previous year to 32 children in 2021, including seven on scholarships, Sandner reported.

The Children’s Discovery Center experienced a “busy” year with 44 children in attendance, said Kalie Miles, executive director. The center employed six staff full-time and one part-time employee.

Miles told the council the center’s goal was to give preschoolers an opportunity to engage with the community through outreach programs with the Sublette Center and Pinedale Library.

Youth services

The Pinedale Aquatic Center’s Little Wrangler Day Camp welcomed a record number of participants during summer 2021, increasing from 58 last year to 96, said PAC Director Amber Anderson.

The PAC used TANF grants to offer scholarships to approximately 20 percent of campers, a significant increase over past years, Anderson reported.

Attendance in PAC sports programs for elementary-aged children also increased, with 123 athletes in soccer and 93 in football. The number in football doubled from the previous year, Anderson stated.

The PAC is working with Sublette School District No. 1 to improve transportation to activities and looked forward to building a partnership with the Town of Pinedale to host sports events at the new Dudley Key Sports Complex, Anderson added.

MESA Therapeutic Horsemanship reached new milestones over the spring and summer, said executive director Carla Sullivan. Programming expanded to include trail rides for youth and MESA planned to hire and train new instructors this winter, Sullivan added.

MESA offered therapeutic horse riding lessons to 28 young people, including 18 riders from Pinedale, free of charge over the past year, Sullivan stated.

Arts and business development

Attendance at the Pinedale Fine Art Center’s 2021 Summer Soundcheck Music Series nearly doubled from low turnouts in 2020, said Tim Ruland, marketing and outreach director.

The organization counted 4,500 attendees over the summer, close to pre-pandemic figures, Ruland reported. PFAC estimated concertgoers, including fans from out of town, spent approximately $200,000 at local businesses.

The High Altitude Farmer’s Market was back up and running with increased business this summer, stated Main Street Pinedale board member Monte Bolgiano.

Main Street is in the process of interviewing for a new director and board member, Bolgiano added.

Main Street distributed around $15,000 this year through its Facade Grant program, the highest amount recorded to date, said board member Leah Radakovich.

Joanie Christie, executive director at the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce, reported the Halloween Stroll in downtown Pinedale was a success, with more than 700 people participating.

The Chamber is preparing for the Mountain Man Christmas on Dec. 11 and getting a “jump start” on spring events, Christie said.