Nonprofit needs grow steadily

PINEDALE – Nonprofit agencies in Pinedale and Sublette County reported a continued needs for services like poverty assistance, early childhood education, recreation and senior care at the June 27 Pinedale Town Council meeting.

The town allocates a certain percentage of its general fund to organizations that provide crucial support to community members through contracts for services. Mayor Matt Murdock thanked each organization for playing an “extremely important” role in the community and “adding to the quality of life in Pinedale.”

Bridges Out of Poverty experienced an increase in need as families across the county “struggle to move forward” financially, said board member Michele Costello. The organization provides a 16-week course where people learn the skills necessary to break the cycle of poverty, she added. The first class consisted of eight individuals and in 2022, Bridges Out of Poverty graduated 22 people, Costello told the council.

Bridges Out of Poverty recently hired a part-time community resources coordinator, Tammie Heuck, to help residents navigate the maze of application paperwork required by local, state and federal agencies, Costello said. Heuck’s client load stood at 12 people – including one from Big Piney and two people “experiencing homelessness,” she added.

Youth programs at the Pinedale Aquatic Center, including the soccer program and the Little Wrangler Day Camp, are at full capacity, said director Amber Anderson. The number of scholarships recipients had leveled out after a sharp rise the previous year, she added, although the amount requested per scholarship increased this year.

While youth programs thrived, the PAC struggled to “regain traction for adult programs,” following the pandemic, Anderson reported. Administration and staff were “taking a step back” to reevaluate programming to bring in more adults and young families, she said.

The client base served by the Sublette County Sexual Assault and Family Violence Task Force remained close to the number recorded the previous year, said executive director Mandy Moffat. The nonprofit did experience a rise in the amount of services requested per client, from emergency shelter to peer counseling and emotional support, she explained, reflecting “higher need” across the county.

Administrators at early childhood education facilities told councilmembers families with young children felt the economic pinch.

Families experienced “hard times the last couple of years,” said Teresa Sandner, executive director at Pinedale Preschool. The number of children receiving scholarships grew over the year as families struggled with inflation, she added.

Pinedale Preschool remains committed to maintaining tuition rates set in 2019 to provide early childhood education to “as many children as possible,” Sandner explained.

Enrollment at the Children’s Learning Center in Pinedale was “full for the first time in years,” said Becky Gregory, site director and Sublette County development director. Funding from the town and other sources helped the Children’s Learning Center cut its tuition in half in 2022.

The nonprofit performed 129 developmental screenings in the Pinedale area over the 2021-2022 academic year, Gregory told the council. The Children’s Learning Center is the only agency capable of providing screenings, and the facility continues to work with other early childhood education providers in the community to perform these services, she added.

When asked by Mayor Murdock about the impacts of the pandemic and inflation, Gregory said the cost of housing posed a “barrier for younger families.”

The Children’s Discovery Center was fully staffed and served 44 students during the school year, said director Kalie Miles. The center served approximately 20,000 meals to children over the academic year.

MESA Therepuetic Horsemanship entered its 11th year providing opportunities for children with physical and cognitive limitations through equine activities, said executive director Carla Sullivan. Cold weather and a late spring caused the organization to roll its spring programs into the summer, she added.

Rendezvous Pointe used town funds to leverage grants from state and federal agencies to improve services for seniors, said director Kevin Warren. The agency recorded 2,830 requests for transport by homebound seniors over the previous year, Warren told the council.

Main Street Pinedale managing director Joanie Christie announced changes in the organization’s facade grant. Renters now have the opportunity to apply, pending approval of the property owner, she said.