Friday, May 11, 2012

Nonprofits petition county for funding

Requests range from $5,000 to $50,000


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County began considering—but not approving—outside funding requests for fiscal year 2013 during meetings earlier this month, marking the official kick-off to the county's budgeting season.

Five nonprofit organizations—The Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence, the Senior Connection, the Hunger Coalition, the Crisis Hotline and the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley—requested several thousand dollars each this year, though all admitted they may not receive the amounts requested.

"We've been getting $3,000," said Advocates Executive Director Tricia Swartling, despite having requested $5,000 from the county for at least two years. The money pays for shelter services for victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

"That's the base of what we do," Swartling said during a county meeting May 1. "If we didn't have any other money, that's what we would still be doing."

According to Swartling, the Advocates help ease a burden on law enforcement by dealing with the victims of domestic abuse so law enforcement can focus on the perpetrators.

The Advocates' request is a fraction of those of the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley and the Senior Connection. The shelter requested $24,000, mainly to provide impound and free spay and neuter clinics.

The county is required by state code to provide impound services, but contracts with the shelter to provide those services. Executive Director JoAnne Dixon said the clinics are crucial to the shelter's ability to remain no-kill.

"Typically the animals we pick up are intact animals looking ... to make more," she said, and the clinics prevent overpopulation of strays.

"Our goal as a no-kill shelter is to make sure there is room for them. It's a really important part of what we do."

The Senior Connection Executive Director Kim Coonis said that though the $50,000 funding request the organization is making this year is steep, it's $20,000 less than last year's budget request.

"We know you guys have to make some serious cuts, and we're trying to do the same," Coonis told commissioners during a meeting on May 1. "We could cut everything we have possibly cut."

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Coonis said the senior center could potentially become a model for other centers across the state, due to its commitment to providing a better quality of life for seniors of all socio-economic levels throughout Blaine County.

The organization now provides support for the families of seniors with dementia, aphasia—the loss of ability to understand or express speech—and Alzheimer's.

Coonis said that users of the center are incredibly active, participating in special events and even meeting, dating and marrying other seniors.

"There is this preconceived notion of a senior center, that we're all just sitting around drooling in our soup," she said. "We're not! We're creating lives for people."

The Hunger Coalition and the Crisis Hotline requested $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, during a county meeting on May 8.

Both directors said their organizations have seen an increase in demand for services.

Cher Foster, executive director of the Crisis Hotline, said that the number of suicides following hotline calls—one so far this year—have decreased dramatically since 2010, when 10 callers later took their lives. The number of calls has also increased since 2010.

Jeanne Liston, executive director of the Hunger Coalition, said she has seen an "increasing desperation" in the people who come to the organization for help.

While the coalition currently serves 1,700 people in need, Liston said there are an estimated 3,100 people in Blaine County who do not know where their next meal is coming from.

"We are so concerned about that remaining 42 percent," she said. "We are working our way out of a job, and I can't wait until that day gets here."

The county will not make any decisions regarding funding levels until hearings are over and a tentative budget is set this summer.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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