Friday, November 2, 2012

Nonprofit nation

Endless Conversation

Express Staff Writer

If you get far enough away, you will be on your way back home. Wandering the tumbledown ruins of an ancient amphitheater in southern Turkey two weeks ago, we were reminded of the way things are back in the Wood River Valley.

The city of Tlos, above the Xanthus Valley, was inhabited by the Lycians 4,000 years ago and dubbed “the very brilliant metropolis of the Lycian nation” during the Roman period. It’s a real fixer-upper of a ruin today, but in the 2nd century, two wealthy philanthropists oversaw renovations of baths, a stadium and a theater on the site.

One of the philanthropists, Opramoas of Rhodiapolis, made a very large donation for the theater and has been memorialized in inscriptions carved into its stone slabs. Historians believe the theater was under construction for at least 150 years.

Unlike the citizens of Tlos, Blaine County residents are not separated into distinct demes—Greek for “classes”—and most everyone is hit up from time to time to either volunteer or donate to a worthy cause. It is important to remember that these moral muggings have been a part of civilization for a very long time.

I imagine Opramoas was proud to sponsor the local theater at Tlos, just as wealthy donors in the Wood River Valley are eager to see their names on the donor list of Company of Fools at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey and the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. Last week I sat in the steam bath at the Wood River YMCA, thanks to regular private funding, and imagined how it must have been for the Romans gossiping at the baths of Tlos almost 2,000 years ago.

Those with deep pockets here in Blaine County are regularly tapped at fundraising parties to sponsor everything from domestic abuse safe houses to ski education, and those contributions have helped set this valley apart as a desirable place to live.

But just as important are the many small donations and philanthropic efforts made by people of lesser means throughout the valley. During a Bellevue City council meeting last week, Mayor and teacher Chris Koch expressed admiration for a number of Wood River High School senior projects aimed at making this valley a better place and serving those in need.

Bellevue resident and high school senior Scott Beaver raised about $400 last weekend at a trap-shoot fundraiser in Ohio Gulch. The money will go into the Bellevue Fire Department’s Burnout Fund, which helps families that have suffered losses due to fire.

On Nov. 17, two more senior projects in Bellevue will provide an opportunity for citizens to sponsor worthy causes while having a good time. Nathan Lago’s senior project is a rib cook-off that will take place at Mahoney’s Grill at 5:30 p.m., held to raise funds for Special Olympics and special education programs.

Larissa Roberts has organized a barn dance at the Swift Sure Ranch south of Bellevue on the same evening. The dance gets underway at 8 p.m. Attendees will be helping to raise funds for breast cancer awareness.

Fundraisers such as these, and the nonprofit organizations they support, cut across political boundaries and social classes. They also go far in creating the kind of civic pride that sustained societies like those in the Xanthus Valley of Turkey for thousands of years.

Different cultures came and went many times in the city of Tlos, but the needs of the societies who flourished there have remained the same: the need for health and safety, education and entertainment, and a place to go for help when a person is in need.


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