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For the week of March 27 - April 2, 2002


Church group helps youth shelter and wins award

Our Place wins $10,000 grant

Express Staff Writer

The 12th Annual USA Weekend magazine’s Make A Difference Day lived up to its name for a church in Hailey and an unknown amount of teens who may be in need of emergency shelter.

Jean Girvan stands in front of the Our Place youth shelter in Hailey, for which she earned a $10,000 grant from USA Weekend magazine’s Make A Difference Day. Express photo by David N. Seelig


Make A Difference Day, sponsored by USA Weekend in partnership with The Points of Light Foundation, recognizes Americans who undertake community-based projects that address local problems .

Annually, Make a Difference Day is advertised in August, in 581 different papers in the syndicated magazine, which is published by Gannett.

Jean Girvan, an English born resident of Hailey, saw the advertisements, and decided to apply for one of the grants.

First she went to see Emmanuel Episcopal Church’s rector, Jennifer Anttonen. Girvan, who runs Emmanuel’s Thrift Shop in Hailey, also enlisted a fellow church member, Kim Garvin.

Let’s do something, Girvan remembers saying, "I thought raking leaves or baking cookies."

By chance the following day Eric Thomas, the acting director of Our Place, a youth shelter in Hailey, also went to see Anttonen for advice. He was frustrated with the slowness of the project ¾ including rebuilding the small house ¾ and getting the state and town to come on board. Anttonen immediately phoned Girvan and told her she’d found her project.

"It was so peculiar, everything fell into place just as if it was planned."

They looked at the house to see what needed done—redecorating, furniture, plumbing. After that Girvan sent off an application to Make a Difference Day, with a 200-word essay on "why we were doing it and what we were doing."

After that it was a matter of dealing with the job at hand—painting, and renovating the house, getting donations and moving in the furniture. The shelter is still not officially opened. They are waiting on one last state license, from the Department of Health and Welfare.

"It’s all red tape," Girvan said. "We seem to get bumped at every fence."

The shelter did have an open house in December to introduce the facility to the public. Then, said Girvan, "We more or less got everything organized, sent another form to Make a Difference, with a 500-word essay as to what we had done, how many volunteers we had, who was involved and all the rest."

"I made a scrap book with photos of before and after and sent that in with the essay. I more or less forgot about it, not thinking we stood a chance."

However, in early January she received a phone call from USA Weekend, checking up that they were who they said were. In all, they received six such "check-up" calls.

Then, in February, she received a call from Pam Brown, the editor of USA Weekend magazine, in Virginia, telling her that they’d won one of the $10,000 grants—out of 10 in the whole in the country. All of the national grants are funded by proceeds from actor Paul Newman’s company, Newman’s Own.

"It was so amazing, little Hailey—to win one of the ten prizes. I phoned Jennifer, who screamed down the phone at me; phoned Kim, who also screamed down the phone at me. Nobody could believe it. Eric was quite excited."

A television interview conducted at Our Place with Girvan, Thomas, Garvin and Anttonen was aired March 17 by the ABC affiliate in Boise.

The church ladies will be presented an award April 21, conduct an interview for national press and, most importantly, receive a check. "It gives them a good start," Girvan said. "It’s money in the bank."

Thomas said Our Place is tentative scheduled to open the second week of April.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.