Partners fights to survive

Moffat County Partners is in a tight spot -- no money and no director.

Tara Jenrich, the organization's director, resigned in mid-March.

Jenrich and Melia Bisbee, the agency's only other paid employee, were both let go in November after grant applications were denied. The two have been donating their time since then, but Jenrich said she could not afford to be a volunteer director anymore.

"We had a number of grant proposals out, and then the 'no's' started coming in," Jenrich said.

Other Partners volunteers are searching for a new director.

Moffat County Partners is a mentoring program that pairs at-risk youth with adult sponsors for individual and group activities.

Partners has been operating in Colorado since 1968. The local program began in 1997 with a grassroots effort by several community members.

The organization opened an office in October 1998, and the first youths and mentors were matched in May 1999.

Jenrich said Partners was caught up in a 2002 embezzlement bust that also hit the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition. After that incident, the organization came under intense scrutiny from Moffat County United Way and other supporters. Combined with lower donations after Sept. 11 left a struggling stock market, Partners suffered, she said.

"It was really a roller coaster ride after that," Jenrich said. "We had a few big donations from Randy Looper and Glen Sherman, but some people saw us as duplicating services in town. We were the only mentoring organization in Craig."

This year, Partners didn't get the state and federal funding that they had received in the past. Jenrich, who put in more than six years with the program, was struggling to survive financially.

"We had so many success stories, I can't begin to tell you. I feel very privileged to have worked with the kids I have," she said.

Jenrich has worked two other jobs to support herself and her family. She hopes the organization will survive.

Kelly Goodwin, Partners' board chairwoman, said Routt County Partners is helping out while a search is under way for a director, and a board meeting is planned in the next couple of weeks to discuss the situation.

Jenrich says she is sad to leave the organization but that she hopes that a new person will bring the energy to save the Moffat County agency.

"There are many youth organizations in town with RAD (Recreational After-school Doorway) and Grand Futures and Partners," Jenrich said. "I think the community needs all of them."

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