Funders come to Craig to talk cash |

Funders come to Craig to talk cash

Erin Fenner
From left, Kate Nowack, Joe Carter, Michael Melneck, Suzanne White, Tim Schultz, Abel Wurmnest and Chris Smolik discuss the different programs and organizations that need funding in Moffat County.
Courtesy Photo

The problems facing Moffat County have much in common — and most solutions would cost money.

Community members got a chance to talk with people representing foundations that could provide that money at an event Thursday that was an extension of Rural Philanthropy Days.

“We get to hear the specific nonprofits say, ‘Here’s what we need,’” said Matt Carpenter, senior vice president for the El Pomar Foundation that funds nonprofit organizations and government equivalence. “But we’re always kind of missing the bigger picture.”

RPD has brought funders from the Front Range to rural Colorado for more than 20 years, but this year it is trying something different by asking not just nonprofits but all rural Colorado community members about the specific concerns communities like Craig have to consider. It’s all part of what’s called a Listening Tour.

“The objective is to learn what the needs are of the community,” said Jen Fanning, the executive director of Grand County Rural Health Network.

She said the tour supports collaboration and provides the funders and community members with ideas for projects that they can work on in the future.

At Thursday’s event, many topics were brought up and the links between them highlighted.

Mental and behavioral health needs more attention in Craig, said Craig Thornhill, program director for Colorado West Regional Mental Health.

“I would love to create a detox center here,” he said. “I wish I didn’t have to send someone three to six hours away.”

He said they needed more psychiatrists and resources. Chris Smolik, chief executive officer at The Memorial Hospital, agreed. Smolik said that there needed to be an inpatient facility that had beds for behavioral health patients.

“It would be a lot easier to recruit psychiatrists and psychologists when they know they have a safety net and a place to put people,” Smolik said.

The old hospital could be revamped for that purpose, but that still would take money, he said.

“The behavioral side can support itself, once you have the hub of an inpatient facility,” Smolik said.

Thornhill said people living in low-income housing outside Craig didn’t have easy means to get into town, so seeking treatment especially is challenging for them.

Jennifer Riley, TMH’s chief of organizational excellence, pressed the point.

“There is no good way for them to get into town,” she said.

United Way funds a transportation agency, but it is completely volunteer-run, said Corrie Ponikvar, executive director for Moffat County United Way.

“Transportation and emergency housing are issues we need to address,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t have meetings. We need solutions.”

Ponikvar said transportation is a challenge particular to Moffat County and connected to health as well.

“Transportation is a huge challenge around here,” said Mayor Terry Carwile. “There are ongoing discussions on how we can improve it. There’s pitiful little money for transportation in the state, and it’s going down all the time.”

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or

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