SHERIDAN — A group of Sheridan-area residents looking to form a poverty resource center met Friday afternoon for a conference call with the executive director of the Community Resource Center of Jackson Hole.
Smokey Rhea told her Sheridan audience that while their plans are still loosely defined, any group that seriously evaluates the needs of their community and works to form strong relationships with existing social agencies can succeed in accomplishing a great deal of social good.
For their part, the Sheridan residents said the conversation proved to be enlightening, if not a bit overwhelming.
“She was right on the nose of what the group wants and what the community needs,” said Center for a Vital Community Project Coordinator Jeriann Jacobson.
An offshoot of last fall’s Study Circles for Poverty initiative, the resource center committee is an informal group of citizens hoping to make it easier for struggling residents to find and access the services of existing social agencies.
While their end-goal has yet to be clearly defined, group members said their work is motivated by the desire to help people overcome the hurdles that are often associated with personal crises.
Whether that takes the form of a brick and mortar building or something more intangible remains to be seen.
In addition to outlining the history of the Jackson organization, Rhea told group members that any organization they create is likely to evolve to fit the unique needs of the community it serves.
In Jackson, for example, resource center managers learned shortly after their inception that many of the services they offered did little to address the underlying causes of poverty.
“Now we have equal emphasis on changing people’s habits and helping them with situational crises,” she said.
Rhea also told the group that in an effort not to compete with other agencies for limited government funds, the Jackson center does not accept town or county money.
In a group conversation following the conference call, committee members further discussed concerns about working with — rather than against — other area agencies.
In their meeting next month, the group plans to begin formalizing their collective vision and reaching out to other organizations for help.
Group representatives said they were hopeful that after several discussions with resource center operators from other areas across the region, they are on track to begin aggregating services and helping those in need.
The resource center committee is one of several recent citizen initiatives to alleviate the issue of poverty in Sheridan County.
About 8 percent of the county population lives below the poverty line, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.