SHERIDAN — The home-grown Sheridan Angels network is quickly growing beyond its informal roots.
The Facebook-based group, initiated by Sheridan transplant Kelley Mason, now entails a board of directors and exists as a nonprofit limited liability company registered with the Wyoming Secretary of State, with plans to file for tax exempt status by the end of the year.
The Sheridan Angels Facebook group page consists of solicitations for help and donation offerings from people throughout the community, who exchange goods, services and thank yous, sometimes with oversight from Mason or another member.
Almost a full year after forming, the organization boasts more than 2,300 members to date. While the group’s initial missions centered on physical, material help for those in emergent situations, today, the group’s activities increasingly entail monetary donations, and with that fact comes a developmental juncture that Mason said she did not anticipate.
“It wasn’t until about six months into it that we started getting money requests — emergency situations where they really needed it,” Mason explained. “It all started with an electric bill that needed to be paid, and then we started going.”
The diversification of Angel activities and the scale of the group’s projects have prompted Mason to seek a more official status for the group.
“I would have loved to have just stayed that girl in town that helped out here and there, but we grew so fast, so much, that I had to protect myself,” Mason said.
In addition to the official establishment of articles of incorporation, Mason has established a board of directors in the past few weeks to help run efforts and provide additional opinions for donation decisions.
“No longer just me making the decision about who gets what and who does what. There are four of us when these decisions are being made,” Mason said. “I really would like to eliminate the judgmental factor because it’s not just me anymore.”
Among the board of directors, which presently consists of four members with a probability of expansion, Terry Olson serves as chief financial officer.
Olson said he had been an active member of the Sheridan Angels and attended a fundraiser this fall. From there, he said, his involvement grew, and he accepted his new position less than a month ago.
“The reason I agreed to work with the Sheridan Angels is it’s so unique in structure,” Olson said.
“We can provide diverse assistance with limited pre-qualifications. If you need something now, you can get it now, in real time,” he said, noting many existing charitable efforts are repleat with red tape.
Mason agreed immediacy of available help is a key selling point that makes the Sheridan Angels a unique community resource. The group is starting to gain national attention, and now, Mason is looking at options to continue the Sheridan Angels project when she graduates from Sheridan College in May.
“When I graduate, I’m staying here,” she said, adding that she’s looking into forming a trademarked franchise situation that will enable branches of the Sheridan Angels to expand to other communities.
“This will be the hub, where we live and do everything, but we are looking to branch out just for the sole fact that we get people from all over asking for help.”
Mason also indicated Sheridan Angels business is no longer relegated to Facebook, as the group’s contact information has been included in resource lists for the community along with The Salvation Army, People’s Assistance Food Bank and other major humanitarian players in town. She’s currently working on establishing real estate and an independent website for the Angels.
Mason said she hopes the new structure and advancement of the group will enable her to help more people by gaining leverage via state and federal grants.
In addition to responding to immediate needs of Sheridan families, the Angels have put together several financial projects around the community. Mason has donated approximately $2,000 to pay off Christmas layaway items at Walmart and Kmart. The layaway payoffs were applied at random for orders that were primarily toys. Mason said between the two stores, the donations were applied to approximately 10 different families.
Another Christmas project is a play on the group’s “pay it forward” mantra, when a team of Angels will randomly pre-pay drive-through orders. Mason said this, too, is an expansion from the usual Angel activities, which involve delivering only basic, essential needs.
“This is a different situation,” she said. “Christmas isn’t emergent, but it’s mostly to make the magic for the kids.
“We’re really trying to bring the community closer,” she continued. “We want to make the community raise a child and make this a place where everybody knows each other and everybody helps.”