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An increased membership allowed two organizations to receive impact grants Monday from 100 Women Who Care About Chadron.

The 100 Women Who Care organization voted to award its largest grant - $10,000 – to Feed a Hungry Senior, a program operated by the Sixty-Plus Club to provide the elderly population with stable nutrition. With 121 members voting Monday, 100 Women also was able to award a second smaller grant to Northwest Nebraska Trails Association for development of the Cowboy Trail. The amount NNTA will receive will be determined in the coming days as the last few members of 100 Women cast their votes, but NNTA will receive at least $2,100.

100 Women Who Care About Chadron started last year, under the direction of steering committee Loni Watson, Senna Reeves, Kresi Long, Lori Carnahan and Megan Schuckman. The group meets annually to review nominations for a $10,000 grant - $100 pledged by each member. Last year’s $11,300 grant was awarded to Western Community Health Resources for suicide awareness. As membership has climbed to nearly 130, Long said Monday the steering committee decided to help two organizations.

Rachel Johnson, who represented Feed a Hungry Senior during the nomination process, was thrilled to learn the group had selected the organization to receive $10,000.

“I am so excited this will make a huge difference,” she said. “The impact will be far reaching.”

Feed a Hungry Senior is a relatively new group formed in Chadron to address the needs of the elderly population as they choose between food, heat and medication in many instances.

“They’re making impossible choices. Choices no one should have to make,” Johnson said.

The elderly often fall through funding gaps, with incomes just high enough to make them ineligible for assistance but with healthcare expenses that eat up the majority of their income. In 2017, Chadron’s Meals on Wheels program lost 40 percent of its participation because individuals could no longer afford the $4 meals.

“They suffer silently,” Johnson said, adding that many of the elderly live alone and are isolated. Losing Meals on Wheels delivery takes away the final social contact for many, and the lack of nutrition can cause symptoms that mimic dementia, forcing an individual into a nursing home prematurely.

“We need to look into our neighborhoods and in our churches and ask ‘who are we missing?’”

NNTA will use its second place grant toward an engineering study for the connection trail from downtown Chadron to the end of the Cowboy Trail a few miles east of town. NNTA was formed in 2017 to maintain, develop and promote non-motorized trails in the Pine Ridge, and while the Cowboy Trail was on its list of goals, it was not number one. Priorities changed, however, when the group, along with another organization in Sheridan County, was awarded $700,000 from the Game and Parks to complete the trail in those two counties.

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While that work isn’t expected to be completed until 2021, NNTA hopes to move forward with the connecting trail in the meantime, providing access from town for safe hiking and biking for residents and tourists alike. A similar trail in Missouri has an estimated economic impact of $18 million, and NNTA hopes completion of the Cowboy Trail and the connection to Chadron will boost tourism revenue in the region, while providing a safe place for local families to enjoy the outdoors.

“Please help us make that dream a reality,” said NNTA member Kristina Reeves, who presented the NNTA information Monday with Brittany Helmbrecht.

100 Women members nominate organizations for the grant funds, and each nominee presents information on their mission and goals ahead of the vote. Feed and Hungry Senior and NNTA were two of eight nominees for this year’s funding cycle.

Other nominees included:

  • Teammates of Chadron – this mentoring program started by Tom Osborne provides a mentor for any child in the Chadron Public School system. Mentors meet with the students weekly. The group planned to use the grant funds to provide activities for the Teammates students and possibly scholarships. The organization has students on the waiting list still in need of mentors, and volunteers are always welcome.
  • Circle of Light – this program provides financial assistance to local cancer patients. Since 2009, Circle of Light has given away $581,000. The group hosts fundraisers each year and generally receives a Susan Komen grant for its breast cancer patients. It most recent fundraiser generated $44,000 in donations, but the organization has already awarded $50,000 in assistance this year.
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes – this group connects CSC student athletes with youth in the community. Working with representatives from five local churches, 150 students take part in a weekly FCA activity. The grant would have helped pay for FCA meals and send youth to FCA camps. The group is still in need of volunteers.
  • Paint the Town – this is an effort led by Chadron Chamber of Commerce Director Gabby Michna, who is working to create large murals on the downtown businesses to create an art alley. Service Barbershop and Bloom have already committed to the project, and their murals will be started in June. The goal is to bring local artists and youth together to create the murals, which will eventually become interactive pieces for residents and tourists.
  • Chadron Public Library Foundation – this foundation supports the library and is currently planning and fundraising for an expansion to the existing library. The library serves patrons in Dawes, Sioux and Sheridan counties, providing books, movies, science programs, adult and youth activities and more. It will be the home of a makerspace studio this summer as well. The foundation is in need of funds to finish its construction engineering study so it can take the next steps toward expansion.
  • Kiwanis – this local organization is youth-focused, sponsoring a backpack program each week to provide low-income students with food for the weekends, the Chadron High Honors Program, Trunk or Treat and the annual Stars of Tomorrow competition. With additional funding the group would like to start a Key Club at the high school to encourage volunteerism, establish scholarships and pay off lunch program balances at Chadron Public Schools.

“These are all such great causes,” Long said, urging the 100 Women members to spread the word about each of them, or consider becoming involved individually as all the groups need volunteers, funding and/or materials year-round.

Amy Carnahan, who presented Western Community Health Resources’ winning pitch last year, was grateful to the group, saying the grant made it possible to train 294 individuals as certified gatekeepers on alert for the signs of suicide in the community. It’s also allowed her to take part in several outreach efforts and increased awareness of the signs of suicide.

“Last year we as women who care took a bold stand,” she said. “This has made Chadron a safer community.”

100 Women Who Care About Chadron accepts memberships all year. Women interested in joining the group can learn more at https://100womenofchadron.weebly.com/.

“The more people we have, the more money we can give,” Long said.

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