Last month, the Hughes Charitable Foundation made a record-breaking donation to the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust. With the unprecedented gift of $10 million, Wayne and Molly Hughes made a direct investment in providing safe, stable, and affordable housing for human service workers in Teton County, Wyoming.
The $10 million gift is directed toward housing the workers at a diversity of human service-focused organizations in Jackson Hole: Senior Center of Jackson Hole, Community Entry Services, Community Safety Network, Curran-Seely Foundation, One22, Teton Literacy Center, Children’s Learning Center, Climb Wyoming, Jackson Hole Community Counseling, Teton Youth and Family Services, Teton County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson Police Department, and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS.
It’s like we’re constantly slapped down, so I feel like this gift was so uplifting,” said Sarah Cavallaro, executive director of Teton Youth and Family Services. “It’s like someone sees what we’re doing.”
In an earlier conversation with the Hughes, Cavallaro made it clear what the biggest challenge to her organization — and others like it — was: the lack of affordable housing. “That’s destabilizing our community,” Sarah Cavallaro said. “The ripple effect is so huge. If we don’t make a significant move or figure out as a community how to do this, then the downstream effect is that the services are going to go away.”
“Sarah helped us to understand that supporting the organizations that are helping the most vulnerable members of our community is critically important,” said Molly Hughes, executive director of the Hughes Charitable Foundation.
As Wayne Hughes noted in a previous OpEd in the Cowboy State Daily: “It is imperative that we stand for, protect and support our health and human services community – and our firefighters, law enforcement and healthcare workers – by building housing for them. Without them, we live in a completely different place. A poorer place.”
“The board and staff of the Senior Center of Jackson Hole applaud the recent donation of the Hughes Foundation to the Housing Trust to help address the housing needs for human service staff. These organizations are struggling to find and retain staff, largely due to the lack of affordable and available housing. They are the unsung heroes of our community. We count on them to be there for our neighbors and family in times of need. We are often unaware of who they are and what they do until someone we care about is struggling,” wrote Becky Zaist and Lou Hochheiser, Executive Director and Board President of the Senior Center of Jackson Hole in a letter to the editor of the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
“This is what makes a community, and the Hughes Foundation recognized the value of our community with this gift. We implore others with the ability to make a difference to join this effort to support our human service organizations,” they penned.
“We are stunned by the incredible, wonderful and amazingly generous gift from the Hughes Foundation for future housing for human service providers,” wrote Bruce Burkland in his letter to the same editor. The former director of Teton Youth & Family Services continued: “It is needed terribly and will literally be a lifesaver for people in our community. Availability of housing for essential employees like human service providers has been difficult and a problem for decades, but in the last few years it has become impossible and is seriously limiting and reducing accessibility to services.”
Anne Cresswell, executive director of the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, affirmed that the $10 million donation will accelerate housing projects that are already underway. "We have a few projects in the pipeline, and this commitment makes it possible for us to move these projects forward as quickly as possible," she said.
It is disturbing to know that so many of our essential human service providers are priced out of Jackson. The fact is, we need these frontline workers to live in Jackson, so they can continue to handle 24-hour crises with our community’s at-risk children and families. This historic gift will make it possible for dedicated human service professionals to come home to stable, proximate, affordable housing at the end of a long day,” Cresswell added.
“We wanted to do something meaningful to support our community’s safety-net workers,” agreed Molly Hughes. “And we hope that others will go and do likewise.”