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Donations keep FISH in service

ELKO – After facing severe financial difficulty and the threat of drastically reducing services, Friends in Helping Service, or FISH, will continue its work with the help of generous donations.

FISH received an outpouring of community support the past few months from individual donors and several local businesses to continue to provide all of its services.

A significant drop in income and donations came over the past year, said Tim Hatch, FISH board member.

“That’s where FISH got into financial trouble over the past few years,” he said. “Donations were down. Thrift store sales kept going down. The grants we have don’t cover all these great programs, so it was either reshuffle funds or eliminate these programs. That would have been a hard choice, but [we’re] thankful donations came in, and we didn’t have to cut into any programs.”

The donations were much needed as FISH was already trying to cut costs by reducing its thrift store hours. FISH board member Susan Thornburg said the organization was about a month away from starting some serious cutbacks.

“We were 30 days out from not making payroll,” she said. “These donors have pretty much saved FISH. We had to wait for grants. We had to cut back hours so we could streamline. That was a scary thing.”

One of the programs that FISH helps run is the Samaritan House. The facility houses rule-abiding members of Elko’s homeless community while they get their finances in order.

Grants cover about 40 percent of expenses at the Samaritan House, making additional support from the community crucial.

FISH board member Sherry Smith said the Samaritan House produces success stories, including one of a former resident who stayed at the house until she was financially stable enough to find her own home.

“They’re here shopping in their community, paying taxes and providing for their family with the assistance of being able to stay at the Samaritan House,” she said. “It was the hand-up that they needed to get to that point.”

Some locals have wondered if FISH does enough to help the homeless population Elko, but Thornburg said she thinks some of the organization’s work goes unnoticed.

She said FISH would like to make more of an effort to get the word out about what the organization does so donors know where their money is going.

“Sometimes we take a little bit of heat because people think we aren’t doing enough,” she said. “If people could come down here and see the wonderful volunteers that we have here every day, it would be amazing. If we can get some more donations, we can help this community in a phenomenal way.”

FISH has wide range of services it provides to its clients including providing food from its food bank, helping clients get the proper identification documents, and assisting stranded travelers in getting the services they need as they pass through town. FISH also provides a turkey to clients around Thanksgiving and serves hot meals three days a week.

Clients can also take a hot shower on site with FISH providing all the necessary hygiene products. Once clients are fed and clothed, they can also get a voucher to wash their clothes in FISH’s laundry room and can get a voucher to pick up new items of clothing from the thrift store.

FISH’s push for donors appears to be working so far. Riverton Elko has agreed to match any donation made at their business.

Former FISH board chairman and local attorney Travis Gerber said it is important for the community to know that FISH will always need community support to stay open.

“One of the reasons people haven’t responded to FISH as much as they should have is because it’s been so stable and well run,” he said. “We haven’t had a crisis like this, and now that it’s reached this point the community needs to know we need sustained donations.”

Vietnam Memorial coming to Elko

ELKO – A replica of the Vietnam memorial wall in Washington, D.C., is returning to Elko this month.

The traveling wall arrives the evening of Sept. 20 at the Elko City Park and will be assembled the next morning at 8 a.m. An opening ceremony is scheduled for noon Sept. 21.

Volunteers are needed for assembly and guarding the wall around the clock until it is disassembled Sept. 24.

Because people will need time to “reminisce for their memories and their healing,” volunteers will be stationed to guard the wall 24/7 while the wall is at the park, said Vi Larkin, VFW Auxiliary committee chair.

“We are bringing the wall for people to appreciate it at their own leisure and in their own time,” Larkin said. “People are welcome to view it at all times. We won’t stop anybody from coming in if they get off shift late or if they feel they need to be there at midnight to avoid the crowds.”

Presented by the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, the wall is 360 feet long and 8 feet high, an 80 percent scale of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Constructed between 1982 and 1984, the black granite wall lists the names of more than 58,000 service men and women who died in the war.

The visit is the last in a three-part commitment to commemorate of the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War, Larkin said.

The Daughters of the American Revolution, Ruby Mountain Chapter, brought the proposal to the VFW Auxiliary three years ago. The two organizations partnered to honor Vietnam veterans with a welcome home parade and dinner at the Stockmen’s Hotel and Casino.

The second part was to commission a metal art sculpture and, thanks to the donation of two auxiliary members, commemorative challenge coins were minted and given to Vietnam War veterans.

“Our community response was so great,” Larkin said. Because of the outpouring of support, “we’ve not had to ask for any other donations or anything. It was completely paid for by the community and individual businesses.”

Unlike the last time the wall came to Elko, a “solemn remembrance” ceremony is planned instead of a larger celebration, said Larkin.

“It’s a solemn moment,” said Larkin, adding that there are six Elkoans listed on the wall, one of whom is her cousin.

Larkin said the project was a “mission of the heart” and hoped the wall would help recognize Native Americans who served in the war.

After attending tribal meetings in Beowawe, Larkin said hearing stories of tribal members who fought in the war “really touched my heart.” The auxiliary also has native members.

“Because they are a nation of their own within a nation, they sat aside that part of themselves to fight for the U.S.,” Larkin said.

The wall is to “provide those without the means or ability to travel to our great national memorial sites the opportunity to respect and share in the experience of honoring our heroes,” says AVTT’s website. “AVTT prides itself on the support of our Armed Forces and continues our mission of Honor, Respect, Remembrance for our fallen and serving men and women in uniform.”

In addition to volunteers, Larkin said other needs are cases of water and hotel arrangements for the AVTT driver.

To volunteer or for information, call Vi Larkin at 934-6150.

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Local governments can approve pot smoking in businesses

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A state senator who helped legalize recreational marijuana in Nevada says he’s optimistic residents and tourists will be allowed to smoke pot in lounges and other public places next year now that it’s clear state law doesn’t prohibit it.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau sent state Sen. Tick Segerblom an opinion Sunday that says local governments have the authority to permit marijuana consumption in businesses.

He says that should help clear the way for county commissions and city councils to approve lounges, cafes and special events for legal pot-smoking.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that the letter from Legislative Counsel Brenda Erodes states consumption is not allowed at any of the 60 dispensaries currently licensed in the state.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak told the Las Vegas Sun the panel will discuss the issue at next week’s meeting.