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Partnership leads to snow removal program

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | January 20, 2023 1:00 AM

It can be a challenge to keep driveways and sidewalks clear in the wintertime.

The challenge was highlighted when the city relaunched its snow removal policy and a company survey last October, Amanda Wilson, director of Infrastructure & Development for the city of Sandpoint, told council members recently.

Among the questions on the survey regarded connecting volunteers with those in need, Wilson said. Overwhelmingly, she said residents suggested the city find a way to help. That led employee Holly Ellis to reach out to the Community Resource EnVision Center in mid-December to see if they could help.

“So a few meetings later, a couple of phone calls, and a lot of passion by this team,” Wilson said, gesturing toward a screen with CREC staff pictured, the center created a user-friendly website to match those in need of snow removal services with volunteers.

The program applies primarily to seniors, over 60 years old, or those who have a disability, and need some assistance with removing snow. Those in need also need to live within Sandpoint city limits, Wilson said, noting that the program may extend to other services and, potentially, additional areas in the future.

When the city reached out with the idea for collaboration, CREC executive director Linnis Jellinek said it was an easy yes.

“We are dedicated to bringing hope to people who don’t know where to turn by creating one place for those in need to access resources leading to self-sufficiency,” she said, referring to the center’s mission.

Once the two entities connected, Jellinek said the rest of the process was smooth and quick. Less than a month later, from start to finish, and once the “pesky but necessary legal waivers” were addressed — something CREC was able to do with minimal effort and no paperwork, the program was launched, Jellinek said.

Getting help — or giving it — is as easy as going to the center’s website at crecidaho.com and clicking on the link featured prominently on the home page.

“The city of Sandpoint has a need to keep sidewalks clear and we know that not everyone is able to shovel …we want to support the elderly over 60, the disabled, and anyone else that can't do it themselves or get help,” Jellinek said of the program’s creation. “The city had some volunteers step up but they thought of us as the go-to ‘hub’ of resources and we started a conversation.”

Wilson applauded the CREC team for working so hard and so quickly to solve the need identified by the community.

Bringing up the form on the screen, Wilson said the form was designed to be easy to use by both volunteers — and those needing help. The one-page form takes less than a minute to complete and, once submitted, CREC staff match volunteers and those needing help.

However, if anyone doesn’t like computers or doesn’t have access, Wilson said they can call the city or the resource center for assistance in filling out either of the forms.

Jellinek said she was excited that the center was contacted by the city, saying it shows CREC is recognized as the “go-to” entity for resources, referrals, and collaborative projects. However, she noted the project with the city was a team effort by all involved.

“This was efficient collaboration, a phone inquiry to get started, one in-person meeting, a few emails, legal review, and website changes … everyone did their part to make this happen,” Jellinek said.

While the program is a partnership between CREC and the city of Sandpoint, Jellinek said the program is not unique to the area. The local program was able to take inspiration from those programs, which helped streamline the process.

“We are hoping that this is a legacy program for the community and that it goes beyond the winter snow shoveling season to showing kindness to our neighbors year-round by being helpful,” she added. “What if you could pick up groceries, go to the post office, rake leaves, or put garbage cans out? It's the little things that show acts of love and kindness.”

Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad praised Wilson and Ellis and CREC officials, saying he was impressed by how they worked to both help residents and address a critical city need to maintain its streets and sidewalks in the winter.

“I know this was an idea that came up at our workshop [and] it was a concern of many citizens,” Rognstad said. “And you went out of your way to think out of the box and figure out how we can really be a resource here for the community.”

The mayor noted the center does amazing work in connecting the community and he is proud the two entities were able to craft a partnership.

“I’m really excited about what this can do for our residents in need and it's just a critically important piece to the puzzle of how we can keep our streets and sidewalks maintained in the winter.”

Information: CRECIdaho.com