The newly founded Cache Valley Humanitarian Center, in partnership with Logan’s Rotary Clubs, helped pack about 100 school kits for children in need on Thursday — but they’re not quite finished.
“We’re probably around the midpoint,” said Jay Black, Logan Rotary Club president and a founding member of the center.
Around two dozen Rotary Club members and guests gathered to spend their afternoon filling backpacks with pens, pencils, binders, notebooks and more. The kits will go to nonprofits and schools throughout the valley, including CAPSA, Centro de la Familia, Little Lambs Foundation, The Family Place and others.
“We think we’ll be able to provide somewhere around 300 school kits this first go-round,” said Dwight Whittaker, another of the founding members.
The project is the first major undertaking for the nascent Cache Valley Humanitarian Center. The meeting was held at the center’s home for the next year — a portable classroom at the edge of the Mount Logan Middle School parking lot. And while the Rotary Club has been around Logan for more than a century, the Cache center only started in June and is only just getting its footing.
“It’s almost like we’re assembling the airplane as we taxi down the runway,” Whittaker said.
‘BIGGER AND BOLDER’
Black says Whittaker first approached him with plans for the center early this year, building off his experiences with a similar organization, the Greater Idaho Falls Area Humanitarian Center. Whittaker said he helped in the “administrative and oversight” aspects of the Idaho center, while his wife, Kay, worked on a number of hands-on projects.
Whittaker said when he moved to Cache Valley five years ago, he saw many of the same traits that made the Idaho Falls center a success.
“We just felt like, ‘Gosh, if we could just get something similar going here in Cache Valley it’d be a wonderful resource for those who might be in need.”
The avenue for the center’s creation was found through Whittaker’s membership in one of the valley’s Rotary Clubs.
“Because Rotary has always had the motto of ‘service above self’ it seemed a very, very logical place for us,” Black said.
“They had a grant that came available for starting bigger and bolder community service and we thought ‘OK, this is certainly gonna be bigger and bolder,’” Whittaker said.
He worked with the two Logan clubs — the Logan Rotary Club and Cache Valley Morning Rotary Club — to collaborate on the grant application, and the center was on its way toward its initial project.
Black said they met with the Mount Logan Middle School counselor and administrators, where they learned that 65% of the student population had some level of financial limitations.
“That was an eye opener to us,” Black said. “We started asking around and found out the other schools had the same needs. We asked the organizations like CAPSA and Little Lambs, and they talked about hundreds and hundreds of kits that they needed.”
WILLING TO HELP
Though they also got some support through Walmart and the Rotary Foundation, the center’s supplies didn’t all come through outside funding — Cache Valley locals stepped up to help as well. After some Rotary Club members put out the call on social media, two families brought in 25 fully stocked backpacks. Others donated supplies and another 15 packs, which were filled on Thursday.
With a community like Cache Valley, Whittaker said, that’s to be expected.
“Our problem has not been volunteers, people are so anxious and willing to help out,” he said. “Our problem’s gonna be keeping funding … to help meet the needs of the people they’re serving.”
“It’s all volunteer; no one’s paid.” Kay Whittaker said of the center. “People who want to serve and help others.”
Whittaker said the benefits of organizations like the Cache Valley Humanitarian Center go both ways — the community receives support, but it also helps those volunteering to find purpose and investment within their own community.
Though the center is just starting out, those involved are certain the Cache Valley Humanitarian Center has a bright future.
“In our hopes and dreams we will be a center” — emphasis on that word — “coordinating with all of them (local nonprofits), and when I say center, I’m also talking almost geographically as well as in terms of activities,” Black said. “I don’t want to say we’re trying to change the culture, but we’re here trying to provide ready outlets for service-minded people.”
Dwight Whittaker has high hopes for the center too.
“We’ll start out very small — we’re in roughly 2,200 sq. ft. in a portable classroom that Logan City School District was kind enough to let us use for a year to get started,” he said. “I think within five to ten years, we will be equal to … the Humanitarian Center in Eastern Idaho.”
That center, Whittaker said, operates out of a 20,000 sq. ft. facility, providing 100,000 items a year to 80 different nonprofit organizations.
“There’s over 250,000 volunteer hours that are given by the people in Eastern Idaho for that project,” he said.
Still, these grand expectations haven’t kept Whittaker from appreciating the moment.
“It’s just been phenomenal how things have gone for the first little while,” he said.
Those wishing to make a tax-deductible donation may send a check to Cache Valley Humanitarian Center, 1853 E. 3375 N., North Logan, Utah, 84341.