The term "quality of life" often conjures up images of great schools, abundant outdoor recreation, and a vibrant arts and culture scene. While those amenities are important – and plentiful in Idaho Falls – a sometimes overlooked contributor to quality of life is the strength of a community's civic organizations.
“Community focused organizations are important because they truly focus on the needs of the community as a whole, with all the organizations, social service agencies and nonprofit programs working together to elevate the quality of life for all residents,” says Celeste Eld, executive director of Hospice of Eastern Idado (HEI).
HEI recently opened a short-term-stay inpatient Hospice Home in Ammon – only the second such facility in Idaho. HEI helps terminally ill patients make the most of their remaining days, so they are able to spend time with the people they love. Eld says the organization welcomes volunteers to assist with patient services, help educate the community or work in the HEI office.
The Idaho Falls Rotary Club works with School District 91 to promote literacy, helps fund the local food bank and free dental clinic, and sponsors college scholarships for local graduates. Club members also volunteer for highway cleanup and partner with other organizations, such as Interact Club of Idaho Falls (the youth arm of Rotary) and the United Way of Idaho Falls & Bonneville County to complete service projects.
Meanwhile, the United Way partners with 25 different community agencies to solve community problems, such as hunger, income disparity, literacy and crisis management. Executive Director Cindy Ozaki says the United Way offers a multitude of opportunities for residents to get involved.
“Many of our agencies need volunteers,” Ozaki says. “The Big Brothers Big Sisters program operates with volunteers; RSVP, the Foster Grandparents and Red Cross all rely heavily on volunteers, as do many of our programs that work with food insufficiency. We also look for ideas within the community: Where do people see a need? That's one of the biggest things United Way brings to the community.”
The Fun in Fundraising
Another advantage of civic organizations is their ability to bring the community together for fun. In July and August, United Way hosts a free concert to educate the community not only about the needs but also the resources available. Likewise, from May through September, you'll find members of the Idaho Falls Civitans at its Alive at Five, a series of weekly arts and cultural events to raise money for community projects.
The Idaho Falls Arts Council works to bring more art and culture to the community every day through live theatre, art galleries and classes for kids and adults. Past President Jackie Flowers says in Idaho Falls, the Rotary Club is known as much for the annual Great Snake River Duck Race – which raises funds to develop and enhance the Greenbelt – as for its other community projects. The event celebrated 25 years in 2015, attracting crowds that rival the town's July 4th celebration.