This is a story of Skeeter, Hammie, and a place called Happy Pastures. It is also a story about community and how nonprofits weave together services for people in need.
Paige Collins serves as the Executive Director of The Council on Aging & Human Services and as the founder of Happy Pastures, a nonprofit livestock rescue based in LaCrosse, WA. As in other places, it’s not unusual for people in Whitman County to serve their community in many ways. Nonprofit volunteers and employees offer a variety of skills that contribute to a thriving community that, though may be spread out geographically over the county, is remarkably intertwined.
The inspiration for Happy Pastures was actually born when Collins was doing other nonprofit work. While collaborating on a farm-to-food bank initiative at Runner Bean Ranch, Collins found herself distracted by noises from the new lambs on the ranch. Eventually, Runner Bean would give Happy Pastures their first “rescue,” a bottle baby lamb named Skeeter. The nonprofit became a home for animals who touched the hearts of the breeders, ranchers, and other community members. One resident of Happy Pastures, Hammie, is a three-legged ewe. After being attacked by dogs, Hammie lost a leg and probably would have been put down had it not been for a relationship with the local veterinarian and a very young, attached owner.
Collins credits the connectedness of the nonprofit world in Whitman County to a “mindset that communities and community members take care of their own.” Geography can certainly be difficult factor and service providers are often located far apart. However, the challenges bring out some amazing and innovative solutions. Collins shares some positives that come from the unique culture of her region.
- Volunteers are very rarely focused on only one way to help the community. For instance, farmers who grow for the Palouse Pantry volunteer at the local school and at the Colfax Pantry. Palouse Pantry folks are volunteer drivers for the Coast Transportation division of the Council on Aging & Human Services in Colfax.
- There is not one ‘hub’ where people can get all of their needs filled. Community Action Center (CAC) in Pullman provides housing assistance, utility assistance, and more. In Colfax, the services focus on nutrition and transportation. Thankfully, the CAC has a rep who works in Council on Aging’s offices every week to accommodate those from the Western side of the county who don’t want to or can’t afford to get all the way to Pullman.
- Distance also makes it tough for the nonprofit community to gather together on a regular basis. However, the nonprofit workers in the area stay flexible and mission-oriented, and support each other if someone needs help. Their energy and passion ensures that the handful of nonprofits in Whitman County, through diligent work, fulfill the needs of a community that spans 2,178 square miles.
Washington Nonprofits thinks a lot about rural issues and nonprofits. There will be at least one session on this topic at the Washington State Nonprofit Conference in Bellevue on May 21, 2019. Join us!
The Council on Aging & Human Services is a public-benefit organization committed to enhancing lives and supporting communities with transportation and nutrition services. They have been a member of Washington Nonprofits since 2016.