Park City’s Christian Center takes no seasons off
Much like the rest of town, the Christian Center of Park City is steadily busy beginning in the fall and remains so through March. But Jenny Mauer, director of programs and volunteers, said the Center doesn’t get suddenly quiet when mud season rolls around.
"We start planning for it early," she said. "Some of our support drops off during the summer, our volunteer numbers drop off. We have to plan accordingly."
Mauer said the needs of the Christian Center’s clients change during the shift from winter into summer.
"In the winter, there are more jobs but people also have higher utility bills, so a lot of the apartments around here — sometimes everything runs off electricity," she said. "So your bills are a little bit higher. But it’s easier in the winter to get overtime or take on a second or third job because everyone is hiring."
In the late spring and into the summer, Mauer said utility bills aren’t as much of an issue because the temperatures are mild. The need there just isn’t as great.
"But we are noticing right away when the resorts close we see this spike in people needing temporary assistance until a summer job kicks in," she said.
Mauer said the Center’s emergency assistance program often comes into play in the shoulder season, when families might need help making it through the transition from winter to summer.
"Someone isn’t going to apply for food stamps if they only need help for two or three weeks," Mauer said. "So we see a lot of our year-round residents accessing our food pantry. Emergency financial assistance, again, if you’re not working for those three weeks you might be short on rent, and so we will chip in a couple hundred dollars to help make rent. And sometimes it’s just that one month."
The Center works with families to try to help them plan ahead for the time they will be off between seasons, but Mauer said for some families living paycheck to paycheck, they understand that just isn’t feasible.
"Sometimes it isn’t possible. An emergency is an emergency," she said. "And that’s where we come in, to fill in the gaps. We are noticing, though, that our families that have been here a long time are getting better at anticipating these gaps in employment."
Mauer said the Center budgets more for its emergency fund for that reason and because they know when the weather warms they will see more transients coming through and needing help.
"We’ll start budgeting a little more money for our emergency assistance fund, knowing that we’re probably going to be hit with high needs cases over the summer," she said. "At our thrift store we will also start intentionally keeping sleeping bags, backpacks, different things like that, because we know people are going to be camping."
Mauer said she wants to remind people that even when the winter is over, the Christian Center still needs support.
"People get really excited around the holidays," she said. "They do food drives, they want to volunteer. It’s just kind of like the festive time to give back. And then all of a sudden the summer comes and we’re still here and we still need help. All the ways you can get involved in the winter, you can still do in the summer."
The Christian Center of Park City is located at 1283 Deer Valley Dr. For more information, call 435-649-2260 or visit http://www.CCofPC.org.
Affordable summer programs for kids
One area of need Mauer said the Center is trying to draw attention to is summer programs for Park City children. The problem isn’t that they don’t exist, she said. In fact, the programs are plentiful. The problem is that they aren’t affordable.
"A lot of the parents start panicking because not only are their hours maybe cut, but if you have three school-age kids and both you and your spouse work full-time, paying for summer programs in Park City is a huge problem," she said. "So we are running around trying to figure out who does summer programs, how much they cost, and unfortunately, it’s often a week-long tennis camp here, a week of mountain biking there.
"It’s a lot of week-long programs but they are each a couple hundred dollars, and a lot of our parents can’t afford that. So their kids are just home alone. They’re bored. That’s a problem that I haven’t yet seen a solution to."
In addition to meeting the immediate needs of their clientele this spring and summer, Mauer said the Christian Center is trying to advocate for more affordable kids programs in the future. She said they are talking to local organizations that already do them about offering more scholarships and more flexible programs and also to those at Park City Hall to see what they can do.
"We’re just kind of being annoying about it, right? Like, hey, this is a problem. We need affordable summer kids programs for our year-round residents," she said. "We are making the city aware this is a problem. A lot of our youth have nothing to do during the summer if they are from a working class family."
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Park City leaders next week plan to showcase a City Hall workforce or otherwise restricted housing development in Old Town, highlighting one of what is expected to be a series of significant municipal projects in coming years.