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NyE Communities Coalition: A 20-year retrospective

What began as a task-specific effort two decades ago, the NyE Communities Coalition, has now grown into a vital heartbeat for the local community and organization officials are more than a little excited to be nearing a major milestone for the nonprofit, its 20th anniversary.

NyECC CEO Stacy Smith, a founder of the organization, explained that the concept of creating a coalition started in 2000, when the state of Nevada began encouraging the formation of such entities all across the state.

“I founded the organization when I was working with the Nye County School District. One of my expectations was to form a community coalition or a group that would work with the school district to deliver alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention programming in the schools. That task was given to me in 2000. By 2001 we were forming as ‘Pahrump Awareness League’ but come 2002, we formed the NyE Communities Coalition and started it as its own nonprofit,” Smith detailed.

At its core, the NyECC is an alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention coalition, she emphasized, remarking that this is why a bulk of its programming and activities relate directly back to that purpose. However, after it was formed, the state started pushing for coalitions like the NyECC to expand into additional health and wellness programs. In response, the NyECC created a variety of programs such as classes regarding diabetes and chronic disease and even yoga and Qi Gong sessions. Along with these types of activities, the coalition has also incorporated a workforce development department geared toward preparing people for career success as well as one focused on enhancing mobility and transportation options locally.

“One of the other things that the state really wanted us to do was to be this community building and this ‘convener’,” Smith said. “That is one of our key roles. If there is something going on, entities will approach us and ask if we can get together people in Nye County, in Lincoln County, in Esmeralda County, in all three counties and can you have meetings about this issue or that issue to find out where the community is at and how they feel they can best address those issues.

“We’ve been pulled together for just about anything and everything you can think of. We’ve had convenings and played roles in everything from food security and transportation to social workers in the schools, public preparedness and much more. That convener part is what makes us so nimble,” she continued.

That role also gives the NyECC the chance to get ahead of some of the local problems and act as an incubator for organizations trying to form to address those problems. “One of the terms we use is ‘backbone organization’. We’re like the spine that supports the rest of the body,” Smith said, noting that entities such as the original holiday task force and the Food Security Committee were fostered at the coalition until they were strong enough to stand on their own.

“Something that I think makes the coalition so strong is that so many people have connections to it. There are quite a few people who have worked here or volunteered here, or their agency has,” Smith commented. “Certainly the staff do some of the very specific projects and activities and manage the grants and all of that, but it is very much the coalition membership, the partners and everybody within the community that has made the strength of the NyE Communities Coalition.”

Smith said she often brags about how lucky she is to live in a community like this one, where the residents always show up when asked to lend a hand.

“I have sister coalitions across the state and I always tell them, I feel like we have a leg-up here because Nye, Esmeralda and Lincoln people are willing to step in and volunteer better than anywhere else I have ever lived or been. The people here are doers and they want to help make the community better,” Smith said.

As a nonprofit organization, the NyECC relies heavily on grant funding but unlike many other nonprofits that utilize this kind of funding, the coalition is not dependent on just a few grants. Smith noted that there are so many different grants used at the coalition that is easy to “braid” the funding sources and allow for flexibility when those sources shift.

“It actually creates a strength within our organization,” Smith remarked. “We operate off of about 50 different grants right now, some of which are state, some of which are federal and some of them are from foundations. We have multiple grants funding each department so we are able to keep that continuity, not just of the programs but with the staff too.”

Coalition meetings are held in Pahrump on the third Wednesday of each month. In December, the meeting turns into a celebration of the staff and accomplishments for the year during the NyECC’s Chocolate Buffet and this year, the event will be extra special in that it will be commemorating 20 years of nonprofit work in communities all around Nye, Lincoln and Esmeralda counties.

The Chocolate Buffet is set for Wednesday, Dec. 21 from 3 to 5 p.m. Smith said area organizations and their members are welcome to join in so long as they bring along a chocolate dish to share with the crowd, noting that they could possibly even win the title of NyECC Chocolatier of 2022.

For more information on the NyECC visit www.NyECC.org or stop by the coalition campus at 1020 E. Wilson Road in Pahrump.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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