The Limelight Hotel serves those who serve others with its Ketchum Community Fund

Some of Idaho’s real heroes in 2022 are the same men and women who answered the call to help those in need long before the pandemic hit and will no doubt be there long after the waves of infection are a distant memory. Indeed, nonprofits and charities are part of the solution, 24/7/365.

Shortly after opening its doors in 2016, the Limelight Hotel established the Limelight Ketchum Community Fund, with a mission to support organizations that, in turn, support the community. The fund is supported by employees (via an optional payroll deduction), guests (via an optional $1 per night donation), and matching funds from Limelight owners, The Aspen Skiing Company.

Over the past five years, the Fund has generated nearly $150,000 in donations to various organizations in the Wood River Valley.

And Friday, January 27and, the Limelight will host the Fund’s latest laureates.

” It’s a big problem. This is a big problem for me. It’s a big deal for our staff and it’s always one of our favorite events of the year,” said John Curnow, Hotel Manager of The Limelight in Ketchum. “So we can’t wait to see The Senior Connection and all of our local partners here that day.”

The Senior Connection, which provides services to seniors in the Wood River Valley, is receiving $5,000 this year for its Meals on Wheels program.

Jovita Pena of The Senior Connection and Limelight Director John Curnow visited Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the Fund, The Senior Connection’s many services and the essential nature of charities.

“We saw the residual effects of COVID when the seniors came back and we opened up, they weren’t as mobile…even in their speech, and we really want to stop them from limiting their mobility and having those effects long-term isolation.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: This is the morning edition on Boise State Public Radio News; Hello, I’m George Prentice. The pandemic has been a blow to the economy. The hardest hit were small businesses and nonprofits. At the very foundation of these nonprofits are volunteers who support missions and services in every corner of Idaho. Non-profit organizations have always been an important part of the Wood River Valley economically, culturally… you name it. To celebrate this good work and goodwill, there is the Limelight Community Fund, which has been supporting grantees since the Limelight Hotel opened its doors. Full transparency here: The Limelight Hotel is a financial supporter of Boise State Public Radio News, so let’s say hello to John Curnow. He is the general manager of The Limelight in Ketchum. John, hello.

JOHN CURNOW: Hello, George. Thank you for receiving us.

PRENTICE: First of all, if we could, just for a few minutes, talk business. As we all do our best to try to navigate this latest wave of the pandemic, I’m curious to see how business is doing in the limelight.

CURNOW: You know, it’s good. People travel. My company, my hotel, requires proof of vaccination to stay with us. And eat and drink with us. But so far it has been very well accepted and our activity levels have been strong. Obviously, Sun Valley, as you probably know, received incredible snowfall at the start of our ski season. The snow always helps the phone ring and helps people put on their skis, so we’re thrilled with the snowfall. But I have to say, month after month we’ve seen record occupancy rates and good activity levels, so people are coming to places like Sun Valley, and people are coming to places like our hotel.

PRENTICE: That’s so interesting. Do you think your protocols are an attraction for many of your guests?

CURNOW: Yes, I do. I mean, I think we probably upset other people…

PRENTICE: But you’d think a lot of people would gravitate to that,

CURNOW: And that’s what we find out. So people are looking for that. I think people feel comfortable in our space. They appreciate the practices we have put in place. And you’re right, people have sought us out and people stay with us and people eat and dine with us for those same reasons.

PRENTICE: I see that on January 27, you’ll be hosting a pretty special event, where you’ll be celebrating nonprofits and your community. And I’m particularly fascinated by how you fundraise for grants for these nonprofits. So what can you tell us?

CURNOW: Just to step back for a second, we opened our doors in December 2016, so we just celebrated our fifth anniversary. And prior to opening, we created our community fund to benefit many nonprofits and organizations that benefit this valley and our residents. The fund… it’s funded in different ways, and that includes our staff, and they can contribute from their own paychecks, from our guest who can opt in to donate each night. and then it is also matched by the Aspen Skiing Company, owners of the Limelight Hotel, every year. And I have an employee council that oversees those funds and then selects our nonprofits through a grant cycle to benefit those people. And on the 27th of this year, we’ll bring in the six nonprofits that benefited from last year, to have lunch with my staff and celebrate. I think almost $30,000 with donations we made last year bringing the total to about $150,000 since we opened in 2016. So an exciting time and we are very proud of our staff and our company to support the valley.

PRENTICE: And that kind of fund is more for a non-profit organization. And here to confirm that for us this morning, let’s bring Jovita Pina from The Senior Connection to Hailey. Jovita, hello.

JOVITA PENA: Hello. How are you?

PRENTICE: I’m very well, and thank you for taking a few moments, because God knows you and your colleagues are very busy every day. Remind our listeners of your mission and some of the services you provide.

PINA: Absolutely. Thank you for receiving us. The mission of The Senior Connection is to connect seniors to essential services. What we really want is for our seniors to have a quality senior life. And we all work to make The Senior Connection the best part of our members’ and customers’ day.

PRENTICE: And I know you do that through transportation, plus you have a fitness center and of course, the Meals on Wheels program.

Courtesy: The Senior Connection

Jovita Pena

PINA: Absolutely. We offer a variety of services and programs…a lot of services and programs that our community doesn’t really know about. Like, you included, our biggest is the nutrition program. Our meal delivery program, curbside pickup and meals gathered here at the center. We provide transportation, medical transportation. to appointments here in the Valley, locally as well as regionally in Twin Falls, Boise, even Salt Lake City. We offer home help services. We have nine carers who go to people’s homes and provide home care services, keeping our seniors in their homes for as long as possible, which is really, I think, a goal of a lot of older adults to stay in their homes as well long as possible. We also offer a connection club memory treatment. At The Senior Connection, we offer fitness classes. We do a lot of field trips. This year we will open a new vision and hearing center in Ketchum. So many, many programs and services.

PRENTICE: John Curnow, I guess Jovita and his colleagues at The Senior Connection, and everything they do, is central to what you’re looking for in the Community Fund.

CURNO: Absolutely. Let me back up quickly. So my advice…they meet with these people and take their grant applications. And we’ve donated $150,000 to probably 13 different organizations, with The Senior Connection being at the top of the list every year. The other good thing my company does is that every full-time employee can volunteer for two paid days each year. So you’ll see us there during the holidays, you’ll see our staff there. They resonated with our entire team and we’re always thrilled to see these guys and be a part of what they do for the community.

PRENTICE: Jovita, yes, meals are essential, but that human element is probably needed more than ever.

PINA: Absolutely. So isolation has always been a struggle and a real challenge for seniors. Many of them have no family members. If they do, their family members are working, so they have very little or no interaction throughout the day. But especially with the pandemic… we’ve been closed for most of 2020 and much of 2021. And so it was really important for us to make every effort possible to maintain these socializations and interactions with our elders. We saw the residual effects of COVID when the seniors came back and we opened, they weren’t as mobile…even in their speech, and we really want to stop them from limiting their mobility and having those long term effects term of isolation. It’s just devastating.

PRENTICE: Jovita, I’m sure I’m not the only one thanking you for what you do. And John, this rare opportunity to get all these amazing people together in one room next Thursday, January 27th at Limelight… well, that must be a big deal.

RUNNING: It’s a big problem. This is a big problem for me. It’s a big deal for our staff and it’s always one of our favorite events of the year. So. we look forward to seeing The Senior Connection and all of our local partners here that day. So more to come.

PRENTICE: Jovita, thank you very much. And John, thank you. And in the meantime, have a great day.

CURNOW: Thank you, sir.

PINA: Thank you, George, and thank you to The Limelight.

Curno: Thank you.

Find journalist George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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