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

Photo series showing the Limelight Hotel, a person in a vehicle doing a peace sign with their hand, and the logo for The Senior Connection.
Courtesy Limelight Hotel, The Senior Connection
The Limelight Hotel will host its Community Fund honorees Friday, Jan. 27.

Some of Idaho’s true heroes in 2022 are the same men and women who answered the call to help those in need long before the pandemic and will undoubtedly be there long after waves of infection are a distant memory. Indeed, nonprofits and charitable organizations are part of the solution, 24/7/365.

Soon after opening its doors in 2016, the Limelight Hotel created The Limelight Ketchum Community Fund, with a mission to support the organizations that, in turn, support the community. The fund is sustained by employees (through an optional paycheck deduction), guests (through an optional $1-per-night donation), and matching funds from the Limelight’s owners, The Aspen Skiing Company.

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

And on Friday, Jan. 27, the Limelight will play host to the Funds’ most recent honorees.

“It's a big deal. It's a big deal 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, manager of The Limelight Hotel in Ketchum. “So, we look forward to seeing The Senior Connection and all of our local partners here on that day.”

The Senior Connection, which provides services to senior citizens across the Wood River Valley, is being granted $5,000 this year for its Meals on Wheels program.

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

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

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News; good morning, I'm George Prentice. The pandemic has been a gut punch to the economy. Hardest hit have been small businesses and non-profits. At the very foundation of those nonprofits are volunteers who support the missions and services to every corner of Idaho. Nonprofits have always been a huge part of the Wood River Valley economically, culturally… you name it. To celebrate that good work and goodwill, there is the Limelight Community Fund, which has been supporting recipients ever 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 hi to John Curnow. He's the general manager at The Limelight in Ketchum. John, good morning.

JOHN CURNOW: Good morning, George. Thanks for having us.

PRENTICE: First up if we could, just for a couple of minutes, talk some business. As we all do our best to try to navigate this latest wave of the pandemic, I'm curious how business is at the Limelight.

CURNOW: You know, it's good. People are traveling. My company, my hotel, is asking for a proof of vaccination to stay with us. And to eat and drink with us. But so far, it's been met with great acceptance and our business levels have been strong. Obviously, Sun Valley, as you probably know, has been the recipient of some amazing snowfall at the beginning of our ski season. Snow always helps the phone ring and helps people put their skis on, so we're excited about the snowfall. But I have to say we've seen month after month after month of record occupancies and good business 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 do you think your protocols are an attraction for many of your guests?

CURNOW: Yes, I do. I mean, I think we've probably upset some others…

PRENTICE: But one might think that a lot of people would actually gravitate to that,

CURNOW: And that's what we're finding. So, people are searching that out. I think people feel comfortable in our space. They appreciate the practices we've implemented. And you're right, people have searched us out and people are staying with us and people are eating and dining with us for those very reasons.

PRENTICE: I see that on January 27th, you’ll be hosting a pretty special event, where you celebrate nonprofits and your community. And I'm particularly fascinated by how you raise funds for grants for those nonprofits. So, what can you tell us about that?

CURNOW: Just to back up for a second, we opened our doors in December of 2016, so we just celebrated our five-year 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 by a number of different ways, and that is includes our staff, and they can contribute from their own paychecks, from our guest who can opt in to a donation each night. and then it's also matched by the Aspen Skiing Company, who owns the Limelight Hotel, each year. And I have a board of employees that oversees those funds and then selects our nonprofits through a grant cycle to benefit those, those folks. And on the 27th this year, we will bring in the six nonprofits that were benefiting from last year, to have lunch with my staff and to celebrate. I think almost $30,000 with the donations that we're giving from last year, bringing the total up to $150,000 or so since we opened in 2016. So, an exciting time and we’re very proud of our staff and of our company to support the valley.

PRENTICE: And those kind of funds are quite a bit for a nonprofit. And here to confirm that for us this morning, let's bring in Jovita Pina from The Senior Connection in Hailey. Jovita, good morning.

JOVITA PENA: Good morning. How are you?

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

PINA: Absolutely. Thank you for having us. The mission of The Senior Connection is connecting seniors with essential services. What we really want is just our seniors to have a quality older adult life. And we all work towards making The Senior Connection the best part of our members and clients’ day.

PRENTICE: And I know you do that through transportation, plus you've got 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 really doesn't know about. Like, you included, our biggest one is the nutrition program. Our home-delivered meals program, curbside pick-up, and  congregate meals here in the center. We offer transport, medical transport. to appointments here in the valley, locally as well as regionally to Twin Falls, Boise, even Salt Lake City. We offer home care services. We have nine caregivers that go to people's homes and provide home care services, keeping our seniors in their home as long as possible, which is really, I think, a goal of a lot of older adults to stay in their home as long as possible. We also offer a connection club memory care. Here at The Senior Connection, we offer fitness classes. We do lots of field trips. This year, we're going to be starting a new vision and hearing center in Ketchum. So, lots and lots of programs and services.

PRENTICE: John Curnow, I'm assuming that Jovita and her colleagues at The Senior Connection, and all that they do, is right at the center of what you're looking for in the Community Fund.

CURNOW: Absolutely. Let me let me back up quickly. So, my board… they meet with these folks and take their grant requests. And we've given out $150,000 to probably 13 different organizations, The Senior Connection being at the top of that list every year. The other nice thing that my company does is that every full-time employee is able to volunteer for two paid days each year. So, you'll see us there at the holidays, you see our staff there. They've resonated quite a bit with our entire team and we're always excited to see those guys and to be a part of what they're doing for the community.

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

PINA: Absolutely. So, isolation has always been a struggle and really a challenge for seniors. A lot of them don't have family members. If they do, their family members are working, so they have very little to none interaction throughout the day. But especially with the pandemic…we were closed for most of 2020 and a big part of 2021. And so it was really important for us to make any effort possible to keep those socializations and interactions with our seniors going. We saw the residual effects of COVID when seniors came back and we opened, they weren't as mobile… even in their speech, and we really want to prevent them from limiting their mobility and having those long term effects of isolation. It's just devastating.

PRENTICE: Jovita, I am certain I am not alone when I say thank you for what you do. And John, this rare opportunity to get all of these amazing people in one room on next Thursday, January 27th at the Limelight… well, that's got to be a pretty big deal.

CURNOW: It's a big deal. It's a big deal 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 on that day. So, more to come.

PRENTICE: Jovita, thank you so very much. And John, thank you. And in the meantime, have a really good rest of your day.

CURNOW: Thank you, sir.

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

CURNOW: Thank you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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