AARP Wyoming invites local eligible non-profit organizations and governments across the country to apply for the 2024 AARP Community Challenge grant program, now through March 6 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
AARP Community Challenge grants fund quick-action projects that help communities become more livable by improving public places, transportation, housing, digital connections, and more. Now in its eighth year, the program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which supports the efforts of cities, towns, neighborhoods and rural areas to become great places to live for all residents, especially those age 50 and older.
“AARP Wyoming is committed to helping communities across the state become great places to live for people of all ages with an emphasis on people age 50 and older,” said AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway. “The Community Challenge Grant program has proven that quick-action projects can lead to long-lasting improvements enhancing Wyomingites’ quality of life.”
Since 2017, AARP has invested $16.4 million toward 1,370 projects – including 16 in Wyoming – nonprofit organizations, and government entities across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands through the Community Challenge. The program provides direct support to all community types, including rural, suburban and urban communities with a special focus on the needs of those 50 and older.
The Community Challenge is open to eligible nonprofit organizations and government entities. Other types of organizations are considered on a case-by-case basis. Grants can range from several hundred dollars for small, short-term activities to tens of thousands for larger projects.
The application deadline is 5:00 p.m. Eastern, March 6, 2024. All projects must be completed by December 15, 2024. To submit an application and view past grantees, visit www.AARP.org/CommunityChallenge.
Past Community Challenge Grant Awards
Age-Friendly Laramie received $14,846 to convert a donated bus into an accessible greenhouse to establish a community garden. The grant will help pay for installing a wheelchair ramp leading into the bus and convert the bus into an installation art piece by decorating its exterior with tiles. Age-Friendly Laramie is working in conjunction with the Eppson Center for Seniors in Laramie to develop a community vegetable garden on the grounds of the Eppson Center. In spring 2022, Age-Friendly Laramie began construction of seven garden beds on an unused plot of Center grounds. A gardening club was established at the Eppson Center and members planted, maintained and harvested crops.
In 2022, a 16-seat bus was donated to the community garden project. This project will strip the bus of its interior seating and its engine/transmission, thanks to donated help from WyoTech. The bus will then be converted into an accessible greenhouse and storage unit for use by the garden group. A wheelchair ramp will lead into the bus, which will also have shelves to grow plants to be transplanted into the beds.
Mountain Grace Church of Dubois was granted $15,000 for its project aimed at helping those age 50 and over maintain their homes with improvements and assistance. Dubois is a beautiful and isolated community in northwest Wyoming with a population of 934 and a median age of 58. Dubois is 72 miles from Riverton and 75 miles away from Jackson, the two next closest communities with more than 1,000 people, meaning senior services options may be somewhat limited.
The men’s ministry at Grace Church – 16 strong – is offering to help older adults in town with everything from cutting and delivering firewood to to snow removal. The grant funds will go towards equipment and trailer purchase to kick off the effort and keep it going. This effort is especially important given the average cost of nursing homes through Medicaid in Wyoming is around $6,000 per person, per month and $91,000 per year for nursing home care paid for privately.
The Thayne Senior Center was granted $10,000 to provide transportation for older adults to medical appointments outside of the Star Valley area. Given Star Valley’s isolation from larger communities with more specialized health care availability, The Thayne Senior Center will work with a local transportation company to transport older adults to appointments in Jackson, Idaho Falls, and Salt Lake City.
Currently a local company has been working with The Wyoming Military Department and the Veterans Administration as a part of the Highly Rural Transportation program to provide transportation to eligible veterans to medical appointments. AARP’s grant will allow this vendor to take any older adult to medical appointments, not just veterans.
The Senior Center and local vendor will advertise options for older adult transportation through flyers, radio, and social media to let residents know there will be transportation for older adults who need transportation to medical appointments. Organizers will attempt to engage volunteers over the course of the project and all volunteers will be reimbursed at the same rate as the Veterans Administration Highly Rural Transportation program.
Cheyenne’s popular trishaw rides program expanded to Laramie thanks to a $15,000 grant for the Miles of Smiles program. The result is free trishaw rides will soon be available in Laramie. A trishaw is a large, specially built, electric-assisted tricycle designed for mobility impaired folks. It is powered by a trained “pilot” so the passenger can enjoy the riding and conversation in a safe and comfortable passenger seat.
In 2022, Miles of Smiles, began offering this no-cost service in Cheyenne thanks to AARP Wyoming purchasing a trishaw for this community.While the trishaws are battery supported, the pedal power and good company is provided by fully trained and insured pilots, most frequently older adults themselves. With the $15,000 grant funding, the trishaw, insurance, and related tools will allow adults in Laramie to safely and securely experience the wind in their hair and the sun on their faces, on slow and enjoyable rides.
Holy Name Catholic Church of Sheridan received $7,280 in grant funding to offer workshops that prepare people to be caregivers and partnering with trained and experienced caregivers to provide one-on-one support.
Each workshop will include a story or testimony from a current or former caregiver about a personal experience related to the specific topic and information from a professional in that field. Additionally, the participants will receive books and other AARP resources to help them prepare to be caregivers or support them in their current caregiving role. The church will also provide volunteer-staffed respite care for accompanying loved ones so caregivers can attend the sessions. The topics will include: financial planning, safety and home accessibility, end-of-life decisions, legal considerations, home healthcare basics and more. AARP Wyoming State President Stella Montano, a long-time Sheridan resident and passionate caregiving champion, is working closely with the Church to launch this program.
The Casper American Legion received $30,000 for its Wyoming’s Fallen Memorial, a monument which will feature the name of every Wyoming citizen who has given their lives in combat defending the freedom of the United State since the start of Wyoming’s statehood. The Casper American Legion has worked with the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars to find a way citizens can observe the memorial by foot, wheelchair, or even car. The memorial is located at Patterson Park, along the North Platte River near Fort Caspar.
The Veterans’ Rock organization out of Cheyenne received $4,000 in 2022 to help provide transportation to older veterans in hopes of helping them to stay independent. Veterans’ Rock will use this money to fund everything from rides in the organization’s vehicles, to city transit, commuter buses, and even to offer basic car repairs. Veterans’ Rock, which opened nearly two years ago, is a nonprofit organization created solely to help veterans in need and their families with clothing, personal care items, foods, household goods, small apartment-size furniture, gas and food cards. The organization also offers veterans computers to help with job searches and telehealth, much needed gear, showers, and a washer and dryer for any veteran in need to do laundry.
Powder River Basin Resource Council (PRBRC) was granted $3,712 in 2022 to provide accessible and safe seating and path lighting at an established community food forest frequented by families and older adults in Sheridan. The PRBRC and a host of dedicated food forest volunteers have been instrumental in developing and maintaining The Sheridan Food Forest over the last five years. The food forest is filled with apple and pear trees, as well as a wild berry thicket, vegetable garden, grape vines and a perennial pollinator garden and much more.
Children’s Museum of Cheyenne received $2,645 to provide a space for relaxation and contemplation on ADA-compliant outside benches, on the Children’s Museum of Cheyenne property, close to the Greater Cheyenne Greenway. The museum will place the benches at 1618 O’Neal Avenue in Cheyenne and will be built by five retired volunteers. The Cheyenne Children’s Museum has recently begun construction of its facility.
The Town of Wheatland received $28,000 from AARP in 2021, which it used to construct pickleball courts at Lewis Park on Eighth Street in Wheatland. According to Wheatland officials, there are better than 100 pickleball players in town, ranging in age from 20 to 83. That group struggled to find a place to play last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wheatland used its grant funding to repurpose an underutilized area of the City Park. The community removed seven horseshoe pits (leaving five) and replaced them with two outdoor pickleball courts in an area with existing lighting, adjacent to existing restrooms.
Evanston Main Street’s $12,550 grant went towards improving public spaces in downtown, as the Urban Renewal Agency plans to increase outdoor seating with the construction of two swing picnic tables, which will be placed in separate public gathering places.
One side of the picnic tables will be a solid bench, while the other side will have swings with the ends being open to allow for wheelchair accessibility. The second deliverable for the grant will be the addition of decorative crosswalks across Main Street. The crosswalks will bookend the area where the two swinging picnic tables will reside.
The Jackson Hole Land Trust was awarded a $10,250 grant from AARP in 2020 to provide benches in downtown Jackson. The Land Trust will partner with local artists and AARP’s Age Friendly Jackson, to purchase and install at least three locally-made benches. The benches will be located on The Block, a 1.3 acre of downtown greenspace that was recently preserved by the Land Trust. The Block will also include 100-year-old Cottonwood trees, ADA pathways through the greenspace. The Block is on the same street as a local assisted living center, and one block from the Jackson Town Square.
The Cokeville Senior Citizens Center is receiving $25,000 in 2020 Challenge Grant funds to improve walkability as well as the ability for citizens to access the town’s Senior Center. The grant is part of nearly $47,000 in community improvements, which will also include increasing access to the Cokeville City Park’s pavilion and restrooms, by adding ramps to each. The Cokeville project will include improvements to crumbling concrete, the addition of ramps, and replacement of a raised deck in the courtyard at the Senior Center, which will allow those with wheelchairs, walkers, or canes to take part in outdoor activities at the center.
The North Main Street Association in Sheridan was granted $11,700 to fund a new gazebo, picnic table and nine benches along the North Main Trail. Meanwhile, The Jackson Hole Community Pathways project was awarded a $14,440 grant to help make downtown Jackson a more enjoyable space for the age 50+. Jackson Hole Community Pathways used the money on a design workshop to solicit input from those age 50 and over on downtown walkability, amenities, and activities. Pathways is also coordinating with Cycling Without Age and Teton Adaptive Sports for two Trishaw bikes that will provide rides to seniors around town.
AARP’s Community Challenge program funded projects in Laramie and Rock Springs. In Laramie, a grant of $20,000 to fund a new fully accessible community garden to increase access to healthy food, multi-generational learning opportunities, and support a culture of health for all people living with mobility and disability challenges. In Rock Springs, a $5,000 grant has funded a mural to be prominently displayed in Downtown Rock Springs, which will depict the hard work and sacrifices of local miners and railroad workers.
Two Wyoming communities – Casper and Jackson – were awarded Community Challenge Grants. In Casper, the grant provided a safer and more convenient bus stop behind the city’s east side Albertsons at 2625 East Second Street. In Jackson, a similar bus stop was replaced in an area which was cluttered with weeds, a broken down vehicle and other trash in an underserved area of the community. A bench was placed on the site and age-friendly signage entices low-income seniors, disabled individuals, and young families to use the bus system.