Lori Bagwell: FISH has come a long way since 2013

It is not what the dream is; it’s what the dream accomplishes!

In 2013, as President of FISH (Friends in Service Helping), I had three goals:

1: To obtain funding to save our Thrift Store complex as our mortgage like many was underwater;

2: To remodel the Thrift Store to make it more welcoming and inviting to improve sales; and

3: To improve our Shelter Program to provide for the homeless in Carson City.

I feel so blessed to report with the help of a strong Board of Directors and Executive Director, these goals are being realized.

Three years ago, FISH began an annual celebrity waiter event called “Have a Heart” at Glen Eagles. We also began selling Have a Heart Memberships. My husband and I set an example by purchasing the first membership. What is an even better result is the community has become part of the FISH family. This resulted in a tremendous infusion of financial resources and allowed FISH to refinance the property and lower our monthly mortgage commitment.

Because Carson City selected an historic theme for redoing the downtown, the FISH Board selected a western architectural style. With the generous building industry volunteers in our community, this goal is almost completed. I hope everyone enjoys our new facade.

The third goal was going to be a bigger challenge, or so I thought! While campaigning for the Board of Supervisors, I met Garth Richards. He questioned me at length about my vision and goals for Carson City. We had a conversation about the FISH Shelter program and that I wanted to find a way to help create a permanent location and to alleviate our need to pay long term rent. This conversation ultimately resulted in a generous and outstanding gift — Mr. Richards and his family donated the office building and the land that he owned on Jeanell Drive to FISH.

The FISH Board looked at various scenarios to maximize use of the property. One of the scenarios was to use the property as housing for shelters to replace various properties that FISH rented for use by the homeless.

As with most projects, the vision grew larger as time passed. We began a dialogue with Carson City Health and Human Services and the Nevada Rural Housing Authority. It was determined that a study should be done to establish the most appropriate housing for the needs in our community. Carson City paid for a grant funded study to determine the type of housing for our homeless population. Based on the results of the study, the FISH Board of Directors realized the community needed low income permanent housing more than additional shelter space.

FISH began meeting with all the housing stakeholders in Carson City to develop the best plan forward to ensure the housing needs would be met. Ultimately we transferred the Jeanell property to the State of Nevada in order to obtain tax-financing credits and other financing and management methods not available to FISH.

The Nevada Rural Housing Authority has worked diligently with FISH to make this a reality — a new 39-unit apartment complex. In a few short weeks, the ground will be turned and the building will be under construction.

One of the most important parts of this project will be the dedication of eight of these units for chronic homeless veterans. The Veterans Administration will fund the ongoing rental cost of these units. The remaining 31 units will be prioritized with veterans’ first, then disabled individuals and then the general homeless population.

In honor of Mr. Richards’ gift, the complex on Jeanell Drive will be named Richards Crossing and will serve the needs of this community for many years.

Richards Crossing is expected to open in April or May of 2017. The final need is to furnish and equip the apartments with furniture and household supplies, as we know homeless individuals do not usually own those items. The cost to fund the needs of a unit is $1,425.

The Mayor and I are co-chairing a fundraiser to furnish the 39 units. We are individually outfitting the first two units. Gold Dust West, Battle Born Chapter-Daughters of the American Revolution, Glen Eagles Restaurant and Dick Winston have also agreed to sponsor units. Those wishing to contribute to this project can make their checks payable to FISH at 138 E. Long Street and indicate RICHARDS CROSSING. All contributions are welcome and tax deductible. You may also contact Bob Crowell at 230-1311 or Lori Bagwell at 220-3646.

This community never ceases to amaze me with its generosity and kindness to our residents in need. Together we are in the process of making this project a reality!

And along the way, somebody up there helped me to accomplish my dream.

Lori Bagwell is a member of the Board of Directors of FISH.


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