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5B Engine Works Thinks It Can be Agent of Change
Sunday, May 15, 2022


They call themselves 5B Engine Works.

It’s a clever play on both the children’s story, “The Little Engine That Could” about the little engine who scaled the mountain saying “I think I can,” and the trains that came to Sun Valley bringing tourists to Idaho’s 5B county.

In this case, 5B Engine Works is a new organization for women that meets four times a year to fund small nonprofits bent on making the community better.

“We are very much a grassroots organization, seeking out those small- to mid-size organizations that are doing meaningful work in Blaine County,” said founder Nancie Tatum. “We feel we have a significant opportunity to utilize the concept of collective giving to address the smaller nonprofit organizations in Blaine County who are doing meaningful work yet don’t always have the resources to tell their story.”

Modeled after 100 Men Who Care, 5B Engine Works does not charge dues. It asks members to support the organizations by donating $100 each quarter. Donors may designate their money to one or both of the presenters making a pitch at each meeting.

“Our process can and should be informed, immediate, impactful and unencumbered,” Tatum said.

The organization was able to hit the ground running, thanks to The Spur Foundation Directory’s list of 76 nonprofits. Members select a category for each meeting and invite two organizations fitting that category to make pitches.

The categories are sports and recreation; social, health and wellness programs and services; animals and wildlife; education; environment, arts and culture; community and housing; holiday causes and special human needs. The July 6 meeting will focus on housing. The Oct. 5 meeting will support animals and wildlife.

During the first two meetings, 5B Engine Works members donated $14,600. The first meeting’s donations went to the Community Table, which brings neighborhoods together over food, and The Alliance of Idaho, which provides low- or no-cost legal services for immigrants. 

The second round of donations went to the Kids Mountain Fund, which provides ski gear for kids learning to ski at Rotarun; Piper’s Peak, an organization providing environmental experiences for young girls, and Sun Valley Lacrosse. Organizations need not be 501C(3) to provide significant impact to the community, Tatum said.

A couple weeks ago the organization met to consider two educational organizations.

Elise DeKlotz, a 34-year veteran of special education for grades kindergarten through grade 12 and a former teacher in Mexico City and Singapore, asked for funds to buy puppets and props that would be used with children’s story time and the library’s Get Ready for Kindergarten program, as well as other programs.

The social emotional learning program is designed to fill the gap created when the local Head Start program was cut in 2015 by teaching families the skills their children need to transition to kindergarten. into practice school readiness.  Activities include an observation game like “I Spy,” as well as games for learning about colors, shapes, counting and vocabulary.

DeKlotz noted that children need to learn 25 skills during the first five years of their lives to successfully transition to school, and she described how the puppets, such as Eddie the Eagle, help children learn listening skills and language development.

“You have families that really need that support for their children. In some families both parents work more than full time. Some may not have had the education that they would have liked,” she added.

She also described how she reads books to the children, presenting each with copies of that book so that by the end of kindergarten each has nine books that form the basis of their personal libraries. The library recently hired a Spanish-speaking individual to offer Spanish storytelling on Saturday mornings.

Beth Crawford, who owned and operated and taught The Living Garden preschool, requested funds for Blaine County’s Early Childhood Special Education program, which uses assistive technology and more to address speech and language needs and more for children with such challenges as severe autism and cognitive problems.

Crawford said that she is allotted a $250 budget, which basically covers cleaning supplies. It doesn’t cover things like Play Doh, painting supplies or even specific tables and chairs that are required.

“Last year we got a grant from the Papoose Club so we could build an indoor growing garden cart to teach children how food is grown,” she told the women. “A grant will make a huge difference in the lives of these children with special needs.”

“Wow! The things we don’t know about in this community” said Jane Springman, as the two women wrapped up their pitches. “I love that we get to know about the community and hear directly from people.”

The organization meets for an hour the first Wednesday of the quarter at various places. Without overhead all the money donated can go directly to the nonprofits, Tatum said.

“It’s a simple, simple process focused on simple giving,” she added. “In ‘The Little Engine That Could,’ each train gives different reasons for why it won’t or can’t help. The lesson the book imparts is about the opportunity that you should do the right thing, no matter what. Tillie, the little engine that could, came along and did the right thing by helping deliver.”

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