Squaw Valley Institute: Looking good in 2006

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Squaw Valley Institute made many strides last year ” a new office, sufficient funding and increased membership.

“And we’ve developed a reputation for really quality programming,” said Pete Bansen, institute board director and Squaw Valley fire chief.

For nearly four years the Squaw Valley Institute existed as a nonprofit organization without staff. But in January 2006, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association granted the institute $25,000 to employ part-time executive director Raine Howe.

Howe has now been with the organization for more than a year, and will be able to maintain her position as director through the following months.

“We did not need to ask the resort association for grants for staffing in 2007,” Howe said.

Additionally, the nonprofit secured a permanent office location last September at the old Squaw Valley fire station. The institute opened its office doors in November.

“It gives the institute a sense of permanency and raises [public] awareness by virtue of having an office that’s open to the public … it’s not my dining room anymore,” Howe said.

Howe was instrumental in administering a new membership program in the last year, which helped increase membership “substantially,” said John Wilcox, the organization’s board president.

The number of members roughly doubled from years past, Howe said. And the institute used to net an average of $5,000 yearly from dues but brought in more than $20,000 in 2006. The institute also relies on grants and donations for funding.

“We’re on target to be self-sustaining in 2007,” Wilcox said.

Squaw Valley Institute offers an average of two programs per month, ranging in topics from arts and culture to education and environment. It is one of the few organizations in the region to provide this type of year-round programming.

The institute bridges the gap in North Lake Tahoe between being a resort destination and a rural community with limited access to the world of arts, humanities and sciences, Howe said.

The institute has invited Betsy Rosenberg to speak Jan. 13 on environmental issues in “Planting green seeds in mainstream media and (finally) watching them take root.” Rosenberg has been a long-time visitor of North Lake Tahoe and has a timeshare in Northstar, Howe said.

Rosenberg hosts a radio show in the Bay Area called Eco-Talk. At her presentation Saturday, Rosenberg will share tips on how environmental information is shared through the news and how people can help reverse some of the effects humans have had on our planet.

“Rosenberg cares deeply about the regional environment,” Howe said. “Which is why she’s agreed to present information on caring for the regional, national and global environment.”

Bansen agreed that we should all be concerned about the environment and the effects of global warning, particularly because our North Tahoe economy depends upon winter recreation. Many people live and visit this area because of the wonderful, pristine surroundings, he said. If lake clarity falters or snow levels climb higher, Tahoe’s economic and environmental viability may diminish, Bansen said.

While 2006 turned out to be a very accomplished year, the institute is looking forward to another one in 2007, Wilcox said.

“The institute is having increasing levels of success in being supported by the community and the number and kinds of programs we’re doing,” Wilcox said.

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