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Lighthouse Christian's Taylor Smith brings the ball up against Hansen during their conference matchup Thursday night, Jan. 10, 2019, at Lighthouse Christian in Twin Falls.


Certified Nurse-Midwife Melissa Merrill examines patient Jessica Burk on Monday at the St. Luke's Jerome Clinic in Jerome.


Certified Nurse-Midwife Melissa Merrill listens to the heartbeat of Jessica Burk's baby Monday at the St. Luke's Jerome Clinic in Jerome.

Veterans services, a garden and more: First Federal Foundation awards $36K to 13 nonprofts

JEROME — After moving into Twin Falls County West, the Twin Falls Veterans Council has faced a challenge: getting records organized and in one place.

Now, the council will be able to buy computers to help with that process. It’s among 13 Magic Valley nonprofits that received a total of about $36,000 in grant funding Thursday from the First Federal Foundation during a twice-yearly awards luncheon.

Twin Falls Veterans Council — a group of eight veterans’ organizations — was formed in 2013.

There are about 11,000 veterans in the Magic Valley, council chairman Harvey McCoy told luncheon attendees. Most keep to themselves and don’t discuss what happened while they were serving their country, he said.

The Twin Falls Veterans Council wants to provide a haven for veterans, McCoy said. The space at Twin Falls County West — which includes a recreation room — will be open to veterans at least five days a week.

Nationwide, there’s a tragic situation with losing 20 veterans every day to suicide, McCoy, adding the council wants to save as many veterans as it can.

The First Federal Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization, began in 2003 with a $1 million donation from First Federal Bank. It has awarded more than $800,000 in grants since its inception. This year, it distributed $76,000.

“It’s one of our favorite days,” First Federal Foundation board chairman Tom Ashenbrener told attendees during the Thursday luncheon at Blue Lakes Country Club in Jerome. “We want to enjoy this.”

For this grant cycle, the foundation received about 40 applications and chose 13 recipients.

“The measure of successful communities our size is how well we take care of each other,” Ashenbrener said. Addressing the nonprofit leaders in the room, he added: “You all take care of us spectacularly well.”

Leaders from each nonprofit spoke for a few minutes about their work and how they’ll use the grant money:


Debbie Thomas, CEO of The Walker Center for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and Human Resources Director Joshua Nielsen thank the foundation for their grant Thursday during the First Federal Foundation's grant luncheon at the Blue Lakes Country Club in Jerome.

The Walker Center

Grant money will be used for materials to enhance The Walker Center’s curriculum.

“I don’t have the words to describe how grateful we are to accept this check from the First Federal Foundation,” said Joshua Nielsen, human resources director at The Walker Center.

The alcohol and drug addiction treatment center opened in the 1970s.

Burley High School’s trap team

Burley High School’s trap team began in spring 2017, said teacher Colleen Parkin, a teacher of 29 years who’s in her second year of coaching high school trap. She brought two club members — who are high school seniors — along with her to the presentation.

Parkin said she has seen a lot of growth within the participating students in what’s a lifelong sport. “My mission is that these kids will have a safe and fun and learning experience in a very controlled environment.”

Grant money will be used to purchase supplies such as shooting carts.

Robert Stuart Middle School

Associate principal Justin White and physical education teacher Katie Kauffman accepted the award. The grant money will pay for half the cost of a basketball court at the school. The Twin Falls School District is covering the rest of the cost.

Robert Stuart Middle School has a lot of land, but there’s not a lot for students to do outside, White said. The basketball court — which will also be open to the community — will be up-and-running in March.

Jubilee House

Jubilee House is a 12-month, faith-based residential recovery program for women who are coming out of drug and alcohol addictions.

Grant money will be used to help address electrical issues in the kitchen.

Adaptive Cycling of Southern Idaho

Adaptive Cycling of Southern Idaho is a local chapter of National AMBUCS, Inc. It provides adaptive bicycles and trikes to children and adults of all ages who have special needs.

The nonprofit has a waiting list of at least 10 people. It will use grant money toward pursuing bicycles and trikes — each of which can range in cost from $500 to $1,500.

Helping Hearts and Hands

Helping Hearts and Hands provides assistance to Gooding, Bliss and Wendell residents. It offers a community food pantry, food for kids program and distributes winter coats to children in need.

Grant money will be used to fix concrete in the back of the facility — where food deliveries come in — and to buy security cameras.


Tom Ashenbrener, chairman of the foundation board of directors, congratulates LaMar Orton as he presents a grant to the Orton Botanical Garden on Thursday during the First Federal Foundation's grant luncheon at the Blue Lakes Country Club in Jerome.

Orton Botanical Garden

President LaMar Orton said there are three goals for the five-acre Twin Falls botanical garden: showcase drought tolerant plants, educate people about drought tolerant plants, and conserve water and teach people how to conserve.

The garden is best known for its 150,000-light Christmas display, Orton said.

Grant money will be used to buy sign holders to protect signs at the garden, which provide visitors with information like the common and scientific names of each plant, the family of plant, and which states each plant can be found in.

Magic Valley Youth and Adult Services

The nonprofit has provided social services in the Magic Valley since 1984, president Susan Baca said. That includes working with low-income adults to help them get education, with youth who are aging out of the foster care system, and recruiting and training foster parents.

The opioid crisis has really struck the Magic Valley, Baca said, and there’s an increased need for foster parents.

Grant money will be used for technology for the nonprofit’s classes.

Gooding Volunteer Group

Gooding Volunteer Group formed in 2014 as a group of parents passionate about improving the community of Gooding, said project coordinator Dallas Scoffield.

Grant money will go toward the group’s second project — a playground at West Park. It was the last $5,000 the group needed to meet its $75,000 goal, Scoffield said.

Volunteers will install playground equipment in April and May. It will feature a story walk with 16 stations, thanks to a collaboration with the Gooding Public Library.

West End Ministerial Association

The Buhl food pantry is overseen by the West End Ministerial Association and staffed 100 percent by volunteers. It serves primarily Buhl and Castleford residents.

In 2018, the nonprofit served more than 2,000 households, representing 4,273 people.

The nonprofit has seen an uptick in new households in Buhl and that’s stretching the organization’s resources, West End Ministerial Association president Jim Tubbs said.

Grant money will be used for part of a three-phase building project. A gutter upgrade will help prevent water from getting into the building’s basement, where a lot of food is stored, Tubbs said.

Mini-Cassia Transitional Living

It’s a six-bed facility that helps women who are coming out of incarceration, addiction or abuse. It’s a six-to-18-month faith-based program.

Badger Wrestling

The Buhl wrestling club now has 501©(3) status as a nonprofit and recently purchased property. Grant money will be used to help get the building usable for the club wrestling team.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.

Tax Reform: Revenue panel projects $93 million less than Little

BOISE — The committee that reviews state revenues is projecting $93.2 million less to spend in 2019-2020 than the number Gov. Brad Little projected.

The Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee voted Thursday to recommend the state use a number of $3.96 billion in revenue when setting budgets for 2019-2020, which was the median of the committee members’ projections. Little had projected $4.06 billion.

The 11-4 vote was party-line, with all the Republicans present in favor and all the Democrats opposed.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, had proposed accepting Little’s recommendation.

The Democrats and Republicans agreed to accept Little’s projection of $3.75 billion in total revenue for the current fiscal year, which is marked now by uncertainty due to tax changes that have meant many people haven’t withheld enough from their paychecks and will have to pay their taxes later.

The budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will accept the report Friday morning, although it won’t vote until February to set its own revenue targets, said Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, the revenue assessment committee’s co-chairwoman and a vice chairwoman of JFAC. By then, she said, JFAC will have more revenue numbers from January, which could change things.

If JFAC members decide to accept a lower number than Little’s, the effect will be less money available to cover any new funding requests. Little is asking for a 6.7 percent increase in general fund spending.

Sen. Jeff Agenbroad, R-Nampa, said the struggles of the state’s agricultural economy could bring down revenue.

“I think it’s prudent to be fiscally conservative, certainly within reason,” he said.

Before voting, the committee heard presentations on the current revenue situation, which has been down from what was estimated mainly due to a drop in individual income tax revenue. With December numbers now available, overall general fund revenues for the first half of the fiscal year are down $101.6 million from the same time a year ago.

“I think some of that uncertainty we should carry into 2020,” said Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls. “Yes, our tax rates will be stable, but we really don’t know how that will carry into 2020.”

Much of this shortfall is believed to be because many taxpayers didn’t adjust their W-4s to account for last year’s tax cut, meaning less money is being withheld from people’s paychecks and more people will end up having to pay additional taxes rather than getting a refund. Tax Commission Chairman Ken Roberts called the shortfall “a temporary cash flow phenomenon that will largely correct by the end of the fiscal year.”

Roberts also told lawmakers about another new issue — far fewer people paid their taxes in late December than had in past years. Traditionally, some people did this to take advantage of the federal State and Local Tax deduction on their income taxes; collections in the two weeks around late December/early January had fluctuated from about $60 million to $80 million from 2014 through 2016.

At the end of 2017, a glut of people filed early since it was the last year to do so before the new $10,000 cap on the deduction took effect. This boosted state collection to more than $160 million. This year, however, the state collected around $10 million in that two-week period.

Again, Roberts said he was “very confident that this is strictly a cash flow issue” and the money would come in eventually.

‘It doesn’t surprise me.’ Idaho drinks most wine per capita of all 50 states. Really?

BOISE — Feel free to roll your eyes at a new VinePair article claiming Idaho consumes more wine per capita than any other state.

But like the saying goes, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. It’s a river in Boise. Flowing with cabernet.

Pop a cork, Idaho, and share a toast: We’re No. 1!

“Wow,” chuckled Barry Devine, wine buyer at the Boise Co-op. “It kind of doesn’t really surprise me in the Valley.”

“It’s plausible,” added Moya Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission. “Idaho does consume a lot of wine.”

Skeptical? Understandable. After all, VinePair is the same drinking-culture website that deemed Boise one of “The World’s Top 10 Beer Destinations for 2018.” (Flattering, but come on. The entire world?)

That said, VinePair created its state-by-state wine consumption maps by nabbing data from a government source — the National Institutes of Health (NIH), specifically the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

According to a similar VinePair article in 2015 — where Idaho also grape-stomped all challengers — the per-capita numbers include drinkers 14 years and older. The legal drinking age is 21, of course.

Because of Idaho’s modest population size, the Gem State is far from topping overall consumption. That honor goes to California, which also produces the vast majority of American wine.

But in 2016, the most recent year studied by the NIH, the average Idahoan supposedly sipped twice as much wine as the average Californian — consuming 1.19 gallons of ethanol to the Golden State’s .59 gallons. Adding to the believability is Utah’s ranking: .19 gallons, or fourth lowest in the nation.

With Idaho also having a significant Mormon population, how could our state rank No. 1?

“It seems strange that to me that could be the case,” Devine said.

Boise’s lust for all things vineyard-related must make up for it. “Yeah, locally, I totally feel that way,” Devine said. “We get a lot of people that love to drink wine. We fill up classes and cellar tastings all the time.”

Boiseans have a favorite wine, Devine said — all of it. “We sell a lot of French wines. We sell a lot of Italian wines. But then we sell a lot of cabernet and chardonnay.”

Enough to out-guzzle everyone else in the United States, apparently.

“Who is drinking all this wine?” Dolsby wondered. “I would love to say it’s true, and I would love to believe it. But I just don’t know.”

What we can be sure of is that Idaho’s wine industry is growing. Check out all the new wineries and tasting rooms that have appeared in recent years. “The local wine scene here is huge,” Devine said.

Still, wine made in the Gem State doesn’t explain the VinePair ranking. “Obviously, we don’t have enough Idaho wine for everyone in the state of Idaho to consume all that,” Dolsby says.

“For someone to do a ‘MythBusters’ on this,” she says, “that would be awesome.”

Clarification: This article was updated to reflect per-capita numbers as gallons of ethanol.