Grocer introduces art program

March 21, 2019

Do you have artwork you no longer want but would like to see go to a good home?

Jackson Whole Grocer wants to sell it and donate the proceeds to System of Care, a network of government agencies and nonprofits involved in health and human services (see sidebar). The east wall of the store’s cafe seating area will soon be dedicated to a new “Art from the Heart” initiative.

“You drop your art off, we’ll put it on the wall and we’ll sell it,” store owner Jeff Rice said.

An “eclectic mix at a variety of prices” is what he envisions.

“I hope it will be a fun treasure hunt every time you’re in there,” he said.

The grocery store has also reoriented two long-standing philanthropic programs in the same direction. If you donate the nickel you get for bringing your own bag or round your bill up to the nearest dollar, those proceeds will go to System of Care instead of a variety of nonprofits.

“As we’re going through economic changes at the state and federal level, human services get hit hard,” Rice said. “That got me started thinking about our philanthropy — the overall effectiveness.”

The giving in the Jackson Hole community is “amazing,” he said, and much of it is focused on conservation and wildlife. Though he appreciates that, he also started wondering: Who’s really focused on the people in the area?

“We’re a wealthy community, and the perception is that everybody’s fine, but there isn’t necessarily a direct correlation,” he said. “People need to be cared for as much as the wildlife and the land.”

Laura Soltau, executive director of the Teton Literacy Center, applauded Whole Grocer for channeling the funds to the entire system rather than separating donations into smaller amounts to specific organizations. That will deepen the impact, she said.

Soltau described System of Care as a cooperative framework.

“We get together to collaborate on and focus on community needs and work together to provide comprehensive services without duplication,” she said.

The Literacy Center, for example, focuses on literacy and education, but it gets to know families well and can spot needs that other System of Care members can address. It can refer people to One22 for financial assistance, Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Teton Area for housing and the Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center for mental health services.

“Five or six years ago we started an early literacy program,” Soltau said. “That started from the high waitlist at Head Start at the Children’s Learning Center.”

Addressing human needs in Jackson Hole is important, she said, because “when one of us falls we fall with them.” Members of the community might not see some of the problems because System of Care works well.

“We do a good job in the community of working together and somewhat hiding these issues,” Soltau said.

It makes sense that valley residents become excited about arts and conservation nonprofits and do not always have human services front and center in their minds for their charitable giving.

“People are drawn to their passion,” Soltau said.

Some of the challenges System of Care members deal with are “hard work” she said, and not a “fun topic.”

System of Care providers are pleased that Whole Grocer will allow the group to decide where the money will go, Soltau said.

“Each year System of Care will look to the full group to say, ‘Where are funds needed to go this year?’” Soltau said.

For starters it will be summer scholarships — camps and academic programs — and situations in which people are in economic crisis, she said.

Rice shared examples of the latter: “Food insecurity due to financial issues, transportation issues that threaten one’s ability to get to work and stay employed (i.e., their tires are shot and they don’t have the money for new ones), medical care that requires financial aid, mental illness that requires treatment/counseling and requires financial aid, etc.”

What Whole Grocer is doing is about more than funding, though, Soltau said.

“It’s also the outreach,” she said. “It’s a business that sees many members of the community every day. We can use that to recruit volunteers and get the message out about what issues we want to put at the forefront.

“It’s a great avenue to reach an audience we might not otherwise.”

Rice described Whole Grocer’s concentration on Systems of Care as giving “an inch wide and a mile deep” rather than “an inch deep and a mile wide.”

“It will have a more meaningful and lasting impact,” he said.

If you have art to donate, see the customer service desk at Whole Grocer.