There are coffee shops for the caffeine addicts, a book and stationery store for the bookworms and outdoor supply stores for those with adventurous spirits. A couple blocks away from Main Street and its small shops sits the Center for a Vital Community — the place for Sheridan’s nonprofit executive directors and board members, community leaders and those who want to help move Sheridan forward.
Terri Markham, who moved to Sheridan from Texas several years ago, connected with the CVC to start her anti-human trafficking nonprofit Uprising and calls the CVC a uniquely “invaluable” part of Sheridan’s community.
“It blows me away that there’s an organization like the CVC that exists,” Markham said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before. … The CVC is a complete treasure to the community.”
Markham immediately felt supported by the CVC and connected to the nonprofit community in Sheridan, while benefiting from the CVC’s ability to provide everything from board of directors training to appropriate nonprofit paperwork to a sound system for her organization’s event.
CVC Executive Director Amy Albrecht likens the organization to the “chamber of commerce for nonprofits,” and notes the CVC’s goals revolve around its mission statement to “invest in people to engage and strengthen the community.”
Not only does the CVC support Sheridan’s more than 400 registered nonprofits, but the organization holds small-group community conversations led by trained facilitators to incite conversation about diverse and controversial topics such as affordable housing, public lands and early childhood education. At times, the CVC has also hosted study circles that work toward finding solutions to community problems or issues.
“We don’t make the community, but we make the community better,” Albrecht said.
Just as the CVC brings community members together for its community conversations and study circles, it provides nonprofits with a network to share ideas, experiences and resources. Albrecht and the CVC’s board members are so plugged into the nonprofit community in Sheridan, they often recommend board members for new organizations.
The Sheridan Dog and Cat Shelter Executive Director Jill Moriarty reaps the benefits of the CVC’s programs, as the shelter’s board members have participated in the nonprofit board member training. Moriarty said she has experienced firsthand and seen the CVC’s desire to develop skills and business acumen in Sheridan’s nonprofit community.
“With that many nonprofits, it would be easy to see each other as competitors all competing for the same dollar,” Moriarty said. “And what the CVC does is they bring us all together and support all the functions of the nonprofits and really encourages us to share resources and share our issues. It’s become a very cooperative arrangement amongst all the nonprofits. I don’t know if it would be like that without the CVC.”
The CVC has been impacted by COVID-19 and corresponding local, state and national health guidelines — its community conversations have been socially-distanced or virtual, board member training took place on Zoom and the organization’s flagship leadership training program “CiViC Project” has been rescheduled from the spring to the fall of 2020 then to spring 2021.
Nevertheless, Albrecht shared the CVC’s goals for the future include continuing its nonprofit and community programming and reinstituting its summer “CampFIRE” leadership program for eighth-grade graduates, whether the events become virtual or modified in-person gatherings. Additionally, the CVC hopes a potential benefit of the pandemic will be a new perspective on certain discussion topics like mental health.
“It goes to show people find [our programs] valuable, even though they have to spend their time over Zoom,” Albrecht said. “But they do want to spend their time making our community better, including their own jobs and own experiences. ... We’re not just going to take the year off.”
Because, as Albrecht has witnessed and Markham and Moriarty have experienced, the CVC proves vital to the Sheridan community, just as caffeine addicts need coffee, bookworms frequent bookstores and outdoors enthusiasts seek adventure — Sheridan’s nonprofit and leadership community thrives with help from the CVC.