People of all ages appear to be drawn to the spirit of giving to Moab Solutions outside City Market. [Photo courtesy of Sara Melnicoff]

Moab Solutions is less than two weeks into its annual fundraising campaign, but already the nonprofit organization has raised $4,367.38 at its table set up in front of City Market.

One-hundred percent of the donated funds, said the organization’s founder Sara Melnicoff, will be given back directly to the community for emergency needs. The fundraiser, which began the day after Thanksgiving, will be going on through Dec. 24.

At her home in Moab on Dec. 5, Melnicoff opens an alphabetized catalog on her desk. When people call Moab Solutions for emergency help, she takes handwritten notes: the name of the person calling, their contact number, what they’re asking for and how the issue is being resolved. Then she gets to work “checking things out” to make sure the person has a valid need and there is no other resource available to the person.

She pulls a slip of paper from the catalog and studies it. This one, she said, was a call from a father of two children who had listed his house for rent while he was working out of state. The people who rented the house “ran up the water bill,” Melnicoff recalls, and when he was laid off from work, his water was shut off because of the unpaid bill.

“I called Grand Water and Sewer (Service Agency) and paid the bill over the phone and they turned it back on within an hour,” Melnicoff said.

Moab Solutions averages 22 assists per month, she said.

“Some months it could be 30 assists, some months it could be 15,” Melnicoff said. “I get calls all the time.”

She pointed to her landline and chuckled, “Sometimes I will get a call on my cell phone and then my other phone rings — everything starts happening at once.”

Carol Mayer has been volunteering with Moab Solutions for four years.

“The organization has really helped people over the years,” Mayer said. “This is a particularly hard part of the community — alcoholism, drug addiction and homelessness. It’s always easy for the majority to turn away, but Sara has, for years, been the one you can count on to call.”

The organization spends close to $25,000 a year helping people with various needs in the community, whether it’s parents with children who are living in public campgrounds without heat in the winter, or people living along the creek who need to be put in touch with more intensive resources like case management and substance abuse rehabilitation. Once the nature of each emergency request is understood, Melnicoff establishes relationships, working with numerous agencies to find a solution. Partners include local churches, Seekhaven Family Crisis and Resource Center, Moab Valley Multicultural Center, Four Corners Community Behavioral Health, Moab Regional Hospital and Moab City Police Department.

“What I love about the whole thing is that it’s the community directly helping the community,” Melnicoff said.

She said 20 people requested assistance from Moab Solutions in November.

“In November it ranged from having someone transported to the Phoenix Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center to the police calling us over two stranded people and we put them up for a night while someone was coming to pick them up from quite a far distance,” she said.

Danny Ganino, a volunteer at Moab Solutions, regularly drives people to rehabilitation and treatment centers, often out of state.

“Moab has limited resources so we have to go outside of the area to find help for people,” Ganino said. “Most of the times they are involved with the court systems and have been in jail for a brief period of time. They’re sober, and usually scared.”

Ganino has shared that feeling of uncertainty and fear — he is a recovering alcoholic, with seven years of sobriety so far.

“I have the opportunity to share my experience of what it was like to me and give them encouragement,” Ganino said. “It is actually a blessing for me and allows me to give back to society the gift that I was given, sobriety.”

He said he has never had a bad experience in transporting a person to rehabilitation — “most of the time, the people are very grateful to have the opportunity to go to treatment,” he said.

As the winter months come into season, Melnicoff expects December and January to be busy.

“Last night I got a call from a woman,” Melnicoff said, picking up another slip of paper from the catalog at her desk. “She wants her kids to have a good education so she has been camping on BLM land. She is trying to buy a trailer and have it established in the city. She works on the weekends, but somehow she wasn’t paid and she had no money. I put her up in The Virginian Motel for a few nights because there were kids involved.”

As the calls for help increase year-to-year, Melnicoff said the donations from the community are increasing, too.

“People are stuck, they have nowhere to turn sometimes. To ease suffering, humans have the power to do that for fellow humans. It’s sort of incumbent for us to do that for humans,” Melnicoff said.

Her work is well-known in the Moab community.

“When I first found out about the homeless people dying on the Millcreek Parkway, I said, ‘That’s not OK with me,’” Melnicoff said. “That’s when we started working with all the homeless in 2008 and we eventually got everyone in rehab, housing or with family.”

For several years, Melnicoff led the local Salvation Army effort, but transitioned to running Moab Solutions full time in 2017.

When she worked with Salvation Army, she sat with someone while he died. He recorded his story, “As individual as fingerprints: Bill Thompson interview sequence,” in 2012 shortly before his death from liver cancer. It’s the story of a local man, Bill Thompson, who struggled with homelessness and alcoholism before Melnicoff assisted him with entering rehab.

“He wanted to make his last moments on Earth count, and he wanted to encourage other people,” Melnicoff said. “If he could do it, they could do it. He went from being arrested by the police to being friends with the police. He very publicly freed himself from addiction.”

It’s one of the many examples, Melnicoff said, of how the community’s assistance to someone with an emergency need can help to improve people’s lives and the city as a whole.

Moab Solutions raising emergency funds outside City Market

“People are stuck, they have nowhere to turn sometimes. To ease suffering, humans have the power to do that for fellow humans.”