Scores of Grand County’s most vulnerable families experienced an Easter miracle of sorts after a retired Castle Valley couple donated more than $22,000 to Moab Solutions.
They did so in an effort to help the hundreds of people who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic that resulted in an almost complete shutdown of the Moab economy.
The couple agreed to be interviewed on one condition: that they not be identified.
“I know how hard they work and how hard they have it,” said the woman, who said she hopes their gesture inspires others to do the same.
“I picked up my phone and didn’t recognize the number,” said Moab Solutions founder Sara Melnicoff. “But I recognized the voice and knew it was someone who had donated before.”
Moab Solutions is a unique nonprofit in that its mission is multilayered, ranging from recycling waste to helping struggling families and individuals pay bills, from advocating for the homeless to helping other nonprofits fulfill their missions.
“She said she wanted to do something to help people,” recounted Melnicoff. “She wanted to hand out cash, but I told her we don’t normally give out cash, for obvious reasons, but she said ‘these are not normal times. There are so many people out of work who don’t have access to assistance.’” Melnicoff was stunned to hear the rest. “I asked how much she wanted to donate and when she said $10,000, that’s when I almost dropped the phone.”
In total, the woman donated from her savings the oddly specific sum of $12,420.20. A few days later, her husband called and advised Melnicoff he would donate an additional $10,000 from his savings. “I explained I would work with different agencies so people would really benefit from an infusion of cash,” said Melnicoff.
Melnicoff still can’t get over the act of kindness. “They really love each other,” she said. The motto of Moab Solutions is, “Each of us can make a difference in the world.” The help to others with this donation has already aided a single mom of a young boy who “spent her last dime paying rent and isn’t sure if she qualifies for unemployment insurance,” said Melnicoff. “She was in shock. She was in tears.” The woman further benefited when someone anonymously purchased a week’s worth of groceries.
Melnicoff said she deposited the money in a fund called community gifts. There is a paper trail to show who receives cash and how much. One of those trails leads to two out-of-work housekeepers who benefited from the couple’s donation.
Seekhaven and the Moab Valley Multicultural Center are two local fundraisers Melnicoff worked with in handing out the cash. “Everyone is overjoyed,” she said. “Being able to help so many people is a thrill.”
Melnicoff said the couple’s gift was “probably the largest single donation” in Moab Solutions’ history, at least one given for a specific purpose.
The two are as humble as they are generous. They are grateful to Melnicoff for helping them help others. “We just don’t have words for what you’re doing,” he was overheard saying to her.
“We’ve lived here for several decades and got to know a lot of the locals, river guides and boaters, restaurant workers and clerks,” he said. “They have a hard time already. Housing is terrible in Moab. In the old days winter was longer and the tourism season was shorter. Right now, they’re really scratching it out, losing jobs … they need help and we just happen to be in a position to do so.”
The two have outlived their children and they’re “getting by OK. We’ve had a good life, and we’re giving back.”
“This just blows my mind,” said Melnicoff. “The goodness of people is incredibly touching.”