Festival of Trees to continue under guidance of Community Entry Services; Bags for Bounty in Lander Nov. 2

By Ernie Over, managing editor, county10.com

(Lander, Wyo.) – The Chief Executive Officer of Community Entry Services told members of the Lander Rotary Club that Fremont County’s 8th Annual Festival of Trees will be held this year under the guidance of his organization.

“The event was originally established by the Lander-Riverton Business Leadership Network, but they have ceased operations here and we’ve picked up that event,” Shawn Griffin said. “The Festival is scheduled for December 7th and 8th at the Fremont County Fairground’s Fremont Center.” The theme of the event this year is A Rocky Mountain Christmas.

The Festival of Trees is a two day event, according to CES’s Cindy Keele. Individuals, groups and organizations decorate and donate Christmas trees for the Festival. Friday night, Dec. 7th, is the Family night at which families have an opportunity to view all of the decorated Christmas Trees that will be auctioned off.  “There will be a cake walk and kids will have a chance to visit with Santa, plus other activities,” she said. Saturday night is more of a gala themed for adults with a silent and live auction, an open bar and county restaurants will provide food and compete in a Taste of Fremont County for bragging rights.

Griffin said he was happy that CES would continue the Festival of Trees, which he said had become a very popular event.

CEC CEO Shawn Griffin spoke at the Lander Rotary Club. (Ernie Over photo)

In a State of the State type presentation, Griffin told the Lander Rotarians that CES is now the largest provider of services to individuals with developmental disabilities in the state. “We serve clients not only in Lander and Riverton, but also Jackson and Casper,” he said. “We serve 260 clients, with about 70-75 of them in Lander, about 115 in Riverton, 30-35 in Jackson and about clients 20 in Casper.” Griffin said CES operates two distinctive programs, one for people with developmental disabilities and the other for people with traumatic brain injuries. “They each have different rehabilitation needs,” he said. Griffin also said the firm’s clients range from individuals who need total care, those who are medically fragile to those who own their own homes and have full-time jobs. “Our goal is to maintain as much independence for our clients as possible, despite the severity of their individual disability.”

Of CES’s total of 250 employees, 210 are located in Fremont County. “We’re a private business, but we depend a lot on Medicaid. Our budget is $11-million annually, with 81 percent of our revenue coming from Medicaid and 19 percent coming from grants or contract for services,” he said. “Very few of our clients are self pay. We want to lessen the amount of government support we received, especially in this era of declining funding.”

He said there is a very long waiting list for people needing the kinds of services provided by CES.

“There are over 500 families on the waiting list, and some of them have been waiting for up to six years or more,” he said. ” With budgets becoming tighter, we need to find ways to support those families. As such, Griffin said CES will be doing more private fundraising than in the past in an effort to lessen the company’s reliance on Medicaid reimbursements. “We also wand to create more local awareness of our services.”

The next major fundraiser for CES is a program called “Bags for Bounty,” a bag and purse auction which is geared to support the Art program for CES clients. “We’ve done this in the past in Riverton, and we want to expand it to Lander, so we’re having the event on Friday, Nov. 2 at the Noble Hotel,” Keele said. “We’ll have hors d’oeuvres from Chef Duane Tiger and themed bags for every gender and age, it’s not just purses,” she said. “We have one package, Arm Chair Quarterback, that includes a recliner from Kusels, tickets to a Wyoming Cowboy event, Cowboy Joe items and a sports bag.” Other bag packages include such premiums as “Flavors of the West” with spices from High Mountain Jerkey and a suitcase for youngsters suitable for overnighters at friends’ with items such as a movie, snacks, a toothbrush and such.”

One of the most visible services CES offers is the countywide recycling at the Lander and Riverton bale stations. “We’ve been recycling locally to help save space in our landfills and to create jobs, real meaningful jobs for people with disabilities,” he said. “This has grown into a big deal, and we just opened a new Recycling center in Riverton.”

For information on the Festival of Trees or the Bags for Bounty events, contact Cindy Keele at 307-856-5576 or email her at ckeele@ces-usa.com.