Virginia City was the site of Nevada’s first mining boom, which put the state on the map in 1859 with the discovery of the Comstock Lode.
By the mid-1860s, the area was home to 25,000 people, including beloved American author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). The Comstock produced gold and silver, and the wealth helped support the Union Army during the American Civil War, which aided Nevada’s case for statehood. But today, the town’s population has dwindled to about 1,000 people, with about 3,000 more living in neighboring communities in Storey County. The area lacks social services to address social and economic challenges like high unemployment and domestic violence, and there are few supplementary educational opportunities for children.
Fortunately for area residents the non-profit organization, Community Chest, is helping address many of these challenges. A newly-built community center is home to a number of the 30 Community Chest programs that deal with issues such as domestic violence, community health services and unemployment. The organization also runs a food bank and an after-school program for elementary and middle school students.
Barrick, which operates a natural-gas power plant in Storey County, has contributed $323,000 to Community Chest and partnered with the organization on several projects since 2011, including the construction of the community center.
“This community is grateful to Barrick and its employees,” says Seth Griffin, Executive Director of Community Chest. “We couldn’t have done these things without them. They’ve been instrumental with their support.”
Barrick believes in sharing the benefits of its business with its host communities, with a goal of leaving a lasting positive legacy, says Tim Buchanan, Barrick’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility in North America.
“Community Chest is passionate about building strong families and communities, and providing assistance to kids and families in need,” Buchanan says. “They’re very driven in that mission.”
Griffin came to Virginia City more than 30 years ago to be a “writer and ski bum.” After he and his wife, Deborah, had children, they realized some basic community services were lacking. They started a pre-school 24 years ago that eventually grew into Community Chest. When Community Chest purchased its new community center, the Griffins put up their own home as collateral.
In addition to the numerous social service programs, the community center is the new home of the Virginia City library. The library had closed in 2012 due to funding shortages and its 18,000 volumes of books were to be sold. Community Chest stepped in and became stewards of the collection. Griffin, the author of five poetry collections and a member of the Nevada Writer’s Hall of Fame, said closing the library would have been a major blow to the community’s culture and history. Barrick provided the funding for the library’s relocation.
“It was shocking to me that this kind of history could be lost,” Buchanan says. “Shaun saw the real and pressing need of keeping the library open, saving the book collection and ensuring that those resources remained available to the community.”
The opening of the community center is the realization of an 18-year dream for Griffin. Despite setbacks, he says he always believed he could find the donors to make it possible. With this major project complete, he is already looking ahead to the next project, one of which includes a planned expansion of the community center.
“The goal of Community Chest was to build a healthy place for our kids and our community,” Griffin says. “We’ve proven that we’re sticking around for the long haul. In the last 25 years, a ton of people have stepped up. Everybody is working at this, and there are many hands helping with the work now.”