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From left, Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr, Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel, Director of Youth Alternatives Jay Sullivan and Youth Alternatives Board President Gina John stand together during Taco John’s’ presentation of it donation to Friends of Youth Alternatives on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Over the next three years, Taco John’s will contribute $30,000 to help support Youth Alternatives’ mission of supporting Cheyenne’s youth and families. Rhianna Gelhart/For the Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – A few years back, Cheyenne Youth Alternatives set up a foundation to pave a secure path forward for helping youth and families in the area. But getting it up and running was no easy task.

Cheyenne Youth Alternatives Board President Gina John knew they needed a local business partner to help in that process, and they found that support from Taco John’s. She said bringing such a large, local company onboard gave them a “huge, huge boost.”

On Thursday, that partnership was cemented, as Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel presented Youth Alternatives with a $10,000 check and a commitment for the same donation for the next two years to the Friends of Youth Alternatives foundation.

While the $30,000 total will support Youth Alternatives operations for the coming years, John said, “This donation represents so much more than money.”

With donations, grants and funding from the city, Youth Alternatives supports the community by providing services like youth intervention, family counseling, mentoring and a crisis line that operates 24/7. Its support groups range from ADHD Parent Support to Anger Management, and provide vital resources for families and youth who are struggling.

“No family, no youth is ever turned away,” John said.

With this commitment from Taco John’s, Youth Alternatives plans to run a campaign to garner even broader community support. In 2021, Youth Alternatives will celebrate 50 years of service in Cheyenne, and officials there are hoping to use this forward momentum to find more partners, donors and supporters.

“Jim encouraged us to use this donation of $10,000 to boost a campaign to challenge others and invite others to join us in our quest, and we are doing just that,” John said.

Additionally, Taco John’s plans on hosting in-store fundraisers for Youth Alternatives next year in honor of their half-century celebration. John said that while fundraising is normally a “daunting and challenging task,” she said working with Taco John’s was a “dream-like affair.”

As Creel presented Youth Alternatives a giant check, he said, “Taco John’s is proud once again to be able to support the youth in our community.”

Given the situation surrounding coronavirus – with families struggling financially, and kids adjusting to different learning formats and having to social distance – Mayor Marian Orr added that Youth Alternatives’ services are more important than ever.

She said the current situation could have lasting effects on Cheyenne’s youth and their families, and that the city can’t provide the level of support and care that Youth Alternatives does, making it a vital community resource.

“We couldn’t do it without our community partners; government can’t do this all by themselves,” Orr said.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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