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Strong Women Moapa Valley Mary Kaye Washburn
The measure of strength is in the eyes of the beholder. Growing up, Mary Kaye Washburn was shy and reserved. As an adult, she navigated through the balancing act of working and raising a family. Mary Kaye worked for a large Southern California utility, where she quickly advanced from a clerical position into the Information Technology field, learning programming, networking, troubleshooting, systems analysis, and project management. She retired from her position as Senior Systems Analyst after a twenty-five year career. She believes the confidence and skills she gained as a result of her career have served her well in retirement.
After moving to Moapa Valley in 2004, Mary Kaye became a docent at the Lost City Museum in Overton, Nevada. Not only did she make lasting friendships, it also sparked a desire to give back in other areas. She soon found herself volunteering in the Nevada Site Steward program, monitoring archaeological sites and reporting observations to responsible agencies, such as the Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Land Management. She joined the Nevada Rock Art Foundation and participated in rock art recording projects. About eight years ago, a friend invited her, along with several others, to volunteer as a deckhand in the Lake Mead Water Safety Program. Volunteers patrol the lake by boat, providing assistance and information to boaters, and they participate in search and rescue operations. After a few years as a deckhand, Mary Kaye became a Certified Boat Operator and continues to be active in the program.
Many people talk about wanting change in the communities in which they live, but few seek out a journey to exact that change. Mary Kaye drafted a heartfelt letter which was published in the Letters to the Editor section of the Moapa Valley Progress in January, 2013. She issued a call to action to join together and make a difference in the valley through community revitalization projects, pointing out the potential to make Moapa Valley a tourist destination. She challenged readers to support local businesses, and asked those interested in forming a committee to explore and execute steps to revitalize the community to email or call her, hoping like-minded people would respond. Her call was answered! The core group of what would become The Moapa Valley Revitalization Project (MVRP) was created. Within a few months, The MVRP, with Mary Kaye as the founding member and President, became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and began developing projects that would bring about revitalization to the community.
In a desire to lead by example, Mary Kaye, along with her daughter and a friend, local artist Joan Day, opened the Wild Horse Gallery in downtown Overton. There were many vacant buildings and she wanted to show the community their potential when few were ready to take a risk on the heels of a recession. Initially, the trio set out to run the business for a year. However, Mary Kaye continued into a second and a third year, until it became clear that what she had set out to do had worked. At least nine new businesses opened in those three years, leaving far fewer vacant storefronts in town. More demands on her time, writing, planning, and directing implementation of grants and projects, not only for MVRP, but as a board member of the Moapa Valley Chamber of Commerce, helped her to decide it was time close the brick and mortar store and pass the torch to a new business to occupy the space. Making a name change to Fire Canyon Gifts, Mary Kaye has taken her business online, referring to it as the local online gift store. You can find it at www.firecanyongifts.com.
The MVRP has developed many projects. A few years ago, on Make a Difference Day, MVRP spotlighted a local business, and volunteers donated time and supplies to spruce up its curb appeal.
MVRP was instrumental in getting the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) to update freeway and highway signage, directing traffic from Interstate 15 to use exit 93 to reach the Valley of Fire, and signage from the east side of the valley, routing exiting Valley of Fire visitors through Overton and Logandale to Interstate 15. NDOT also installed signs along Moapa Valley Boulevard to direct visitors to the Logandale Trails.
MVRP placed a map and business and services signage at Valley of Fire Visitors Center two years ago to direct tourists to exit the eastern end of the park and continue on to visit Moapa Valley attractions and businesses. The Lost City Museum, Inside Scoop, and Sugar’s Home Plate have all reported increased business from these efforts.
Although new to grant writing, Mary Kaye has submitted nearly a dozen grants for MVRP and the Moapa Valley Chamber of Commerce, and all have been awarded. In 2015, a grant was approved to produce rack cards, a two sided 4”x 11” card, advertising all that Moapa Valley has to offer. Cards were distributed along travel corridors in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah.
The hard won efforts of Partners in Conservation, Clark County Commissioners, the Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board, and involved community members to make Moapa Valley Nevada’s first OHV friendly community, paved the way to promote use of Moapa Valley’s trail systems as a recreational attraction. MVRP applied for and was approved grants in 2015 and 2016 to produce off-road events, bringing ATV riders into the business districts to establish Moapa Valley as an ATV friendly destination for enthusiasts. Now, visitors arrive daily in the valley, hauling their ATVs. Weekends in the area are bursting with ATV and 4-wheeler traffic.
The most recently approved grants will help fund the Main Street Project. MVRP is in the process of looking at bids to purchase benches, shade shelters, and trash receptacles for downtown Overton. The grants will also help in building a portable information kiosk that can be positioned at various locations and events.
Mary Kaye shares that most grants require matching funds, so a $20,000 grant is really only funding half of the request, or $10,000. The match can be made with money, volunteer hours, and/or income in kind, such as contributions of materials. She says she has much to learn, and continues to search for grants and resources to meet matching fund requirements to benefit Moapa Valley and its community members.
Mary Kaye has generously given her time to the valley she loves, and inspires those who wish to do the same. She is a Strong Woman of the Moapa Valley, and it is a better community for her efforts.