SWEETWATER COUNTY — With I-80 running right through Sweetwater County, there is a great need for providing assistance to travelers to help get them to their destinations.
St. Christopher’s Highway addresses that need by helping travelers who become stranded in Sweetwater County. St. Christopher’s Highway is a travel assistance program that was initiated by Holy Communion Episcopal Church in 2019.
The Sweetwater County Commission heard an update on this program during its meeting on Tuesday, March 7. Joyce Corcoran, Coordinator for St. Christopher’s Highway, said that ultimately St. Christopher’s will be asking the Commission, as well as the cities of Rock Springs and Green River for additional funding.
“We try very hard to live up to our mission which is to help travelers in need reach their destination,” Corcoran said.
According to Corcoran, the Episcopal Diocese Foundation of Wyoming has supported this program since its inception. Due to seeing the results of the Sweetwater County program, Carbon County has initiated a St. Christopher’s program as well.
“The Episcopal Diocese Foundation of Wyoming has funded us for the past three years and also you funded us with COVID money which helped us get through a tremendous year where we were really busy,” Corcoran told the Commission. “Right now we’re in a real pinch. We’re down to $11,000 in funding left out of our grant and we’re looking for help wherever we can find it. We’re actively doing a lot of fundraising because we believe so strongly in this program.”
Reverend Davis, Deacon at Holy Communion in Rock Springs and Treasurer for St. Christopher’s Highway, said they have received $150,000 from the Episcopal Diocese Foundation, $20,000 from the county’s COVID-19 relief money, and $11,000 in donations since 2019.
“It is a costly endeavor, but I don’t know what’s going to happen to these people otherwise.”
Corcoran said the end goal is to have a St. Christopher’s program across the state, so it wouldn’t be a community responsibility and they could get state funding.
Who Does St. Christopher’s Help?
The Sweetwater County program has served over 1,000 travelers since the program began. According to St. Christopher’s Highway, the average spent on each individual is $189.
Corcoran said the program spent $6,000 in January because of all the people stranded due to road closures. Reverend Davis said that money assisted 32 adults, 12 children, and three pets. The money was mostly spent on assisting people with hotel rooms and gas money. She said many people traveling on I-80 have very little money.
“There are so many people on that highway who live on the edge,” she said.
Corcoran said there was a very serious situation this winter where a family of eight were traveling in a van. They were told to travel through Colorado into Rock Springs on Wyoming Highway 430.
“That turned into a big nightmare for that family,” she said.
The family got stranded and had to be towed out of a snowdrift, racking up a bill of $700. Corcoran said that if a good samaritan had not driven by and found them, they would have frozen to death out there.
She shared several more stories in which St. Christopher’s has offered help to individuals, many of which include people who are released from the Sweetwater County Detention Center. Corcoran said that people are released with very little money and no car, and they have to figure out how to get to where they need to go. That’s where St. Christopher’s comes in.
“In my old age I’ve become a social worker it seems like,” Corcoran said.
Corcoran also told the Commission that St. Christopher’s helps a lot of abused women. She said many women are dropped off by truckers and just left in Rock Springs.
“I hope you recognize that the need for help for these folks is so great, and I don’t know what would happen to all of our resources in town if we are not in business anymore. I feel that strongly about our program. It’s an absolute need in our area,” she said.
Reverend Davis said that since the program’s inception in April 2019, they have helped 926 adults, 144 children, and 56 pets get to their destinations.
Chairman Keaton West asked how people find out about St. Christopher’s. Corcoran and Reverend Davis said that most of their referrals come from local law enforcement, hotels, convenience stores, Greyhound Bus Depot, the YWCA, the Detention Center, the 211 emergency line, the hospital, and many churches and residents. Chairman West said the best course of action for a funding request will be to get a budget request form to fill out.
“Thank you for coming, we appreciate all you’re doing. I can speak to those stranded motorists that were out there during those crazy storms in February and some of the scares that come with that. I appreciate everything you guys do to try to help these individuals out and get them where they need to be,” Chairman West said.