Wyoming K9 Search & Rescue portraits and training

Amanda Soliday, a dog trainer and handler with Wyoming K9 Search and Rescue, owns a home in east Jackson that she bought in 2009 via the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust.

Of course volunteering helps others and makes you feel good, but did you know that it could help you obtain an affordable home?

As part of its selection criteria the Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust gives preference points to applicants who “demonstrate commitment to community by way of their volunteer duties on behalf of local causes,” according to HousingTrustJH.org.

A selection committee also weighs the importance of someone’s career to the community, said Carrie Kruse, operations manager with the private nonprofit Housing Trust.

“Considering volunteerism and employment in our selection criteria gives us a broader picture of how a person contributes to our community overall,” Kruse said, “and helps ensure that we are offering affordable homes to people who are truly committed to the amazing community of Jackson Hole.”

Unlike the Teton County Housing Authority, the Housing Trust doesn’t hold a lottery for its 118 homes as they become available. Instead applicants are chosen from the top of a list. They are ranked higher given their years on file, years in the region, employment — and community involvement.

The system helps the nonprofit offer home ownership to people who help make Jackson Hole special, said Bill Collins, chairman of the Housing Trust board of directors.

“We really want to value involvement and commitment to the community in selecting the buyers of Housing Trust units,” Collins said.

Amanda Soliday had both a critical job and important volunteer work on her application with the Housing Trust. She works as an EMT and has trained and organized Wyoming K9 Search and Rescue teams for about 25 years.

In 2009 she was selected to purchase a home in the Flat Iron neighborhood near the base of Snow King Mountain.

She lives there along with Otis, a dog with many talents. The 4-year-old golden retriever is certified to locate and rescue people from water, buildings and avalanches. He is trained to trail someone’s scent or find a cadaver. In his spare time he enjoys visiting people in St. John’s Medical Center as part of Teton County Pet Partners.

“People in my monetary bracket don’t generally donate money because we don’t have it,” Soliday said, “but we give our time, which is equally important if not more.”

Kevin Pusey, a homeowner via the Housing Trust since 2004, volunteers as a DJ with KHOL community radio and as a coordinator with Make-A-Wish Wyoming. He also just signed up to train with Hole Food Rescue.

During his radio show on Saturday evenings, Pusey plays everything from psychedelic tunes to classic rock, sharing his love of music.

He became a “wish granter” with Make-A-Wish to “try to help children and families in need,” he said. He greets families arriving for their dream vacations, helps them with their itineraries and facilitates wish granting for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Growing up with four adopted siblings, two of whom are mentally challenged, Pusey said he knew the importance of being kind.

“I wanted to focus any available free time I had to try and help children and families in need,” Pusey said.

Being a homeowner has helped the chef, caretaker and climbing guide achieve stability “by not having to worry about being kicked out of somewhere,” he said. “I also have a place to store all my toys.”

Contact Johanna Love at 732-7071 or features@jhnewsandguide.com.

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