More than $50k awarded, $40k left

By Taylor Anderson, Explorebigsky.com Assistant Editor

We have lift off.

After a sputtered start, the program established to give aid to Spanish Peaks employees who were laid off when Spanish Peaks Holdings filed for Chapter 7 last October has granted half of the available funding.

In total, 34 grants have been awarded affecting 61 people, according to Nicole Rush of the Montana Community Foundation, the nonprofit group that is organizing the Big Sky LIFT effort.

21 individuals were awarded $1,000 grants, and 13 families received the $2,500 grant, totaling $53,500.

The group had originally assigned a Dec. 15 deadline for employees applying for money, but only few applied and close to $100,000 had been raised, so they extended it through January. In the first weeks the grants were available, only five former Spanish Peaks employees had applied and received money.

Besides, Rush said, the original deadline was to get people to come in before the holidays. And it seems to have worked.

“We got about 22 last week,” Rush said.

All of the $91,000 raised so far has come from current and former Spanish Peaks members.

Rush said they aren’t very selective in who receives grants, and unless employees were fired rather than laid off, most applicants should be accepted until funding runs out. If it runs out.

“We have awarded people with jobs. The main goal of the LIFT program is to help with the transition after they’ve been laid off,” Rush said. “If they have jobs that’s great. Most of them took at least a month to find a new job.”

After seeing the influx of applicants well into the process, and because of an estimated $40,000 left in grants, the officials coordinating the effort—John Haas, Loren Bough and Marcus Dash—extended the deadline through January 2012.

“This saved my bacon. I am incredibly grateful for the gift,” grant recipient Latimer Watson said. “Big Sky LIFT has helped build a strong community in Big Sky.”

To apply, contact John at john@spmembers.org, or go to mtcf.org.