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BSRAD launches Big Sky Relief Fund

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$2M raised through community foundations’ pledge

By Michael Somerby EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – At a time when a community must come together or be driven apart, Big Sky is doing what it takes to combat a novel type of challenge: the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus.

On March 20, the Big Sky Resort Area District tax board met in a call-in format for an impromptu open board meeting to discuss several financial initiatives designed to take aim at growing community pressures as a result of the pandemic.

Most notably, the BSRAD committed $1 million to help “assist the Big Sky Medical Center manage the COVID-19 pandemic in Big Sky and mitigate social and economic impacts,” according to a press release.

Those critical needs include volunteers, supplies, eight ventilators for the Bozeman Deaconess system and Big Sky Medical Center, COVID-19 testing equipment and facility improvements.

The commitment was swiftly met with a combined $1 million pledge from the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation, the Moonlight Community Foundation and the Spanish Peaks Community Foundation, bringing total relief funds to $2 million.

Additionally, local organizations stepped up and will tentatively give back a measure of the money they had been allocated by the BSRAD for their various fiscal year 2020 operating needs, an exercise in community care totaling some $330,000. The decision may come to form the backbone of efforts of relief initiatives related to COVID-19, a consolidated community effort comprising numerous community leaders now under the title of the Big Sky Relief Fund.

The sum is possible through the generosity of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, Big Sky Post Office, Gallatin River Task Force, Big Sky Community Housing Trust, Big Sky Search and Rescue, Visit Big Sky and the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center.

“I’m continuously impressed with the Big Sky community,” said BSRAD Chairperson Kevin Germain at the Friday meeting, commending the decisive and cooperative efforts to protect the people of Big Sky in an unprecedented situation in Big Sky and the world over.

“We applaud those organizations who have presented opportunities to contribute to the Big Sky Relief Fund,” echoed Executive Director Daniel Bierschwale. “And I applaud our board for their leadership.”

At present, the BSRAD has $4.36 million available from collections to divert to emergency community needs and allocations, in addition the aforementioned monies.

At current projections, that sum will jump to around $6.5 million by the end of the collection period on June 30.

Despite the impressive sum available, the work is far from over.

“It’s an impressive amount of money we have to use in this time,” said BSRAD Vice Chair Steve Johnson, “but making sure the money is used in right place will take an ongoing effort.”

The combined areas of focus for such a fund include volunteer coordination through Big Sky Community Organization efforts; food relief via the Big Sky Community Food Bank and the Big Sky School District; grocery and delivery services through the SPCF, BSCFB, Roxy’s Market, Country Market and Hungry Moose; mental health services through Women in Action; day care and educational services provided by the BSSD, Morningstar Learning Center and Big Sky Discovery Academy; and business relief and economic recovery measures spearheaded by the BSCC and VBS.

Additionally, members of the board approved $15,000 to be, “committed over the next two months to support increasing information available as it pertains to the Big Sky Relief Fund,” Bierschwale said.

“Our community has a long history of coming together during a time of need and this is no exception,” Germain said in the release. “The coordination of key partners will help ensure Big Sky is poised to ‘weather this storm’ and come out on the other side stronger than ever.”

As Big Sky braces for COVID-19, with one individual confirmed in the small mountain town on March 19, there is solace in knowing the community and persons at the virtual helm are rapidly mobilizing.

Visit bigskyrelief.org for additional information about the fund.

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