By Emily Stifler Wolfe
A week of fly fishing in Montana last summer saved an Afghanistan war veteran’s life.
“You, your team, the love and genuine care for him and other warriors like him gave him faith in people and in God again,” his wife told Warriors and Quiet Waters, the Bozeman-based nonprofit that brought the couple to these healing rivers. “You saved his life and ultimately mine and that of my family.”
WQW is among hundreds of nonprofit groups in the Greater Yellowstone region. These organizations are a backbone of support for vital services, including community health, parks and recreation, children’s programs, international humanitarian causes and the environment.
“In a small community like this, nonprofits are what make things happen, along with independent donors,” said Casey Schwartz, Executive Director of the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation.
YCCF has donated more than $1.5 million to charitable groups in the region surrounding Big Sky, including a program to help feed hungry kids around southwest Montana. With cutbacks in state and federal budgets, the importance and role of nonprofit groups is growing, Schwartz said.
By pooling community resources, these organizations can effect positive change, says Dale Palmer, a founding member of the Rotary Club of Big Sky, which works both locally and internationally.
“As a nonprofit, you’re joining people with like interests [that] all want to help the same cause, and you can do so much more as a group than you can [as] individuals,” Palmer said.
An organization is only as strong as the sum of its parts, and citizen leaders know their communities best – their needs, nuances, strengths and challenges. That’s why Hopa Mountain, a Bozeman-based charitable group, invests in citizen leaders of rural and tribal communities.
“The possibilities for economic, environmental and social health in the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Plains lie in the strength of the people, especially our relationships with each other and with the land we love,” said Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer, executive director for Hopa Mountain.
Sachatello-Sawyer believes that we all have the opportunity to work in service to others, every day.
With organizations like Warriors and Quiet Waters, YCCF, Rotary, Hopa Mountain and myriad others in our region – including those featured here – there are many ways to get involved. Now is the time.
Big Sky Community Corporation
As Big Sky’s local parks and trails group, Big Sky Community Corporation is building five miles of new trails this summer. BSCC is also completing the community park, which has become a vibrant meeting place with its baseball field, skatepark and climbing boulders. Attend the annual BSCC Gala on July 19 for a chance to support these projects and others including the Crail Ranch Historical Museum, the Big Sky Natural Resource Council, and kids summer programming with Camp Big Sky.
Bobby Model Charitable Fund
Becca Skinner captured this image of Wan, a rice farmer in Banda Aceh, while photographing post-tsunami Indonesia. Swept by the ocean more than a mile, the structure behind him is now a memorial. “It’s a great symbol of the power of nature and a remembering for the victims,” says Skinner, whose work was supported by the Bobby Model Charitable Fund, a nonprofit that each year gives a $5,000 grant to a National Geographic Young Explorer photojournalist. The Cody, Wyoming-based foundation also supports community-building initiatives closer to home.
Blue Water Task Force
Headquartered in Big Sky, the Blue Water Task Force relies on volunteers for many of its projects including water quality monitoring and watershed restoration, as shown in this photo. This summer, BWTF is working with the Gallatin National Forest Bozeman Ranger District on a plan to improve access sites along the Gallatin River, and ultimately reduce sediment contribution caused by erosion. The goal, according to BWTF Executive Director Kristin Gardiner, is to improve and protect water quality and fish habitat.
For nearly 30 years, CLIMB Wyoming has provided low-income single mothers with job training, counseling and life skills, ultimately placing them in careers that support their families. Graduates’ incomes consistently double, decreasing their reliance on public assistance, according to CLIMB’s Shannon Brooks Hamby. In 2012, the nonprofit was recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as one of the top 10 nationwide, moving families toward self-sufficiency. With six locations across Wyoming, it recently launched two new career trainings to serve a broader population.
Supported by the Bozeman-based Iqra Fund, these second grade girls from Sibiri Village, Pakistan, photographed in January 2014, were some of the first in the remote Basha Valley to receive a formal education. Within a year, all the surrounding villages were requesting support, says Iqra founder Genevieve Chabot, whose organization is now sending 1,200 girls there to school. The goal is to educate women in impoverished communities, thereby increasing family health and opportunity for the next generation, and creating lasting social change.
Teton Raptor Center
The Teton Raptor Center started its Port-o-Potty Owl Project in 2010 to prevent cavity-nesting owls from being entrapped in vault toilet vent pipes on public lands. This spring, the project was honored at the prestigious Wings Across the Americas Conservation Awards, and has become a national campaign. Based in Wilson, Wyoming, the center rehabs injured birds onsite, and offers public educational programs six times a week during the summer. Pictured here is TRC Program Manager Jason Jones with a Great Horned Owl, one of three resident birds.
Warriors and Quiet Waters
Water heals. This is the essence of Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation, which since 2007 has brought more than 300 combat-injured veterans and service members to fly fish in southwest Montana. “There are a reported 50,000 people with physical injuries and post traumatic stress in the U.S. from these last two conflicts,” says WQW’s Faye Nelson, of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We wish we could give all of them the sense of hope, resilience and serenity that fishing here can provide.” In 2014, WQW is adding skiing and equestrian experiences, and also growing its fishing program to serve 60 warriors and 12 spouses.
Youth are the future stewards of our public lands, and the Yellowstone Association has exactly that in mind as it expands its cooperative program with Yellowstone Park Foundation and Park Journeys, Inc. This summer, the collaboration will bring five groups of 12 urban teenagers to the park to experience its wonders. Founded in 1933, Y.A. is the official educational partner of Yellowstone National Park. Stop by the headquarters in Gardiner, Montana, across from the Roosevelt Arch, or one of 11 other stores to learn more about volunteering, membership, courses, or for updated park information.
This story was first published in the summer 2014 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.