By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

Yellowstone Club Community Foundation announced its spring grant cycle on March 23, giving out $140,000 to Big Sky and Bozeman area nonprofits.

Among the recipients are Morningstar Learning Center’s new early childhood education program, a new summer art program for Ophir School kids, and a community Bear Smart program led by the Big Sky Community Corp.

YCCF Executive Director Casey Schwartz was particularly excited about the bear smart initiative, which she called “a true community program.”

“Big Sky Resort, Moonlight, Spanish Peaks, the Yellowstone Club – anybody whose businesses are on this committee are working together to build an educational model of how to use bear spray,” Schwartz said.

The program received $5,000 and this summer will include development of interactive educational models, outreach and program coordination.

In total, YCCF received 24 grant applications for its most recent grant deadline on May 1, and its board and staffers voted to approve funding to the 17 organizations, according to Jacque Poertner, who manages the foundation.

“The foundation likes to support as many organizations in Big Sky that have a broad reach, [reaching] as many citizens as possible,” Poertner said. “The Yellowstone Club is in Big Sky, and the vast majority of funding comes from members.”

The foundation has also continued funding what’s been its largest multi-year project so far, the Gallatin Valley Food Bank’s KidsPack program, which sends needy kids at participating Gallatin County schools home with food over the weekend.

Other recipients this spring include the Big Sky Skating and Hockey Association, Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, the Greater Gallatin United Way, Thrive, the Cancer Support Community, and Eagle Mount.

Established in 2010, YCCF’s mission is to provide a resource to nonprofit community organizations in the Greater Big Sky and Gallatin Valley area, granting funds to eligible organizations that promote community service, education and conservation. Since its inception, the foundation has donated more than $1.5 million.
“We tend to give out between 15 and 25 different grants [in each of our two annual cycles], and right now remaining consistent to give out about $300,000 a year,” Poertner said, adding that the current goal is to remain at about that level.

In addition to direct member contributions, YCCF holds annual fundraisers, a concert in March that’s exclusively for Y.C. members and guests, and a summer golf fundraiser that involves participation from local businesses. This year’s golf fundraiser will be Aug. 15.

The foundation also recently announced a special three-year grant that will fund a technology initiative in the Big Sky School District, supplying laptop computers or tablets for each student’s personal use.