Casey Schwartz and Jacque Poertner, both of the
Yellowstone Club Community Foundation, sat
at the front of an Ophir School classroom filled
with leaders from local and regional nonprofit
organizations in early November.
The meeting was part of a series of similar
gatherings YCCF will host quarterly. Organizations that were present included Big Brothers
Big Sisters, Women in Action, Friends of Big
Sky Education, Big Sky Youth Empowerment,
Thrive, Morningstar Learning Center, Big Sky
Community Corporation, Ophir School Board,
Gallatin Valley Food Bank and the Bozeman
Deaconess Foundation.
The goal of the meeting was to address the needs
of the YCCF’s key grant recipients, and for
Schwartz and Poertner to hear firsthand where
and how YCCF funds (97 percent of which are
provided by Yellowstone Club members) will
be utilized. Each attendee had an opportunity to
speak of their organization’s needs, progress and
Schwartz reminded attendees that most Yellowstone Club members aren’t Montana residents,
but they still choose to give generously to Big
Sky and Gallatin County. “The people up the
hill are committed to making a difference,”
Schwartz said.
She stressed that YC members are believers in
conservation, and also maintain the health of
community members because to have good employees “you have to have a healthy community,”
Schwartz said.
The nonprofit organizations are what help Big
Sky thrive as an unincorporated town. “It’s now
YCCF’s responsibility to make it easy to give for
the members,” Schwartz said.
Also in attendance were Ophir School District
Superintendent Jerry House, YCCF board members Loren Bough, Charlie Callander and Kristina
Davis, state coordinator for the Montana Children’s Defense Fund.
“How many of your programs have been impacted
[financially] in the past year?” Davis asked attendees. Almost everyone in the room raised their hand.
Davis’s main focus is lobbying for Montana’s children. She is currently urging the congressional supercommittee tasked with reducing the deficit by at
least $1.2 trillion by Nov. 23 to make sure funding
doesn’t get dropped from children’s programs.
Davis said 1 in 4 Montana kids don’t know where
their next meal is coming from, that 25 percent of
kids in Gallatin County qualify for food stamps,
and that last summer was Gallatin Valley Food
Bank’s busiest summer yet. Also, there were no
increases in day care providers in 2010.
Kasey Anderson, Ophir School guidance counselor, added that many enrolled at Ophir are from
single-parent families, most of which are male
dominated. She stressed the need for more parent
education classes, especially those geared toward
single dads.
But if there is one thing, Davis says, it’s that
Montana does pay attention. The state is “one of
the few states that has money.”
Davis’s newest project, which she helped bring to
Big Sky, is Bridge to Benefits, an online tool that
connects eligible families with work support benefits, such as energy assistance, health care, child
care assistance, food support, school meals and
the Earned Income Tax Credit. The application
process is easy and accessible, and any organization that assists low-income families is eligible to