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American Legion Post 99 draws random awards for school district staff  

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By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER 

In late November, the American Legion and Sons of the American Legion Post #99 of Big Sky announced a new program to show appreciation for Big Sky School District staff by awarding one randomly selected BSSD staff member each month with a $300 gift and a thank you note from the Legion.  

Shortly after the first drawing, a matching gift from Big Sky Build enabled the program to draw two awards per month. Although the first four winners have been teachers, the program draws from all BSSD staff. 

According to an email from Jeremy Harder, Legion volunteer coordinator, the program was made possible through community support including bingo fundraisers at the Riverhouse and honey sales at the farmers market. Community members are encouraged to reach out via email to the Legion’s fundraising coordinator Sara Sipe with interest in supporting community-based initiatives like this BSSD campaign. 

“The Legion welcomes any interest from individuals and businesses in the Big Sky area that are interested in partnering with the post to provide financial gifts to BSSD staff and educators,” Sipe told EBS. “We feel blessed that Big Sky Build heard our call to action and generously matched our budget for the school year, and we encourage any individuals or businesses that are interested in helping build and maintain community.” 

Sipe works for Outlaw Partners, the publisher of Explore Big Sky.  

Cadie Williams poses with her thank you note. PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY HARDER

The first drawing was awarded to Cadie Williams, a fourth-grade teacher and assistant Lone Peak High School girls soccer coach.  

Three days later, on Dec. 2, Big Sky Build responded to Sipe’s Facebook post which encouraged businesses to get involved.  

To her surprise, they offered to match the Legion’s $3,000 program budget, allowing the Legion to draw two names each month for the rest of the 10-month cycle. In an unexpected second drawing on Dec. 6, Ophir Middle School math teacher Rosie Sullivan won the next award. 

“We feel strongly about supporting the community and people working within our community,” said Beth Hoffman, process administrator at Big Sky Build. She said the company focuses on supporting children and child-support organizations including BSCO summer programs, Morningstar Learning Center and Discovery Academy.  

Hoffman told EBS that Big Sky Build will consider revisiting their support if this program continues for another year after 2023.  

On Jan. 4, American Legion announced the next two winners: Kinsey Carney and Mariel Elleman. Both provided short bios to the Legion, which Harder shared in an email.  

Ms. Carney, a first-grade teacher, told Harder she “loves exploring Montana’s vast wilderness, finding new recipes to share with friends and family, and getting lost in a good book.” 

Ms. Elleman described herself as an “outdoor-loving, washable marker-covered, fourth-grade teacher,” and told Harder she feels pride and joy to be working for this wonderful school district. 

Harder added, “both want to thank the Big Sky community, Big Sky Build, The American Legion, and the Sons of the American Legion for their generous gift.” 

Quarterly rent assistance drawings 

In partnership with the Broken Spoke Bar & Casino, the Legion will also give two awards of $1000 each to community members randomly pulled from the Big Sky Community Food Bank’s quarterly rent assistance program. Community members desiring rental assistance can visit the food bank and put their name in the bucket, Harder wrote.  

Sipe said that Anderson Wallace, owner of the Broken Spoke, generously matched the Legion’s quarterly effort, allowing the Legion to give two quarterly awards of $1,000.  

Any community members interested in joining the American Legion can reach out via email to membership coordinator Jack Hudspeth.  

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