Roosevelt School

As of October, the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation has raised $110,000 of its $400,000 goal to buy and renovate the Old Roosevelt School at 517 S. Broadway Ave.

Across our beloved Montana, scores of dedicated folks are working to improve the quality of life for everyone in their communities. We are your friends and neighbors who are the strength behind the 75 local community foundations in the Treasure State.

That says something about Montanans – our optimistic view of the future, desire to make our state a better place for our children and future generations, and our willingness to challenge adverse situations and turn them into prospects for growth and opportunity in our hometowns.

Nov. 12-18 is national Community Foundation Week, created in 1989 by President George H. W. Bush to recognize the century-old work of community foundations and their collaborative and innovative approach to working with the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

Chances are a community foundation – “CF” for short – serves your city or county. Montana has the highest percentage of CFs for its population – totaling about 10 percent of those nationwide.

A community foundation is a catalyst for local philanthropy and positive change. Community foundations help Montana communities of all sizes discover what they can be by convening citizens around common goals, supporting collaboration among local nonprofits, and promoting community partnerships and leadership. Montanans are served by their local foundations from the Carter County in the southeast to Lincoln County CF in the northwest, and from the Sheridan County in the northeast and to Stevensville in the southwest, and as well as in many cities.

Central Montana Foundation of Lewistown is the oldest in the state, organized in 1984 and serving all or parts of five counties; the newest is just forming in Ryegate. The largest is the Montana Community Foundation based in Helena, which has a mission “to cultivate a culture of giving so Montana communities can flourish” and works closely as an “umbrella” to amplify the work of the smallest CFs in the state.

What are local foundations doing? Here’s a sampling:

  • The Red Lodge Area CF is working with others in its community to purchase, restore, and repurpose a ”retired” school in their community to be a community arts center. The community foundation is working as a convener and center for philanthropy to make this project successful.
  • Glendive CF is working with its Chamber to revitalize its downtown. New landscape, freshening of older buildings, and a photo contest about what makes Glendive great is the focus of downtown.
  • Seeley Lake CF is becoming the hub of that community. From bringing public art that amplified outdoor activities for the community’s visitors to facilitating an economic development study, this community foundation is the heart of Seeley Lake.
  • The Bozeman Area CF and Sweet Grass CF in Big Timber conduct community-wide events with widespread public involvement to directly benefit a variety of nonprofit agencies through, respectively, their annual “Give Big” event and “Raw Deal Run.”
  • In Livingston, the Park County CF leads an Early Childhood Coalition focused on improving the health and well-being of expectant mothers and children from birth to age 6. At the other end of the youth spectrum, the foundation is a founding member of Graduation Matters Livingston – the graduation rate here has risen dramatically.
  • Missoula CF believes that creating stronger nonprofits has benefits that ripple throughout the local economy. That’s why they invest in strengthening the infrastructure of nonprofits to help organizations grow and succeed through their Missoula Project for Nonprofit Excellence program.

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This work is largely accomplished by volunteer board members who contribute their energies, creativity, knowledge of their home-town communities and their own charitable gifting.

At a time when government capacity to solve our most pressing problems is limited, community foundations offer real solutions. Community foundations are on the front lines of change, working to leverage relationships and resources to achieve real results.

We invite you to look up your local community foundation at www.mtcf.org and then make contact to ask how you can be involved or make a gift. Everyone can be a philanthropist.

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Peter D. Fox is executive director of the Park County Community Foundation and chair of the Local Community Foundation Advisory Committee to the statewide Montana Community Foundation.