With dozens—perhaps hundreds—of nonprofit organizations in southwest Montana, it’s hard to know which to support. After all, we only have so much time, energy, and money to give, and it’s important that we allocate those precious resources to the things we really care about. This article is part of a series dedicated to providing insight into the multitude of nonprofits around Bozeman, helping you to make more informed choices about who gets your valuable time and hard-won cash.
Montana Mountaineering Association
Mission: to promote the values of rock climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry travel
Ask the Montana Mountaineering Association’s (MMA) executive director Kevin Brumbach why mountaineering is more than a sport, or why he’s spent two springs on hiatus climbing in Alaska, and he might spit back a commonly understood phrase around their digs: “because alpinism is a lifelong practice.” The badass group of mountaineers at MMA lives by this creed, passing on their experience and reverence for the outdoors to the next generation of climbers. Passionate about making their services accessible to all, they offer affordable programs to the public and free programs for the disabled.
MMA’s biggest contribution might be their Junior Mountaineering Team (JMT). Every year, a handful of lucky high-schoolers gets the opportunity of a lifetime—a year in the mountains learning the technical facets of high-country safety and exploration. The best part? It’s free for participants. Aside from teaching the hard skills necessary to travel in the mountains, the JMT program also works to shape the internal relationship the students have with their natural environment. According to Erin Taylor, one of the lead instructors with MMA, the kids involved with the JMT “go on to do things that influence a greater population than just themselves.” He explains how the impact of the program is deeper than surface accomplishments, saying “mountaineering is our medium. We use it to teach leadership skills, team-building skills, problem solving, and respect for the environment, and then say ‘what’s the meaning of this? How does this relate to the world around us?’” With deep considerations for education and the environment—and instilling these virtues in youth—MMA is on the top of our list. Check them out at montanamoutaineering.org.
Mission: to guide our warriors home after combat, restoring family and community relationships
The demanding and exclusive work of the United States Special Operations Forces (SOF) is unthinkable for most civilians, and the transition back to civilian life can be devastating for veterans and families alike. The Station Foundation aims to ease this homecoming by providing a secure environment to foster relationships and manage the stressors of such significant change. Co-founders Kevin Stacy and his wife Shannon have first-hand experience with the kind of challenges warriors face emotionally. Kevin served in SOF before seeing a need for outreach and resources for this specialized community and starting the Station Foundation four years ago in the healing solitude of the Montana wilderness.
While the Station focuses on each warrior’s health and success on the road to restoration, perhaps their most rewarding mission involves a different kind of warrior—children of fallen service members. Their program gives “Gold Star” sons and daughters ages 10-18 a sampling of the strengths and attributes they may share with their fallen parent. During a 10-day wilderness survival trip called the Crossing, kids are challenged with a mock mission, and along the way they learn critical skills that their parent learned in SOF. These skills include immediate first-aid; navigation with a map, a compass, and the stars; fire-starting; how to find and purify water; and rescue-signaling techniques.
Kevin Stacy says the program engages kids and connects them with SOF mentors that are hand-selected by family members of the fallen. He sums it up like this: “the really important message for these kids is to learn how to thrive in adversity, take control, and choose the harder right to become men and women of character.” During this stop on these kids’ journey forward, the Station gives the gift of time and space to “honor the promises made to our fallen warriors; you are never forgotten; your family is taken care of; your life serves as a source of strength and love.” It’s this compassion and integrity, and the important and worthy work they’re doing, that sets the Station Foundation apart. For more info, visit thestationfoundation.org.
Business for Montana’s Outdoors
Mission: preserving our outdoor assets for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs
So why Montana? The answer is an obvious one: public access to mountains, world-class fisheries, rock slabs, singletrack, and wildlife. While we all enjoy spending time in the outdoors for personal reasons, it turns out that our public land is economically valuable as well. Businesses for Montana’s Outdoors (BFMO), a nonprofit coalition with over 100 members, works to keep our recreation spaces public. According to their website, “70% of business owners say ‘the Montana outdoor lifestyle’ was a factor in deciding to locate or expand their business in Montana.” According to Marne Hayes, BFMO’s director, “We aren’t just talking about the aesthetic value that Montana’s landscapes bring; we are talking about how our public lands foster the outdoor way of life that has become so valuable to people living and working here.”
The group also advocates for policy impacting public lands, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is a non-taxpayer-supported program that reinvests a fee paid by energy companies drilling offshore for the conservation of mainland natural resources. The LWCF has aided many landscapes in Montana—including the acquisition of public parks and fishing access sites—and without the support of Businesses for Montana’s Outdoors, LWCF and other valuable conservation programs might have slipped away completely. If you’re a Montana business dependent our state’s abundant resources, or just want to make a difference in our community, consider joining forces with this nonprofit to keep Montana wild for generations to come. Check them out at businessformontanasoutdoors.com.