‘A new high water mark’

More than $1.6 million raised in a month for local nonprofit organizations
By 
Jason Bacaj – Enterprise Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 8, 2021

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final installment of a four-part series spotlighting the health and human services nonprofits that provided essential support to the Livingston and Park County communities through the COVID-19 pandemic. Each article looked at the services the nonprofit provides, how it weathered the pandemic and its fundraising goals through the month-long Give a Hoot community giving challenge.

In just its third year, the annual Give a Hoot Community Fundraising Challenge has yet again set a record for total money raised with more than $1.6 million donated to 69 local nonprofits by more than 3,500 individual donations.

The final tally for the giving campaign that spanned the month of July was released Tuesday afternoon by the Park County Community Foundation, the nonprofit that coordinates Give a Hoot. PCCF Executive Director Gavin Clark attributed the campaign’s continued growth to the local community taking ownership of the event and local nonprofits have grown over recent years in their ability to serve Park County residents.

“We set a new high water mark in basically all metrics that we’re looking at for the Give a Hoot,” Clark said. “I think that people over the last 18 months during COVID have really understood firsthand why our nonprofits are there.”

Checks for each nonprofit’s fundraising total are being processed, Clark said, and will go out to the nonprofits this week.

Give a Hoot started in 2019 with a $3.5 million donation from both the Dennis AND Phyllis Washington Foundation and Willow Creek Ranch to the PCCF. The donation is spread over 10 years, with an annual $350,000 installment split into three parts, Clark has explained. The smallest chunk goes to the PCCF endowment so the foundation can support the community in perpetuity, with a larger piece supporting the foundation’s annual grants.

The last portion — $150,000 — goes toward the Give a Hoot campaign to provide money to match community donations.

Other organizations chip into a matching pot of money. This year’s total pot was $270,000, a majority of which came from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, in conjunction with Montana Rail Link and Willow Creek Ranch, along with additional co-challengers, according to a PCCF press release. The other organizations supporting the Give a Hoot campaign are Deborah Erdman, Diana and Bruce Rauner, Harvey and Carol Massey Foundation, the Solso Family Foundation and Altria Group/Philip Morris USA.

Clark added that 2021 was the first year individuals could donate to the matching pot, which expanded the pot by $20,000.

The Livingston Enterprise profiled three health and human services nonprofits — the Livingston Food Resource Center, Counterpoint and the Rural Behavioral Health Institute — that provided essential support to the Livingston and Park County communities through the initial year and months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with the grand total raised during Give a Hoot, PCCF provided The Enterprise with the amount of money each of the three profiled nonprofits raised. Below is an overview of what services each nonprofit provides, how much they raised and what the groups intend to use the money for.

 

Livingston Food Resource Center

The Livingston Food Resource Center is a nonprofit that began in 2006 as the Livingston Food Pantry. Its mission is to distribute healthful food, help develop a sustainable local food system, address root causes of local hunger and support food-related economic development to create jobs.

One recent program the LFRC launched was the Community Bakery. The bakery has a three-pronged goal: to create jobs and economic opportunity for those in need, create a new revenue stream for the LFRC and provide free whole wheat bread to food pantries around the state. After about a year in operation, the bakery has created five new jobs and a new revenue stream that’s helping LFRC reach self-sustainability, said Michael McCormick, LFRC executive director.

The additional money was timely, as during the pandemic the LFRC expanded its programs and offerings to meet the community’s needs.

Last year saw a 300% increase in the number of household visits to the food pantry, and a 400% increase in visits from young households with children, McCormick said in July.

As a result, the LFRC changed its offerings to meet the moment. It started providing support for people applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and unemployment, as well as people searching for housing. The LFRC also added family and individual counseling services, bringing on a staff counselor who provides counseling to any food pantry client free of charge, McCormick said.

The LFRC raised $87,743 during the month of Give a Hoot.

McCormick told The Enterprise that his goal for the campaign was $75,000. The money wasn’t earmarked for any one specific program, and instead will go toward supporting the Healthy Weekend program and the Pantry Supper Club. Healthy Weekend provides supplemental weekend food to all Livingston area school children. The Pantry Supper Club provides nutritious dinner meals to low-income elderly.

 

Counterpoint

Counterpoint serves the Livingston and Park County community by supporting adults with disabilities so they can grow as individuals and lead independent, meaningful lives. It does this by providing three broad services: vocational, residential and transportation.

Vocational services help people prepare for, obtain and maintain jobs, as well as participate in skill-building activities. Residential services include two group homes where Counterpoint provides daily support for residents, as well as assisting people who live in their own homes. Transportation services include getting clients to and from jobs, medical appointments, recreation and shopping, among other options.

Counterpoint raised $101,924 during the month of Give a Hoot.

Executive Director Dave Eaton said in July that his goal for the campaign was to raise $250,000. The money is intended to allow the nonprofit to further its mission of nurturing personal growth and supporting meaningful lives for adults with disabilities.

The main challenge facing the nonprofit this summer, Eaton said at the time, is staffing. Each client Counterpoint works with gets an individual staffer to design a personal support plan that tailors services to the specific needs and desires of each client, he said. At the time, there were about six open positions.

The understaffing issue meant that the organization could only work with about 20 people. At full staff, the nonprofit has served as many as 30.

 

Rural Behavioral Health Institute

The Rural Behavioral Health Institute is a nonprofit that began last summer to provide rural communities access to evidence-based digital mental health tools and connecting mental health providers with those in need of care. It was founded by Bill Bryan and Janet Lindow, who serves as RBHI’s executive director, and aided by grants from both AMB West and the Park County Community Foundation.

The nonprofit started its work by launching a pilot program with Park High School to provide mental health screening to ninth-graders, with results linked to further health care as needed, said Lindow, a Livingston resident who also works as an associate professor of psychiatry with the University of Arizona.

Part of the reason why RBHI started with a pilot program in the schools is because many students in Park and Gallatin counties are at risk of suicide, according to data cited in a PowerPoint overview of RBHI’s school-based risk screening. The presentation was provided to The Enterprise by Julie Anderson, RBHI implementation director, former director of the Park County Health Department and Park County native.

Existing mental health struggles around the country were compounded by the pandemic, as data from the Centers for Disease Control show that mental health-related emergency room visits in the United States increased by 31% for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 between 2019 and 2020.

RBHI raised $42,600 during the month of Give a Hoot.

Lindow said in July that the nonprofit’s goal was to raise $50,000. The goal was to use the money to connect mental health providers with those identified by the screeners as needing help, Julie Anderson, RBHI implementation director and former director of the Park County Health Department, said at the time.