Seven $25,000 grants given in honor of Streets

Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 10:41 am

By MATT BALDWIN Whitefish Pilot

The Whitefish Community Foundation had the opportunity last week to play the role of a sweepstakes prize patrol — sans Ed McMahon, all the balloons and folks answering the door in their bathrobe.

Members of the foundation made the rounds to seven local organizations and presented each with an oversized check worth $25,000. The capital grants were awarded in honor of Mary Jane and Russ Street who recently left the foundation an unrestricted gift of just over $1.1 million.

The capital projects were selected based on the Street’s personal affiliations. Nephew and foundation board member Mike Jenson helped select the projects based on the Street’s interests.

At each stop on Thursday’s grant-giving tour, recipients were left speechless at best and some were even brought to tears.

The first stop on Thursday’s tour was at the Bulldog Saloon where the Glacier Twins stadium project received a $25,000 boost. The Street’s boys were both very involved with sports and played on the historical stadium fields.

Next up, the North Valley Food Bank took in $25,000 toward their campaign to fund construction of a new distribution center. Longtime food bank director June Munski-Feenan graciously accepted the check and noted it is a big first step toward their fundraising goal.

Board members of the Shepherd’s Hand Clinic were surprised with $25,000 for their endowment fund campaign. The Shepherd’s Hand offers free health services to those in need.

Fire Chief Tom Kennelly accepted the grant on behalf of the Whitefish Fire Department. With a long list of needed supplies, Kennelly said the $25,000 will make a big impact. The fire department was selected as a grant recipient because Russ was a volunteer fireman for the city during the 1950s and 60s.

Kennelly said the grant was a tremendous gift that could go toward a new fire truck or a 9-11 memorial using steel from the World Trade Center.

“We’ll use the funds in a meaningful way that represents Russ’s legacy and what he meant to the community,” Kennelly said. “A lot of the new firefighters don’t know the role Russ played in the fire department.”

North Valley Hospital CEO Jason Spring accepted the $25,000 grant on behalf of the hospital. The Streets were longtime supporters of the hospital.

Karin Olsen, executive director of the North Valley Hospital Foundation, said the grant is a wonderful way to kick off their campaign for the expansion of the NVH birth center. She said they are currently formulating the campaign and building momentum before bringing the capital campaign to the public.

The Whitefish Legacy Partners and Whitefish Lake Institute were the final two stops for the foundation. The groups were both selected because the Streets made their early living on Whitefish Lake with the Bay Point Cabins and preservation of Whitefish Lake was very important to them.

Lori Curtis with the Lake Institute said the $25,000 grant is an enormous amount of money for their organization.

“It’s going to give us a chance to begin our campaign to fund and build a living watershed center,” Curtis said.

While $175,000 worth of grants were handed out Thursday, the majority of the Street’s gift will be placed in a permanent endowment fund where the interest will benefit Whitefish for many years ahead.

To learn more about the Whitefish Community Foundation call 863-1781 or visit www.whitefishcommunityfoundation.org.