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Giving Back in Big Sky

BY: Frederick Reimers | JANUARY 24, 2023

The pandemic was an accelerator, but at the feet of Lone Peak, it didn’t just drive real estate values and remote work—it supercharged a community safety net.

So much of our workforce is struggling to make ends meet,” says Sarah Gaither Bivins, who as director of the Big Sky Community Food Bank has seen her clientele more than double since 2020. “Where people used to come in a few times a year, some are now visiting the Food Bank more than once a month.” The pandemic might be all but over for anyone but the immune compromised, sick, and elderly, but the lessons of the pandemic remain. The chief lesson being that we need each other.

When COVID hit, every citizen faced an uncertain financial and medical future. For a community straddling two counties and without local elected officials, the result could have been unmitigated hardship. It took less than a week, however, for Big Sky’s leading economic and philanthropic organizations to form Big Sky Relief, an entity that would steer the community through the pandemic more gracefully—arguably—than any government in the nation.“When the coronavirus hit, we realized right away that when it comes to community-wide needs, we are stronger and more effective together,” says Vice President for Philanthropy for the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation, Ciara Wolfe. As the pandemic wound down, so did Big Sky Relief. Its website currently reads: “We’ll be back when you need us.” But Big Sky’s safety net is bigger than ever. The close cooperation between the “town” and non-government agencies remains. “Big Sky’s unique civic structure has necessitated creativity and collaboration, and I think that gives us a big advantage in addressing ongoing problems,” says David O’Connor, executive director of the Big Sky Community Housing Trust.

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Photo by Joe Esenther
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