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Community Foundation closes the book on a successful year

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POLSON — The Greater Polson Community Foundation (GPCF) wrapped up 2022 with over $100,000 in grants given to local organizations to help improve Polson, and there will be more to come in the new year. 

The GPCF was founded in December of 2007 when the first meeting of community members was followed by guidance from the Montana Community Foundation (MCF) to develop their board and set their mission: promote philanthropy, financially support initiatives that build the community, collaborate and partner with others, and inspire community pride and unity. With nearly $51,000 in donations by the end of 2008, the GPCF was able to award their first grants in 2009 and have been awarding grants every year since. 

Some of 2022’s biggest grants went to the Polson School District for both a new Construction Trades program for the high school and safety and security for all grade levels. The Construction Trades program added to the PHS curriculum involves 11 total students in a 100-minute period each day. The 100-minute period allows ample time to tackle projects and learn all they need to know about the construction trade. “We don’t have enough kids in training to take over jobs in town, especially construction,” explained President Toni Whealon. So, she said the GPCF talked to the schools over a year ago about creating the class and figuring out the logistics behind such an option. The $27,000 grant from the GPCF not only paid for the 16-foot tool trailer, but for 12 sets of carpentry tools and tool belts to make sure the students were well equipped to learn about the work. 

As for the school safety and security grant, Whealon explained that after a bond to cover such provisions failed last year, the schools were still in need of them. With a $25,000 grant, Superintendent Mike Cutler said the school district will be able to take the first necessary steps to address safety and security deficiencies identified by an outside organization. This includes hiring Critical Response Group Inc., which will set up real-time mapping of schools for first responders in the event of an emergency. “Our goal is to provide the safest and most secure environment for our children so that they can thrive academically and socially,” Cutler wrote. “The GPCF has given us a start to that complex process.” 

In addition to the 2022 grants for local schools, GPCF funds went to the Mission Valley Animal Shelter. MVAS will use the money to update their dog run in order to provide the animals with much needed protection from the weather. With grants to Women4Wellness to encourage community members to participate in outdoor activities and $50,000 to the Lake County Public Library to help them reach their renovation goal, the GPCF is now winding down for the winter to prepare for next year’s funding. 

The board recently began work on this upcoming year’s Buck Young Scholarship, a sports-based scholarship made in the memory of Whealon’s late husband, as well as the June Syvrud Music Scholarship in memory a beloved local teacher. Students interested in learning more about either of these scholarships can do so by visiting the GPCF website or by speaking with their school counselors. 

Soon the GPCF will also begin work on the upcoming “Passion for Polson” dinner, dance and auction that acts as their annual fundraiser. Each summer the foundation invites their donors and guests to the party and participate in an auction that includes exciting prizes and trips. The 2023 fundraiser will take place on July 20, with more information announced as the date approaches. 

Since 2009, the GPCF has given out over $1 million in grants thanks to donations from the community. Nonprofits interested in applying for a 2023 grant with GPCF can apply online starting in February. Applications are due the last Friday in April. 

Those interested in contributing to the foundation prior to the fundraiser can do so online by visiting:, calling 406-883-4723, or mailing a check to PO Box 314, Polson, MT 59860. 

“It’s pretty impressive when you see all the different organizations that we have given money to in 11 years,” Whealon commented. “That we’ve been able to raise that kind of money and give that money away is pretty remarkable.”


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