Hopa Mountain: Investing in Citizen Leaders
Last week, Mary Jane DiSanti, owner of Country Bookshelf, called our office and quietly said, “I saw that you are looking for donations of books to give to children that do not have their own personal collection….I would like to donate some.” In that generous act of grace, Mary Jane reminded me of what makes Bozeman such a special place.
In every community, there are “citizen leaders,” like Mary Jane, who just get things done. These local leaders naturally step forward when others need help. They are known for their ability to observe and listen, find out where others want to go, and help them get there.
Bozeman is blessed with an abundance of citizen leaders. The generosity of these individuals is what makes Bozeman such a livable – and likeable town. Hopa Mountain, a Bozeman-based nonprofit organization, recognizes the critical role these leaders play in community vitality. We invest in citizen leaders, adults and youth, who are working to improve education, ecological health, and economic development. The possibilities for sustained community improvements throughout the Northern Rockies lie in the strength, innate wisdom, and creativity of these local leaders. At Hopa Mountain, we endeavor to provide them with resources, primarily through mentoring, networking, training, and fiscal sponsorship, to help generate and expand their local community efforts.
In Bozeman, Hopa Mountain is investing in several citizen leader initiatives, such as Gallatin Valley Farm to School. The overarching goal of the Gallatin Valley Farm to School project is to create healthier children and a healthier Montana food system. Gallatin Valley citizen leaders are doing this by connecting schools, students, and their communities to local producers. As advisory board member Heather LaRocca noted, “by directly connecting producers to schools, we can increase the amount of whole, fresh local foods in school meals and inspire life-long healthy eating habits.” The citizen leaders involved with this initiative are positively impacting the health of our children and our entire community. For more information about Gallatin Valley Farm to School, or to find out how you can get involved, please call coordinator Cari Hanson at 579-2908.
Hopa Mountain is investing in local youth leaders through T.O.U.C.H. (Teens Outreach Uniting Community Help), a youth leadership program. In collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Montana, T.O.U.C.H. offers teens, 11-18, year round opportunities to strengthen their leadership skills through positive educational experiences, time outdoors, service learning and personal asset development. As program organizer Liz Mack said, “the youth leadership program works to provide teens the space to put their ideas into action and to become agents for positive change in their community”.
This past summer the T.O.U.C.H. teens camped at the Lions Ridge facility at Trail Creek where they participated in team building, self awareness and asset development activities. There, the teens learned new skills such as orienteering, disaster preparedness, and plant identification. The week concluded with a day of service learning in Bozeman and advice from local community leaders. Many of these teens were new to the program and have continued to be involved in the weekly ongoing program activities.
The T.O.U.C.H. teen citizen leaders meet weekly to organize service projects and educational activities. Recent projects include ornament making for the Montana Capitol Tree, organizing a community Halloween Festival that also served as food drives for the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, participating in the Bozeman Youth Festival, leading an ice cream social with seniors from the Befrienders group, volunteering at Gallatin Valley Fair, and participating in Family Promise’s Cardboard Box City. For more information, or to get involved, please call Liz Mack at 586-2455.
Around Montana, Hopa Mountain is investing in our youngest citizen leaders through the StoryMakers project. The purpose of Hopa Mountain’s StoryMakers is to support parents of children ages 0-5 in their efforts to provide language rich home environments that lead to children’s success in school and economic self-sufficiency in adulthood. StoryMakers currently works through local StoryMakers Community Teams in 14 counties to offer parents and caregivers summaries of up-to-date child development information; high-quality, age- and culturally-appropriate children’s books; and encouragement to create the early home environments that prepare their children for success in school and in life.
This fall StoryMakers served 6,798 children and their families, primarily in rural and tribal communities (all 7 Indian reservations in Montana, plus the Little Shell, have StoryMakers programs). Through local StoryMakers Community Teams, this Hopa Mountain project encourages parents to engage their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in fun, interactive parent-child book-sharing, storytelling, and home “conversations” that go beyond “business talk.” As StoryMakers program director Linda Clark observes, “these parent-child interactions automatically produce much richer, more emotionally positive daily language experiences for very young children – which, in turn, lead to the development of strong pre-literacy skills and overall school readiness.” Linda would like to expand StoryMakers to serve the Gallatin Valley as more resources become available. For more information about StoryMakers, please call Linda Clark at 388-2953.
If you have an idea for a small community change that can make a big difference, please check out our Citizen Leaders toolkit online. There are also nonprofit Board and staff resources available. We also invite you to visit us in the Klare Building at 234 E. Babcock Suite E. We are available to provide resources and networking in person and online.
Hopa Mountain’s work is only made possible through collaborative partnerships and the generous gifts of many individuals, local businesses, such as Country Bookshelf, and foundations including the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation, Mountain Sky Guest Ranch Fund, First Interstate BancSystem Foundation, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, the Walter and Lucille Braun Family Gift Fund, and the Bozeman Community Foundation. We owe everyone involved a debt of gratitude for their investment in citizen led initiatives that contribute positively to our community.
Wondering what you can do to “step forward” and help Hopa Mountain invest in citizen leaders? You can invest in local citizen leaders by sharing your skills, making a financial contribution, or becoming a partner organization. “Hopa” is an old English word for hope, meaning what is desired becomes possible. For more information about Hopa Mountain, visit www.hopamountain.org or call 586-2455.