Community Investment Fund

In 2015, the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities established the Community Investment Fund (CIF). CIF awards support innovative projects or programs that help Montanans with disabilities live, learn, work and play alongside people without disabilities. Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) members use their leadership and advocacy skills to review each application, evaluate the merits of the proposals, and award funds.

The application period for 2021 funding is closed. Please check this page in 2022 for information about and applications for the 2022 fund.

For more information, please contact:
Kim Brown
University of Montana
Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities
Corbin Hall
Missoula, MT 59812-7056
Voicemail: (406) 243-4852

Video: Community Investment Fund (2021)

2021 Award

This year Children’s Special Health Services matched Rural Institute funds so awards were given to three projects.

The Rural Institute and the Consumer Advisory Council thank all 2021 CIF applicants, and send congratulations to the 2021 recipients below.

Kalispell Mosaic Mural

Photo of colorful painted tiles. A hand reaches out with waves and butterflies flowing from it. KALICO Art Center and Kalispell Middle School (KMS) provided all 6-8th grade students an opportunity to paint a tile for a large collaborative mosaic mural installed in KMS. KMS Life Skills students spearheaded the project. CIF funds covered the mural materials and installation.

Read an article on the mural project on the Daily Inter Lake website.

Pumpkins for a Cause

Jordan Schroeder, with family support, created Pumpkins for a Cause (PFAC). The public and school groups visit the farm in Vaughn, Montana to pick a pumpkin, take a hayride and donate to the non-profit organization Jordan selects. PFAC used CIF funds to build an accessible ramp and hay wagon so people of all ages and abilities can ride together.

BASE Film Making Extravaganza

Photo of a man snapping a clapperboard in front of man in to indicate filming has begun.

BASE used their CIF funds to support the BASE Film Making Extravaganza. People of all abilities and ages built community while making films. BASE partnered with Missoula Community Access Television and Treasure State Studios to provide hands-on lessons on film-making fundamentals. Movies premiered at the Roxy and are available to watch on YouTube.

2020 Award

The 2020 CIF award went to the Montana Independent Living Project (mILp) to continue and expand their successful Feel Great and Recreate – All-Ability Adaptive Ice Skating project. This all-ages project offers adaptive, inclusive, cross-disability recreational programming. In the 2019-20 season, over 160 people skated over 450 times!

According to their CIF application, mILp’s goal is:

"To offer opportunities to people with disabilities to be active with the aid of adaptive equipment, especially in the current times of COVID-19.  We plan to grow the program in year two, both in Helena as well as conducting clinics in Butte, Bozeman and Dillon. By promoting this and other Feel Great and Recreate programs as adaptive and inclusive to people with and without disabilities, we make a statement that these opportunities are for everyone.  It’s almost like reverse inclusion.  Instead of waiting or having to ask to be allowed to participate in someone else’s game, we get to welcome TABS (temporarily able-bodied people) with open arms to play with us."

2019 Award

The 2019 CIF award was given to the Ability Montana for their Feel Great and Recreate – All-Ability Adaptive Ice Skating project. The all-ages program offered people in the Helena area adaptive, inclusive, cross-disability programming. This is especially important during the winter months, when it can be difficult for people with disabilities to recreate with others in their community.

Ability Montana's goal is for individuals with and without disabilities to have fun ice skating. According to their CIF application:

"This could include a public skate, a birthday party, a recreational hockey program, or a competitive sled-hockey team. We are also targeting parents and family members of children with disabilities looking for a fun family adventure. We envision a family with a child who is unable to stand and skate to be able to join their family on the ice instead of having to watch from the sideline. The purpose is to give people with a disability an opportunity to get out of their homes and join their neighbors in an inclusive environment as they build confidence, develop new skills, learn to work as a team, exercise and socialize."

2018 Award

Group of baseball players in front of dugout.

The 2018 Community Investment Fund award was shared by two recipients, Flathead High School in Kalispell and Quality Life Concepts in Great Falls.

Quality Life Concepts applied their award toward expenses for their Community Recreation Co-ed Softball Team. The 40-person team includes clients with disabilities served by QLC, staff, and community members. All team members play, rotating throughout the game so that everyone has a turn at defense and at batting. They also have a team photographer who takes pictures for the team’s Facebook page.

Flathead High School used the money to help purchase supplies for their Braves Coffee Company School-based enterprise. This business featured students with and without disabilities working side-by-side to plan, market and operate the coffee company. Several community partners collaborated with the high school to provide personnel training, discounted supplies, and mentoring.

2017 Award

The 2017 Community Investment Fund applicant field was strong and several requests were for less than the full amount of money available, so selection committee members chose to split the $2000 award between three separate projects.

The A.W.A.R.E., Inc. - Bonner School Garden Group received funding to purchase gardening supplies and build accessible raised beds for their inclusive community garden group. Project goals included: teach students with and without disabilities gardening and harvesting skills; develop their understanding of where food comes from; foster appreciation for nature; and support students with emotional disturbances in getting along with peers their age. The group met each week for two months to harvest fall vegetables and break down the garden plots for winter. Each group had a snack time, gardening mini-lesson, work time, and social play time.

Kati Burton, MS, RDN, received funding for “Just One More Bite: An Educational Series for Families with Special Eaters.” The Missoula-based series featured four 90-minute free workshops with a different speaker each week. Children’s activities, led by local organizations, took place in an adjacent room. Workshop topics included: Healing Techniques to Facilitate Feeding, Supporting Your Child’s Emotional needs to Foster Healthy Eating Habits, Occupational and Speech Therapist’s Approach to Feeding Difficulties, and Food Intolerances vs. Allergies.

Partial funding was also awarded to WORD (Women’s Opportunity & Resource Development) for the Summer Arts and Leadership Camp. SALC provides a safe, structured, educational, and stimulating environment for children ages 8-14, who have been affected by lower socio-economic status. During the six weeks of camp, children are exposed to a variety of activities and experiences, which they might not otherwise have access to. SALC is a free camp for the families and children it serves. Camp is funded through partnered organizations such as WORD, Missoula County Public Schools-District 1, and many private donations and foundations such as the Margaret V. Ping Foundation. SALC has offered a consistent safe place these children need and can depend on for 24 years.

2016 Award

In an ongoing effort to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities into their communities, the Rural Institute offers an annual Community Investment Fund (CIF), a grant available to organizations that advance this mission. The RI maintains a CIF Review Committee, a body comprised of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their family members. The Committee decides to whom the CIF award should be given.

Eagle Mount’s “Tippy Toes: Movement, Music, and Play” program was the unanimous winner of the 2016 CIF grant. Eagle Mount is based out of Great Falls, Montana. Through therapeutic recreation, they offer children with and without disabilities the opportunity to grow, learn, and play together in an inclusive setting.

Seven families were able to connect and learn alongside their children with help from the Community Investment Fund. Jill Van Son, the Tippy Toes program coordinator, recounted a story of success from the program this year: a family enrolled their two young children in Tippy Toes. One child was a person with a disability while the other was not. Family members had never seen the siblings play together without any inhibitions or barriers. They left the program with the renewed realization that their children can play together with small modifications.

The CIF award money was used to purchase adaptive equipment and other supplies as well as providing Jill and her colleagues the chance to network with other organizations in the area regarding inclusive activities. Thank you to Eagle Mount and the important work they do.

The story behind the award

Isaac Baldry, a committee member, made the poignant observation that Community Investment Fund serves to teach people about the importance of inclusion. He noted that schools often promote the separation of students with and without disabilities. He writes: “…as a person with a disability, if you went to regular classes, there may not have been the same expectations as to what you would do and how you would participate. Maybe it was okay if you just showed up. This can affect everyone’s view of what inclusion is, teachers and students, with and without a disability. Sorry to say, but maybe the majority of people just don’t know better.” It is the committee’s hope that the CIF grant will be used to fund truly inclusive opportunities.

2015 Award

In 2015, Summit Independent Living Center was the inaugural award recipient of the Community Investment Fund. Summit, in collaboration with BASE (a project offering a safe place to learn and display the arts and advocacy), Missoula’s Homegrown Comedy (a group of local comics), A Paper Crane (an education-through-arts organization) and the Crystal Theatre, used the small cash award for “Missoula LIVE!!”, a ten-week communication-through-improvisation program that culminated in a live comedy/variety show.

Organizers recruited over 30 individuals with and without disabilities to participate in the improv workshops, and of these 17 went on to become cast members in the final performance. Summit staff wrote, “By collaborating with other community organizations and including people of different ages, backgrounds and abilities in the cast and crew, as well as having a final program that was held at a public venue and promoted to the public as a whole, ‘Missoula LIVE!!’ exemplified interdependent living not just for those participants with a disability but more importantly for the entire community.”