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Community Investment Fund

The application period for 2019 funding is closed. Please check this page in the spring of 2020 for information about and applications for the 2020 fund.

For more information, please contact:
Kim Brown
University of Montana Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities
035 N. Corbin Hall
Missoula, MT 59812-7056
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Voicemail: (406) 243-4852

2019 Community Investment Fund Recipient

In 2015, the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) 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 each proposal, and award the funds.

mILpThe 2019 CIF award goes to the Montana Independent Living Project (mILp) for their Feel Great and Recreate – All-Ability Adaptive Ice Skating project. The all-ages program will offer 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.

mILp’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.”

The Rural Institute and CAC thank all 2019 CIF applicants, and send congratulations to the 2019 recipient!          

2018 Community Investment Fund Recipients

QLC DSPerados Softball Team

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

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.

Congratulations to the 2018 CIF recipients! 


2017 Community Investment Fund Recipients

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.

Congratulations to the 2017 CIF recipients!

UM’s Rural Institute Awards 2016 Community Investment Fund

In an ongoing effort to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities into their communities, the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities offers an annual Community Investment Fund, a grant available to organizations that advance this mission. The RIIC 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 Community Investment Fund Recipient

In 2015, Summit Independent Living Center (ILC) was the inaugural award recipient of the Community Investment Fund. Summit ILC, 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 ILC 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.”