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Community Investment Fund

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.

Seven families were able to connect and learn alongside their children with help from the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities’ “Community Investment Fund”, CIF. This is a grant offered annually to Montana projects which further the idea of inclusion of people with and without disabilities working, living, and playing together.

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.

Jill Van Son, the 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 final funding decision was made by an advisory committee comprising Montanans with developmental disabilities and a handful of parents. It was clear to all committee members that Eagle Mount fully grasps the absolute necessity of inclusion in communities. The 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 grant will be offered again in 2017. If you or someone you know offers an activity or service which is inclusive of people with and without disabilities, please contact Kim Brown of the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities. She can be reached by phone (voicemail) at: 406-243-4852  By E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The story behind the award

Isaac Baldry, a committee member, made the poignant observation that this grant 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.

Thus, the 2016 grant of $2,400 was awarded in full to Eagle Mount-Great Falls, an organization which provides therapeutic and recreational activities for children and adults with physical, mental, emotional and/or social challenges, striving to improve the quality of life for them and their families. The grant money will be used to expand the funding of Eagle Mount’s “Tippy Toes: Movement, Music, and Play” program, a class offered in six-week sessions for infants and toddlers, with and without disabilities.

Eagle Mount describes the importance of their program, “As an organization known for working with disabled individuals, it would be very powerful to incorporate children and families who do not have a disability, giving families in our community the opportunity and choice to enjoy the same places and activities as anyone else. For ten years, Eagle Mount has been serving infants and toddlers through our Tippy Toes program. We have had much interest in this program from families with children who do not have disabilities. This program would be a great way to increase the understanding and acceptance of diversity.”

CIF review committee members feel this organization perfectly grasps the concept of inclusion and therefore deserves the full amount of this year’s CIF fund. The Rural Institute and the review committee look forward to the work Eagle Mount will do this fall. Stay tuned for updates and for the 2017 application process.

Do you have an interesting idea or project to promote inclusion for people with disabilities? Would a small amount of start-up funds help you get your project off the ground? 

CIF Summary - Microsoft Word Document
CIF Application - Print and Fill-out Microsoft Word Document
CIF Application – Microsoft Word Document fillable form
CIF Application - PDF Application form
Directions for using PDF form: Open the PDF file and save it to your desktop. Fill out the form and save it again. Then either print a hard copy of the application and submit it by mail or fax, or attach the PDF form to an email and submit it electronically.

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.”