Behind the scenes support
Big Sky group helps non-profits in need
I had heard tale of a mysterious group of do-gooders in Big Sky, initially thinking they were linked to another volunteer organization within the community. I was wrong. There’s no name for the group. No scheduled meetings. No 501c3 status. No minutes. They’ve been quietly doing their good deeds for the past few years without interest in acknowledgement, accolades or funding.
The slightly mysterious group’s member investment is time and the cost of fuel, but they’ve helped hundreds of people and animals through their efforts sanctioned by Big Sky Resort. It took knowing someone who knew someone who put me in contact with a kind woman with a pet rabbit, who hesitantly agreed to an interview.
Betsy Rondeau, Construction Project Manager at Big Sky Resort admitted that she was a little nervous about the interview and debated agreeing to it for some time. Ultimately, the desire to spread the word to hopefully find a way to do more good won out.
“We need to figure out a way to get excess stuff out of Big Sky and to people who can use it. Hopefully other Big Sky establishments are also finding ways to distribute their unwanted items,” she said, continuing. “I wish I had a way to go bigger– to get more of the hospitality industry here to donate more. That is definitely my sole purpose in talking to you today in addition to thanking the people who already help.”
Rachel Garabelli and Whitney Smith, housekeeping directors at Big Sky Resort, along with their boss, Madeleine Feher in addition to Maggie Trimiew and John Smider, who are contractors with Big Sky Resort and who also own property in Butte, compose the core group of people Rondeau really wants to thank. This is a true Big Sky grassroots campaign to better Montana with items that would normally go to the garbage.
“I’ve worked fulltime year-round since 2013 now. I’ve watched [Big Sky Resort] get rid of so much stuff. After I did some digging I couldn’t find anything that was already put together to help get goods in the hands of needy people,” Rondeau said.
Example: With any kind of remodel in which old dishes, blankets, coffee pots and coffee mugs are gathered from the hotels, the group swoops in and starts loading things up, keeping them from the landfill and transporting items to organizations that can use them. This includes about 200 coffee pots to the Safe Space in Butte for domestic violence survivors; hundreds of blankets and pillows to the Safe Space and Butte Rescue Mission, and the more heavily-worn blankets have gone to the animal shelter in Butte.
It’s more than just kitchen and home supplies going back to use. “With the help of Dylan Hall, the head of retail and rental at Big Sky Resort, we gave a bunch of helmets to the RYDE program and to Maverick Mountain,” Rondeau said.
But why Butte? Rondeau describes Bozeman as a kind of land of plenty: warehouses are generally full; the community is generous. Go a little further – over to Butte – a place where she has ties since she earned her degree in biology in Butte at Montana Tech and the need is extreme. One of her most rewarding experiences was volunteering for Habitat for Humanity while she was there.
“Really it doesn’t take any time at all to do. It was headed to the dumpster, so we just put it in the truck. It takes a bunch of people to do things sometimes. Everyone was a cog in the wheel and now people have blankets and coffee makers,” Rondeau said, expressing that she wants to take it to the next level, to do more, but is unsure how to get there. She said it would be nice to have a box truck someday, so they could keep collected items dry and transport things more easily.
Rondeau believes doing this work is beneficial for herself, her husband and her friends.
“We have everything we need, it’s not like we’re wealthy or anything, but you can always do something,” she said. “I think sometimes too if you have trouble in your life it helps to help other people. My friend’s dad always says, ‘If you’ve got a problem, go to work.’”
She heard statistics that Safe Space in Butte helps thousands of women and children a year who are victims of domestic violence and believes the things the group has contributed are not just necessities, but also mood-lifters. “A blanket, a pillow, a cup of coffee, these things can make nearly anyone’s day better,” she said.
Rondeau said Maggie Trimiew and John Smider have been instrumental in finding the right places for the right items in Butte. They purchased a historic mansion there and have met many people through hosting events at their home, she said.
“Over the course of a year it would be about one to two truckloads a month. A lot of stuff is gotten rid of during the off-season, so we sometimes have four truckloads a month during that time,” she said. “We have a bunch of dishes right now we’re trying to get together to get to the Rescue Mission.”