Making life sweet
From both coasts to Big Sky
By all indications, Christine Lugo-Yergensen is tireless in her pursuits. She has a sort of vibrancy – in fact she exudes joy. With three kids under seven, a new catering business and volunteer pursuits that keep her hopping – including the Friendsgiving at the Wilson Hotel – her reservoir of energy likely comes in handy. Born in Brooklyn, it could be said that a sort of east coast drive to accomplish is intrinsic to her. But her feistiness; her natural competitiveness is balanced with kindness.
Her Panamanian mother and father from the Dominican Republic have always been in the travel industry, so in some respects her childhood playground was the world: Egypt, Italy, Paris, Amsterdam, Greece, Thailand.
Her father – whom she describes as looking like a Spanish version of Jackie Chan – cheerfully spoke through the telephone and told of the first time he really saw her kind heart. She was a small child and the family was in Mexico. She asked him for money and would not say why she needed it. He then watched as she took the money and gave it to a young girl sitting on the sidewalk.
“She got emotional and wanted to care – to give somebody something. A young child doesn't even have to think about those things,” Milton said. His voice swelled with pride as he spoke of how good it is to see her continue to take action to help others.
An advisory council member and frequent hands-on volunteer of the Big Sky Food Bank, food scarcity is something she does not want any family to know – not if she can do anything about it. Fully participating in caring for the community is not just for her and not just for those she helps, she wants to be an example for her children – to show them that everybody can do something.
As a child she was a soccer addict and even earned a scholarship that her knees would not allow her to accept. Still, she loves the sport. She also had a penchant for the dramatic as a thespian kid.
“So very expressive and you’d know if I was mad and you’d know if I was happy. I won class clown in school. If I wasn’t cracking jokes then people knew something was going on. I’m always very giggly and always very happy. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s like, ‘Christine calm down,’” she said.
Having fully caught the hospitality bug from her parents, she started working at Panera Bread and worked her way to the W New York – Union Square, where she met her future husband. They would work together at high end restaurants on both coasts and rub shoulders with celebrity chefs. The adventure they began together led to Big Sky three years ago.
What astounds her about Montana is the kindness she has seen. She carried preconceived notions as a Hispanic woman coming from the melting pot of New York City.
“You assume that the people are not nice and are living in a bubble in the middle of the forest. When it’s actually the exact opposite in a sense. I mean, you are living in a huge forest but at the same time the people here are the nicest I’ve ever encountered – minus the Costco minions,” she said.
It was initially a tough transition. She moved away to an entirely new place with an astoundingly low population and away from her family while battling postpartum depression. She reflects now and says that Big Sky has helped her become the person she was meant to be. And she is here with her perfect person.
“It’s really weird as aggressive and assertive as I am in my attitude, I really love it when people love life. When people care about my family it’s a big deal to me. When we were dating, my grandmother fell. He picked her up and helped her to bed. Now my grandma calls him her boyfriend and he’s her boyfriend for life,” she said. That moment showed her who he was.
With the pandemic, a new business, young children, and the recent loss of her younger cousin to COVID-19, she describes her husband as a part of her foundation.
“He has been selfless,” she said of his efforts to ease the tension in her life.
He has gone above and beyond this year. He has helped me develop my business. He has been selfless. He’s in the kitchen baking for me and then he will go home and get the kids. He’s really good at what he does I don't think he really understand how good he is at what he does. The things he develops in the kitchen is just beyond me. It’s pretty cool. And he’s an awesome father. Three kids is no joke.