November 2019
From Mary's Desk

Today's Veteran's Day. At MCF, we are pausing to honor the many veterans and the sacrifices they've made for our country. Montana veterans add to the fabric of our communities, bringing a perspective and experience unique to those who have served their country. And for me, it's personal. This Veteran's Day, I get to celebrate  my daughter, Laramie, among our state's veterans.
Did you know Montana has one of the largest percentage of veterans per capita? Have you seen first-hand examples of service members deciding to "come home" to Montana upon completion of their service? Have you noticed the incredible breadth and depth of organizations serving veterans here in Montana?
As part of our special Veteran's Day issue of Infinity, I'm pleased to share with you the creation of the Montana Veterans Fund at Montana Community Foundation. This new endowed fund is a result of our partnership with the Big Sky Honor Flight, a program to serve World War II veterans. You can read more about the Big Sky Honor Flight below.
Upon completion of her military service, Laramie chose Montana. Having her here matters more than I can ever express. Montana's bright future is matched by the potential Montana veterans add to our state. As you think of ways to celebrate your favorite Montana veteran, consider joining me in making a gift to the Montana Veterans Fund.


Mary K. Rutherford 
President & CEO 
Some of Our Local Veterans

Justin Campos  (2001-2005)   
Justin was an U.S. Air Force E4 Flight Operator stationed in Fort Hood Texas and deployed to Iraq in 2003 for one year as an Aviation Operations Specialist (Blackhawk Unit). Justin says he enlisted to follow in the footsteps of his father ( Vietnam War ) and grandfather ( WWII ). 

Charles Vanfossan 
Charles "Chuck" Vanfossan was stationed in Vietnam for six months in 1965 as a clerk in the repairs section for the U.S. Army 46 Engineer Battalion. "Grandpa Chuck" now has 10 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

Lawrence Brehm (1968-1969)
Lawrence "Larry" Brehm served as a U.S. Navy Yeoman 3rd Class in the Vietnam War. While enlisted, he kept in contact with his pen pal, now his wife of almost 50 years.

Laramie Rutherford 
Laramie  was deployed to Afghanistan in February 2013 as a U.S. Army Specialist (SPC) Heavy Equipment Operator for seven months. She calls MCF President & CEO, Mary Rutherford, "Mom" and is a mother herself with an adorable son named Soloman.
Big Sky Honor Flight Establishes New Montana Veterans Fund to Benefit Veterans Across the State

Montana Community Foundation (MCF) announces the creation of the Montana Veterans Fund. This fund, formerly the Big Sky Honor Flight Fund, will continue the good work of the honor flights by providing support to local veterans throughout the state. 
Big Sky Honor Flight was created in 2012. The program sent 750 WWII veterans on nine flights to Washington, D.C. to see the monuments and visit the World War II Memorial. It was a way to honor local veterans and celebrate their service. In 2014, the final honor flight took off from Montana, fulfilling Big Sky Honor Flight's mission of sending all WWII veterans in Montana, who could physically make the trip and had the desire, to our nation's capital. 
Of the remaining funds from the Big Sky Honor Flight Fund, $10,000 was sent to the National Honor Flight Hub organization to help transport Montana veterans on their national waiting list to Washington, D.C. The rest was used to create a new endowed fund, Montana Veterans Fund. The new permanent fund will support veterans causes in Montana forever.
"I'm thrilled we can finally do this," says Bill Kennedy, who was present on all nine flights and an integral part of fundraising efforts for the fund. "Through the new Montana Veterans Fund, the dollars raised through Big Sky Honor Flight, and future gifts to the new fund will continue to honor and support our veterans here in Montana."
MCF President and CEO, Mary Rutherford, will be sharing more about the fund at the Friends of Yellowstone National Cemetery Board's Veterans Day Celebration today, November 11, at 9:30 a.m. The event will take place on the MSU Billings Campus at the Petro Theater (1500 University Drive, Billings, Montana 59101).

Make a contribution to the Montana Veterans Fund in honor of a veteran in your life.  Be sure to include the name of the veteran you would like to honor. 

For more information, contact Teal Whitaker, Communications and Outreach Manager, at (406) 443-8313 or by email at

Organization Highlight: C.M. Russell Museum

The C.M. Russell Museum is one of the nation's finest museums of American Western art and the home of the most complete collection of Russell art and memorabilia in the world. The permanent collection of more than 12,000 objects also includes the works of such well-known artists as O.C. Seltzer, Winold Reiss, J.H. Sharp, E.E. Heikka, E.I. Couse, Olaf Wieghorst, Henry Farny, and Frank Tenney Johnson. The Browning Firearms Collection and The Bison: American Icon, Heart of Plains Indian Culture round out the museum's permanent exhibitions. 

The C.M. Russell Museum also employs six veterans and one active member of the National Guard on its staff.  According to Tom Figarelle, Executive Director at the museum: 

" Being home to Montana's only active duty installation, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Great Falls has a considerable veteran population. For the Museum, our security department has been a great place for veterans to utilize their skills for the benefit of protecting our collection and safeguarding the campus. The C.M. Russell Museum is better thanks to the veterans we enjoy on staff and we are grateful to have a city and state that celebrates the contributions of military members."

The C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls created a designated endowment fund, the C.M. Russell Museum Endowment Fund, at MCF in 1990 to supports its mission.  Donate to the C.M. Russell Museum Endowment Fund and become a critical part of how they acquire, care, discover and share the art, culture, and history of the American West. Learn more at about the museum at
Organization Highlight: Big Hearts Under the Big Sky

Big Hearts Under the Big Sky is a program started by the  Montana Outfitters and Guides Association (MOGA) . The mission of Big Hearts under the Big Sky is to provide high-quality outdoor adventures with MOGA Member Outfitters, at no cost, to families of those who have provided extraordinary service to our country and those who face the challenge of a life-threatening illness.

Since 2008, Big Hearts under the Big Sky program has served 78 families/groups totaling 430 people, involving 47 MOGA Outfitter businesses and accounting for over $540,000 in donated Montana Outdoor adventures.

Benefits of the Big Hearts program extend far beyond the hunt or catch; spirits are healed, capabilities and confidence expand, a sense of purpose is rediscovered, and families are restored.

One individual served by Big Hearts Under the Big Sky commented, "I know when I get home I will be asked how did your trip go? I don't know how to answer, sure I got an elk, but the trip was so very much more."

In 2017, the Big Hearts Under the Big Sky Endowment Fund was opened at MCF. You can contribute to the fund here.

Learn more about Big Hearts Under the Big Sky at
Two Women Make Waves (and Handbags) to Help Military Spouses

Lisa Bradley, a native of Columbus, Montana, and her business partner, Cameron Cruse, are military wives that are on a mission to provide better employment opportunities to military spouses like themselves.

Their company, R. Riveter, produces stylish handbags and offers a way for military spouses to make what they call a  "mobile income to travel along with us as we relocate with military members."

And they want to make one thing clear:  "R.Riveter doesn't hire military spouses to make handbags. We make handbags to hire military spouses, and create a greater sense of mission ."

Visit their website at

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