Foundation creates new program aimed at assisting homeless youth

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The Whitefish Community Foundation is beginning a new program focused on assisting local youth experiencing homelessness.

The new program came out of the foundation’s summer panel highlighting local school homeless liaisons and nonprofit leaders who are working with children at high risk of becoming or experiencing homelessness, according to a release.

The new program, called The Kids Fund — Giving Voice to Children, will focus on three main areas of need: safety, education and health.

According to the Montana Office of Public Instruction, 12.2% of high school students in Flathead County qualify as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

“We are constantly hearing and reading about the sheer numbers of youth experiencing homelessness in the Flathead and we are hoping this program will help local nonprofits and schools do more to help this vulnerable population,” said Whitefish Community Foundation President Linda Engh-Grady.

Over the past three months, the foundation has been holding meetings with nonprofits and schools to examine what is being done and learn what more can be done. The hope is that by making program funding available, nonprofits working in these continuums of care will think critically about solutions, according to organizers.

“We are not interested in funding the status quo, we want projects that will impact our youth for the better and create lasting life changes.” Engh-Grady said.

The foundation seeded the program with $86,000 and received an additional $100,000 through donations and a matching gift.

Local philanthropists and current HCSC CEO Dave Lesar, and his wife Sherry Lesar, who serves on the foundation Board of Directors, want to see a serious grassroots effort to change the outcomes facing local homeless youth. After hearing the panel of speakers at the Giving Voice to Children event, the Lesars were inspired to challenge the foundation to raise another $500,000 for The Kids Fund by offering to match it with $500,000 of their own money.

“We are going to need serious funding to create lasting impact for our homeless and high risk children,” Sherry Lesar said. “This challenge is an attempt to bring more attention to the serious problem and hopefully some really good, sustainable outcomes, and we are proud to be part of this effort.”

The Kids Fund Committee of Whitefish Community Foundation is currently reviewing several projects for possible funding. Nonprofits interested in learning more about the program and bringing forward ideas are encouraged to contact the Whitefish Community Foundation.

Donors interested in making a gift to support the Challenge for the Kids Fund can send gifts to Whitefish Community Foundation P.O. Box 1060, Whitefish, MT 59937 or donate online at https://www.whitefishcommunityfoundation.org/the-kids-fund/

For more information, call 406-863-1781 or contact@whitefishcommunityfoundation.org

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