Snowbird Fund marks one-year anniversary

Snowbird Fund aims to help MMIP families with immediate funding
Posted at 5:51 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 20:24:39-05

HELENA — The Snowbird Fund launched one year ago, and is designed to quickly provide money to tribal families who have had a loved one reported missing.

Grants can be used to help pay for costs related to searching for the missing, such as gas money, hotel stays, drones for searching, hosting a community vigil, and awareness campaigns. The grants were originally capped at $500, but the amount has now been raised to $1,000.

In its first year, the Snowbird Fund disbursed 11 grants totaling $6,000:

  • 12.5% for family support during searches
  • 12.5% for memorial services
  • 12.5% for family unification
  • 25% for travel and lodging
  • 37.5% for search and rescue efforts

The grants were awarded in these areas:

  • Polson - 1
  • Browning - 5
  • Dutton - 1
  • Box Elder - 1
  • Hardin - 1
  • Lame Deer - 2

“The Snowbird Fund opened a year ago as a resource for families during a very desperate time,” said Mary Rutherford, CEO of the Montana Community Foundation, which created the fund. “A year later, that is still the intent of the fund. We want it to serve as a valuable resource for families and relieve some of the financial burden that comes from conducting these searches.”

Besides doubling grant amounts, the Snowbird Fund is working to identify how it can increase the impact of the fund and awareness of search grants, especially as costs for food, lodging, and gas increase.

“There’s a need for more community outreach about the fund, especially in tribal communities,” said Snowbird Fund member Ivan MacDonald of the Blackfeet Tribe. “We’re identifying more ways to connect with individuals, agencies, and organizations working directly with those who are conducting these searches so we can better provide this resource to those who need it.”

    Data collected by MMIP Montana reporting shows Native Americans are four times more likely to go missing in the state. Native Americans constitute about 6.5% of the state population but account for 27% of Montana’s missing persons cases.