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Moving forward with Soroptimist International mission, addressing EPA error

| June 7, 2023 1:00 AM

Soroptimist International of Whitefish (SIW) is a nonprofit club that provides programs that empower women and girls. We own the property and building at 303 East First Street in which the Whitefish Thrift Haus operates to fund these programs. Recently, the EPA published a press release about the Brownfields grant that was awarded to the Montana West Economic Development Foundation to address possible contamination in properties in our area. Our property was specifically listed with erroneous details concerning our future.

As good stewards of this asset SIW, engaged in the program through the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct an environmental site assessment should we ever need to rebuild the store on this property. Being in the railroad district, we were concerned there could be contamination. No contamination has been reported at this time. SIW appreciates the studies and testing the Brownfields Program provided and recognizes how valuable this program is for our community.

The article stated that we have plans to relocate the Whitefish Thrift Haus to another location while creating multi-family housing units for low- to moderate income families at our current site. This is inaccurate. Affordable housing is a critical issue but has never been part of the SIW mission, nor do we have any immediate plans to rebuild the store on our current site or elsewhere.

Our true mission is to provide women and girls in our community access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment. The Whitefish Thrift Haus (WTH), as the supporting nonprofit of SIW exists solely to fund the mission of SIW. WTH runs the operations of the store and monies raised only fund SIW programs.

SIW thanks the community for its generous donations of goods, in-kind services, and money over the lifetime of the club started in 1951. We return the generosity in the forms of scholarships, grants, and gifts to women and girls to access educational opportunities. Our flagship program, Live Your Dream, provides funding to women who are head of household and enrolled in a vocational/skills training program or an undergraduate degree program. SIW awarded 18 area women $30,000 last year alone through this program. We also awarded $30,000 in scholarships to graduating high school girls and women in graduate programs. Our Smile of Hope program provided over $10,000 in dental care to improve the health and self-esteem of local women in need. For more information about our programs and advocacy for women and girls, or to inquire about membership, please email soroptimistwhitefish@gmail.com.

The Soroptimist International of Whitefish, Executive Board