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Banks, real estate agents and distillers step up to help

Banks, real estate agents and distillers step up to help

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From banks to real estate companies to local distilleries and breweries, Missoula businesses and nonprofits are taking action during the coronavirus pandemic to support healthcare workers and needy people in the community.

Ryan Montgomery, who owns Montgomery Distillery in downtown Missoula with his wife Jenny, has been able to keep more than a half-dozen workers on the payroll by pivoting to making hand sanitizer for local healthcare workers and first responders. He teamed up with Big Sky Brewing Co. in Missoula and is now pumping out 50 gallons a week of the stuff.

“They donated their extra keg beer to us, and we’re distilling that into alcohol,” Montgomery explained. They then mix the alcohol with other ingredients and bottle it. He jokes that it’s the “most expensive hand sanitizer in history” because very little alcohol comes from the beer, and his artisan setup isn’t specifically designed for the purpose. They’re barely covering costs, but he said he’s happy to be doing something to help.

Montgomery has been inundated with calls from hospitals, clinics and other organizations all over Montana and the region, and he said he’s simply unable to fill all requests. But he and his team have delivered to local hospitals, police, firefighters and the Montana Highway Patrol. Rattlesnake Creek Distillery in Missoula also has been making hand sanitizer, as have many distilleries in Montana.

“We’re able to do it, so we decided we wanted to help until all the big manufacturers can ramp up production,” Montgomery said.

He noted that they're currently on a very long waitlist for sanitizer, so he's not able to take any new requests at this time, and the sanitizer is solely for healthcare workers and others on the front lines.

They’re not the only business that’s pivoted during this time.

Engel & Völkers Western Frontier, a real estate brokerage based in Missoula with shops throughout western Montana, kicked into gear on a different initiative as soon as local businesses and restaurants were restricted due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their “Feeding the Frontlines” program began sending meals each day to local hospitals, including St. Patrick’s Hospital, Community Medical Center, Kalispell Regional Medical Center, St. Joseph’s in Polson and Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton. Brokerage owner Dawn Maddux kicked things off with a donation, then more than 60 real estate advisers and staff stepped in to extend the program. In the first week of April, they started a GoFundMe account so community friends and neighbors could help keep their program going and quickly raised over $1,000. They’ve also purchased $3,000 worth of meals from local restaurants.

“As a fellow small business owner and spouse of a medical professional, I understand not only the stress of keeping your doors open and employees working during this time, but also the daily stresses facing our medical teams,” Maddux said. “We know how important it is to support our local small businesses right now, and these meals are just one small way we can say thank you to our medical heroes working so hard to keep us healthy.”

Stockman Bank, a statewide financial institution with offices in Missoula, has offered to defer loan payments that are due and will restructure debt for borrowers as necessary. The bank is also working with commercial and agricultural customers on a case-by-case basis.

“Over the past few weeks, we have all become part of an unprecedented world health crisis,” said Stockman CEO Bill Coffee. “As schools, universities and local businesses temporarily close, community and sporting events canceled and people stay home to self quarantine, care for loved ones or even themselves should they become ill, we recognize the stress and anxiety this causes for Montanans, who still have bills to pay. As Montana’s community bank, we are making accommodations to help reduce this stress and protect customers’ credit.”

Coffee said they’re offering 24-hour telephone banking.

“During our nearly 70-year history, through ups and downs — market swings, wars, natural disasters — we have weathered many storms together,” Coffee said. “Montanans are strong, resilient and we take very good care of each other. We will weather this storm too.”

The Headwaters Foundation, a local healthcare nonprofit, has pledged nearly half a million dollars in 2020 to help fund organizations on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

“As the COVID-19 crisis rapidly became more widespread, staff talked extensively with our grantees to understand their changing needs,” said Headwaters CEO Brenda Solorzano. “We brought this information to our board, and they made the courageous decision to allocate more resources to organizations in western Montana as these organizations work tirelessly to address the issues, gaps and needs left in the wake of COVID-19. This funding is meant to respond to what our grantees told us were the most urgent needs they see in our communities.”

The new $450,000 allocation approved last week by the Headwaters board of trustees will bolster the $4.3 million the foundation already budgeted for 2020 grant making.

Solorzano said the additional funding is earmarked to address food insecurity and emergency childcare. Headwaters will also realign American Indian strategic initiative funding to meet the immediate needs of American Indian communities in western Montana as a result of the current pandemic.

“We want this money to help people now,” Solorzano said. “Food banks, childcare centers, and small nonprofits are suffering, and we hope this extra boost will help in this time of crisis.”

This story appears in Vol. 1 Issue 2 of Missoula Business, a publication that reports on emerging trends and goes beyond the numbers to look at the insights and drive of the people leading Missoula forward. Find the second issue inserted in the Sunday print Missoulian and soon in the e-edition, and read the stories on Missoulian.com

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