Havre Daily News
The Ross family has decided to give back to the community that has given it so much.
Blaine County ranchers Warren and Betty Don Ross recently created the 8 Bar 7 Ranch Memorial Endowment to complement a community foundation they helped establish in 1997. The earnings from both funds, which total about $100,000, will benefit local causes in perpetuity.
The money can be used for any cause benefitting Blaine County, and Warren Ross said Thursday that he is looking for people willing to join an advisory committee to review applications for grant money.
“It's very general and open. It's a way to get things done, projects and so on,” Ross said of the endowment. “A lot of times, that's all it takes, is just a little support.”
He said he hopes the gift will encourage others in the community to leave something for future generations.
The Rosses have been here for more than a century, since Warren's ancestors homesteaded in 1889, and this is a gift of appreciation.
“We've been involved here for a hundred years,” Ross said. “It's been good to us. It's just a way to say thanks.”
The Rosses also are founding members of the Montana Community Foundation, a statewide philanthropic and community foundation that manages more than 500 funds with $50 million in endowments.
Montana Community Foundation executive director Linda Reed said the Rosses are “fabulous role models” for others in the community.
“They're really showing all of us how they recognize the important role the community has played in their entire lives,” she said. “All of us are products of our communities.”
Such endowments are a great way to fund solutions for causes now and in the future, she added.
The Blaine County Community Foundation has been underused since its inception, Ross said, but it was able to offer a little help - in the form of a $2,500 grant - to people who wanted to update and landscape the veterans memorial in Chinook.
Ross said he hopes to get the advisory committee together and get the word out to those in the community who can use the endowment.
“Hopefully this will stir interest among some other people to build these things up,” he said. “We want this to try and open the eyes of people to see what's available.”
He and his wife were influenced by the late Lloyd Sweet of Chinook, who established a private family foundation that has financed the Sweet Memorial Nursing Home and the Sweet Scholarship Fund to benefit graduates of Chinook High School.
“After seeing what Mr. Sweet did and the benefit Blaine County has seen from that, I think it's a project that accomplishes what most of us want to do: improve our community,” Ross said. “I was really impressed with him. He just did a lot of good.”
The Rosses ranch 25 miles southeast of Havre on Clear Creek Road. Ross, who is semiretired, said the couple raised four children and have eight grandchildren.
The money from the 8 Bar 7 endowment came from money the pair set aside eight years ago with the understanding that it would be transferred to the Blaine County Community Foundation upon their deaths.
Ross said he and Betty Don decided to create the memorial endowment because their children had gotten out of college and were on their feet. The fund is separate from the community foundation, but will have the same advisory committee and serve the same purpose.
The BCCF has about $30,000 and has seen about a half-dozen donors over the years, Ross said. He hopes that the 8 Bar 7 endowment will encourage others to contribute to the community foundation or establish endowments of their own.
“Our agricultural people are getting advanced in years,” Ross said. “For estate planning, it's really an opportunity.”
The Montana Community Foundation is an excellent resource for people who want to create an endowment but don't know where to start, he said. The organization will handle all of the tax work and paperwork to set the funds up, he added.
A similar endowment is getting off the ground in Hill County. Randy Hanson, who chairs the Hill County Community Endowment, said today the fund was started with an Anheuser-Busch challenge grant given to Havre Distributors in 1995. Through fundraising and subsequent grants, the endowment is now worth about $7,100, he said.
After the organization raised more than $5,000, the Montana Community Foundation awarded it a $2,500 grant, which was disbursed to local causes, Hanson said. The money benefitted Court-Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, of Hill County; purchased genealogy software for the Havre-Hill County Library; brought children's theater to North Star Public Schools; purchased playground equipment in Hingham; and was used to purchase equipment for Hill County Emergency Services.
The group will begin fundraising again next spring, and if another $5,000 is raised, the state foundation will contribute another $2,500, Hanson said.
Those who want to learn more about endowments can contact the Rosses at (406) 357-3593, Hanson at 265-5072 or the Montana Community Foundation at (406) 443-8313.
On the Net: Montana Community Foundation www.mtcf.org