The "Tuscan sun" makes Polson shine

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Greater Polson Community Foundation president, Penny Jarecki, and event organizer, Toni Young, enjoy the warm evening at Finley Point. Both women have played a great hand in the success of the foundation since its conception and were proud of Saturday night’s success.

POLSON— Against the backdrop of the Mission Mountains, the Greater Polson Community Foundation (GPCF) held its fifth annual fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 17.

“A Night under the Tuscan Sun” was well-received by community members who were there supporting the GPCF’s mission statement: to build a savings account for the future of Polson.

GPCF is a non-profit organization that builds funds throughout the year, and distributes them as grants throughout the community.

“Over the past five years we have awarded over $71,000 to various organizations,” said GPCF president Penny Jarecki. “In 2012, we awarded 11,000 dollars to Helping Hands, the Miracle of America Museum, the Mission Valley Aquatics Scholarship program, the Ninepipes Security Program, the North Lake County Public Library and Flathead Lake Independent Cinema Festival.”

According to other members of the group, much of this success should be owed to Jarecki herself.

“Every time the state of Montana tries to send challenge grants to an organization, Penny matches them. She’s an amazing woman,” commented Toni Young, the event organizer for GPCF.

Jarecki certainly does put a lot of work into the organization, in 2011 she was named Citizen of the Year for her work by Polson Chamber of Commerce. However, Jarecki ascribes much of the foundation’s success to her fellow members.

“We have members who are conscientious and engaged, who have deep roots in Polson and truly care about this community, and our donors are the same way. We want to encourage this legacy of awarding grants strategically and working toward common goals for our community,” said Jarecki in a short address to those in attendance on Saturday night.

She went on to say that the foundation was well on its way to upholding its three missions: to create a permanent endowment in Polson, to establish a well funded base for giving grants, and to work as community conveners.

Since the fall of 2008, the GPCF has received around $337,000 in donations, which they have used to establish their endowment, they have successfully given $71,000 in grants to numerous organizations in the Polson area, and have created an Envision Polson Project, which digresses from the goal of giving money to other organizations and allows members of the GPCF to donate their time to making Polson “the gem of Flathead Lake.”

The Envision Polson Project has identified eight areas in the Greater Polson area that could be improved upon and has designated eight different committees to begin moving toward those goals.These committees work year-long to tailor itself to Polson’s needs, and work to increase Polson’s beauty, recreation opportunities, health, standard of living, leadership, tourism, youth opportunities and lake appreciation.

The event on Saturday embodied these mission statements. Over $19,000 was raised through tax-deductible ticket sales and donations for the dinner, and the community members who attended were given the opportunity to visit with each other, dance to Polson’s swing band and enjoy an Italian meal supplied by Mark Ricciardi. Dinner and hors d’oeuvres were served by Polson High School cheerleaders, and parking service was provided by the Polson football team.

“What better symbol is there of our mission statement than the outstanding youth who are serving here tonight?” Jarecki asked her audience on Saturday. “I hope that when they grow up and become established in communities of their own, they will remember what we are doing here tonight, and remember the satisfaction of giving back to your community.”

This year’s GPCF fundraiser was representative of that satisfaction as donors, members and supporters looked forward to the goal of making Polson the gem of Flathead Lake.

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