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The Nye Community Foundation, INC. was founded in 1999 to build a permanent financial base to support and promote projects that will benefit the residents of Nye and the surrounding area.

It is a public, non-profit charitable and educational organization, incorporated in the State of Montana and is registered with the federal government as a 501(c)3 organization.  All donations are tax deductible.

The foundation is affiliated with the Montana Community Foundation, a statewide charitable organization which pools the investments of more than 250 funds, including those of the Nye Community Foundation, and ensures the maximum return on donations to the endowment fund.


Since its inception, in 1999, the Nye Community Foundation has gifted over $90,000 to area schools, college scholarships, fire and rescue groups, and youth organizations.  The money for these gifts comes from three main sources: donations, fund raising, and grants.

The Nye Community Foundation welcomes questions regarding donations and grants, remember, all donations are tax deductible.


Gifts of cash, stocks, and annuities. These are used for grant requests and also put in our endowment fund managed by the Montana Community Foundation.

Fund Raising

The only fund raising event is the ATV Raffle held during “Nye Goes Nuts” which is a community-wide event each year during July. Since 2000, “Nye Goes Nuts” has raised over $130,000.


These come from an investment return on our Montana Community Foundation endowment fund, and monies from businesses and charitable institutions.


  • President, Finis Sandlin
  • Vice President, Bob McKinsey
  • Treasurer, Kaite Howes
  • Asst Treasurer, Penny Keogh
  • Secretary, Pam Oliver
  • Asst Secretary, Dave DeBats
    Members At Large:
  • Heath Benson
  • Doug Robinette
  • Debbie Manzanares


by Margaret Look

In 1997, Penny Keogh, a member of the Nye School Board, told me the school needed new playground equipment.  She had been searching for ways to get the money for it and wondered if the school district could apply for a grant from some charitable foundations.

During that year, and 1998, we pursued this idea.  By looking in reference books in the Parmley Library in Billings, we found the names and addresses of foundations in Montana that offered grants.  We contacted several foundations, including the Montana Community Foundation, filled out their applications, but our requests were rejected.

In the process of applying for grants, we took pictures of the school and wrote extensive descriptions of our community and the importance of the school to the residents.  We also got catalogs of playground equipment from the school district in Powell, Wyoming, where I lived, so we had some idea of what we would like to have and what it would cost.  Even though we never got the money through a grant, all this research and background work gave us an appreciation of the community and its needs.

Penny had heard that other communities, such as Joilet, had their own foundations.  Maybe we should consider that path to getting funds, we said to each other.

When my husband, Travis died, on March 3, 1999, i wanted some way to memorialize him, especially in the Still water Valley, which he loved the moment he saw it.  When I mentioned the idea of a Nye Foundation to Penny, she was enthusiastic.  We thought of David Nighbert, a neighbor who had considerable experience with financial institutions.  He, too, was enthusiastic.

Through inquiries to James Klessens, whom Penny knew and who was a director of the Beartooth Resource and Development, we learned that a good way to start a foundations was through the Montana Community Foundation, which is an umbrella organization, having more than 30 small community foundations under it.  The Montana group would invest our money, handle tax matters, and give us the income from our investments.

On March 22, 1999, Penny, David, and I met at my home with several representatives of the Montana Community Foundation.  They were Karen Timchak of the Billings office, Obert Undem, and attorney on the board of directors, and Mary Ann Gorsich, Chief Financial officer of the Montana Community Foundation, located in Helena.

We planned a public meeting in May at the school to present the idea to local residents.  The Keogh girls made posters.  We sent flyers to Nye residents through a saturation mailings, and I wrote an article for the Stillwater County News.  This meeting was conducted by David Nighbert, and James Klessens explained how the role of the Montana Community Foundation as a sponsor of the proposed Nye Community Foundation.  About 35 people attended.  We asked for volunteers who might be interested in serving on a board of trustees.  The seven who volunteered were Cathy Donohoe, Donna Hjelvik, Kathryn Langston, Grady Martin, Keith Martin, Pam Oliver, and Larry Ratliff.

This ground, plus David Nighbert, Penny Keogh, and I met at my house on June 2, 1999, when I made a donation of $5,000 in memory of Travis and supplied the $250 needed to enroll us with the Montana Community Foundation.  We were accepted by them on June 18, 1999.

David Nighbert volunteered to take care of the finances and to take care of our contacts with the Montana Community Foundation with our application.  I volunteered to handle the publicity.  There was an article in the Stillwater County News.  Then, after contacting Christene Meyers of the Billings Gazette, she took a picture of most of the board members on July 15, at the school and wrote an article about our foundation for that newspaper.

The ten people who formed the advisory committee for the Nye Community Foundation continued to meet during the year and to discuss our goals and fund-raising projects.  During the winter I heard about the fund-raising circus that local residents had had before World War II and that it had been called “Nye Goes Nuts.”  Billings at that time had a fund-raiser called “Billings Goes Western”, so the Nye group billed theirs as “Billings Goes Western but Nye Goes Nuts.”

After searching the old editions of the local newspaper I found accounts of the circuses in 1939 and 1940, and presented copies of these to the advisory committee.  We decided to use the title “Nye Goes Nuts” for a fund raiser in the summer and selected the date July 15, 2000.  Another public meeting was called at which we showed a video of the old circus courtesy of Jim and Ellen Langston.  About 30 people came.  The first “Nye Goes Nuts” was deemed a success and has been continued every year since then.  Reports of “Nye Goes Nuts” are in our files.

I felt that we needed to be incorporated so that individual members of the advisory committee would not be liable for debts, etc. of the foundation, and drew up the necessary papers.  The foundation was incorporated in the State of Montana as of May 8, 2000.  Soon afterward I prepared by-laws which were approved by the committee.  These were later amended to show changes approved by the group.

The first officers were chosen in October 2000, with Cathy Donohoe as chairman, Keith Martin as vice-chairman, David Nighbert as treasurer, Penny Keogh as assistant treasurer, Larry Ratliff as secretary, and Pam Oliver as assistant secretary.  The October meeting will be the annual meeting when changes in the board and officers are made in accordance with the by-laws.  The minutes of subsequent meetings will tell the history from this point forward.