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WHITEFISH, Mont. (Oct. 19, 2023) — The Board of Directors at Explore Whitefish, Whitefish’s official tourism management organization, has announced a unanimous decision to allocate 50% of contributions collected from restaurant business members to Housing Whitefish, a local non-profit organization that advocates, creates, and plans for the sustainable supply of housing that everyone in our community can afford.
“We listened to our members and community,” said Julie Mullins, Executive Director for Explore Whitefish. “Staffing shortages are a problem and are directly related to the lack of affordable housing for our member workforce. Anyone contributing the 1% at member restaurants can be part of the solution in this contribution to our community.”
In 2021, Explore Whitefish realigned the 1% voluntary assessment which they manage from revenues collected at member restaurants, hotels, and transportation companies into a “Community Sustainability Fund” (CSF). Allocations from this fund included up to $75,000 for Housing Whitefish to financially support grant writing services for its first year.
“Explore Whitefish helped us get off the ground and we have a lot of momentum,” said Daniel Sidder, executive director at Housing Whitefish. “This is an immediate, community-focused initiative that our residents can feel really good about in helping find solutions to our housing affordability crisis. These funds will allow us to grow our capacity and help meet our fundraising targets to launch our Workforce Assistance Fund and advance our first building project."
With this shift, Explore Whitefish anticipates being able to double its contribution to Housing Whitefish up to $150,000 annually. The revenues collected from the CSF depend on guest spending and the voluntary contribution to the fund. Approximately half the collections come from local residents and half from visitors.
“This decision aligns with our goal of keeping Whitefish businesses local and thriving,” said Mariah Joos, board chair at Explore Whitefish. “Our organization takes our responsibility to keep Whitefish an authentic mountain community seriously. Community character can quickly be lost when a town cannot provide affordable housing for their workforce.”
Beyond housing, CSF funds support vital programs that include the Whitefish Sustainable Tourism Management Plan, Explore Whitefish Grant Program, "Friend of the Fish" education campaign, crisis communications, Pledge for the Wild, Protect Our Winters, and also supports education and inspiration initiatives for seasons when visitation is lowest, redirecting potential travelers away from the summer peak season.
Explore Whitefish urges all residents interested in supporting affordable workforce housing to dine at member restaurants that collect the CSF. A list of Explore Whitefish restaurant members can be found at https://explorewhitefish.com/dine.