For a community of roughly 600 residents, Big Sandy has a lot going on. There’s a medical center with its own radiology department. There’s a new library in town. There’s even a folf course, skate park, and bowling alley to keep Big Sandy’s youth entertained.
“It’s Class C culture,” says Bob Nelson, member of the local Rotary Club. “We have to keep growing, keep things running, give kids things to do. You can’t stand still on a treadmill.”
While Big Sandy has an impressive number of businesses, organizations, and things to do, it’s no easy task keeping them all running. As Nelson points out though, they’re all important to the longevity of the town. Big Sandy is an agricultural community. And agriculture doesn’t require the manpower it once did.
The dawn of online shopping also dealt somewhat of a blow to the town’s economy, and in turn, its population. Without businesses to shop and things to do, a community can quickly become a ghost town. That’s why Big Sandy is fortunate to have so many business leaders in the community.
Dave and Debbie Louvar, for instance, are big supporters of community events in addition to running the town’s only grocery store. Bob Quinn, developer of Kamut, purchased and spruced up some of Big Sandy’s older homes and then brought people in to work for his company. Big Sandy’s own mayor, Steve Stiles, along with his wife Cherie, made a big commitment to the town by refurbishing and now operating Bear Paw Deli.
“Some people have laid a lot on the line,” says Nelson.
Nelson moved to Big Sandy in 1981 and has been with the Rotary Club since 1983. As the only service organization in town, the club has helped support the community in a variety of ways. Every year since 1985, they’ve held a prime rib banquet to raise funds for local projects. To date, the fundraiser has generated over $575,000 for community and school projects. Money raised goes toward things such as athletic programs and the Dolly Parton Literacy Program (where every child 0-5 receives one book a month). The Rotary Club has also helped to fund the Food Bank, the Volunteer Fire Department, and various other programs and groups.
With so many dedicated individuals contributing to the town, Big Sandy serves as an example of how a small community can carry on in modern-day Montana.