Leadership Montana Blog: Gratitude a message from Chantel Schieffer
The Journey Begins!
September 30, 2023
Climbing the Hill Together
November 30, 2023


Message from President/CEO Kelly Heaton

Hi Friends,

The title has a double meaning; let me explain. First, for those of you who are wondering, I DID IT! I reached Everest Base Camp, and it certainly was a tough climb. It took our group of nine, 11 days, and over 8,000 ft. of elevation gain to reach our goal. The scenery was breathtaking, and the Nepalese guides and the people we met were friendly and generous. The experience taught me many lessons; here are a few for now. I expect there to be many more as the months go by and the connections are made stronger and clearer.

Gratitude: Traveling to an undeveloped country made me appreciate my opportunity to simply be in Nepal and acknowledge the many gifts I have in my life. As I walked on the trails, I saw the tin shacks families lived in with their scrap metal roof pieces held down by large rocks so as not to blow away in the strong alpine winds. I smelled and saw the smoke of yak dung being burnt to heat homes. I saw men carrying all sorts of things, and one, in particular, carrying kerosene up and down mountain passes (and inhaling the fumes) so food could be cooked for tourists like us in tea house kitchens.

Love/Joy/Happiness: In Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu, population 850,000, 70% of people do not have access to running water in their homes. In the mountain villages, there is plenty of water, but their living and climate conditions are much more harsh. They have few material possessions, and at the same time, everyone is cared for (no homeless or hungry that I saw), and they are very happy people who made me laugh so much my face hurt. It made me think about how much I really need and what is most important in my life.

Loving Kindness: Buddhism is the major religion in Nepal, and this saying from His Holiness The XIVth Dalai Lama was on the wall of one of the tea houses we stayed in. “Right from the moment of our birth, we are under the care and kindness of our parents, and then later on in our life, when we are oppressed by sickness and become old, we are again dependent on the kindness of others. Since at the beginning and end of our lives, we are so dependent on other’s kindness, how can it be that in the middle, we neglect kindness towards others?” How indeed?

Confidence In Oneself: Another saying posted on the wall from the Dalai Lama, “Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling I am of no value is wrong, absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought, so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, then you can do anything. It is usually said that you are your own Master.” So when my mom told me as a child that I could do anything I put my mind to and that I could be anything I wanted to be, she was speaking this same truth. We are all capable of so much, and together, we can move mountains or climb them.

Now for the second meaning of the title. We, as a Leadership Montana family, also have a tough hill to climb. By the end of the week, you should all receive a letter in your mailbox. Yes, it’s a fundraising letter because, at year-end, that’s what nonprofit organizations like us do. Over my first few months as the new leader of this organization, the Board of Governors and I have spent time reviewing our operational and financial position. The past several years have brought significant opportunities and challenges to our organization. At almost 1,000 alumni strong, we’ve reached more leaders in Montana, built opportunities for legislators to participate in Gracious Space, and had dozens of important conversations about issues confronting our communities and state. During our review, we also identified emergent challenges in our financial condition that now call us to action. To date, we have reduced our annual expenses by 20% by closing physical offices, modifying service contracts, canceling alumni events, streamlining our program costs, and decreasing our staff. We do not take these decisions lightly. Our Board is giving at 100%, and each one is increasing their annual giving this year.

We are now asking you to help us meet our goal by providing additional financial support this year. Our goal now through the end of our fiscal year, June 30th, is $1,000,000. We all share a love of this organization, and through many alumni stories, I have heard how it has impacted each of our lives personally and professionally. Many of you have heard my own story about LMT always providing exactly what I need when I need it. That is why I have always said, and keep saying, yes to LMT. I hope you will join me in supporting this amazing organization when we need it most to help ensure we continue to provide high-quality programming and connections for alumni and our future leaders. Will you help us now to sustain the future of Leadership Montana? I certainly hope the answer is YES. We can climb this hill and celebrate our shared accomplishments from the top. We can do this if we do it together!

In gratitude and loving-kindness,

Kelly Heaton
President & CEO
Class of 2014, Masters 2019