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BNSF Foundation donates to Provider Pals

| February 4, 2009 11:00 PM

The Western News

Provider Pals, a Presidential Award-winning urban/rural cultural exchange program, announced that Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway’s Foundation, based in Fort Worth, Texas, has donated $25,000 to assist in bringing this program to middle-school students throughout the nation.

Provider Pals nonprofit program was piloted in rural Montana and has grown to include more than 10,000 students per year in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Denver and Washington, D.C., and several Montana communities including Libby, Troy, Eureka, Willow Creek and others.

Provider Pals has received national attention since President Bush gave the inaugural Preserve America President’s Award to the program for its innovation and creativity in protecting and preserving America’s cultural and natural heritage.

The mission of Provider Pals is to build a bridge of understanding between the nation’s youth and rural resource cultures that provide the products they find on their store shelves.

“Rural resource providers, representing the natural resource providing cultures of farming, mining, ranching, fishing and logging are ‘adopted’ each year by classrooms in urban and rural schools,” said Echo Venn, Provider Pals communications director. “After a year of learning about the life and culture of a resource worker, the students get to meet their adopted ’provider’ in person in the spring.”

Provider Pals newest program area is the addition of a website, Provider World.  The site, sponsored in part by the Caterpillar Foundation and the Monsanto Foundation, allows students and guests to visit farms, forests, ranches, mines and fishing operations and cultures in an interactive educational gaming format.

The BNSF donation will allow 1,000 students from middle-school classrooms engaged in Provider Pals to play and learn on that site for the next year.

“BNSF serves many of the communities where we have programming,” said Bruce Vincent, executive director of Provider Pals, who works out of Libby. “This donation will enable students to engage in dialogue that enables the celebrating of similarities and the understanding of the differences between consumers and the environmental stewards that produce products for society.”