By Rayelynn Brandl, CFWEP Director
Sometimes a person comes into your life and immediately changes you for the better. Mary Kay was such a person for me. I met Mary Kay for the first time at a Butte Natural Resource Council meeting. This was one of the very first meetings I attended on behalf of the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program. I was in awe of the citizens who were so well-informed about Superfund, the challenges our community was facing, and the possible solutions for the future. In that very first meeting, Mary Kay stood up to make public comment before the council, reminding us of the long road that had been traveled by many Butte citizens to bring us to the place where we had a functioning, active council who was empowered to ensure that the citizens’ voices were heard. I sat in awe of Mary Kay, thinking to myself, would I have the same courage and stamina that this woman has to continue this work long into my life?
Mary Kay made certain that she and I became friends and allies. She commented that she knew that CFWEP held the keys to making sure the future of Butte would be forever healthy. She reminded me of the obligation we have to our youth, that we are to help them understand what happened here, remind them that it is totally possible to have a healthy mining economy and a healthy environment and that our role is pivotal in creating active and informed citizens. She would say to me, “Rayelynn, I need you to fire up these young people. I won’t be here forever and someone has to keep EPA and ARCO accountable.”
Mary Kay dedicated many hours to our programming, including hosting fundraising events for us, assisting with science fair mentoring for middle school students, and advocating for our programming to be appropriately funded. She often made sure that I was informed of all things ‘shaking out’ on the local level and frequently sent me grant links from the EPA, stating, “They should be funding your whole program if you ask me.” Mary Kay…we finally landed one of those Environmental Education grants!
Mary Kay was a true mentor to me personally and an inspiration to our entire team. I hope we will do you proud in the years to come. Thank you for all that you have given to our program.