Paying it Forward

There’s a children’s book called Miss Rumphius that Ania Bulis likes to quote. The story’s lessons for young readers: Explore the world, become educated, and leave the world better than you found it.

Exploring the globe came naturally to Ania. The daughter of Polish immigrants, as a kid she lived in Austria with a family that had taken her parents in years earlier. “I attribute my love for Big Sky to that time in Austria, a nostalgic feeling for that 12-year-old me,” says Ania. For her education, she studied at UCLA and Trinity College in Connecticut.

As for leaving the world a better place, Ania first came to Montana after graduating college. That was 25 years ago, and she’s been trying to make Big Sky better ever since. But it took years of hard work to have the pull to affect change. Before getting into real estate, Ania was a snow reporter for Big Sky Resort, taught introductory French and German language classes to middle schoolers, waited tables, and worked a beat as a newspaper reporter for three years. Later, she served as the first Director of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, and along with a handful of women, started the nonprofit, Women in Action. For the past five years she’s served on the Moonlight Community Foundation’s board, where she’s worked to improve the area for everyone.

The Foundation has donated nearly $700,000 to Big Sky organizations and causes during Ania’s tenure, and the many recipients include the food bank, Gallatin River Task Force, and Friends of Big Sky Education, which secures a better future for Big Sky’s next generation of community leaders. “I loved promoting the area and helping local businesses succeed, and I hope it’s still an authentic piece of what I do today,” says Ania, who is now one of the founding brokers of Big Sky Real Estate Company.

She says that Moonlight Basin’s founder, Lee Poole, left a lasting impact on the community’s development. “Lee was a visionary, and one of the things he was passionate about was land. His emphasis was on mountaintops over rooftops,” says Ania. “At the Community Foundation, we think about the conservation element all the time. It’s baked into the funding of everything.” In addition to conserving Big Sky’s natural resources, Ania hopes the foundation will focus on mental health services for its residents—because supporting those in need makes this world a better place.
—T.A.