2015 Award Recipients
2015 ServeMontana Award Recipients:
William Snell is recognized for his commitment to the quality of life and health of Montana American Indian communities through the development of a self-sustainable foster care network and the founding of the Pretty Shield Foundation.
In 1986, Bill and his best friend, Corbin Shangreaux, created an organization called the In-Care Network to serve as a therapeutic foster care center for Native American children and families. During the twenty- two years of operation, this organization provided Therapeutic Foster Care, Technical Assistance, Training, Case Management, Home Base Services, Chemical Dependency Treatment, Youth Leadership, Team Building, and many other services to all eight American Indian Tribes located in the States of Montana and Wyoming. In the early years of the In-Care Network, the home of the Snell’s served as a location for emergency placement, respite placement, and short-and long-term foster placements. Bill spent many years training foster parents in exceptional and distinct ways, and through this experience, he and his wife themselves fostered 36 Native American children!
Today, he is known for his work with the Pretty Shield Foundation, a nonprofit that provides charitable and educational services to Montana American Indian families. The Foundation provides outdoor American Indian Cultural Encampments for adolescents and adults to explore and gain a better understanding of the First Nation people. Additionally, the Foundation runs a cultural awareness afterschool program for troubled or disadvantaged American Indian youth. Bill’s next idea—the Dragonfly Initiative, an initiative to improve the health and wellness of native people by transitioning impaired water back to health and diminishing the presence of disease carried by mosquitoes.
It’s clear to everyone around him; Bill has a dedicated heart for the native people of Montana and will continue to make a difference to youth and families.
Tom Meskimen is recognized for his efforts as a volunteer firefighter in Martin City for over 20 years and his daily efforts to make the community a safer place.
According to the Martin City Fire Chief, Tom has never missed a call in his 20 years as a volunteer and serves as the backbone of the department. Yes, Tom is a firefighter when emergency strikes in the small town of Martin City and the surrounding areas, but beyond the call of duty, Tom is also well-known for taking care of his neighbors, particularly the senior citizens that need the help and have him as a friend to count on. He fixes their vehicles and houses, plows the snow, and picks them up and drives them into town to doctor appointments. At the firehall, he keeps the furnaces working daily so that the halls don’t freeze, and also takes care of all the trucks, fixing them at no charge. When the sewer system and the siren at the hall failed, Tom was there to fix it. When the firehall was vandalized, Tom was there to fix it. He always makes sure the trucks are fueled and ready to go at any moment. Tom also honorably served our country during the TET Offensive in the Vietnam War.
Other members of the fire department often say that if there were a “Superman Montana” award, Tom would deserve it. He is a true example of the hero that small towns in Montana reply upon. With help often so far away, it is an honor for all Montanans to have folks like Tom that can be there for those day-to-day tasks or on the days when help is most dire.
Big Sky Youth Empowerment
Big Sky Youth Empowerment is recognized for its use of innovative programs and outdoors activities to mentor at-risk high school-aged youth.
In 2001, Pete McFadyen founded Big Sky Youth Empowerment, channeling his love of what the outdoors have to offer in Bozeman into helping at-risk youth transform their futures. The program combines mentoring, outdoor activity, and skill-development to help troubled youth in broken homes through difficult situations such as drug and alcohol abuse. Youth apply on their own initiative, and 25 are selected a year based on the challenges they face and the help they need. One night a week, the youth participate in workshops on communications, team work, and life skills. Then once a weekend, they get to do really cool outdoor activities like shred at Big Sky Resort or go whitewater rafting and rock climbing.
Big Sky Youth Empowerment runs entirely off of donations, but what’s really led to the success of this organization is the volunteers. Volunteer mentors help facilitate the weekday workshops and spend their weekend sharing their passion for the outdoors with the youth. According to one volunteer, before BYEP he had no idea what working with teenagers entailed. Despite some incredibly tough days, this volunteer was impressed with the personal growth he experienced and the opportunity he was provided to give these kids life lessons that couldn’t be learned in a classroom.
A Bozeman High School 11th grader first entered BYEP after a friend suggested it to her. Ever since she was little, her mom had a bad drug addiction to meth and would regularly move around, handing her to her grandparents or taking her with. She felt alone and ashamed of what life had given her. Through BYEP she was accepted into a positive environment where she learned that her mom’s problems weren’t her fault. She is now part of the BYEP Crux program for older teens and is receiving constant encouragement and help to finish high school and get into college.
Friends of the Montana Historical Society
The 130 volunteers of the Friends of the Montana Historical Society are recognized for their devotion to preserving, protecting, and promoting Montana history.
For forty-two years, the Friends of the Society have provided essential support for the Montana Historical Society, support that without, the Historical Society would be unable to function. As of 2014, there are 130 members who together devote around 600 hours a month volunteering. Members are involved in an array of activities that assist the six departments of the society. Tasks can include ironing tablecloths, transcribing oral histories, cataloging photographs, preparing for receptions, digitizing records and more.
Some of the members put their special skills to good use for the Society. One Friend, who grew up in Croatia came in every week for 3 years to translate the Croatian Fraternal Union of America records, providing an opportunity for Montanans to learn more about this immigrant history. A retired English teacher uses his understanding of how children learn to guide school groups through the exhibits.
The demographics of the Friends are varied and include high school students and octogenarians, retired physicians and longtime homemakers. Some Friends are 4th generation Montanans, while others are new residents eager to learn about our rich and unique history. But the volunteers all share one thing in common: their commitment to Montana, its beauty, and the importance of preserving our history.
Beth Morris is recognized for her volunteer work with the American Red Cross and her willingness to assist Montanans through difficult circumstances.
For many years, Beth searched for ways to give back to her community. Four years ago, she found the perfect opportunity through with the Red Cross here in Montana. For a year and a half, Beth worked as a Disaster Action Team Lead in Ravalli County personally working with those who lost everything in fires. Some of her hardest experiences were when individuals lost a family member or pet in the fire and she was given the responsibility to console them. But she’s always been amazed with how much the Red Cross plays an indispensable role in getting survivors back on their feet. One of her most memorable fires was during the Lolo Fire in August of 2013. Beth played an integral role in ensuring that the Red Cross was there to help and that shelters would be ready to go in the case of evacuation.
Beth now serves as a statewide Duty Officer Supervisor. She is on-call every fourth week and oversees the management of the schedule to ensure that disaster duty officers are continually covered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Through this leadership role, she has found a new rewarding mission by helping duty officers grow in their knowledge and learn to make pertinent decisions on their own.
The American Red Cross mission statement states that “The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers.” Beth is a true example of this statement. She plans to continue volunteering for the Red Cross for many years to come.
Thompson Falls Student Council
The Thompson Falls Student Council is recognized for their volunteer activities to care for their community.
It’s not unusual to see students with the Thompson Falls Student Council participating at events with the community. Each year, the Thompson Falls Student Council actively engages in activities such as coat, hat, and mitten drives, food drives, Red Ribbon Week, the American Heart Association fundraiser, Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser, Pennies for Patients, community clean-up days, and more.
One of the events the student council is most proud of is the annual Sanders County Veteran’s Day Luncheon. The students organize the luncheon which includes informal talks so that the students can learn more from the veterans about their service to our country, as well as a presentation of awards for WWII veterans. The student is also very proud of their Tree of Hearts, an annual drive to provide families with much-needed items during the holiday season.
The Thompson Falls Student Council’s effort doesn’t just end with volunteer activities. The students are also known for their efforts to instill a sense of school spirit and community pride in Thompson Falls. During Homecoming Week, the council arranges for local businesses, school district athletic teams, and community organizations to come out and support the high school football team during. This year they had horses, floats, marches and the high school band participate at the event.
The spirit and commitment of these youth sets a great example for the community of Thompson Falls.
Mary Olson is recognized for her hard work assisting senior clients with the Medicare program through her service as a Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteer at Missoula Aging Services.
Mary has been volunteering 3 days a week for several years in the MAS Resource Center as a State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) counselor. Mary puts her 30 years of work with the Social Security Administration to good use by providing one-on-one counseling to older adults and people with disabilities to help them better navigate their Medicare insurance benefits. Her expertise and passion to assist has helped hundreds through one-on-one meetings and also at events, educational sessions, and group trainings. For those struggling to make ends meet, Mary has often been described as a “life-saver” for reassuring clients and helping them manage Social Security benefits.
Mary’s volunteer work doesn’t just end with making the complexities of Medicare easier for some of us. Because of her dedication, a local Vietnam veteran who was on the verge of becoming homeless received his first Social Security payment on his 65th birthday. This veteran now owns apartment near his bus route and after Mary assisted him with navigating a maze of forms and qualification criteria, also receives assistance for SNAP, a low-income Medicare subsidy, and a no-cost prescription drug plan.
Mary’s compassion to share her depth of knowledge with those who really need it is admirable to say the least.
First Lady School Breakfast Champion Award
Power Public Schools, for the startup of a new school breakfast program.
Hardin Public Schools, for increased participation in an existing school breakfast program.
Winnett K-12 Schools, for a long-standing tradition of excellence in serving school breakfast.