Stories of National Service and
Volunteerism in Montana

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Erick Valencia, Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps Member

I became a Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps member because I was interested in going to law school after college, but I was not sure if I was ready to commit three years to it or even if the legal profession was right for me. I knew that I wanted to help others solve their problems and I knew that Justice for Montanans would give me the opportunity to do just that while learning about the legal system. I am now almost finished with my second term serving with Montana Legal Services Association’s (MLSA) Foreclosure Assistance Program, and the experience has taught me so much about the judicial system that I am confident in my decision to attend law school at the University of Montana this August.

I have fielded calls from hundreds of Montanans facing the threat of foreclosure and worked closely with MLSA attorneys to help many of our clients keep their homes or find an alternative to foreclosure. I’ve traveled extensively through Eastern Montana and the Flathead region to conduct outreach to Montana’s migrant farmworker and frontier populations. I’ve learned about family law, consumer law, landlord/tenant law and many other areas of law that will serve me well in law school and beyond. I am proud of what I have accomplished with Justice for Montanans, appreciative of the experience and knowledge I have gained, and excited about the connections I’ve made throughout my two terms of service.

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Stories from Young Adult Service Corps


The Jobs for Montana’s Graduates Foundation (JMGF) started the Young Adult Service Corps AmeriCorps program in 2006 to engage high schools in service and to help youth further their studies with an education award. Since that time, more than 500 youth have served as AmeriCorps members earning nearly $500,000 in education awards. Through their service, these young leaders have acquired practical job skills, improved their confidence as leaders, and developed as citizens.

YASC training

Young Adult Service Corps April 2012

Young Adult Service Corps AmeriCorps members typically served 300 hours in their communities through their schools or other local organizations. Members helped with after school programs, mentored elementary school students, helped build green-star efficient homes, served with local fire department to help coordinate trainings, and so much more.

Stories from Young Adult Service Corps Alumni

Kylee McDonnell: Roberts High School, Roberts, MT

“I really enjoyed a service activity that I did called Just Right Reading. It was so fun to be able to see the kids and help them with their reading. I remember at first they would be so shy. They would sit far away from you and whisper the words. By the end of the year, they would cuddle right up to you and even make you read some of the story. They loved books with multiple characters. They would make up voices for each one, and make you do the same. It was fun to see them blossom in their reading skills. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be a part of this program.”

Lauren Miller: Bigfork LEAP, Bigfork, MT

“I had the pleasure of volunteering at an afterschool program in Bigfork called LEAP, a program dedicated to providing a safe, creative, yet structured environment for children to plan and learn. My role was to assist in the preparation and serving of their snack, and then to direct the children through their play time, a short assembly, and then to teach a class to a small group of kids about a fun, educational topic. I would devise lesson plans myself, and encourage the children to foster social/life-skills, as needed, I was also available as a counselor, a mentor, and a friend. I was happy to give attention to these bright youngsters and in return they brought me tears, enrichment and joy. I think as much as I taught them, they also taught me valuable life-lessons.”

Lashon Two Two: Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, Lame Deer, MT

“My service activity was working with children at the Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne. It helped parents who were at work and needed a place for their children to be taken care of and watched over. It helped the children know that there is a place and people there for them when they needed support. The influence that helped with my service in the community showed how I could be helping. It helped with the patience that I developed during my volunteering. It showed everyone and myself, that volunteering is fun and helps in so many ways in any community.”

Andrew Mitchell: Helena High School, Helena, MT

“The moment in my service that stood out most to me happened almost every day and still maintained its magical feeling. During the second semester, I volunteered as a mentor at Bryant Elementary aiding on the playground and in the classroom with the Kindergarten students. I would walk over there during third period and as soon as I got on the playground I would hear that familiar squeal of Gabriel. He'd run up to me and grab my hand yelling "ANDREW!" Every single recess we would walk around and play all sorts of games. No matter what we did, he was always right there. Gabriel, and the rest of the students, became the reason why I was dreading the year's end because we had become so close in such a small amount of time. Being that person that these kids looked up to felt amazing. They were always willing to take my advice and listen to me, and I realize that these kids had a major effect on me. Our symbiotic relationship made every day that much more joyful for me, the students and even the staff. I was able to take some of the stress off the teachers by being energetic in and out of the classroom. In the classroom, I had the kindergartners read to me, which was also really fun for me because I love reading, and teaching these children felt really good. Although I knew that my service was benefiting these students and their teachers, I felt blessed to be able to do it. They taught me so much about myself and I hope that if anything, I taught them that service is important and that they should do what I did when they are my age. If my service can inspire the service of others, that would be the greatest success of all. I'll never forget little Gabriel, and his memory will remind me of how amazing this experience was and how much I love service.”

 The Job’s for Montana Graduates Foundation and the Young Adult Service Corps wrapped up their operations in September of 2012. The Governor’s Office of Community Service thanks Connie Roope, Sarah Sadowski, Jake West, and all the other staff over the years for their amazing service to Montana!
If you are a YASC alumnus and have questions about your AmeriCorps Education Award, please call the National Service Trust at 800-842-2677. If you need further assistance, please contact the Governor’s Office of Community Service at 406-444-9077.


AmeriCorps Alumni Dan Lloyd

AmeriCorps Alumni Profile

AmeriCorps VISTADan Lloyd
AmeriCorps VISTA, 2008
Served with AERO in Helena, MT
Currently resides in Helena

Dan Lloyd came to Montana expecting to spend one summer working as an intern at a renewable energy demonstration center. Four years later Dan feels like he’s found “home” in Helena. During his AmeriCorps year of service with the Helena-based non-profit AERO (Alternative Energy Resources Organization) he made professional connections that lead to job opportunities and found a community of peers. Today Dan feels fortunate to have access to nearby trails, ski hills, and rivers and has remained involved with community improvement volunteer projects.

Dan originally came to Montana from Iowa in the spring of 2008 to work as a summer intern at Sage Mountain, a renewable energy and energy efficiency education and demonstration center in Whitehall. His original plan was to come out for that summer and return in the fall to pursue a law degree. Upon hearing about an opening with AERO (that aligned more with his personal and professional interests) he signed on as an AmeriCorps VISTA service member and decided to defer his acceptance to law school for a year.

Dan LloydDan is still in Helena. During his year with AmeriCorps he realized that he wanted to do meaningful work that would have a direct impact on his community, and doors were opening for him through his work with AERO.

Dan spent his year of AmeriCorps service with AERO as the organization’s Neighborhood Conservation Club Coordinator. During that year he was able to learn a great deal from the people he met who were working in the renewable energy and energy efficiency fields, and became part of a larger community.

“I was able to work with, and learn from, a variety of people – from government officials, to business owners, to concerned citizens. As a VISTA I realized I wanted to pursue a career path that would allow me to continue working with this community to address big picture issues like energy efficiency and sustainable agriculture.”

The time Dan spent out in the community as an AmeriCorps VISTA was an opportunity for him to share AERO’s mission of promoting resource conservation and local economic vitality to a larger group of people who were previously unaware of the organization’s efforts. The 20+ memberships Dan brought to AERO represent a direct economic contribution of $1500-2000. Those funds were in turn leveraged to increase the organization’s marketing and fundraising efforts, and invested in projects like the community garden at Helena’s YMCA.

Dan is currently working as an Energy Development Specialist with the Montana Department of Commerce’s Energy Promotion and Development Division, and remains involved with AERO as a board member. Through AmeriCorps Dan found a meaningful career path, and Helena gained an asset to the community.

Ken Reiter- Math and Science Award

Ken Reiter

First Lady's Math and Science Awards, February 23, 2012. Ken Reiter pictured with Lt. Gov John Bohlinger and First Lady Nancy Schweitzer.

Ken Reiter, from Billings, was a 2012 recipient of a First Lady’s Math & Science Award for volunteering at the Audubon Conservation Education Center in Billings.

Ken Reiter is a dedicated volunteer at the Audubon Conservation Education Center in Billings. The center promotes conservation of native birds and wildlife through high quality conservation education programs. Before volunteering at the Audubon Center, Ken previously worked as an electrical engineer. His career was interrupted due to a back injury, but he used the time when he could not work helping with school programs that shared the wonder of Montana’s outdoor classroom.

Ken Reiter

Carol Ward writes that Ken “has been a near constant presence at the center...and has become a positive role model for at-risk students.” The volunteer experience has equally touched Ken’s life—he is working on returning to school and is considering an option that would let him go into teaching.

Ken is Dedicated, Resourceful, and Enthusiastic!

The Montana Audubon Conservation Education Center welcomes new volunteers. Volunteers are needed to help with maintenance, special events, administrative tasks, marketing, and teaching. Learn more at or call 406-294-5099.


AmeriCorps Alumni Melanie Reynolds

AmeriCorps Alumni Profile

AmeriCorps VISTAMelanie Reynolds
AmeriCorps VISTA, 1981
Served on the Blackfeet Reservation, Browning, MT
Currently resides in Helena, MT

Melanie Reynolds came to Montana in 1981 as a VISTA-Volunteer in Service to America , the predecessor to the AmeriCorps VISTA program established under the National and Community Service Trust Act in 1993. After graduating from the University of California- Davis with a degree in Human Development, she opted to pursue her interests in working in the area of public health and serving children and families through volunteerism. Her year of service as a VISTA at the White Buffalo Home on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning gave her a broad range of experiences that have been tremendously helpful in her career in public health, including her current role as the Health Officer for Lewis and Clark County. That year, Melanie also met Bob Rowe, a fellow VISTA and her future husband. Melanie and Bob chose to raise their family in Montana for the balance of lifestyle and professional opportunities they’ve found, and thirty years later are happy to call Helena home.

Alumni Melanie ReynoldsMelanie’s desire to make a positive contribution in society started early in life, when she chose to pursue a degree in Human Development at UC Davis. Serving as a VISTA volunteer seemed like a great way to combine her career interests with a personal desire to work with communities facing social and economic challenges. Melanie’s year of service brought her to the White Buffalo Home on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in rural Browning, Montana. As a VISTA, she provided technical assistance to the staff, educated families, and worked with a variety of community resources including Indian Health Services, social services, WIC, and Head Start. These experiences were invaluable for a young woman looking to pursue a career in the public health field, and Melanie’s work was a tremendous asset to an economically disadvantaged community stretched thin to provide these resources.

“I learned so much! I learned about family systems, needs and gaps in social services, and cross-cultural issues. The most beneficial aspect was getting the opportunity to provide service.”

In her role, Melanie acted as a bridge between the community and resources that were available from local and state agencies.

“My biggest impact was developing connections with other social services and health agencies in the Browning area. These agencies and service providers offered services that benefited the children that lived at the White Buffalo Home.”

Nancy Schweitzer and Melanie Reynolds

Melanie Reynolds (R) with First Lady Nancy Schweitzer during AmeriCorps Week in 2011.

When Melanie arrived in Montana over three decades ago, she was an immediate benefit to Browning. Today, she continues to have a positive impact on her community as the Health Officer for Lewis and Clark County. In that role, Melanie is charged with overseeing county efforts to educate citizens about preventative measures that can be taken to maintain and improve public health. She is also a homeowner, a tax payer, and an investor in her local economy. As a result of the VISTA program, Montana gained an impassioned, dedicated individual who contributes to the social and economic health of her community.

Alfred Olson- ServeMontana Award

Al Olson

ServeMontana Awards- L to R: First Lady Nancy Schweitzer, Al Olson, Commission Vice Chair Karin Billings, and Lt. Governor John Bohlinger

Alfred “Al” Olson, from Miles City, was a 2012 recipient of a ServeMontana Award for his dedication to veterans in Montana.

Al is a volunteer with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in Miles City. As a veteran of the Air Force, Al is committed to helping veterans access healthcare. He has volunteered more than 2,400 hours to drive veterans to clinics and hospitals in Sturgis, SD, Sheridan, WY, Helena, Glendive, and Billings from the VA Medical Center in Miles City.

Betty Vail, RSVP Program Director, writes about Al, “He [showed] his dedication and service to veterans on a trip to Helena in the summer of 2011. Al left Miles City on Monday morning for Ft. Harrison believing he would be returning with his veteran passenger on Tuesday. Upon his arriving at Ft. Harrison he found that the veteran would be having surgery and did not have any family meeting him. Al served as the veteran’s caregiver for the next two days, helping him find his way around Ft. Harrison, assisting in the room after surgery and during the drive home on Wednesday afternoon. Al also spent Wednesday night at a Billings motel with the veteran before returning to Miles City on Thursday.”

Al is Dependable, Cheerful, and Optimistic!

Miles City RSVO

Al Olson pictured with fellow RSVP volunteers in Miles City

Eight ServeMontana Awards were presented to outstanding volunteers during the 2012 ServeMontana Symposium in February. RSVP is one of the three Senior Corps programs that are part of the National Service family in Montana. There are more than 7,900 National Service participants serving in Montana through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, or Learn and Serve America.

AmeriCorps Alumni LaNette Diaz

AmeriCorps Alumni Profile

AmeriCorps VISTALaNette Diaz
AmeriCorps VISTA, 2000-2002
Served in Billings and Helena, MT
Currently resides in Missoula, MT

LaNette Diaz grew up in Montana and graduated from the University of Montana in 2000 with a degree in social work, with an emphasis on community organizing. She was specifically interested in the AmeriCorps VISTA program because of the valuable experience she could gain right out of college, which would in turn make her a more competitive applicant in her field. She served two years as a VISTA with the Prevention Resource Center (PRC), a division of the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. In 2000, she worked on neighborhood revitalization efforts in lower income neighborhoods with the City of Billings. In 2001, she became a VISTA leader with the PRC in Helena. LaNette’s AmeriCorps experience gave her the job skills she now uses as Executive Director of Court LaNette DiazAppointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Missoula. She believes that without her AmeriCorps experience she would have floundered a lot more to find her niche in Montana.

LaNette’s undergraduate major and graduate degree was social work with a focus on community organizing, but it was her experience with AmeriCorps that allowed her to gain a number of the ‘real life’ skills she needed to work in the field.

“The experience was beyond what I expected. As a VISTA you’re handed a job that you would not qualify for in the job market, and you get to show people in the field that you can do the job!”

LaNette believes the greatest impact she had during her service with the City of Billings was creating connections that taught neighborhood leadership how to access services and what the City could do to improve neighborhoods. Her efforts have had a lasting impact on the quality of life in those neighborhoods and provided city officials with a better understanding of which resources make the most direct impact for their community. Continue Reading

‘Volunteering is a great thing to do’

Paige Collick at MLK 2011 Diversity FairBy Paige Collick

“Helena Food Share helps thousands of families in need of food. From my experience volunteering there, their slogan, 'creating a hunger-free community,' fits them perfect. I never realized how many people in my own community needed help feeding their families. When I started volunteering there in October I stocked shelves with food, making sure that there was always enough out. It always amazed me how fast food went. Soon after starting I got promoted to bagging and boxing groceries. That’s when it really hit me that so many people needed help, and many different reasons brought people in, from medical reasons to job layoffs. At first I didn’t realize how much I helped out just being there bagging food, but one day someone said something that changed my perspective, 'thank you so much for being here, I wouldn’t know what to do without you guys.' That’s when it hit me that volunteers are great thing to have, and volunteering is a great thing to do. Throughout my time volunteering there I have met some really great people; the staff, volunteers and even customers. I now know that yes, I make a difference in my community, and the feeling of helping others allows me to keep myself want to do what I do, volunteer! Even though my time is through with YASC I still plan on volunteering there as much as I can. With my education award I am receiving from volunteering I plan on using money to help pay for school; tuition and books.”

Paige Collick is AmeriCorps Alumni who served with Young Adult Service Corps while attending Helena High School. She is currently attending Carroll College and is majoring in Secondary Education in Chemistry and Mathematics.

2011 Volunteers of the Game

2011 Volunteers of the Game

The Governor’s Office of Community Service recognized outstanding volunteers at 12 Bobcat and Griz home football games this fall. These individuals and organizes demonstrated the true meaning of service in Montana.

Download the profiles of all the Volunteer of the Game recipients.

Volunteer of the Game

Do you know an outstanding volunteer in your town? Nominate him or her for a ServeMontana or ReadyMontana Award! Learn more here.

Reflection on Service

Hannah MotlBy Hannah Motl

Hannah is a Montana Energy Corps AmeriCorps Alumni who served with homeWORD in Missoula.

"I spent this past year as an Energy Corps member in Montana. When I started the program I knew that a major component of the AmeriCorps mission was service. However, I didn’t fully understand what this meant until I met Peggy.

One way Energy Corps members offer service to their communities is through providing weatherization kits and installation assistance to families in need. Peggy’s home was one of the first homes I helped weatherize this fall. Peggy was incredibly friendly from the get go, offering me coffee and donuts and helping hold weather stripping in place while I installed it. As Peggy and I chatted throughout the course of the morning, Peggy revealed that her husband of 30 years had just recently passed away and this would be her first winter without him. As I worked on weatherizing her windows, Peggy told me how hard it had been for her to try and maintain their home without his help and what a difference we were making for her right now. What struck me the most about my morning with Peggy was her unrelenting positive attitude, despite her recent hardships. She kept me laughing all morning with stories about her life and I left her house feeling like I had gotten more out of the experience than she had.

Whether it’s helping a woman spend her first winter without her partner or assisting an elderly man with programming his thermostat, Energy Corps is more than just service; it’s about helping communities weather hard times together and that can make all the difference in the world."

Note: During Hannah’s service term, she was featured on a local blog entitled “Missoula’s Climate Change Heroes.” Read it here.

Curt Belts is the Volunteer of the Game!

Curt Belts

Photo from Lauretta Belts

Volunteer of the Game

Curt Belts recognized at Griz Game

September 17

The Governor’s Office of Community Service will recognize Curt Belts as the “Volunteer of the Game” during Saturday’s UM Grizzly home game. Curt Belts, retired Missoula Rural Fire Chief, coordinated the community volunteers who helped with flooding in Missoula this June.

“Curt’s commitment to helping neighbors in need is extraordinary,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer. “Montana has a long tradition of neighbors helping neighbors. Those who volunteer are truly are unsung heroes and it is their hard work and dedication that helps make our state great.”

During the flooding this June, Curt Belts stepped up to fill the need as volunteer coordinator in Missoula. Volunteers overwhelmed the Missoula County flooding hotlines with calls from people wanting to know how they could help. The United Way of Missoula County took over coordinating volunteers with Belts as the volunteer manager. He matched up volunteers with community needs and made sure the details such as sunscreen, food, water, and bug spray were all covered. Belts ended up coordinating over 50 volunteers a day to fill and haul sandbags when homes were at risk for flooding.

 “United Way is grateful for Curt Belt’s service to our community,” said Beth Frazee, Director of Development and Marketing at the United Way of Missoula County. “We were honored to help coordinate volunteers and funds for local flood relief. Belts was absolutely instrumental in this process. A retired fire chief, Belts was accustomed to dealing with emergencies. He made sure that hundreds of volunteers were well screened and placed at different sites to help our neighbors during this traumatic time.”

Belt’s daughters, Amy Bone and Randi Larson, will be receiving his recognition at the Griz game on his behalf.

Montana Conservation Corps are Volunteers of the Game!

Volunteer of the Game

AmeriCorps Members with MCC recognized at Bobcat Game

Sept. 17, 2011

The Governor’s Office of Community Service will recognize Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) and their outstanding AmeriCorps members as the “Volunteer of the Game” during the 9/17 MSU Bobcats home game.

“I send my thanks to all the Montana Conservation Corps AmeriCorps members for helping our communities prepare for flooding and clean up after the water receded,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer.

During the flooding this spring, MCC members filled sandbags in the Bozeman and Missoula communities. This summer, MCC collaborated with other National Service programs and volunteer organizations to clean up flood damage in the Roundup area. Over 100 volunteers helped reclaim and manage land by repairing and clearing more than five miles of fence line, removing debris, and stacking usable firewood. MCC members also helped reduce flooding in the Billings area by removing a logjam.

“They [MCC] worked hard, were very respectful and a great help in our flood recovery,” said Jennifer Bergin, Roundup rancher.

Read more about MCC's work with flood clean up at

Learn about the Montana Conservation Corps at


Bozeman Firefighters are Volunteers of the Game!

Volunteer of the Game

Bozeman Fire Department recognized at Bobcat Opening Football Game

September 10, 2011

Bozeman Firefighters

National Night Out Extraction Demo in Bozeman

The Governor’s Office of Community Service is recognizing community volunteers at those who do outstanding service at home games throughout the 2011 Bobcats’ football season.

“We thank our local firefighters for their public service and commitment to their community,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer. “I invite the public to join me in paying tribute to our men and women who keep us safe in honor of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance.”

The Bozeman Fire Department has been serving the Bozeman community since 1884. Their public service goes beyond responding to fires. Every year they provide fire safety education to over 3,000 schoolchildren. Firefighters are also trained in hazmat services, EMS, and are certified car seat technicians.

The Bozeman firefighters give back with their annual “Fill the Boot” fundraiser to benefit children with muscular dystrophy. This is part of the “Fill the Boot” tradition that began in 1952 when 20 firefighters in Boston carried out a door-to-door canister drive to raise money for a child with muscular dystrophy. Look for more information about this fall’s upcoming “Fill the Boot” at

In honor of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, firefighters will be recognized as “Volunteers of the Game” at both the Bobcat and Griz opening home games. Sixteen firefighters from Montana will also be in New York this weekend for the observation of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.

Missoula Firefighters are the Volunteers of the Game!

Volunteer of the Game

Missoula Fire Department recognized at Griz Opening Football Game

September 10, 2011

Missoula Firefighters

Missoula Firefighters during a training

The Governor’s Office of Community Service is recognizing community volunteers at those who do outstanding service at home games throughout the 2011 Grizzlies’ football season.

“We thank our local firefighters for their public service and commitment to their community,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer. “I invite the public to join me in paying tribute to our men and women who keep us safe in honor of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance.”

The Missoula Fire Department has been serving the Missoula community since 1927. Their public service goes beyond responding to fires. Firefighters educate the public through their door-to-door smoke detector program, provide counseling to children engaged in fire setting, and give back with their charitable work and donations to local organizations. Learn more at

“The Missoula Firefighters Union Local 271 is proud to be able to give back to our community,” said Jeff Kroll, President of IAFF L-271. “Our Union Firefighters recently volunteered over 400 hours and raised over $5,000 to host our 2nd annual Military Veterans Retreat. We are also proud to say that we raised $18,460 with this year’s fill the boot campaign where all of the proceeds go to help children with Muscular Dystrophy.”

In honor of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, firefighters will be recognized as “Volunteers of the Game” at both the Griz and Bobcat opening home games. Sixteen firefighters from Montana will also be in New York this weekend for the observation of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.

Milltown Community Garden Grows Volunteers

Story by Anna Penner-Ray

"I was the AmeriCorps Summer VISTA Associate for the Governor’s Office of Community Service. I moved to Helena from Colorado at 13, and I’m a senior at the University of Montana in Missoula; studying broadcast production.

Back in June, I traveled with my VISTA supervisor Julia to Milltown, Missoula, and Arlee to visit community gardens, food banks, and to talk about volunteerism.

Milltown GardenAt the Milltown Garden Patch, students from the AWARE program at Bonner Elementary pull weeds and pick fresh vegetables, as they do every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm. The students range in age from kindergarten to eighth grade. Tiffany Bartolomei runs the AWARE program at Bonner Elementary. AWARE is a non-profit organization that provides services to people with disabilities-mental, physical, and emotional- who wouldn’t otherwise be served.

In their 2 plots, the students planted cabbage, lettuce, carrots, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, eggplant, brussel sprouts, squash, zucchini and onions. One girl dressed in pink said proudly that her favorite vegetable was peas; another stated that she liked “carrots! But only with ranch.” A young boy shyly looked down at the ground, and then up as he smiled and said “I love broccoli now.” Continue Reading

RSVP in Missoula Prepares for Disasters

Missoula Aging Services RSVP- 2011 Missoula County Disaster Drill

Report by Megan Hill, Volunteer Coordinator at Missoula Aging Services

On Saturday, May 7, 2011, 51 volunteers gathered at Missoula International Airport’s Fire Station to participate in the 2011 Missoula County Disaster Drill. The day went off without a hitch and did an excellent job testing the capacity of emergency providers at Missoula International Airport, St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center to respond effectively to family reunification in the event of a multiple casualty incident.

Continue Reading

AmeriCorps Responds with help for Spring Floods

Montana Conservation Corps Report: July 20th 2011

Heavy rain and record levels of spring runoff left many parts of Montana devastated by flood waters, and many residents looking for assistance.

Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) AmeriCorps members were mobilized to assist residents and community groups at needed locations, helping to mitigate the risk of flood water damage to property, and to help clean up damage that had already occurred.

MCC AmeriCorps Senior Youth Crew Leader, Chris Chambers noted,

“Especially in a time of crisis, people need to know that their community is here to support them. We want to lend a hand to those in need. We know from experience that many hands make light work.”

In Billings, AmeriCorps members cleared debris left over from retreated flood water in Cooney State Park, a popular recreation area for residents of Yellowstone, Carbon, Stillwater, and Sweet Grass counties. They also assisted at the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Park remove and replace flood damaged fencing, and assisted in trail repair in Chief Plenty Coup State Park. The AmeriCorps members we also able to remove a log jam from Alkali Creek, which had contributed to rising water in the Billings Heights district.

In Bozeman, AmeriCorps members assisted more than 30 families and place more than 500 sandbags in areas that were in risk of being overtaken by flood water.

In Missoula, when the Clark Fork River flooded into residential neighborhoods, youth who were about to start their month-long youth service Expedition, rallied to a call for help from their crew leaders and sandbagged for a day to protect homes from the rising waters.

July Newsletter

Montana Volunteers Serve with Citizens Affected by the Flooding

Projects Mobilize Volunteer Leaders in Flood Emergency

Recently retired RSVP Volunteer Ernie Kolar answered the request from South Central Montana RSVP to go to an American Red Cross meeting in Lewistown early this spring. The purpose of the meeting was to build the volunteer force in this very remote area rather than to depend on the Great Falls unit, which is completely inaccessible during winter storms when the road is frequently impassable. Ernie came away from the meeting with a leadership role as Disaster Action Team volunteer and began immediately assessing the community needs and resources. He first identified potential shelters for emergency situations and assessed the readiness of the Red Cross trailer holding shelter supplies. When he began these tasks he was told that “not much ever happens in Lewistown”. That quickly changed when the spring floods hit the community. Continue Reading

Being an AmeriCorps member has turned service into a way of life

Shaunagh McGoldrick - AmeriCorps State member

Justice for Montanans Project

'Being an AmeriCorps member has turned service into a way of life.  Volunteering is no longer just my job or a way to achieve academic credit, it is the way in which I actively engage in my community and have become a part of it.  Perhaps most important beside the actual work I do with Office of Consumer Protection & Victim Services, this experience has provided me with access to an incredible network of like-minded individuals.  I receive several emails a week about volunteer opportunities in the community from people within this network.  We are all dedicated to service and our experience as AmeriCorps volunteers does not end at our service site.  At most community events in Helena, I will run into other AmeriCorps members who are helping in some capacity. 

The opportunity to work with Office of Consumer Protection & Victim Services, which I would never have had without AmeriCorps, has helped me figure out what career path to follow.  AmeriCorps is not just providing years of valuable volunteerism to agencies, it is creating generations of individuals who understand the inherent value of service on a local and national level.'

Curtis Windy Boy- AmeriCorps in Montana’s Indian Country

Curtis Windy Boy

Curtis Windy Boy (Left) with a fellow AmeriCorps member

30-year old Curtis Windy Boy is an AmeriCorps member with Montana Energy Corps, a program that promotes sustainable energy consumption and energy education. Montana Energy Corps has 13 full time members who serve 1700 hours a year. This year, nearly half of the Montana Energy Corps team is Native American.

Curtis was born in Havre, he is a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and grew up on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation. He’s been an AmeriCorps member for 2 consecutive service terms, serving on Fort Belknap’s reservation in 2010 and on Rocky Boy’s reservation in 2011.

“I am interested in energy conservation and natural resource management,” said Curtis Windy Boy. “I am thankful to have had opportunities through Montana Energy Corps to work on reservations where my family is located, and provide a service. AmeriCorps has given me the leeway to be able to work on projects that interest me while building the community up.” Continue Reading

Codi Francis- High School Volunteer

Codi Francis
Codi Francis volunteering Bozeman Deaconess Hospital

Codi Francis is one of the 91 recipients of the 2011 Youth Serve Montana Scholarship that recognizes Montana High School seniors for volunteering in their communities. In the last year, Codi volunteered almost 200 hours with Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, Gallatin County 4-H Shooting Sports, and her school mentoring program, Tiger Buddies.

“It’s one of the best feelings in the world when I am able to help someone, not because I have to, but because I want to,” said Codi when asked why she volunteers. “The feeling of knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life is one of the largest factors that motivates me to do volunteer work.”

Codi Francis lives in Manhattan, Montana and is in the 2011 graduating class of Manhattan High School. She will attend Montana State University in the fall and hopes to major in Nursing. In the last year, Codi spent over a 100 hours volunteering at the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital alone, which inspired her to pursue a career in nursing. Continue Reading

AmeriCorps Service at the Red Cross

Ashley HicksAshley Hicks is a senior at Capital High School in Helena, Montana.

Ashley was an AmeriCorps member with the Young Adult Service Corps for the 2010-2011 school year and will be attending MSU Bozeman in the fall to study nutrition.

"Throughout [my] 300 hours of service, I volunteered many places but the place I volunteered the most was the local Red Cross. I checked donors in when they came in to give blood… and handed out snacks to donors post donation and make sure they continued to feel well and normal. The most important and rewarding part of volunteering [at the Red Cross] was the company and stories I got to hear. I made many new friends. The donors were always ready to talk and I was ready to listen. I volunteered there from September to May and donors came in every 8 weeks.

One man that came in …and [told] me all about his property and an old house that his family had built... So when he came back the second [time] he brought me the photo album and showed me every picture and stayed for 45 minutes sharing his passion about the land when the typical donor stays for 10 minutes. Continue Reading

GYSD Reflection from Jordan Brown

Jordan BrownGlobal Youth Service Day: Stories of Service

Jordan Brown, AmeriCorps VISTA, Rural Employment Opportunities

The food was halfway to her mouth. The girl stood there agape with a bagel held inches from her face. She was listening, actually listening, to the story that I was telling. I almost decided not to share the story about the volunteer experience that I had tutoring a young boy named Daniel, but my friends encouraged me to do so. From the outset, I don’t think we ever intend to create the stories that we tell later on; they simply come to be. I decided to be the lead organizer for Global Youth Service Day in Helena not because it was part of my AmeriCorps VISTA Assignment Description – it wasn’t- but because taking on a challenge often brings with it poignant moments that can make a person think, or smile, or care enough about the moments to eventually wrap them into a story to share with others. Continue Reading

Ready to Recycle in Box Elder

Global Youth Service Day Project in Box Elder, Montana

Ready to Recycle

Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) was celebrated in the Box Elder Elementary School with a “Ready to Recycle” kickoff to the school’s recycling program. Energy Corps AmeriCorps members with Opportunity Link, AmeriCorps VISTAs and volunteers from MSU Northern taught the basics of recycling to kindergarten, first and second graders at the school. The lessons, provided by WasteNOT (an educational recycling program out of Kalispell), taught the students the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle and included the how, what, and where of recycling.

“The best part about this project was when after the lessons were completed, I went back to a first grade classroom… the students noticed me and eagerly took my arm and led me to their new paper recycling bin. They were excited to show me that they had already begun using it! Their enthusiasm was contagious. I am confident that our exciting visit was talked about at home, and I hope they encourage their parents to begin recycling.” – Carrie Johnson, an AmeriCorps member with Energy Corps serving at Opportunity Link in Havre, MT.

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Spc. Levi Meyer

Spc. Levi Meyer from Billings was selected for recognition in the Operation Tribute to Freedom Program.

Governor Schweitzer thanked Spc. Meyer for his service and congratulated him on the recognition.

"Your recent deployment with the 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq and your service there as a combat medic reflect courage, determination, and loyalty to your fellow soldiers. I am honored to have this opportunity to express our gratitude for that service... You do all Montana veterans and current service members, especially those whom you serve on a daily basis, a great honor." - Gov. Schweitzer to Spc. Meyer


4/11/11 Operation Tribute to Freedom Profile of Spc. Levi Meyer:

Levi MeyerWhile still in high school, Spc. Levi Meyer worked part-time as a ski patroller at a nearby mountain resort in his home state of Montana. Often the first responder to accidents, he learned how to provide emergency medical care to injured skiers.

What started as a weekend job soon became a passion for Meyer. After graduating from high school, he knew he wanted to pursue a medical career, but was unsure about committing to college and medical school right away. He eventually chose an alternate route and enlisted in the Army as a medic.

“Back in high school, I really liked to ski, and I saw the ski patrollers and how they take care of people who got hurt,” he said. “I admired how the patrollers were able to rely on their wits and what they had with them to take care of people. I have a lot of respect for that.” Continue Reading

Earth Day and GYSD in Billings

3rd Annual Earth Day Celebration and Global Youth Service Day at the Audubon Conservation Education Center in Billings

Emily Larson

Volunteer Emily Larson at the Audubon Center

174 volunteers celebrated Earth Day and Global Youth Service Day by helping to restore the 54 acre former gravel pit at the Audubon Center in Billings on April 16, 2011. Volunteers planted 30 aspen trees, 25 cottonwood trees, and 25 snowberry bushes. Youth and adults also cleaned up trash, removed large rocks, removed invasive houndstongue, and wrapped over 400 trees to protect them from beaver damage. In total, volunteers contributed almost 350 hours of service!

This is the third year that the Audubon Center has hosted an Earth Day Celebration and they use this celebration to kick off their volunteer season that coincides with the growing season in Eastern Montana. So far, all 65,000 trees and shrubs at the center have been planted by volunteers!

“The most memorable moment this year was watching a troop of Daisy [Girl Scouts] pick up rocks and remove them from an area that we need to prepare for sod,” said Darcie Vallant, Audubon Center Director. “They had so much fun with this necessary but tedious task.”

This project was made possible with a Mini-Grant from the Governor’s Office of Community Service and through generous donation of goods and time from Buchanan Capital LLC, Good Earth Market, Kohl’s, Montana Conservation Corps, and Doug Lovely.

Learn more about the Audubon Conservation Education Center at

Mary Bieber- Volunteer of the Year

Mary Bieber
RSVP's Volunteer of the Year

by Lois Kerr

Published in the Golden Roundup, April 2011,, Sidney, Montana

Senior Corps RSVPThe Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) has chosen Mary Bieber, Sidney, as the 2011 Volunteer of the Year. Bieber unselfishly donates a lot of extra hours to provide services for others, and truly deserves this honor. “Mary is an incredible individual who apart from volunteering for various organizations in the community is also a natural caretaker who looks out for the welfare of her neighbors,” says Idelle Badt, RSVP Program director. “It is truly a pleasure and honor to work with Mary.”

Mary BieberMary has understood the value of volunteer work throughout her adult life. She and her husband did a lot of volunteering together until he became ill. At that time, Mary served as caregiver for her husband until his death in 2004. Devastated by her loss, she rediscovered the pleasures of living through her volunteer service for others. Volunteering turned her thoughts to the plight of other people which in turn helped her deal with and accept her own loss. “When my husband passed away, I was at loose ends and I didn’t know how to fill my days,” Mary recalls. “RSVP gave me a call and asked if I was willing to help out, and I accepted. It gave me a reason to get up in the mornings.”

She continues, “I get more out of volunteering than I give. I like to be around people. I don’t like being in charge or at the head of the pack, but I do enjoy working with and for people. My life is much better because I share it with others. The exciting part is that people tell me I make a difference in their lives, and that is overwhelming.” Continue Reading

Donate Life Today: Matthew’s Story

April is Donate Life MonthDonate Life Today

Matthew's Story


Donor Mom – Libby Lausch
Matthew Lausch: Organ and Eye Donor
Age 20 ~ Alberton, MT
Date of Donation: 5/8/09
Hospital: St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula, MT

Growing up, Matthew Lausch was a very busy and inquisitive little boy. He loved basketball, football, and track and field, as well as the outdoors -- hiking, hunting, fishing, snowboarding and swimming. He lived by the golden rule and his motto was “Live, Laugh, Love, Dance.”

Matt was a great older brother who always looked out for his little sister Olivia and always gave her advice when it was needed.

From an early age, Matt was always helping others, and as he grew older he became very aware of volunteerism. “One time, when we were leaving a store, he gave his last $5 to a man outside who was begging for help,” recalled his mother Libby. “I asked him why he had done that: ‘Because mom, you never know when you might need help. You may as well help others while you can.’ I never would have thought of a 15-year-old boy thinking that way.” Continue Reading

Donate Life Today 2010 Challenge

April is Donate Life Month.

All Montanans are encouraged to register as a organ, eye and tissue donor.

Donation is one of the greatest gifts that can be given. Donor families find comfort knowing their loved one can help others. Transplantation is a remarkable success in the history of medicine. But despite continuing advances, the need for organs, eyes, and tissues is vastly greater than the number available for transplantation. Organ donation and transplantation gives hope to donor families whose loved one gave the gift as well as those who receive it.

“Last year, 63 lives were saved by 15 Montana organ donors,” said Kevin O’Connor, President and CEO of LifeCenter Northwest, the designated organ procurement organization for Montana. “In 2009, the Montana Campus Compact registration challenge resulted in several hundred Montanans either registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor or re-affirming their registration. One donor can make a profound impact on the lives of countless others who are waiting for transplants.”

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ACMAC Leaders 2011

The 2011 AmeriCorps Member Advisory Council (ACMAC) is a representative leadership council of three AmeriCorps State members and three AmeriCorps VISTA members from across Montana. The council encourages networking between AmeriCorps members in Montana through action, communication and representation to enhance all members’ national service experience and impact to our state. Continue Reading

AmeriCorps VISTA Members Recognized

On March 14th 2011, 12 AmeriCorps VISTA members serving in Billings, Montana, were recognized with a Billings City Council Courtesy. Continue Reading

National Service Serving Military and their families and Veterans in Montana

The Montana CNCS State Office launched a statewide campaign for all National Service members to support Montana Supporting Soldiers by collect items for soldiers serving overseas. Each of the projects collected items, wrote cards, and signed banners.  Also Senior Corps projects developed a service project at the annual Governor’s Conference on Aging, where conference attendees could donate items, write cards, and sign banners. Continue Reading

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