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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Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service

On April 1st, more than 30 mayors across Montana took part in Mayor's Day of Recognition for National Service to celebrate the work of National Service participants in Montana communities each and every day. Joining over 1,760 mayors across the country, mayors in Montana held public events with AmeriCorps and Senior Corps to spotlight the key role of national service in engaging citizens, meeting local needs, and improving lives.

Here's a taste of the 2014 Mayor's Day of Recognition for National Service:

Six former mayors of Polson join RSVP, Foster Grandparents, AmeriCorps FoodCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA National Service participants

Six former mayors of Polson joined RSVP, Foster Grandparents, AmeriCorps FoodCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA National Service participants

It's not a Mayor's Day celebration without cake!

It's not a Mayor's Day celebration without cake!

photo 4

Helena Mayor, Jim Smith, joined the Helena City Commission and National Service advocates and members as he signed a proclamation declaring Mayor's Day of Recognition

Superior mayor

Mayor Roni Phillips of Superior proclaimed April 1st Mayor's Day of Recognition on the front steps of the Mineral County Courthouse stating, "National Service is a vital resource for our city."

planting seeds

Butte AmeriCorps members celebrated Mayor's Day of Recognition by planting seeds for the Butte Emergency Food Bank's vegetable program


National Service participants shared their stories of service with Missoula Mayor, John Engen

20th Anniversary Spotlight: Steve Nelsen

20th Anniversary Spotlight: Steve Nelsen, founder and first Executive Director of Montana Conservation Corps

For the next year, the Governor's Office of Community Service will be spotlighting key contributors to AmeriCorps in Montana from the last 20 years. Be sure to look for the spotlight each month in this newsletter to learn more about the impact and history of AmeriCorps in Montana.


As the Montana Conservation Corps arrived at the AmeriCorps "Kickoff" in Sept of 1994, we were overwhelmed with the size and aura of the crowd that filled the front of the Capital lawn. The Office of Community Service was less than  3 months old yet the Director Mary Blake and the newly appointed Commission had managed to convene the Governor, University Presidents, Legislators, and a couple thousand enthusiastic folks for a rousing launch of Montana's National Service endeavor. It had the feel of a pep rally with a righteous, virtuous cause.  

A couple of MCC's Corps members had signed up literally the night before and none of us really understood what this AmeriCorps thing was. MCC received its formal grant award about 30 days earlier and had been frantically putting together the components of our program - hiring staff, finding vehicles, securing projects and recruiting Members. It was like we'd been running a marathon and the Kickoff event was the finish line where we could look around and see that we were part of a truly amazing happening.  

The preceding spring/summer had been filled with 16 hour days putting together an AmeriCorps grant application based on Guidelines that were still being refined. I would have to compare it to building a house while the blue prints were being drawn. The saving grace was a young, bright and passionate staff at the newly formed Corporation for National Service who put the meat on the bones of AmeriCorps based on President Clinton's legislation. In Montana we were blessed with a newly elected Governor, Marc Racicot, who embraced national service in his first State of the State address and created the Office of Community Service as Montana's vehicle to implement AmeriCorps.

In retrospect, the AmeriCorps launch was a true highlight of my professional career. The optimism and passion of everyone involved with the beginning of this national movement was exhilarating and contagious. I applaud the efforts of those who have continued to build and grow this effort, and thank all those involved in those early days.

Commemoration and Volunteerism on 9/11 Day of Service

The Governor's Office of Community Service would like to give a special shout out to the AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, and Senior Corps members and volunteers across the state for their acts of service on the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance.

Thanks for all your hard work helping Montana communities!

AmeriCorps food

Energy Corps, Food Corps and VISTA members sort produce at the Butte Food Bank


VISTA volunteer, John Hansen, collects toiletries at Safeway to go to veterans at the Helena VA, God's Love, and the YWCA.


RSVP members held a 'Heroes Lunch' at the Park County Senior Center to honor veterans, emergency responders, and those in service.

Americorps and Janet Walsh

AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, Elise Ewing and Nicole Johnson, and the Lt. Governor's wife, Janet Walsh, collect toiletries at Albertsons in Helena.

Billings vets

World War II Veterans Gary Koch, Erma Klatt, and Bernard Mulder spoke to the Boys and Girls Club of Yellowstone County about prepardness and WWII. Thanks to the METRO VISTA and VISTA members on hand to help with this event!

2013 Award Recipients

Montanans Honored for Outstanding Volunteer Service!

The 2013 ServeMontana Awards and ReadyMontana Awards will be presented at the ServeMontana Symposium awards luncheon on Thursday, February 28 starting at 11:30am at the Great Northern Hotel in Helena.

“I look forward to recognizing these dedicated Montanans,” said Lt. Governor John Walsh. “It’s the passion and commitment of volunteers that make our state great.”

Lt. Governor John Walsh will first present three ReadyMontana Awards to outstanding community volunteers and organizations in the areas of disaster services, emergency preparedness and emergency response. Following will be the presentation of eight ServeMontana Awards to outstanding community volunteers and organizations in the social impact areas of education, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, economic opportunity and veterans & military families. Continue Reading

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 Impacts Montana

At the 2012 Montana Nonprofit Association Conference in Helena, the Governor’s Office of Community Service highlighted impact of AmeriCorps to Montana. During the meals on Friday, attendees had the opportunity to learn about National Service with “AmeriCorps Impacts Montana” placemats and table tents featuring individuals’ AmeriCorps stories. There was also a gallery of AmeriCorps stories set up in the hallway of the conference. Thank you MNA for letting us share a few stories of AmeriCorps in Montana!

Download the 11x17 place mat.

Learn more about the data sources used for the place mat.

AmeriCorps Stories

Read stories from AmeriCorps alumni and nonprofits benefiting from AmeriCorps. Thank you to the Prevention Resource Center with the Department of Health and Human Services for sharing the nonprofit stories.

Katie Wheeler - Food Corps, Kalispell

Drew Grissom - Montana Legal Services, Missoula

Abby Zent - Prevention Resource Center, Helena

Kevin Moore - UM Western, Dillon

Kalena Gravina - Big Sky Watershed Corps, Hamilton

Kirsten Vorreyer - CASA, Missoula

Rocky Mountain Development Council - Helena

National Coalition Building Institute - Missoula

Mental Health America of Montana - Bozeman

Find more AmeriCorps data and impact reports on the ServeMontana press packet page.

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.

2012 Newman Civic Fellows

7 Montanans Honored
including 5 Campus Corps AmeriCorps Members!

The Newman Civic Fellows Award honors inspiring college student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. Through service, research, and advocacy, Newman Civic Fellows are making the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues, and effective mechanisms for creating lasting change. These students represent the next generation of public problem solvers and civic leaders. They serve as national examples of the role that higher education can—and does—play in building a better world.

Kallie MadlerKallie Madler

Dawson Community College, '12, Campus Corps AmeriCorps member

Kallie is involved in all aspects of campus life and readily volunteers her time for Adopt a Family, Salvation Army, Relay for Life, Health Fairs, Dialing for Dollars, elementary school tutoring, and athletic service. So far this year, she has given 465 hours of community service.

Read about Kallie Madler in the Campus Corps Blog on 4/26/12.

Liz CollinsElizabeth Collins

Montana State University Billings, '13, Campus Corps AmeriCorps member

Elizabeth (Liz) Collins, a Junior at Montana State University Billings, serves as the campus Student United Way President, encouraging other students to give, advocate and volunteer in the areas of education, income and health. Elizabeth is serving an AmeriCorps term of service at St. John’s Lutheran Ministries Nursing Home. Her passion for service extends beyond the boundaries of Montana, as she served in Mississippi’s hurricane relief efforts and in an orphanage in Tijuana.

Read about Liz Collins in the MSU-Billings News on 4/23/12.

Sarah FosterSarah Foster

The University of Montana Western, '14, Campus Corps AmeriCorps member

Sarah Foster, a sophomore at The University of Montana Western, is genuinely devoted to a career as a health care professional. She serves (through Campus Corps) at South Central Montana Area Health Education Center, which works to address the healthcare workforce shortage in rural Montana. This summer, she plans to get certified as a First Responder Emergency Medical Technician.

Read about Sarah Foster in the UMW News on 4/18/12.

Corey LedbetterCorey Ledbetter

Flathead Valley Community College, '12, Campus Corps AmeriCorps member

Corey Ledbetter is a sophomore at Flathead Valley Community College. Wanting to enhance his education in paramedicine, Corey began volunteering as an emergency services technician (EMT) and firefighter at the Big Mountain Fire Department. Corey also serves on the Flathead Nordic Ski Patrol as an assistant director on the board and as an instructor for outdoor emergency care classes.

Read about Corey Ledbetter in the Daily Inter Lake on 4/1/12.

Maureen KarlinMaureen Karlin

The University of Montana-Missoula,'13, Campus Corps AmeriCorps member

Maureen Karlin, a junior at the University of Montana, is an active volunteer in the community. While on campus, Maureen coordinates the America Reads America Counts program. As a future special education teacher, Maureen understands the value of extra support in a classroom of diverse learners. Off campus, Maureen continually volunteers in local classrooms, at the Ronald McDonald House, and on committees that address educational issues.

Michael TownshendMichael Townshend

Montana State University Bozeman,'14,

Michael is a leader at MSU. He uses training from a Leadership Foundations course on conflict resolution to facilitate positive changes. Michael demonstrates how to listen to dissenting opinions while also building common ground for new solutions. He uses these skills as a Hearing Board member for the University’s Student Code of Conduct process.

Read about Michael Townshend in the MSU News on 4/10/12.

Catherine GrayCatherine Gray

University of Great Falls, '14

Now a junior at the University of Great Falls, Gray is double-majoring in English and Fine Arts and minoring in Communications. She has served in the University’s Peer Mentor program for the past two years, mentoring incoming freshmen and helping students adjust to college life and being away from home. Gray also serves as a Community Living Assistant, a job which entails the enforcement of campus safety rules, providing a full range of support for campus housing students, and creating programs to assist students with socialization and learning. She is the co-founder of GLOW (Great Leaders, Outstanding Women), a club dedicated to promoting the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of women on campus, as well as providing community outreach to women in need in the Great Falls area. Gray enjoys being a part of Campus Ministry, through which she has organized clothing and medical supplies for victims of the Haiti earthquakes in 2010 and helped to organize a Spokane-area Habitat for Humanity warehouse in 2011. The Newman Civic Fellows award honors these achievements and will allow Gray the opportunity to network with other civic-minded students across the nation. Catherine organized an alternative spring break last year in Seattle to work with the Sisters of Providence in preparing materials for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Catherine made use of the streets of Seattle to lead her group in a protest against human trafficking. Catherine is a strong leader on campus, serving as a resident adviser, peer mentor, freshman orientation leader, and President’s List scholar.

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

MT AmeriCorps Alums recognizes Mat Darlington

Montana AmeriCorps Alums is recognizing Mat Darlington,
Campus Corps AmeriCorps member at Montana Tech

Montana AmeriCorps Alums is recognizing Matthew “Mat” Darlington with four tickets to attend the Tim Tebow fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity of South West Montana on March 6 in Butte.

Mat is currently a Montana Tech student and serves with the Campus Corps AmeriCorps Program. This team of 15 AmeriCorps members work 4 days a week to build high performance, solar-ready homes.

Mat Darlington

Mat Darlington pictured with Young Adult Service Corps Director Sarah Sadowski after recieving the Student Builder of the Year Award

Mat was chosen because of his commitment to service as a solution to local challenges. While in High School, Mat previously served in AmeriCorps with Young Adult Service Corps and helped to build homes with NeighborWorks. Darlington said the AmeriCorps Education Award enabled him to pursue a degree in Construction Management

Joining Mat will be Bill Ryan, Department Chair of the Trades and Technology Division at Montana Tech and three AmeriCorps members to hear Tim Tebow’s word of inspiration to help out Habitat for Humanity.

Over the years Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Montana has benefited from many AmeriCorps and VISTA members through service and alumni as staff. Continue Reading

Veterans Green Corps

A letter from Alex Villalta, Veterans Green Corps member:

My name is Alex Villalta. This past summer I was a crew member on the first ever Veterans Crew with the Montana Conservation Corps. For those vets who are considering joining this program, I hope my story helps with your decision.

I served in the Air Force from 2002 to 2007. When I got out, I moved back to Los Angeles and went to school. Once I finished in April, I felt that I needed to get out of LA and challenge myself with something out of the ordinary. After countless hours of looking and applying for jobs, I came across the MCC website. When I saw that they were having a veterans crew, I was attracted to the idea of being around people that had faced many of the same challenges that I faced while I was in.

When we all met up for the first time, it took a matter of minutes before we were all laughing and joking. Again, I felt like the fact that we all had, at least at some level, been through similar situations in the military created a type of camaraderie that I had not experienced since getting out.

The friendships continued to be built upon as the season progressed. Countless nights were spent talking about nothing in particular. We began to really rely on each other in a rather dangerous job. In all honesty, we became a family and the woods were our home. We ate together, cleaned-up together, set up and tore down camp together, and sweated together. And by the end of the season, we celebrated together.

Spending time doing project work in the Medicine Bow National Forest really helped me regain my focus. The time away from the big lights in the big city left me with a lot of time to determine what direction I wanted to go when I moved back to LA. It has really opened doors for me. I am currently working for another Non-Profit focused on conservation and will be spending January through April in the Angeles National Forest planting trees that had been lost by a tragic fire a few years ago.

For those veterans who are considering joining the MCC, it is going to be tough, but tough is what we are good at. There are going to be times when you have to be the mission first, but that is something we all know too well.

Very Respectfully,

Alex Villalta

Montana Conservation Corps - Veterans Green Corps, now accepting applications for 2012. Apply Today!  Gain the necessary training and experience for careers in wildfire and forestry management.

Blackfeet Elders Welcome AmeriCorps Members

Energy Corps Members convene in Browning for weatherization event

Energy Corps Members
Montana Energy Corps AmeriCorps Members
Carrie at Weatherization Table
Carrie Johnson, AmeriCorps Alumni, staffs the information table

Browning residents will be slightly warmer this winter, thanks to a weatherization event put on by the Montana Energy Corps AmeriCorps members with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). These weatherization efforts are part of Governor Schweitzer’s Warm Hearts Warm Homes initiative, encouraging Montanans to help their neighbors stay warm this winter. The event was jointly organized by NCAT and Opportunity Link of Havre; materials and support were also provided by Glacier Electric.

Nine Energy Corps members braved the whipping winds to retrofit tribal elders’ abodes. In a town where west-facing windows sometimes fracture due to the Glacier Front gales, sealing the house’s shell can mean the difference between a winter full of shivers and one of comfort. Thanks to Blackfeet Tribal Housing Authority staff, the Energy Corps AmeriCorps teams surpassed their largest obstacle: finding residences in a town where streets are seldom labeled. AmeriCorps member with girlOnce on site however, the teams demonstrated their prowess, adeptly plugging leaky walls, installing energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and outfitting showers with water-saving heads. A record 45 homes were weatherized in just two days and an additional 80 Winter Ready kits were distributed from the Browning Community Center. Thanks to AmeriCorps, 125 families will be slightly cozier around the holiday table!

Written by Devin Cowan, Energy Corps AmeriCorps Alumni. Devin currently works as the Energy Intern Coordinator for Governor Schweitzer’s Energy Intern program. Learn more at

‘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.

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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

ACMAC Service Project Benefits Montana Youth Homes

The new 2011 AmeriCorps Member Advisory Council (ACMAC) helped coordinate a fun and successful service project to benefit Montana Youth Homes.

ACMAC members Jacob, Jordan and Chelsea participate in service project

The service project was part of an evening Reception at ExplorationWorks! in Helena during the ServeMontana Symposium, a 2-day conference featuring national service programs and community organizations coming together around solving critical community needs. The ServeMontana Symposium is hosted by the Governor's Office of Community Service.

ServeMontana Symposium 200+ participants tipped the scales with all of the hygience essential items (soap, lotion, combs, shaving cream, toothbrushes and more) they donated during the 2-day Conference in Helena. A BIG THANKS TO PARTICIPANTS! Continue Reading

We are different—We are the Same

Winter Ready Inclusive Service ProjectDisability Logo

'It was a hit!' RSVP Director

VISTA Volunteer, Staff from SKC, RSVP Volunteer, RSVP and FGP Staff organized an interactive, hands-on programs for children with a story corner where children were read stories regarding diversity. Then they used 'glo lotion' on a ball that the children passed around before using a black light to show the “pretend germs” left on their hands.  Children were taught how to thoroughly wash their hands before a re-check with the black light.

Volunteers Engaged

  • Disadvantaged children and youth = 116
  • College students = 4
  • Adults 55+ = 10
  • Tribal = 50 (est.)
  • Self disclosed individuals with disabilities = 5

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Keep Montana Warm Service Project

Winter Ready Inclusive Service Project

Youth, Parents, Volunteers gathered to provided Boulder families with coats, weatherization materials, education on how to use them, and information about JeffCo Food Share. 

The youth were very enthusiastic about serving their community; it was fast paced project with measurable results the youth could see immediately.

One Warm Coat Drive

Students in the 21st Century Service-Learning Club put an ad in the Boulder Monitor and Jefferson County Courier, hung fliers around town, and wrote an article for our school’s newspaper; The Panther Paws. Collection boxes were placed at Boulder Elementary School, First Boulder Valley Bank, and Jefferson High School. In total the students collected 90 coats, hats, gloves, and snow pants. The coats were distributed to community members and left over coats went to a local daycare and Youth Dynamics. After the event a thank you ad was put in the Monitor and Currier.

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Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing

We are excited to include Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) at the 2011 ServeMontana Symposium. Project Healing waters is a nonprofit dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings.

Big Brown Trout

“Project Healing Waters helped in getting my head together during my recovery at Walter Reed. It was the perfect outlet for me while I was trying to adjust to my injuries and was a great help in broadening my horizons, giving me the hope and confidence that, no matter what my disabilities, I could still achieve and enjoy the activities of the outdoors and accomplish what I wanted to.“
-SGT, USA, Walter Reed PHWFF wounded warrior

Learn more about Project Healing Waters at

Energy Corps Inclusive Service Project

Energy Corps AmeriCorps members coordinated two energy fairs in the towns of Hays and Lodge Pole on the Fort Belknap Reservation.  Members distributed weatherization kits, educated individuals on kit installation, and offered aid to attendees in need of assistance.

102 individuals attended the energy fair and received weatherization materials to improve the energy use and comfort of their homes. 20 of the 102 individuals in attendance received installation assistance from Energy Corps members and volunteers. Education was also provided to the attendees on energy assistance programs, proper installation of the materials, and comfort and energy advantages the materials provided when installed.

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Construction of Hole-in-the-Wall Trail

More than Just a Trail

Fort Belknap builds the first leg of a new trail system, immediately popular with users With assistance from RTCA, the Fort Belknap Indian Community constructed their first backcountry recreational trail in July 2010. Located in the popular Mission Canyon area of the Little Rocky Mountains, the new Hole-in-the-Wall Trail climbs 500 feet in a little under a mile through an area of limestone cliffs rich with natural bridges, windows and arches. The trail allows users to explore these geologic wonders up close, while rewarding them at the top with birdseye views of Mission Canyon and North Fork Little Peoples creek valley.

The Hole-in-the-Wall Trail was constructed in a week by tribal members enrolled in the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program, and by a crew from the Montana Conservation Corps. Continue Reading

Prairie County Service Project

AmeriCorps VISTA Megan Olson

The Prairie County Kindergarten - 6th Grade Classes kicked off the project by bringing in items for Holiday Baskets. Next a collection was set up for community members at the Terry High School Holiday Program and the Terry Elementary School Christmas Program. Finally the health department used their Inclusive Service Project Mini-Grant of $280 to buy additional items to complete each basket. This was the first year items such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, dish soap, and paper towels were included in the Holiday Baskets. The Prairie County Food Bank had not been used very often by community members; this project sought to increase awareness about the Food Bank in the community. When the Holiday Baskets were delivered this year volunteers talked to the recipients about the Food Bank located in Prairie County.

  • Elementary School Classes collected over 200 items
  • Holiday Program Events collected over 100 items
  • Last Year 24 Holiday Baskets were distributed
  • This Year 28 Holiday Baskets were distributed to:

“My American Story” TV PSA Campaign

New TV PSAs, from the Corporation for National and Community Service, call on Americans to serve their communities. The PSAs are being distributed by the National Association of Broadcasters to 1,200 stations across the U.S., including Montana and will start running as early at January.

The new national television PSAs feature President Obama and volunteers and are aimed at recruiting more Americans into service.

View the My American Story campaign here.

As part of the "My American Story" initiative, CNCS has created a web portal where the public can enter their stories of service in writing or through short online videos.

My American Story CNCS press release here:

‘The True Gift of the Season’

From Amy Busch, Montana State Program Specialist, Corporation for National & Community Service

As the holiday hustle and bustle is all around us, I just wanted to take a moment and share a couple of really heartwarming stories that we’ve received in just that last couple of days:

Winter Ready - In Billings there is a gentleman who recently became a widower. His wife was a gifted seamstress who sewed coats that were accented with beautifully quilted mosaics; truly works of art. He donated his wife’s collection to the Yellowstone County Council on Aging coat drive and was recognized for his effort at the meal site he regularly attends. The drive and his donation proved to provide emotional support and well-being to him during his time of loss. Continue Reading

‘AmeriCorps Helped Save My Life’

Written by Jermaine Begay, Anaconda, MT

Young Adult Service Corps

'Well to start off things, I never achieved something amazing such as earning a one thousand dollar Education Award. I grew up with terrible experiences and I pretty much thought I would be in prison now instead of looking for a career. I had a major drug addiction that I never thought I would ever beat. Then I had a major life decision to make. Either live the way I was living or keep watching people live happily with their families and well paid salaries.

AmeriCorps helped save my life, without this program I wouldn’t have anything to look forward to in my future. I am proud that I helped my community by remodeling dorms. I get involved when I feel it will benefit others in need and it became habit to me to help others. I’ll spend my Education Award on college books or something along those lines, this college thing is still new to me but I’m excited and looking forward to it. Joining AmeriCorps and Job Corps is an achievement to me and I will achieve my goals to live well and happy.'

‘The Greatest Gifts We Could Give’

Written by Harmony with Justice for MontanansJustice for Montanans logo

'Prior to beginning my service with Justice for Montanans, I had a very limited understanding of the processes involved in filing for bankruptcy. Nor did I understand the devastating impact large amounts of consumer debt can have on the lives of low-income people. Filing bankruptcy becomes more than simply filling out the paperwork. It motivates clients to become their own advocates, empowering them to resolve their financial issues and providing an opportunity for clients to not only begin to rebuild their credit but also their lives. While assisting with bankruptcy forms often did not seem like it was enough, I quickly discovered that it provided our clients an opportunity to focus on more than the collection letters in their mailboxes and the never ending calls from creditors. By having the opportunity to help support the bankruptcy clinics, I came to understand that these clinics were not only a critical service provided by Justice for Montanans; they were often one of the greatest gifts we could give our clients.'

‘Money Rich’

MCC Blog: Posted by Jon Luthanen

'Randy. The mention of this name in association to this MCC season typically results in smiles and laughter from my crew. These reactions would be in reflection of one of the more eccentric and interesting Yellowstone sponsors we had throughout the season. A hardened self proclaimed “trail dog”, Randy Throop had many years of trail maintenance at major national parks before our crew had the opportunity to work with him on what would be our standout project of the summer - 15 miles backcountry across Yellowstone Lake near a region of the park known as the Thoroughfare.

Amidst the 8-day hitch of unpredictably dangerous weather, some awesome sunsets over the lake, wildlife encounters, and a lot of cutting up, I had a very real if brief conversation with Randy. I’d begun reflecting to Randy on my past consultant professional work and how I dreaded the financial lure dragging me back to higher paying jobs after the season, etc. I’d mentioned how all the people I previously worked with owned ‘fleets’ of cars, were deep into materialism, and were ‘rich’ generally. At that statement, Randy looked at me and responded, “Yeah, they’re money rich.” At the end of his sentence and with a smile on his face, he winked at me. Continue Reading

‘I have learned so much…’

Written by Colyn St. Pierre, Havre, Montana

'I have learned so much from my term as an Energy Corps Member that I would have never known without it. I have become so much more environmentally conscientious, and have been so excited to be able to bring that knowledge to this community as well! I consider myself very privileged to be given this opportunity, and I love the fact that what I'm doing is making a difference in the future of not only my community, or Montana, but for my family, and my people. I know I'm only 1 person, but that's sometimes all it takes to start a catalyst in a
Greener future! I have thoroughly enjoyed this great learning experience, and the people! I feel I have made connections to last a lifetime. I also feel very proud that I have been able to bring more awareness to my people and my community about how we all can do our part in bettering the planet for our children and great grandchildren, and so on.'

‘A Tiny Piece of Paper’

Written by Megan Clark, Rocky Mountain College 

'When I arrived at Blue Creek this January I wasn’t sure what to expect. Walking through the doors today on my last day, I’m amazed with what I’ve learned and how each student has touched me. One student in particular stood out. He’s one of those kids who tries really hard but still just doesn’t get it. When I taught a lesson I would look over at him, his eyes focused and his brain processing but nothing clicked; at least not the first time. Regardless of all his troubles at home and school he came every day and tried his hardest. With my own troubles in school I was able to relate with him more than my mentoring teacher. By the end of my student teaching I felt like I was beginning to make gains with this student. He was reading a half grade level above where he started, his fluency improved and comprehension increased. He had a few “aha” moments that coincidently made a huge impact in his school work. He finally saw that he could succeed and have support from someone who cares. He was the reason I decided to volunteer at Blue Creek after I was finished student teaching. During my volunteer time I tutored him by supplying support when he needed and directions when he was lost. On my last day he handed me a piece of crumpled up paper. The inside read, “I’m liked it when you helped me, thanks.” These few words written on a tiny piece of paper are why I want to be teacher.'

Sergeant Chelsey Billing

In September, Sgt. Chelsey Billing was awarded the American Legion Spirit of Service Award for her efforts on behalf of the Honor Flight program for World War II veterans. Sgt. Billing volunteers with the World War II Honor Flight program, a group that provides the opportunity for WWII veterans to visit Washington, D.C. and see the memorial that honors their service. As a volunteer, she handles everything from flight logistics to assisting and escorting disabled veterans once they arrive.

Governor Schweitzer thanked Sgt. Billing for her service and congratulated her on the recognition.

"Montanans serve in the military at a rate second only to one other state. Your service is representative of that long military tradition and exemplifies the commitment, honor and duty demonstrated by so many Montanans who came before you. You do all those Montana veterans, especially those memorialized for the ultimate sacrifice in battle, a great honor by assisting with the Honor Flight program.” –Gov. Schweitzer to Sgt. Billing

Sgt. Billing is from Broadus, Mt., and is currently stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va., where she cares for Soldiers at Dewitt Army Community Hospital.

To learn more about Sgt. Chelsey Billing and the American Legion Spirit of Service Award, check out

Volunteer Mark Adams

Mark Adams of Helena was recognized by his employer, Northrop Grumman, for being an outstanding volunteer. Adams has been a volunteer for the Lewis & Clark County Search and Rescue team for the past 10 years. During his recognition ceremony, Adams had this to stay about volunteering,

“I would encourage everyone to find something that they would like to volunteer in, some passion that moves them to volunteer, be it helping at the humane society or being a big brother or big sister or joining the search & rescue (we have openings), but find something that moves you to volunteer and then volunteer because the secret is the world is too big a place to go out and change. One person can’t do it, but everybody can change their own corner of it and if everybody did, then before long it starts merging together and the world changes anyway. So I would encourage you to find what motivates you and volunteer.”

For the story about Adams on KXLH, click here.

Montana Ranks in Top States for Civic Life Participation

First National Assessment on Civic Life in America Shows Millions Working to Solve Local Problems

Minnesota, Montana, Vermont, Alaska, Utah, Washington Ranked as Top States

 Columbus, OH; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; and St. Louis, MO Lead among Metro Areas

Montana Civic LifeWashington, DC – While facing many challenges, Americans are stepping forward to participate in civic life to solve problems and strengthen their communities, according to Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC).

The Civic Life in America research found that the majority of Americans – nearly 125 million – turned toward problems and helped support their neighbors in times of need. It measures how often Americans engage in a variety of activities including political action, service, social connectedness, belonging to a group, and connection to information and current events. Whether volunteering or helping a neighbor find a job, Americans are engaging in activities that help build stronger and more civically involved communities, according to the assessment. Click here to read the complete assessment and city and state rankings. 

 “This is an all hands on deck moment for our nation that requires all of us to get involved in whatever way we can to make a difference,” said Patrick A. Corvington, the Corporation’s CEO. “What this study shows is that Americans are tilting toward problems instead of away from them, and that their participation in civic life may come in different ways, but all contribute to the same goal of stronger, more resilient communities.”

Continue Reading

Governor Schweitzer and Walter Breuning

Governor with Walter Breuning

“Any day you don’t do something for yourself or someone else is a day you lost.” Walter Breuning

FACES: One-Third Mile Ride to Safety

Fire Ready 2010

Painted Rocks FireSafe Council and Painted Rocks Fire-Rescue Company re-enacted the Roach family's attempted one-third mile journey to the safety of Fire Station #73.

  • Family overcome by the human started Paradise Fire in CA on October 26, 2003
  • Burning one daughter to death in the back seat of her brothers mustang
  • Burning another daughter over 86 percent of her body
  • Burning the son
  • Home was totally destroyed by the Paradise Fire

The purpose of the Staff Ride was to remember and honor the Roach family; and to motivate residents within the interface to prepare a fire safe family, home, and property well in advance of subsequent fire seasons.

“In the Painted Rocks community, we are strong believers in Gov. Schweitzer's pronouncement the past two springs that wildland-urban interface safety is the responsibility of the resident, first and foremost.”

On August 7, 2010 four groups, with a Group Leader, traveled the One-third Mile from in front of a resident’s home back to the Painted Rocks Fire Station, stopping briefly at 4 Stands along the way to listen to the re-enactment of the Roach family tragedy.

"This was excellent. It really brings things home. Yes, it can happen to you."

A Summer of Impact

This video was made by the Campus Corps Team in Northeastern Montana in the Summer of 2009.

Main street Montana Spring 2010

Check out our article, "AmeriCorps in Montana: An Exciting Job Pathway, Gain Job Skills and Pay for College" on page 24 of Main Street Montana Spring 2010 issue. Click here for a full PDF.

Main Street Montana,, is a bi-annual subscription from the Department of Labor and Industry. If you would like to receive the subscription electronically, please send an electronic message to  


Darby Bread Box Committee

Serving Montana…the Darby Bread Box Committee

Lowell Baltz, Jodie Beiler, Sue Birkle, Ginny Bonnell, Patty Conn, Derry Kempf, Mary Lockwood, Pink McDonald, Jackie Trowbridge and Ned Trowbridge

Service: Community Volunteers, Darby

Three Words that describe the Committee: Organized, Caring, Committed

The Darby Bread Box Service Story: The Darby Bread Box Committee was organized through a Ravalli County Extension leadership program to help improve life for the residents of Darby, Montana. Darby is in South Ravalli County. Continue Reading

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