History in the making: YBGR youth make breadboards out of grain elevator wood

Charlie Denison

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch therapeutic youth mentor Dave Gill stands by breadboards YBGR youth made out of wood from the old grain elevator. Gill assisted the children, who made approximately 40 boards. 
Photo by Charlie Denison

Looking over at the array of breadboards shaped like the state of Montana, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch therapeutic youth mentor Dave Gill said he felt a great deal of pride, as these breadboards were made by YBGR youth.

These breadboards are significant for many reasons, Gill said, especially because of where they come from: the old CHS Farmers Elevator.

“The whole idea started with [YBGR targeted case manager] Cathy Phillips,” Gill said. “She thought it’d be cool to take wood from the old granary made 60-70 years ago and make something out of it. She also managed to get wood donated to YBGR to make it happen.”

Phillips’ daughter is a manager at CHS. A conversation between the two of them set the “Grain Elevator Heritage Project” in motion. They agreed the wood shouldn’t go to waste, especially significant pieces with ripples from being grain blasted.

After the wood was donated, Gill took the concept and ran with it, working with the youth and helping them do their best.

Such a project came naturally to Gill.

“I’ve been working with wood since I was old enough to operate a drill press (age 12),” he said. “We had a wood shop in the basement growing up.”

Gill said he’s always loved being able to create something, and he saw some of the YBGR youth share his enthusiasm.

“The kids have really enjoyed seeing a project through from start to finish, and enjoyed creating something,” he said. “It’s great to see them feel a sense of accomplishment. I believe it improves their self-esteem and sense of confidence.”

Such a sense of accomplishment was shared by YBGR children of all ages.

“The project started as a way for some of the older YBGR children to practice vocational skills, but it became much more,” Phillips said. “There are various parts of the project any age can work on. We have kids putting on finish and little kids attaching tags. It’s been a nice opportunity for the children to practice skills they need to have, such as following directions.”

Wanting the project to be special, Gill and Phillips came up with the idea of breadboards shaped like the state. They weren’t hard to make, and they honored Montana.

“The Montana shape is fitting and symbolic of the granaries,” Gill said. “It’s part of our history and part of our heritage.”

The breadboards are more than just a symbol of Montana heritage, Gill said; they symbolize what YBGR – a nonprofit focused on preparing youth for life – is all about.

“We work with the youth of the community and help them in any way we can,” he said.

Such a project is also a positive reflection on the community, Gill said, as Fergus High School let the children use their facility to make them.

 “That was really helpful,” Gill said. “I hope we can continue this relationship in the future.”

One thing is for sure, Gill added: by doing this project, they are able to preserve a piece of regional agricultural history. Even if the YBGR children don’t quite understand its significance, there are many in the community who do.

YBGR youth have made approximately 40 breadboards now, and more will be made, as there is still plenty of wood. Also, the breadboards are for sale. CHS purchased some and more will be on sale at the YBGR booth during the Chokecherry Festival Saturday, Sept. 9. Proceeds for the breadboards go toward YBGR.

“It stays local and helps the kids,” Gill said.




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