Kindness in Crisis

Non-profits responding to emergency by helping others
By 
Charlie Denison
Senior Reporter
Friday, March 20, 2020
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Central Montana Community Cupboard Chairman Russell Epperson prepares a meal for five that he anticipates should last 3-5 days. He considers it a “pretty generous emergency supply.” The cupboard remains open during this time of crisis. However, those receiving food are not allowed inside. Recipients receive their food at the door.  
Photo by Charlie Denison

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Kelsi Hoversland, right, and Tasha Lahr of Supplemental Meals In Lewistown Elementary Schools (SMILES) gather bags with extra food for children affected during this time away from school.
Photo courtesy of Kelsi Hoversland

Although there may be students who celebrate the schools shutting their doors, there are some who face serious uncertainties, especially when it comes to what they are going to eat for lunch.
That’s where Supplemental Meals In Lewistown Elementary Schools comes in, as Kelsi Hoversland, Tasha Lahr, Ashley Descheemaeker and others are compiling extra food for the children who could use it.
Hoversland asked the community for help putting these lunches together, and the community has responded remarkably.
“People from all over town have donated money, have offered to volunteer, it’s amazing,” she said. “We are definitely a community that puts our kids first.”
After the announcement the schools were closing, Hoversland and a group of volunteers packed 204 bags with the usual two breakfast items, two snack items and two dinner items as well as a jar of peanut butter, another breakfast item and two more snacks.
“We wanted to bulk the bag up to get these kids through,” Hoversland said.
Hoversland hopes to continue offering this program and plans to get bags off to the schools by mid-week, where families can pick them up.
“The principals have been amazing to work with,” Hoversland said. “We are so lucky to have them.”
The amount of food packed for the children should be enough to get the kids through the weekend, Hoversland added.
Formerly Blessings in a Backpack, SMILES is a local non-profit focused on getting food to children. Hoversland has been involved in the program for two years.
“It’s a joy to be part of the program,” she said.
At this time, Hoversland said SMILES can’t take on more volunteers.
“We pack the lunches at Zion Lutheran Church, and there are only one or two of us allowed in there at one time,” she said. “We sanitize on the way in and sanitize on the way out.”
The best way for people to get involved, Hoversland said, is by donating money. In the meantime, Hoversland and the crew will continue to fill bags.
“Our kids are taken care of,” she said, “which is such a good feeling.”

Those interested in donating can send a check to P.O. Box 235.

Community Cupboard staying open
The Central Montana Community Cupboard is still working to provide the community with the food they need, despite not having as much available from grocery stores.
“We still have plenty of wild game, potatoes, beans, butter and vegetables, but we will likely be lacking some of the things that add variety to a diet. It may be more of a ‘here’s what you get’ situation,” said Community Cupboard Chairman Russell Epperson.
Although the door remains open, Epperson said recipients are not allowed inside.
“We pretty much don’t let anybody in,” Epperson said. “We are really being careful. We have them wait outside and we bring the food to them, which is working really well.”
Epperson said he is grateful for all the help he’s received from volunteers, who continue to come in and serve.
“I haven’t heard a single volunteer say they’re not coming in,” he said.
Those interested in assisting Community Cupboard are encouraged to send donations through the Community Cupboard Foundation.
“You can just mail a check to us at 318 W Broadway Street,” Epperson said. “We’ll be ordering a lot more food. The next shipment is due to arrive April 15. Food items can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.”

Council On Aging serving grubsteaks to go
Fergus County Council on Aging may be closed to the public, but those who have relied on their luncheon can still come by and pick up a meal.
“You can get a take-out meal by calling 535-7486, or if you are an at-risk individual (over 60 or have a compromised immune system) you can call us for a home-delivered meal,” said Council on Aging Director Dale Pfau. “We’ll run a hot meal to anyone who is not able to get out and is not part of our regular meal program.”
Pfau said the COA is taking the threat of Covid-19 very seriously.
“We are following the governor’s mandate as well as the mandates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” he said.
In addition to still providing meals, the COA is also continuing its transit program.
“We are still providing rides with a 24-hour notice to doctors’ appointments and the grocery store,” said Pfau. “We are still providing rides to Billings on Tuesdays and Great Falls on Thursdays. We are asking anyone getting on the bus from the Airport or bus station to wear masks.”
Understanding there is risk involved, Pfau said they are providing hand sanitizers for every rider. He encourages anyone feeling ill to stay home.
The COA is doing what they can to take care of the senior population. They also want to help them make sure they have the essentials.
“If you are a senior and are in need of toilet paper or any other staple household item, please contact the center and we will try to help you meet that need,” Pfau said. “We are just trying to keep people comfortable.”

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