Summer in Montana is bliss. The temperatures are warm, but not too warm. The air lacks humidity, so the warmth feels pleasant and not oppressive. The Big Sky State lives up to its nickname, with many days of beautiful blue skies. These elements, along with the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, make the Montana service programs on the Blackfeet Reservation a great option for those looking to serve with Global Volunteers.
In summer 2023, the Blackfeet Reservation hosted 12 service programs, with a total of 178 volunteers. Those humanitarians served for approximately 7,120 hours with our many community partners – enabling us to collaborate on a variety of work projects.
One of our partners is FAST (Food Access and Sustainability Team) Blackfeet, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving food security and nutrition within the Blackfeet Nation through a food pantry and nutrition education programming. FAST suffered a fire in their building on June 1st which shut down the building, housing the offices of FAST employees and their pantry area. Traditionally, FAST works to provide food for their community through a “shopping” model – enabling families to pick which of the nutritious and variable food options works best for them. After the fire, our volunteers worked with FAST to keep this model available for certain segments of food distribution times. By moving operations outside, FAST was able to distribute pre-made food boxes with many meal items. With Global Volunteers’ help, patrons could still choose from a variety of meats and produce. Volunteers also helped clean the pantry and prepare for inspectors and restoration teams to come.
At Eagle Shield Care Center, a tribal assisted living facility serving lunch to elders in the community each day, volunteers help prepare and serve meals, and accompany the center driver on meal deliveries in the area around Browning. Volunteers enjoy spending time with the employees of Eagle Shield, as well as getting to share meals with local seniors who visit to have lunch each day.
Additionally, four teams painted the exterior of the United Methodist Parish, our “home” on the reservation.
Meanwhile, other volunteers worked at the De La Salle Catholic School and associated Thrift Store. Several teams served the Commodity Center, a food resource center supported both by the Tribe and USDA, and Global Volunteers partner, to ensure that critical food needs are met. Throughout the summer, the Planning Department requested volunteers to assist with building improvements and community beautification projects.
Teams have found great fulfillment in being able to engage more directly with the community through a collaboration with one of our Community Hosts, Blackfeet Manpower. This joint program enables Global Volunteers team members to work on projects that community members can apply for help with. These projects include things like yard work, minor household repairs, and painting. This has enabled team members to be able to engage with more community members and understand the circumstances of those in need in the community on a more personal level. This program was on a trial run this summer and will be continuing next summer.
One project volunteers completed was a house painting project for a homeowner. This homeowner had recently lost her husband, and shortly after was told that unless she made improvements to her house, such as painting, her homeowner’s insurance would be canceled. She contacted Manpower, who informed Global Volunteers. Over the course of two volunteer teams, the volunteers were able to paint her house.
Another community member requested handrails to be built in their home. This community member is a veteran and has a difficult time moving around his home. He has fallen in his hallway before, and therefore was looking for handrails to be built in order to achieve greater independence. After volunteers were able to install these handrails, the homeowner said he would now be “kicking up dust” because he would be able to move so quickly through his home. Our volunteers also did yard work at the home, and enjoyed getting to know the homeowner’s daughter while they worked, learning about her family and their history in the area. The team and the homeowner’s daughter bonded over the old Chevrolet truck parked on the property, talking about their love of old trucks.
Global Volunteers looks forward to continuing these projects next summer when service programs begin again for another beautiful summer.