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Hi-Line Folks Step Up

By Julianne LaSmith

One of the things that makes Havre and the Hi-Line unique is its sense of community. Whether it’s a fundraiser for someone who’s ill; a children’s activity; or a service group; Hi-Line folks step up. They represent. They volunteer and donate. They serve and assist.

Jamie Larson is a very busy woman. She has a son, Antwuan, who is 4-years-old. She works full-time at Northern Montana Hospital in the Environmental Services Department. In addition to this, Jamie has been a very active member of the District 4 Human Resources Development (HRDC) Board of Directors. Jamie occupies a spot as a representative of the Northern Montana Child Development Center’s Policy Council.

She started on the Policy Council in 2015 as a way to participate in her son’s education. He is enrolled in the Headstart and the Early Headstart programs and there was a request made for parents to volunteer for the council. Jamie felt that being involved in her son’s education was important and the council became her way of doing so.

Northern Montana Child Development Center (NMCDC) Head Start and Early Head Start is a no-cost, comprehensive program serving primarily low-income expectant families and families with children ages 0 to 5 years old in Hill, Blaine and Liberty Counties.

Jamie represents the Low Income Sector on the HRDC Board as of 2017 and will serve there for another two years at minimum.  As a Community Action Program (CAP) agency, the Council’s goals are to serve, advise, educate, and most importantly, aid society in projects aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty.

The services offered by District 4 are developed to enable low-income individuals in Hill, Blaine, and Liberty Counties of all ages to attain the skills, knowledge, motivations, and the opportunities needed for them to become fully self-sufficient.

Both of the organizations meet monthly and in addition to her time at those, Jamie helps with interviews as needed. She feels her involvement has benefitted her as well. She’s learned quite a bit about funding for non-profits, and management skills, something she feels she could use in her future.

When asked what is something she would like to say to others looking to get involved, her response was, “Get out there and get involved in something you care about. You will make a difference.”

Jamie is making a difference in Havre, in the Headstart program, and in her son’s life; all at the same time. Thanks, Jamie!

Many people are taught the concept of service to others by their parents. Their parents lead by example. Kyle Gooch is one of those people.

Kyle works in the Business Services Department at NMHC. He is currently the 2018 Charter President for the Havre Jaycees. Kyle has been active in the group since his parents, Mark & Chelby joined in 2009. He was able to become a full member when he turned 18 three years ago. Kyle chose to join the Jaycees because he truly enjoys bettering the community. He likes being involved in a number of projects that are fun to put on while benefitting the community as well. It’s a family effort as well now that his younger sister, Kaylee has joined.

The Montana Jaycees (members of the United States Junior Chamber and Junior Chamber International) exists for active young citizens ages 18 to 40, who bring energy and insight to solving problems locally and around the world. They believe they can and should address the needs of others. Their members can be found in all walks of life (and more than 100 countries), but they look for important character traits in their members: passion for making a difference, interest in being part of something bigger than themselves, and a desire to grow and expand their horizons by being active in the community.

Kyle has two young daughters and he plans to involve his children as much as possible so that they too can learn the benefits and joys of helping others. He feels he benefits from his involvement by expanding his horizons, so to speak. “It has helped me break out of my shell while helping me to find something I truly love doing”, said Kyle.

His advice to others is, “Honestly, I would say if you are looking to be more involved with your community just ask around and put yourself out there. There are so many groups out there that are doing great things for the community and sometimes all it takes is a simple conversation with someone to find out about these groups and how to get involved and what they do.”

When asked how long he plans on being in the Jaycees, Kyle states that he enjoys his involvement and will do it as long as he can. The Jaycees are a lucky group to count Kyle as a member. Thank you, Kyle.

Other communities on the Hi-Line profit from giving individuals. Laura Kleinjan is one of those folks. Laura is a transcriptionist for NMHC and lives in Chinook. She is on several boards there.

One is the PAWS Dog Shelter. Laura serves as the President of the board. They are a “no-kill shelter” and work on adopting out unwanted dogs in the area. They take in strays, have them spayed/neutered, and completely vet them in order to get them ready for their “fur-ever homes”. Quite frequently Laura requires the assistance of her husband, Dennis, to meet the demands of the operation.

She is also the Secretary/Treasurer for the Blaine County Fair Foundation. This foundation was set up in 2017 to take tax-deductible private donations and apply for grants to enhance and maintain the Blaine County Fairgrounds and provide funds for a county fair each year. Laura has been active in this endeavor as she herself is an active horsewoman and uses the space herself.

Their latest project is to build an Indoor Event Center to host a variety of events such as bull sales, barrel races, team roping and other rodeo events, car shows, dog training/shows, 4H/FFA and other events.

The third organization Laura is a part of is the Bear Paw Roundup Committee, which brings a professional rodeo to the Hi-Line each year in July during the Blaine County Fair. Laura and her husband became involved because they are passionate about bringing a quality professional rodeo to the community each year. Laura also barrel races on the Montana pro circuit so this is a hometown rodeo for her. They recently added a VIP section to the grandstands which is used for all fair events, including 4H shows, demo derby, and rodeo. All members are volunteers and materials are either donated or purchased at low cost.

All three boards add up to a large amount of time for Laura each month, and during the fair time especially. But she feels it is important for her community that she participate. “For folks looking to be more involved in their community, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer. It’s very fulfilling to be able to bring events and fun to Chinook, to see progress, and perhaps keep our young people from moving to the bigger cities for entertainment”, remarked Laura.

Chinook and Blaine County are double blessed with the Kleinjans. Thanks, guys!

Having a hobby makes life more interesting but can also lead to volunteering – as Laura mentioned. Leigh Schnittgen can also attest to this.

Leigh is an Ophthalmic Technician at the Northern Montana Vision Center. She has played softball for as long as she can remember. She started in coaching softball by helping a co-worker. The co-worker was asked to coach and had never played before, and wanted someone to help her. Leigh mentioned that she had played for years and would be happy to help. As Leigh says, it spiraled from there.

Since coaching, she was then asked to be a member of the Havre Girls Fastpitch Association Board. She was a board member for a year before taking over as the Treasurer. Last year Leigh spent the full 48 hours at the Festival Days 48 Hour Tournament. But it helped better their girls with the money they raised, and that made it worth it to her.

Leigh’s husband, Matt, turned his hobby into a volunteering opportunity as well. He started on the Walleyes Unlimited board in 2016. He became involved with the fishing tournament as well as the Fresno Walleye banquet that is held every April. Matt recently took charge of managing their internet outreach thereby getting their mission out into the community a little more.

When asked what the benefits of volunteering were to her and her husband, Leigh replied, “There’s no big payoff, it just makes us feel a little better to know that we are doing something to help our community. We don’t have kids, so being able to help children in any way is amazing. Little things like coaching softball and giving them something to do for the summer and teaching them a new skill is what makes it worthwhile.” She adds, “The Fresno Walleyes do so much for this community. Every penny that they raise, stays in the community and they have no problem helping out. They’re really a great organization.”

Her advice to others looking to be involved? “Ask around. A simple question was all it took from both of us to get more involved and it’s been a decision neither of us has regretted. Even if that person doesn’t know, they might have a connection. It’s very easy and very rewarding”, comments Leigh.

We’re lucky to have such great examples of community service in the Schnittgens. Thank you!

It has been said that volunteerism is dying out in our country. But these folks are a shining example of the amount of pride that Hi-line folks have for their communities. We’re truly blessed to call them our neighbors.

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