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What’s Happening for Health in Beaverhead County

Robyn Windham

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A closely held value of Headwaters Foundation is listening and building trusting relationships. One of the best parts of our jobs is traveling around Western Montana to meet grantee partners in their communities. Recently, Program Officer Ashley Shaw and I hit the road to Dillon, Montana to meet with leaders working to improve the health of Beaverhead County residents. This county is truly one that pulls together to help each other and solve problems; we were so inspired by all that we saw and heard. Representatives from five local nonprofits sat down to talk with us about the problems they and their neighbors are facing, and how they are working to solve them. We invite you to learn more about our grantee partners in Beaverhead County — below are highlights and stories from our visit.

  • Early Childhood Coalition of Beaverhead County is a collaborative of organizations in their county working to provide greater access to support children in their growth and development, empower parents to raise their children with skills and confidence and connect families in ways that allow them to engage with others who are experiencing similar things. They received a grant from Headwaters Foundation and became part of the Zero to Five Initiative, joining partners statewide in working to improve the systems that serve families and children across Montana. The Coalition has since opened a community space and parent education center called The Village (across from a local park where they have outdoor playdates) to ensure that families have a place to connect and learn, especially during the winter months. They also opened an online store for used children’s clothing and other necessities, which can be harder to come by outside of Montana’s cities.
  • Helping Hooves incorporates rescued farm animals for equine therapy for kids with behavioral health challenges. Kayla, Helping Hooves’ Founder, talked about the lack of mental health services in Dillon and the surrounding area, especially for the many families living below the poverty line. She told us that the biggest difference she sees in kids because of Helping Hooves is an increase in confidence. When they first come, they are scared, quiet, not wanting to be around people – they see themselves in the abused animals that Kayla rescues, and in helping them, they help themselves heal and grow. Kayla received a GO! Grant from Headwaters Foundation, which she used to offer scholarships for families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford equine therapy. We got to meet one of those families and participate in their session. The kids built an obstacle course which they instructed us to lead (very sweet) Cocoa the horse through. They demonstrated teamwork, respect and confidence during the session – they were much braver around the animals than we were!
  • Be the Change 406 is a coalition working together to eliminate substance misuse and abuse in Beaverhead County. We talked with leader Kim Martinell about the lack of health outlets for kids in rural areas that don’t have things that kids in larger towns might take for granted, like a mall or a bowling alley. Kids also felt increasingly isolated during the pandemic, especially those in rural areas, resulting in an uptick in drug use and mental health concerns. One of the strategies of Be the Change 406 is engaging kids as leaders to mentor others and providing opportunities for meaningful connection and drug-free fun. A recent example is bringing Native American hip hop artist Supaman to local schools and busing kids from the surrounding rural areas to attend – they had a blast! This month, they’ll take a crew of kids to Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho.
  • The Beaverhead Community Wood Bank Ministry’s mission is simple but everyone who has experienced a Montana winter (especially in Beaverhead County which is the coldest in the state) knows it could not be more important. They are a small group of volunteers that make sure that families, senior citizens and anyone in need has the firewood they need to keep warm. We met with Rick Hartz who walked us through the Wood Bank’s sites and operations. He told us that the Wood Bank provides firewood to about 45 households each year, from fall to spring, saving them a combined $35,000 dollars per year in heating costs. The Wood Bank also partners with the Montana Youth Challenge to provide a structured volunteer opportunity for kids at risk of not graduating high school. We are amazed by the BIG impact of this small but dedicated group of volunteers!
  • Fifth Judicial District Voice for Children is a group of well-trained, experienced volunteer advocates who work to establish safe and stable homes and improve the lives of the children in their area.  We had breakfast with leader Melinda, who told us about how these volunteers represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in their region as they enter and navigate the foster care and court system. They act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of judges, collecting information and building trusting relationships with children, supporting them throughout their case. Just 8 volunteers serve their entire area, sometimes traveling for hours to meet children and participate in court dates!

Headwaters Foundation is proud to fund leaders and solutions like these which exemplify the values of caring and community and have an impact on the lives of so many. Thank you to all of these organizations for the incredible and essential work that they do, and for taking the time to meet with us to help us experience and understand it.

To see more (photos, videos) about Headwaters’ grantee partners and ride along with us on future road trips – follow us on Instagram and/or Facebook! To learn about funding opportunities for your organization, click here.