Success Stories - click each title to read more
Every day at the Abbie Shelter survivors of domestic violence reclaim their lives through this safe place to escape. Anna called the Violence Free Crisis Line which helped her and her children leave her abusive husband after realizing her oldest child was treating others in the same degrading, aggressive manner he witnessed between her and her husband. The Abbie Shelter connected this family with therapeutic services, support groups, and community resources. Anna found camaraderie with the other women, learned how to do safety planning, and received help with the emotional and legal steps she needed. The Abbie Shelter and Violence Free Crisis Line serve individuals and families in times of crisis while promoting awareness and advancing the prevention of violence in our community.
Providing children facing adversity with strong, enduring mentoring relationships is the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Carter has had more than his share of hurts. His father left when he was small and when his mother was killed in a car accident he and his sister were adopted by a relative who moved them across MT for a fresh start. Adding to his challenges, Carter also has a type of autism. Big Brothers Big Sisters were able to match Carter with Charlie and they connected almost immediately, enjoying cribbage games, fitness activities, skiing, watching movies, and more. Charlie admits he wasn’t sure he could relate to a youngster but it soon became apparent he was not to worry. The Big Brothers Big Sisters program has a positive impact on both “Bigs” and “Littles”.
Scouting provides quality youth programs that build good character while building better communities. A 7th grader and Boy Scout for many years, Jason took on an ambitious Eagle Scout project raising over $5,000 to purchase sports gym bags for foster children in the Flathead. He is a recipient of the Montana Service Award for work on an environmental project for the 100 year celebration of Glacier National Park and he was also selected to attend the Boy Scouts Centennial Forest Ceremony with the Chief Executive of the Boy Scouts, the President of AT&T and the President of the Arbor Day Foundation where he was proud to help plant the last 30 of 100,000 trees. Jason is building character and learning leadership, teamwork, responsibility and patriotism which are only a few of the values instilled through Boy Scouts.
CASA For Kids advocates for children in foster care. Early in Emma’s life of turmoil she was labeled emotionally disturbed. Her father abandoned the family when she was a toddler and her mother had mental illness and drank. By age 9 Emma was using drugs and missing school. After two years in a group home mother and daughter were reunited, but that ended after Emma was sexually assaulted. At 12 years old Emma entered foster care and the judge assigned Melanie to be her Court Appointed Special Advocate, (CASA) volunteer. The next six years brought four foster home placements, three therapists, three changes in schools and two social workers. Throughout this time, Emma had the same CASA by her side. When Emma turned 18, Melanie’s role as a CASA ended but the friendship remains. Now, Emma has her GED, works full time and lives in her own apartment. CASA for Kids makes a difference in the lives of children who are vulnerable.
Middle schoolers pour out of the bus with eager eyes and smiling faces as they greet their peers. It is the first day of Kids Camp sponsored by Flathead CARE. As they disembark, camp counselors know all too well how often the smiles are covering pain and social disconnect. Emily volunteered to work at camp because she experienced the difference Flathead CARE made in her life after her parent’s divorce when she was 12. Emily blamed herself and worst of all she let isolation and depression set in. Then one day, she was invited to Kids Camp and discovered she was not alone. Through Kids Camp and the STAND program in high school, Emily found acceptance, gained skills to make positive choices, and learned ways to avoid drugs and alcohol. Flathead CARE program helped to build her into a strong confident young adult.
Tammy, a volunteer delivery driver, knocked on the door of Phyllis, an elder lady who lived alone and was new to the Flathead Food Bank’s Senior Commodities Program. With no response to her knocking Tammy peered in to find Phyllis quite frail on the couch. Phyllis had returned home from surgery two days earlier too weak to fix herself anything to eat but thankfully had water so she wasn’t dehydrated. Finding very little food in the house Tammy got some soup for Phyllis from a nearby restaurant and reported the situation back to the Flathead Food Bank. The food bank immediately contacted the correct community resources that helped Phyllis regain her strength and care for herself again. Flathead Food Bank continues to help meet basic needs in our community.
Kiera remembers her time at the Flathead Youth Home as a safe haven of normalcy during her tumultuous teenage years. She was 16 and had serious problems at home.
“Growing up in my household was full of turbulent emotions, domestic violence, and physical and emotional neglect,” said Kiera, “After repeated patterns of neglect and violence at home with my parents, I was placed in the Flathead Youth Home.”
There, she found a calm, safe place after the chaos she had experienced.
“Being in the youth home gave me a safe place to be, where I knew that everybody cared about me,” said Kiera, who at 24 is now a poised and confident young woman. “I knew I could go to any member of the staff and talk to them without worrying about my safety or any negative repercussions. I did more during the time I was at the Flathead Youth Home than I have done with my own family.”
Girl Scouts welcomes all girls. Tabitha has neurological challenges and lived with her aunt because her parents were in prison when she joined Girl Scouts in the 6th grade. Initially, her behavior was negative but as she became part of her troop and learned new skills her confidence grew. Tabitha told her counselor that scouting helps her feel like a regular girl, where she is accepted. She gained social skills, learned team building and enjoys volunteering in her community. Developing courage, experiencing personal achievement and building character through Girl Scouts allows girls to become strong women and citizens—important skills for a lifetime.
Oksana Nakonechny is a big believer in Head Start: she has seen the difference its made in her own family. “Head Start does a really good job getting my children ready for kindergarten,” said Nakonechny, the mother of seven. She learned about the program in time for her third child to participate and found that he was far better prepared for kindergarten than his older siblings.
“The things they needed to know for kindergarten, they already knew,” she said. Three of her children have participated in Head Start over the past six years, and her two youngest will go when they are four. Northwest Montana Head Start, a United Way Member Agency, serves 223 children at three locations in the Flathead Valley. Services include education, transportation, health, and nutrition.
Reading can be something we take for granted. For many adults, much of life’s struggles can be alleviated through basic literacy. Mary, age 52, dropped out of high school when academics became too difficult and home life was in chaos. Working as a hotel housekeeper since she was a teenager, she often changed jobs, whenever reading became an issue. Tired of losing jobs and living in fear of people finding out she couldn’t read Mary began two years of one-on-one tutoring through Literacy Volunteers. After a lot of patience and dedication Mary finally enjoys reading the newspaper, a menu, a good book, and soon she will enroll in college for the medical career she has always dreamed of. Reading proficiency is vital and gives meaning to life, Literacy Volunteers make a difference.
Looking back, Brittany is convinced the Mental Health Crisis Line saved her life. She arrived in Kalispell from another state to avoid an abusive relationship and to start over after the death of her child. Depressed, homeless and unemployed, she needed help. Due to thoughts of suicide, the mental health professionals with Mental Health Crisis Line intervened each time Brittany called, including the time her sister took her to the ER. Mental health treatment finally helped her become stable and for the last 3 years Brittany has maintained employment and her own apartment. The Mental Health Crisis Line received 1,673 calls last year providing valuable crisis response services in our community 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Lacey, the young single mother of an infant, planned to attend college and build a career for herself. The Nurturing Center helped her choose quality day care and provided a scholarship to pay for some of her child care expenses. She also attended support groups and utilized educational services about child development and parenting. Lacey worked part time and attended college full time, the path was difficult but her determination paid off as graduation day finally arrived. She obtained employment and the child care scholarship gradually ended as her income allowed her to be more self sufficient. This is another success story demonstrating how the Nurturing Center is indeed a comprehensive resource center strengthening families.
Outreach service to veterans is one mission of Samaritan House, the local homeless shelter. Harold, a 60-year-old veteran, had been homeless for nearly 5 years, camping outside or staying with friends. It all began when he was no longer able to work due to a serious health condition. Harold stayed at Samaritan House during medical treatment and was connected with VA services to obtain Veterans Disability Benefits. The case manager at Samaritan House also helped him transition into a subsidized apartment. Now, this veteran lives in a warm safe home. Samaritan House helps meet basic needs and helps reach for goals like obtaining permanent housing, enhancing independence and increasing each person’s sense of self-determination.
For 6 months Amy, 16, has lived at Sinopah House, a therapeutic group home for adolescent girls with serious emotional issues. Amy’s mom was 15 when Amy was born and Amy’s early years were turbulent, sometimes living with her mother, grandmother or in a foster home. Skipping school, using drugs, emotional outbursts, self harm and running away were factors that led Amy to Sinopah House. Through mental health treatment, structured living and learning about relationships, addiction, good communication and building confidence, Amy is finally healing. Improved behavior and grades of A’s and B’s show how her emotional well-being is stabilizing. With the goal of developing lifelong skills for each girl to succeed in school, at work, in relationships and in their community, Sinopah House intervenes at a critical time in young lives.
Social and community inclusion for people with disabilities is an important aspect of achieving quality of life and living independently. It’s one goal of the peer counseling services through the Summit Independent Living Center. Kyle, who has born with a disability, has felt left out of a “normal” life. He wanted friends and to be more active in his community. Kyle was matched one-on-one with a peer who regularly met with him to help him adjust socially. It took many months but Kyle’s confidence grew and now not only is he comfortable in social settings, but he encourages others as well. What a difference unconditional acceptance can make thanks to Summit Independent Living Center.