EDITOR’S NOTE: This is taken from the December 3, 2015, minutes of the Great Falls Interfaith Association, submitted by Stephen Boyd.

Those present:
Pastor Ray Larson, Benefis Health care
Stephen Boyd, GF Hebrew Association
Jim Kizer, Great Falls Rescue Mission
Marla Wilkins, 1st Presbyterian Church
Chastity Roofner, Opportunities, Inc.
Dusti Zimmer, Center for Mental Health
Pastor Andre Murphy, Living Grace Church
Lt. Andrea Reedy, Salvation Army
Michael Key, Kairos Youth Services
Cherrie Kelly, Opportunities Inc.
Mark Jones, Northwest Family Fellowship
Jackie Sloak, CMR Food Pantry
Pastor Natalie Faltin, St. John’s Lutheran Church
Joshua Trosper, Northwest Family Fellowship
Rebecca Cloutier, Alliance for Youth
Chris Crooks, Church of Christ
Kristie Stroop, Alliance for Youth
Lee Barrows, New City Church
Sharon Odden, Family Promise
Anna Merritt, Our Saviors Lutheran Church
Laurie Jungling, Redeemer Lutheran Church

Focus: Middle, Secondary Schools & General Youth Assistance

Jackie – CMR Food Pantry – 19 Schools in Great Falls have food pantries, with the 5 middle and high schools having the largest. 912 students being served, 7,000 lbs. of food per month. 200
boxes distributed each holiday from just the five largest pantries. More than 4,000 kids in Cascade county are classified as “food insecure”. The city-wide needs seem to be increasing every year. Kids “shop” the food pantries every week. They get what they want instead of a box of food they may not use. Holiday food is distributed in pre-made boxes. There is supervision, they have to take vegetables as well as cake mixes. Funded by the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation. They don’t limit families from “shopping” every week. The whole family can be fed through the school program. It’s a city, county, and state problem.

Good ways to help include shopping for the food, distributing the food, and paperwork. There is also a constant need to replenish the Great Falls Food Bank. Food donations directly to the schools are very needed.

Church Partnerships: Andre – Calling the school principals and checking in helps a lot. Not just food, sometimes they need clothes, long pants, underwear, socks, gloves, it all helps.

Lee – They provided lunch for the kids in Lewis and Clark who couldn’t afford lunch.

Dusti – Youth Crisis – Been working on Youth Crisis for 3 years. Trying to keep kids at home, with their families, and helping the whole family as a unit. The crisis home is designed as the place they can go before getting institutionalized. The goal being to keep kids close to home in their own communities. The Youth Crisis home is now complete at 625 Central Ave. West. It’s an old renovated hotel. The top floor and basement was given to Dusti, and through a grant, they were able to transform it into a livable space. The Optimist group provided the furniture, lighting, etc… It is being licensed for ages 6-18. Younger youth on the West end, and older on the East end. They have hired a supervisor for the home, and are in the process of hiring group home workers – seven shifts available. You can apply on their web site, or at
Before youth are admitted, they will have a full clinical exam to make sure they are appropriate for the home. Right now it’s grant funded, sustainability is very important, and will hopefully come in year two of the home’s operation. Right now, the closest similar place is in Helena. The most alarming statistic is that 82% of the first 108 kids they served were suicidal.

Kristie – Youth Mental Health – First Aid training is available for free to any church, school, or community organizations. Much like regular First Aid, but more training focused to identify and see the signs and symptoms related to Mental Health/Suicide Prevention. Amy this that “you don’t talk to a suicidal person about it for fear it would make it worse”. This is NOT the case, talking to them actually DOES help. People with mental health issues are more likely to wait for others to approach them to talk about it.
Sharon – Christmas party for the 16 families who have graduated from the Family Promise program, and are in need of gift cards so the parents can shop for their kids for Christmas.

Mike – Always in need of anything, donations gratefully accepted.

Jim – Last year the Rescue Mission shopped for 900 kids, We can help through the Ornament of Hope program, they need UNWRAPPED gifts by the 16th. They will have a giftwrapping party afterwards.

December is suicide month. This month is known as the season of hope, but if you don’t have a family to celebrate with, or are from a broken home, you don’t feel very hopeful. These people need help. Reach out to people in need, let them know that there IS hope!

Ray adjourned the meeting. See you all next year! Next meeting is January 28th at Benefis West.
Submitted by Stephen Boyd

Posted on December 20, 2015, in 2015, 5776, December, Ram's Horn, Tevet. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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