Keep It Close to Home

Recently a friend wrote about charitable giving .   It is something that thousands of us do each day, all the while hoping that our gift makes the kind of difference we hope for.   There are so many places to give how do we pick?

Working for a nonprofit I could rattle on about things to look for and how to pick your charity.   I will save that for another day and another writing.    Instead I suggest that you think about the charities that have touched you, your family,  friends and co-workers.   It won’t take long and you will soon have a long list that has made a difference for you.   When you have your list, always look at the lowest local level to give.   Odds are the local chapter was the one that made a difference to those you know.    Here are some of my favorite charities and why.

Beaverhead County Search and Rescue   They were there the night I suffered from hypothermia.   Volunteers took time off of their regular day jobs and came out and brought me back out to civilization after a night out in the winter elements.    We make a donation to them each February as a reminder of how many folks give of themselves but we never know about them until we need them.  There is likely a volunteer group in your area who is unsung and needs your financial help.

Heart of the Valley Shelter   We give in June when shelters always seem to be exploding at the seams with puppies and kittens.   We always give to the last shelter we adopted a pet from.  It means we have given to different shelters over the years.     Local shelters are on the ground and their funds are desperately needed.   When you adopt now days your pet has already been treated for health and spay or neutered.    Giving to a local shelter can make a difference in local pet overpopulation.

Local Food Bank  I know people who are living on the food edge.   My local county statistics report that nearly a quarter of the children are food insecure, aka hungry, locally.   The food you give to a national organization may never get close to your community.    I sign up for monthly giving equally the cost of two coffee drinks.   I don’t miss it and I am sure that they can do more with the cash than I could have ever done with it.   Hunger is a hidden problem, you don’t know what is friends cupboards at home.

Southwest Montana Mammography Program  This is a new one for me. I had always given to various breast cancer causes, but never felt very connected.   I felt compelled as a woman that every October I should write a check to some pink ribbon charity.   This year I had a friend who had a breast biopsy, who was under-insured.  When she got the bill this charity she was flabbergasted at the expense, and questioned the costs and how she would pay this.    This charity stepped up and took care of her bill, and encouraged her to get the second suggested biopsy.   Susan Koman has given grants to the local charity in the past.    Now I will be giving in the future, this charity is quietly make a difference to women in my community.  I never thought about local women who were skipping mammograms because of expenses.   I am sure there are thousands of them.

Memorial Rifle Squad at Fort Snelling National Cemetery  This was a local volunteer group who for the last 34 years has provided veterans with a military honors ceremonial burial with a  rile shots, flag folding and taps.    They have done this free of charge, never missing a funeral no matter the weather.   We first knew of it why my father-in-law was buried.   Coming from a military family we know how important this is to military families.   Now with more vets than ever this organization can use help to cover all the expenses they incur.

Local Library With the changing world it seems like your local library may be a dinosaur.   Libraries now days are more than just books.   The provide computers for use to people who have none, books both with pages and electronic for your e-reader, hot spots for free internet access and classes.    Today people have to apply for jobs online and without the library they are left out.   Kids who have not computer at home depend on it for school work, applying to college and getting ready to be productive adults.  They host free tax seminars, book clubs and so much more.   Libraries provide so much to our communities.

Local Hospice Hospice has been there for our family in our hometowns as our parents entered their last days.    They were there providing us with support  we did not know we needed.    We have since moved away, and now give to the local hospice who has been there for our friends and someday may be there for us as well.

I hope that this list has made you think about how you can make a difference with your giving.   I really think that giving at the local level can make a bigger difference because more of your dollar ends up making a difference.   Odds are your gift will probably impact a someone you know.

Unsung Community Heroes

I recently had an unplanned event that brought me in to contact with the unsung heroes of our local rural community.   These unsung heroes included the volunteer members of Search and Rescue, county sheriff’s department, family, friends, co-workers and members of the community.

My husband and I were guests of a friend and her mother at a local remote cabin for a day of cross-country skiing.  We planned a day of skiing and a night of watching a full moon from the porch of the cabin.  Unfortunately things did not go as planned.   Three of us left for an afternoon of skiing on an ungroomed trail just after lunch.    We were familiar with the destination meadow that should have made for a pleasant day of skiing.  Unfortunately we were not familiar with the rest of the trail and it turned out to be much more challenging than we had expected.  I think in hindsight the pivotal moment was an extraordinarily strenuous climb for me.   The strenuous exercise resulted in a flush of sweating  that was more than my performance gear could handle.   Shortly after that time I became chilled and began showing signs of hypothermia.  The decision was made with the waning daylight, the more difficult terrain than we anticipated, and my need for warmth, to stop and hunker down for the night.

Enter the heroes.

My husband and his daypack with the essentials which would make the difference for us.   He had his ever-present redundancy of three ways to start a fire.   Number two provided us with our fire.  He had some food and a method of providing water, melted snow water in a Sierra cup.  He had packed a head lamp for each of us and brought the infamous “space blankets.”  There was much more that could have, maybe should have been in that pack, but its contents provided the lifesaving essentials.   He would also be the person who would take a GPS reading, and at daybreak the following morning he took off to report us in need of help with evacuation.

There is no hero like a mother on a mission. My  friend’s mother snowshoed a quarter of a mile out of the cabin at daybreak and drove to the closest town 25 miles away.   She searched for lights in the wee hours of the small town and found the local morning coffee group. She reported that three members of her group were missing to the local county sheriff who was part of the group.  This immediately triggered the steps to get the local search & rescue mobilized.

Search & Rescue (SAR)  in Beaverhead county is a group of volunteers who donate their time  to help find and bring out folks who are missing 365 days a year.   They complete specialized training and repeatedly do exercises to keep their skills sharp.   These folks use their personal vehicles, ATVs, snowmobiles, boats, horses and more for the benefit of the public and their community.    They leave their jobs and family to help people who often they do not know but who are in harm’s way.    In our case the first two SAR members mobilized were two local men, who stopped their lives that Thursday morning , loaded up their snowmachines, and headed out to rescue us.   Not knowing for sure what our situation would be at the moment they found us, they had back-up on the way to help as well in case we had deteriorated even more, including additional volunteers with their sleds.   I can tell you the sight of these two men  on snowmobiles, wearing red jackets with Beaverhead SARs patches as they came out of the forest  was a moment of relief and graditude I will never forget.   Their concern and knowledge of our condition being out in the winter overnight was overwhelming.  They gave us water, candy and some dry gear.  Though at that moment I just wanted to get out of there I knew they were right, it was important to take care of those things first.  No gift of time was ever more appreciated.

The local law enforcement not only responded promptly, but stayed on board throughout the process.  In a city, I am not sure but I suspect my friend’s mother would have been left to sit alone  in some police station to wait for news.   In this case the deputy took my friend’s mother to his home.   The deputy’s wife would watch for us as she headed to work which took her by the trailhead where we expected to exit.   She in fact would be the first person to see my husband when he reached the road.  The deputy  would take my friend’s mom to be with my husband while they waited for our return.  The deputy would stay with the SAR crew and eventually shuttle us back to our families. It was the whole family of law enforcement who would be there for us, supporting our family in their time of need.

The Forest Service who provides support to the SAR when needed, were mobilized and ready if needed.  Fortunately they were not needed.  The staff provided support to my husband and friend’s mother while they waited for news about us.  Their emotional support meant so much to them.

I am sure that there are others in this community who are my unsung heroes that I am not acknowledging.   I apologize to any of them for my oversight or not knowing about their contribution that brought my friend and me back to the safety of our families.     That is the thing with true heroes, those unsung heroes, they do these things because they need to be done.   It is the right thing to do.   Not because they seek fame, accolades or acknowledgement.   I do not know really how to express my true gratitude.  I am sharing story, in hopes that everyone who helped will know I am forever in your debt.  Thanks seems such an small word, but I do wish to thank everyone for my safe return.