HELENA — The Margaret Stuart Youth Home in Helena provides important care for young people in need. On Friday, they got a big surprise that will help them in the work they do.
Representatives from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana dropped by to deliver a $50,000 check to Youth Homes, the organization that operates the home. BCBS selected them from more than 30 applicants for their Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grant.
“It was a wonderful surprise,” said Colleen Rivers, program director for the Margaret Stuart Home. “I thought that they were coming to do a final interview.”
Youth Homes runs eight residential programs across western Montana. The Margaret Stuart Home – along with homes in Missoula, Kalispell and Hamilton – serves youth ages 11 to 18, providing short-term placements for crisis intervention as well as longer-term group care.
Rivers said the goal is to create a safe home environment.
“We really try to let kids be kids,” she said. “We’re staffed by caring adults who want to be here. They’re certainly not here for the paycheck.”
Leaders say the average stay at the home is about 45 days, but it varies significantly for each person. Kids living there continue to go to school and participate in other activities.
“We try and keep them plugged in to anything they’re plugged into,” said Rivers. “We run kids all over town, make sure they get their appointments, make sure they get physical activity every day, eat nutritious meals.”
With this grant, Youth Homes plans to give their counselors some additional assistance.
“They will be able to see a therapist and have some groups and get some extra support for dealing with these kiddos,” Rivers said. “There’s a fair amount of turnover in the position, and I am only as good as my team, so it’s important to me to keep my folks and to train them well and to have them feel like we are investing in them – because they are the ones who really are investing in all of the kids.”
Sara Groves, a sales strategist with BCBS, said the work Youth Homes does is vital, giving kids life skills, good nutrition and a safe place to stay.
“We know that when kids are healthier, our communities are healthier, and so to us, this seemed like a great resource and a great place for us to contribute some dollars,” she said.
This was one of four grants Blue Cross and Blue Shield awarded this year for the Healthy Kids, Healthy Families program.