GREAT FALLS — From his time as the band leader for "The Late Late Show with James Corden" to his eclectic musical and comedy styling, it's hard to miss Reggie Watts.
He has written a new book about growing up in Great Falls called “Great Falls, MT: Fast Time, Post-Punk Weirdos, and a Tale of Coming Home Again.”
He also recently embarked on a Montana concert tour, performing at The Newberry in Great Falls several days ago.
While in Great Falls recently, he also carved out a couple hours to make the day of some at-risk youth and learn more about an organization that is helping them.
Watts engaged with a different audience Friday at the Alliance for Youth’s Youth Resource Center. And despite his national notoriety, he never forgets where he came from and can relate to what the kids might be going through.
“I grew up with kids that, you know, friends of mine that would be homeless from time to time and had a lot of problems at home,” said Watts. “Great Falls, in a weird way, just has a lot of it. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's just a vibe thing. However, it does produce amazing people when they have supportive resources.”
The organization’s Youth Resource Center serves as a multi-faceted first point of contact for youth from 13 to 20 who are disadvantaged and or homeless.
“What's been really important about everything that we've built in this building since we've since we moved here is really applying that voice of the people that we serve,” said Kristi Pontet-Stroop, director of Alliance for Youth, as she gave Watts a tour of the facility. “So the kids were a huge voice and down to even picking out the arts and painting the walls down there. They were really part of creating this space.”
According to the Alliance for Youth, more than 475 children in Great Falls are homeless during the year and more than 600 children are in foster care in Cascade County, more than double the state average.
From homework to housing, health care to substance abuse treatment and more, the facility operates as a central hub for services for vulnerable youth. Like Watts, it welcomes uniqueness.
“Some of the kids, I'm sure they think very differently,” said Watts. “They have different ways of existing in the world. And I think it's nice for them to know that you can be however you need to be, as long as it feels good to you and it feels like you're doing it in a way that is getting a good, relatively good response from the people around you and you're helping out as well.”
Watts says he was amazed to see a place available to meet the needs of at-risk youth while offering a safe, secure and loving environment.
“Just seeing this today, I was just getting like on the edge of tears,” said Watts. “You know, how many times and how many people care about these kids. And as crazy and as rambunctious as they are, you know, that this means something because later on, they're going to look back and they're going to be like, “Wow, I'm so glad I had this.”