HELENA — Pandemic or not, every person facing hunger in the greater Helena area is able to receive food support through Helena Food Share.
The work of feeding hundreds of families each week is only possible through the service of numerous volunteers.
Helena High Science Teacher Dave McKim began volunteering shortly after Montana's stay at home order went into place.
McKim had a friend who already gave their time for the cause, and was looking for a way to help his community during these trying times.
“I know that a lot of people have felt a loss of humanity and a loss of community as we’ve been asked to shelter in place in our homes,” said McKim. ”To be able to be a part of a process where we can still maintain some kind of connection, still ensure that humanity and that community, and those needs are being met is pretty neat. I feel very fortunate.”
For many volunteers like McKim it isn’t about recognition. They just want help.
“The fear and feeling of food insecurity is just one of those feelings that has always been near and dear to my heart and my personal anxieties,” said Rick Leroy. “To be able to participate in alleviating that food insecurity for those in Helena was just a place that I thought was a great use of my time.”
Ginny Hurt told MTN she’s so grateful just to be able to interact with the families food share serves.
“It’s just so interesting to be able to listen to people’s stories and listen to some of the hardships they’ve been through,” said Hurt. “I’ve seen the adaptability of the community in Helena, the fortitude, the resilience and the courage of the people in some of the stories that they’ve shared with me -- and of course the gratitude that they share when we’re able to help them out to the car.
Helena Food Share has been distributing more than 5,000 pounds of food each day since over the last three months.
It’s no easy task, and staff will tell you plainly they couldn’t do this without the volunteers.
Before COVID, Food Share had more than 100 volunteers, but they are now down to around 60. Many of their regular volunteers are in the vulnerable groups for COVID, and at this time it is just not safe for them to volunteer.
The food party has implemented strict COVID protocols to protect volunteers, staff and those they serve. Temperatures are checked for everyone entering the party, and those on site must wear gloves and a face mask. Food is also prepacked for families and delivered to their car for them.
Even with all of their precautions, any increase in spending time with people outside your home increases your chances of being exposed to COVID-19. If you ask the volunteers, there’s no place they’d rather be than helping get food to those that need it.
Volunteer Cole Adams says his time with Helena Food Share has taught him there is an obvious need in our community, and it takes a community to address it.
“Even now with all of the layoffs from jobs, I think the need has increased for it,” said Adams. “I’m just glad we can help with one less expenditure for them.”
Helena Food Share is always looking for more volunteers to help fill those positions, and volunteers say they’re always happy to see a new face helping out.
“Every day I walk out of here I feel like I’m on cloud 9, it is just awesome,” said McKim. “So if you have not been a part of what they’re doing down here at Food Share, or if you have any questions, definitely check it out. It’s something that since I’ve become a part of it has changed my life and I know it’s a part of what makes our Helena community so special.”
No one should ever have to choose between paying their bills and putting food on the table.
That’s why MTN and the Scripps Family Impact Fund through the Scripps Howard Foundation have donated $12,000 to Helena Food Share to help families in need.
MTN is challenging the community to meet, and hopefully surpass, our donation.
Make your donation to Helena Food Share here with a comment that says "MTN Match."
More information about how to volunteer can be found here.