A New Affiliate in Big Sky Country

February 4, 2015

Executive Director Sharon Odden.

Welcome, Family Promise of Great Falls, our fifth Affiliate in the state of Montana.The city of Great Falls is not named for any one waterfall but rather for five in succession. The cascades led to its development as a city, as dams would provide ready power and made Great Falls a principal center of industry for the second half of the 20th century. Industry has waned and Malmstrom Air Force Base has shrunk, causing Great Falls’ economy to remain weak. In 2014, 318 students were identified as homeless in the school district—one in 36.Development efforts began as Donna Lawson talked with the Helena director about his previous experiences in Great Falls. This led to conversations with the school liaison that showed both great need and great interest in developing an Affiliate. Pat Bradbury did clergy visits and Central Christian Church served as the community meeting host. From there Pat, Donna and Tom Cioffi all lent a hand; the program developed smoothly with Kate Triplett, a member of Holy Spirit Catholic Church, taking the lead as board chair.

They open with 13 host congregations, a Day Center at Central Christian, and an experienced director in Sharon Odden, who was trained by Tony McDade.

The first family to come in was a remarkable group, a family of 6. Their 13-year-old son had gone to the ER a couple of times over the summer for a chronic heart condition. After the second visit, the family learned he needed a heart transplant and they moved to Seattle where the procedure could be done. The surgery was successful and the family moved back to Great Falls after Christmas where they stayed with family, until that no longer was possible. It was then that they learned about Family Promise—via an announcement on TV.

Holy Spirit was the first host and was able to provide their late monsignor’s house—a perfect environment for a family with a child with fragile health. Mom remarked that it was just like staying at Ronald McDonald House—a testament to the warmth and comfort of volunteers.

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