Giving Back in 2016

From middle school students to volunteer firefighters, Flathead Valley residents know a little something about giving and goodwill

By Beacon Staff
Clay Naomi, volunteer fire captain with Smith Valley Fire Department, pictured on Dec. 14, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

There are fewer people in Northwest Montana. Instead, we have bigger skies. Empty lands. More wild animals. Making a living here isn’t easy. So we help each other out. Perhaps that’s why lending a hand is such a fundamental part of our lifestyle. It pays off, in sunrises and closer ties to the few neighbors we have. Every year come December, we celebrate a few of our devoted, caring citizens who work particularly hard to improve the lives of those around them. Let them inspire you to give a little extra this season. Happy holidays!

— Beacon Staff

Responding to the Call

Volunteer firefighters make big sacrifices to serve their communities

By Justin Franz

For many community volunteers, their service comes at a time of their choosing. They fill their weekends and evenings doing everything they can to make their community a better place while balancing the stresses of their daily lives. But for John Peine, Clay Naomi and thousands of other volunteer firefighters across Montana and the country, the call to duty can come at any time, morning, noon or night.


Gene Dziza, owner of Collision Craft, pictured on Dec. 13, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Crafting Kindness

Collision Craft continues car giveaway program, adds new army of volunteers seeking a worthy project

By Molly Priddy

When Gene Dziza, the owner of Collision Craft in Kalispell, heard from his coworker that a client’s child just had a brain aneurysm and the client couldn’t afford the flight and hotel room costs, he knew two things. First of all, he knew he would try to help — the client’s $500 deductible was waived on their freshly fixed car, and Collision Craft donated another $500 to an online fundraiser. Secondly, Dziza knew his vision for the culture of his business was coming to fruition.


Faith Blackaby, left, and Jillian Wynne created a desk calendar with stories of local veterans. The girls are pictured at Stillwater Christian School on Dec. 14, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Portraits of our Heroes

 Stillwater Christian students create calendar that highlights stories of Flathead Valley veterans

By Clare Menzel

The soldier was marked as KIA, or Killed in Action. His body lay heavy near Harrison Brand’s seat in the helicopter. Brand, a Marine officer, had trained for 15 months in Florida before he was deployed to Vietnam to pilot helicopters. That day long ago, he’d been told he was on a mission to rescue injured soldiers, but amid the chaos, dead bodies were loaded into his craft instead. He stayed the course and prepared to take off.


People congregate around fires during the Sparrow’s Nest of Northwest Montana’s annual “When the Night Comes” event at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Whitefish on Dec. 10, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

In From the Cold

Sparrow’s Nest raises funds to feather its two safe harbors for homeless high school students

By Tristan Scott

A mid-December campout in Northwest Montana might strike some as an unappealing setting for a Saturday night gathering, but for residents of Sparrow’s Nest of Northwest Montana, an organization dedicated to supporting Flathead County’s homeless high school students, the evening al fresco was a simulation of their realities.


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