Nonprofit Connecting People with Community Resources to Host First Training in Years

Organization seeking volunteers after pandemic curtailed training opportunities

By Mike Kordenbrock
ASSIST vans are parked outside the ASSIST office in Kalispell on Dec. 20, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

ASSIST Flathead, a local nonprofit that works to connect people with community resources, will be hosting volunteer training sessions in April for the first time in years.

The pandemic had curtailed training opportunities, and the organization has lost some volunteers over that span, meaning that more volunteers are needed.  

ASSIST’s clientele is typically made up of people who might be elderly, have medical issues, or may have financial needs that could be helped by signing them up for preexisting programs and services.

The two volunteer training workshops take place on consecutive Fridays, and are intended to be part one and part two of a two-part training. ASSIST Director Jane Emmert said that even if people ultimately do not become ASSIST volunteers they can still benefit from the training workshops.

“I would say the best reason to come take a workshop is to really understand all the resources in our community that are available to those in need,” Emmert said. “I kind of think of it as a ripple effect, where if I can teach somebody even a little more knowledge about food resources, or Medicaid resources, even if they don’t need it for themselves, we all have people in our church, people in our neighborhood, people on the street, that could use knowledge about where to find food and shelter.”

The trainings are meant to inform and train people, and also for ASSIST to see if potential volunteers could be a good fit. Attending the trainings doesn’t necessarily mean someone is committed to becoming a volunteer. Anyone 18 and up is eligible to volunteer, and volunteers include people from a range of professional backgrounds, including some people who are retired. The typical commitment in a given week is about three hours, according to Emmert. Volunteers and staff members visit people at their homes, talk with them, help answer questions about social programs and also help fill out paperwork. ASSIST is affiliated with Logan Health.

“Our volunteers are connectors. We don’t do laundry, we don’t do windows, we don’t do healthcare, we’re nonmedical. We just connect people to existing community resources,” Emmert said.

She said a common sentiment among volunteers is that they get more out of it than they give. “I joke that our volunteers get paid in hugs. When you don’t know where to start, when you’re facing a medical issue or a loved one is very sick, having someone come alongside you is the best feeling in the world.”

The two volunteer training workshops are on Friday April 22, and Friday April 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Logan Health Medical Center dietary conference rooms in the cafeteria. A free lunch is included. To register people can visit www.assistflathead.org/volunteers or call 406-758-1451.