The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Forever Grateful to a Community that is always willing to go above and beyond


May 20, 2020

2020 has been anything but usual in the terms of how we go about our daily lives. Beginning in the middle of March, we have had our lives turned upside down by circumstances that none of us were prepared for. Each and every one of us has had to deal with these obstacles in our own unique way, independent of how others deal with their own situations. This pandemic that we are all going through has no doubt caused a ton of hardship and changed all of our lives. After the Spring of 2020, the summer and maybe the fall, chances are that none of us will return to the life we had prior. Moving forward we can all rely on each other to help us make the new future an even better one. For those of us who live on the Hi-line, we live in such a wonderful community that there is no better place to make that happen.

For myself, 2020 was flipped upside down back on February 1st at 9:45 in evening when I lost my house in a fire. From the get-go, I was blessed in dealing with a bad situation. My neighbor Jim Yates just happened to be getting a drink of water and saw the fire start. Jim was quick to call 9-1-1 and then rushed over to the house and met me at the front door. Struggling to get it opened, Jim kicked it in and helped me escape the fire and exit the premises safely. Jim then ensured the gas and power to the structure was shut off as to prevent the fire from potentially become a much larger fire that threatened structures adjacent to my house. Jim was a savior that night and I am forever grateful for his quick response and help. As a result, the Chinook Volunteer Fire Department, the Chinook Police, Blaine County Sheriff and Ambulance crew were on the scene within minutes and got the situation under control.

So many things have happened in the many weeks and months since, and there are so many people I have wished to thank, including a community that has always gone above and beyond to help its citizens overcome tragedy. It was never my intention to wait this long to express my gratitude and humbleness about living in such a great community. In the weeks following the fire, recovery has not been as smooth I hoped or planned for. There has been plenty of doctors' visits and as well as many good days to help me stay positive. Just the same, there has been a number of not so good days as well along the way. Recently I had a week-long stay in Fort Harrison after developing some severe medical issues. I could barely get up and walk and couldn't eat. The Doctor, Nurses and specialists did a fantastic job and I'm back ready to move forward. Through it all, it has been the strength of this community, the strength of my family and my friends that have helped me persevere and overcome. Your support has allowed me to wake up each day with a positive attitude and know that things will be OK.

When the EMT's showed up my house to access myself the night of the fire they did a remarkable job stabilizing me. I was immediately taken to the emergency room at Northern Montana Hospital and subsequently was transported to the burn unit in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. After a short stay there I returned home to try to get my life back in order.

Through the efforts of many people, including Keith and Keri Hanson, my wonderful family, my Mom and Dad, my sisters Jodie, Julianne and Suzanne, my amazing children Makhayla Rae and Tonii Marie Farmer, and Brittney Nelson, this group got together to form a benefit to help me get back on my feet on March 6 at the Chinook Eagles club. The efforts that Keith and Keri, my family and Britney put forward were above and beyond. They put together a banquet that was not only an amazing in its scope, but above and beyond in what it achieved. Keith and Keri worked tirelessly in accepting donations for the live and silent auctions, utilizing their business, the Blaine County Journal in Chinook, as a contact and drop off location. The group organized the event got the entire community involved in a way that I could never have imagined.

My close friend Mike Seymour has been very involved in helping me get myself back together mentally and physically. Mike has gone above and beyond in helping me with whatever I need, keeping me active and doing so many of the little things that make the process seem doable. My nephew Braden Eoff has been there whenever I needed him and has been a reliable source when I need help.

The banquet itself was a sight unlike anything I've ever seen before. The entire community of Chinook and the surrounding areas showed up in full force. The amount of support and love and care that I was shown was something that to this day I can't comprehend. I couldn't be more thankful for that day. But it wasn't just a day or evening, that day is a day, a moment in time, that will last forever in my heart and motivate me anytime I start to get down.

Through the efforts of that day I was able to get my life back together, my feet underneath me and a foundation laid that has allowed this recovery process to begin in earnest.

Without the secure foundation the community has provided me I could not have replenished my apartment at the Grande Villa. I could not have acquired the things that I needed for daily life. Through a family friend I was able to purchase a newer vehicle that is safe and reliable, one that has already proved invaluable in getting me to appointments at Fort Harrison as well as when I was admitted Fort Harrison for a life-saving week-long hospital visit. This community is full of so many kind people. At the banquet so many people showed up to help or offer support and participate in both the Silent and Live Auction.

The Chinook high school girls' and boys' basketball team took part and helped out with the auctions and selling tickets. Their support meant a lot to me as I have enjoyed covering them throughout the years. Shane Ophus and Kevin Elias did a fantastic job with the live Auction. So many people showed up and bid in the silent auction and took part in the live auction that the numbers are too many to mention. I thank from the bottom of my heart all the people that donated items for these two auctions. I am extremely grateful to all the bidders.

Bidders extended well beyond the walls of the Eagles as Frank and Bettie Barber were able to participate while being quarantined in Georgia. Connecting with my sisters online they bid in both auctions and Bettie was over the moon with excitement in being able to participate. The Barbers have been lifelong friends and to have them there electronically was awesome.

With summer approaching and dealing with the current situation we are going through I am convinced that there is no place I would rather be to deal with it than this community we call home. From Fort Belknap to Turner and Hogeland, south to Hays and Lodge Pole, Cleveland, and the Bear Paws, there is no finer county in the country that will help each other get a leg up on any situation. Thank you all and God Bless.


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