NewsMontana and Regional News


Volunteers are the key to success for many agencies

Ember Woods
Posted at 6:24 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 20:36:12-04

GREAT FALLS — April 17-23 is celebrated as National Volunteer Week, and from sorting food to maintaining national forests, volunteers are a critical part of our society.

At the Great Falls Community Food Bank, there is no shortage of ways to volunteer.

On Wednesday, Ember Woods and several others spent time preparing packages of food for the food bank's school backpack program.

"We come on Wednesdays every week and fill the bags full of all these great things for the kids to eat on the weekends,” Woods said.

She's glad to know there's a week highlighting the importance of volunteering.

"I think that's really a wonderful idea. It really is, yeah. If you volunteer for something like the food bank, it really does make you feel good because it's such an important mission,” said Woods.

Shaun Tatarka is the food bank's executive director and says the food bank couldn't serve the community without volunteers.

"Not only the people that come in and help us but I would say probably at least 50 percent of the people that come in and shop to feed the hungry at the food bank are volunteers,” said Tatarka.

Thankfully, a lack of volunteers is likely something he won't ever have to worry about.

"I've always said that Great Falls is an extremely, extremely generous community. Not only in terms of capital but also in terms of their time. We actually have more people asking to volunteer than we can actually put to work,” Tatarka explained.

Chiara Cipriano is the Public Affairs Officer for the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest.

“Volunteers are essential. They’re really helping us fulfill our mission of taking care of this land,” said Cipriano. "In 2021, we had over 500 volunteers give over 13,000 hours of service."

She said an opportunity to connect is a big motivator for volunteers.

"They really enjoy the opportunity to connect with both the local and international visitors who come to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and who are also out in the forest,” Cipriano explained.

For information about volunteer opportunities with the food bank, call 406-452-9029.

For information about volunteer opportunities with the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, Cipriano says the best way to start is by contacting your local ranger district. Rangers can give you information about volunteer groups in the area.