MISSOULA - Browning, Heart Butte, and other communities along the Rocky Mountain Front have been inundated for weeks by snow, wind, and bitterly cold temperatures unlike any seen in decades.
The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council has declared a state of emergency for a community in desperate need of outside help -- and one local Missoula non-profit is stepping up.
“The superintendent of the schools put a call for help saying that their people are in dire need, hadn’t been out of their homes in weeks,” said Sara Wekker, director of a recent virtual start-up called Essential Eats Distributors.
Wekker has reached out to community organizations asking for financial donations and she says several have come forward to help. Essential Eats made their latest of several donations over the last week on Wednesday.
“Today, we’re picking up 1,000 pounds of turkey. We brought up 700 pounds of chicken quarters and some other food, we worked with the Hutterite Colony to get food directly into Heart Butte," Wekker told MTN News.
But getting the food over the Divide and into towns blanketed with feet of snow is not an easy task. “Roads are closed on and off with so much frequency, that an outsider couldn’t have navigated it very well," Wekker said.
That’s where Earl Heavyrunner comes in -- after all he has first-hand knowledge of what the communities are dealing with, "they just can’t get out of their homes. Snowbanks are anywhere from five-to-10 feet deep.”
Heavyrunner, who works with the Blackfeet Food Pantry, drove 4½ hours through tough travel conditions on to Missoula, and within 20 minutes, loaded his truck, and was back on the road,
“This food is going back to the tribe to be sent to the people that can’t get to it. We’re estimating anywhere from 400 to 500 people," Heavyrunner said.
He added that the Blackfeet Food Pantry receives roughly 80 calls a day from those in need of assistance.
Heavyrunner hopes that other organizations like Essential Eats will continue to step up with food and toiletry donations that are so desperately needed in a community crippled by Mother Nature’s worst.