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Community steps in as COVID-19 crushes larger Montana hospitals

“One person down really does make a big difference.”
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Posted at 4:41 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 18:41:36-04

COLUMBUS - The influx of COVID-19 and the added pressure it's put on hospitals and their teams has pushed its way out into smaller Montana communities.

In Columbus, just one staff person down can make a huge impact on the entire hospital, so the community is stepping in to help.

“Well, Christy, we're just gonna get some money from you for a jalapeno steak.” Pastor Josh Daniels is serving his community in a different way lately. His happy voice hollers out: “Aaron, how you doing sir? I believe you owe me some money for a Big Fat Lunchbox burrito!”

The pastor at the Columbus Evangelical Church is taking orders and collecting cash at the Stillwater Billings Clinic.

With both hospitals in Billings over-loaded with COVID-19 patients, new Stillwater CEO Luke Kobold says for the last couple of weeks this 16-bed facility has been operating near capacity.

“We're seeing some patients being transferred from there to our facility because we have an appropriate level of care, and it's helping to ease the burden since both of those hospitals and buildings are on divert,” Kobold said. “One person down really does make a big difference.”

Like other hospitals, the clinic in Columbus is in need of more medical and cleaning staff, but when it lost a full-time dietary employee the kitchen chose to close for employees to focus on feeding patients.

That’s where Pastor Josh Daniels, some behind-the-scenes hospital employees, and the community come in.

“Yeah, last week we got to deliver coffees to everybody, local coffee shop donated coffee for everybody in the hospital. That was really fun,” said Daniels, as he walked out of the hospital with a list of orders and cash.

For the last few weeks, local businesses and area food truck owners have been donating or giving a discount on food, while other days members of the Columbus Evangelical Church have hosted potlucks at the hospital, giving busy employees an opportunity to eat some hot food when they do have a couple of minutes to spare.

“From what I understand, just, it's hard for them to get away, even for five minutes to get anything to eat and not to mention to try to run across town to find food, you know, they don't have time,” said Daniels.

About five minutes later, just down the street: “How are you guys doing?” booms Milo Solomon, the owner of the Big Fat Lunchbox food truck. Milo sticks his head out the window to engage with Pastor Josh.

As he gathers big breakfast burritos in a bag, he comments on the community coming together while hospital staff are under this added Covid pressure.

“They've been doing a great job with all of the challenges that they have over there,” said Solomon, “So, anyway that we can, can help them out and help them get through with what they're dealing with in the stresses that they're dealing with. Yeah, no, we, we just want to be a part of it.”

Just minutes later, Pastor Josh walks back into the Stillwater Billings Clinic for delivery.

“For them to be able to have food brought right to them, it's just been a huge blessing,” he said, “The smiles on their face and the excitement that they have has been huge.”

That sentiment backed up twofold as Pastor Josh hands off a jalapeno steak burrito to an eager employee.

“Oh, you are a glutton for punishment. You're a lucky man. Those are good ones!”

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