Building Community Pride
by marya pennington
Recent years have shown a collective drive to grow a sense of pride in local communities. A quick Google search of “community pride” produced many results – from building community engagement and connections through public events and activities to celebrating, respecting, and representing the social and cultural backgrounds of people in the community. Let’s not forget the civic pride of voting in elections, maintaining a community’s physical attractiveness, and preserving the identity of the area’s history, culture, and arts.
The Billings Chamber of Commerce has made a commitment to growing community pride, with a strategic priority to rally Yellowstone County to “Love Where You Live.” John Brewer, President and CEO of the Billings Chamber, says, “This will be a year focused on uniting our stakeholders and the community behind all the wonderful things Billings has to offer while showing pride in our home and working together to improve areas that need support - such as public safety, air service, parks and recreation, and being that place where all feel they belong.” But how is all of this accomplished on an individual basis? One great way is through volunteer service.
Is It Worth It?
Volunteering can feel daunting and frankly undoable. Is it worth the time? Will it make a difference that matters? How will it be personally beneficial? This last one might seem self-centered, but it’s a question everyone asks themselves when deciding to add another responsibility to their already full plate. How can we be sure volunteer service is more worthy than the other things we put on the back burner? Let’s take a look at the benefits. Obviously, the first is the impact on the people in need that non-profits serve. As a volunteer on the Board of Directors at Family Service, I know the time I give will contribute to the needs of the hungry, homeless, and poor of our community. The dignity, respect, and stability that Family Service strives to provide works to make our community a better place as a whole.
What’s In It for Me?
The benefits of service can extend beyond the cause and offer many professional and personal benefits:
- Networking opportunities and ways to meet new people or build greater connections with peers
- Building a connection with the community as a whole through an educational and eye-opening experience
- Sharpening current skills and strengths or teaching a new skill to others, allowing the opportunity to hone your skills
- Offering greater visibility within the community and opportunities to observe others’ best practices
- Gifting the opportunity to lead and inspire others or gain a new perspective
- Feelings of fulfillment and accomplishment
- Adding to a well-rounded resume!
Show Them the Money!
Now, let’s be honest: no conversation about volunteer service would be complete without rounding the bases toward the home plate of financial giving. Non-profits, particularly as the calendar year draws to a close, cannot continue to function without donations from generous donors. This is also an act of service – the giving of your hard-earned cash to a worthy organization is an investment in the entire community and a source of pride. We have a plethora of amazing non-profit organizations in Billings on the front lines every day, delivering what’s needed to make our community the best it can be. Here are a few examples of some local non-profits' work to get your volunteer juices flowing! Now, get out there! You will undoubtedly receive far more than you give.
Here are a few examples of some local non-profits in our community:
Adult Resource Alliance
Adult Resource Alliance is focused on ensuring seniors remain independent with the highest possible quality of life. They provide comprehensive services promoting the well-being of younger, healthier, and more active seniors. They also support and assist older adults’ independence to live in their homes as long as possible. They offer several programs, such as the Senior Lunch Program, Meals on Wheels, transportation services, and a resource center that provides information and assistance on various issues facing seniors today.
Eagle Mount exists to create opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in recreational activities. Through supported activities like skiing, cycling, Summer Camps, and more, Eagle Mount helps reduce social isolation and enhance self-esteem, independence, and joy for all ages and abilities. Eagle Mount Summer Day Camps offer 10 unique weeks of programming for over 100 youths and adults of all abilities, ages 3 - 60 years. Scholarships are provided as needed to remove financial barriers.
Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools
The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools works alongside School District 2 to provide excellence in education through philanthropy, connection, and collaboration. The Foundation strives to augment educational resources and provide supplemental opportunities through various ways: Funding classroom grants and scholarships, offering summer reading support through the Reading Rocks program, providing nutritious food and basic necessities for students through BackPack Meals and School Pantries, and assisting students with needs to help them attend school and participate in activities through the Angel and Homeless Funds.
The Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the livestock industry, agriculture education, and preserving the Western way of life. The premiere event of the NILE is a week-long stock show and rodeo held in October, along with several other events throughout the year. The NILE offers youth scholarships, college internship experiences, and supports the next generation through FFA, 4-H, and the 4th grade Ag Education program.
Special Olympics Montana – Yellowstone Valley Area
Special Olympics Montana – Yellowstone Valley Area provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in various Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and share gifts. Their vision is an inclusive world for all, driven by the power of sport, through which people with intellectual disabilities live active, healthy, and fulfilling lives. Special Olympics Montana – Yellowstone Valley Area hosts many events throughout the year and relies on their volunteers' time, energy, commitment, and enthusiasm.
Scan the QR code below to learn more about these and other great Billings Chamber non-profit members.
Marya Pennington is a Billings native who loves great films, fly fishing, backpacking, weight lifting, and good conversation about anything but the weather. She is passionate about telling a good story and helping local businesses tell theirs. Above all, she loves to go on adventures with her husband Randy, their three daughters and their families.
NAMI: Local Support for Mental Health
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, is a lifeline for peers and their loved ones and a valuable resource for the community. NAMI’s local branch, NAMI Billings, offers education classes, community presentations, and support groups without cost to attendees.