Saguache County churches team up to help needy neighbors

CENTER— The national news outlets and local news stations never covered it, but after four feet of snow in some spots and brutal weather conditions overall in Browning, Mont., pleas came from United Methodist Church members there to help those isolated on the Blackfeet Nation reservation and outlying areas.

Requests were made for food and firewood and more specifically in the food category, potatoes. “Saguache County is not wealthy,” Center United Methodist interim pastor Vickie Kintzel wrote in a news release last week. “There is significant local need and a high poverty rate. But there are potatoes – lots of them. And there are kind-hearted people – lots of them.”

She said some questioned the stewardship of shipping potatoes such a long distance. But when it was learned that no other potatoes had been sent from any other area, “the Holy Spirit got to work in and around Center.” 

Thanks to a partnership developed between Center United Methodist Church, Saguache United Methodist Church, local potato growers and UMCOR, a plan to answer the plea from Montana came together. The Saguache and Center congregations (averaging worship under 40 between them), on the same Sunday pledged and raised $1,500 each to fund the outreach.

The truck loaded up at Rockey Farms Friday with Brendan Rockey and another local farmer who contributed potatoes for the trip hoisting the spuds up in 2,000-pound bags on a forklift and transferring them to the waiting semi. There to see the load off was former Saguache County Commissioner Mike Spearman, who helped organize the donations, as well as Pastor Kintzel.

Despite reports of high winds in Walsenburg and Pueblo, the truck left on schedule to deliver the 20 tons of southern Colorado potatoes. The truck driver drove 1,100 miles in just over 24 hours to reach a Browning, Mont. warehouse. From there the russet and purple potatoes, along with other donations, were disbursed for distribution to locations on and around the Blackfeet Nation and towns on the edge of Glacier National Park as the road and weather conditions allow.

“There is an ongoing need for firewood and meat,” Pastor Kintzel said. “And more potatoes – after these are consumed – wouldn’t hurt anything either.”

Kintzel expressed her gratitude for the extra effort of the truck dispatcher and local growers including the shipping facility, also the driver team from Miami. “They not only took on this long haul into winter weather but caught the vision and granted a reduction in price,” she reported.

To offer further aid or make donations, readers  may contact the local churches at [email protected] or phone at 719-754-2243 or UMC Disaster Coordinator in the Montana area Rev. Dawn Skerritt at [email protected]

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