When 4 p.m. on Friday rolls around, dozens of families from across the Flathead Indian Reservation make their way to the Kicking Horse Job Corps Center. With no questions asked, they’re given food and other essential items free of charge.
CSKT Tribal Representative Martin Charlo told MTN News these distribution days are the response to a community’s cry for help.
“A lot of people in these rural communities don't have access to a lot of variety of food, services, or the transportation to go get those services,” said Charlo.
The initiative is led by a team of volunteers, and the driving force of their efforts is the urgency to protect their elders from COVID-19. According to April Charlo, Martin Charlo’s sister, they don’t have elders to lose on the Flathead Reservation.
“A lot of the community members had a lot of talk about how are we going to protect them, how are we going to keep them home, how are we going to feed them so they don't have to go to the grocery store?”
What began as an emphasis on their elders has flourished into a booming operation where almost 300 individuals are served each week. When families show up to distribution day, they get a little bit of everything -- produce, meat, noodles, cleaning and hygiene products. Organizers said they’re given enough food to last them a week, or until the next distribution day.
What started as a simple call to action is slowing the spread of the coronavirus and bringing a community closer together.
“The people who come through our drive-thru are so gracious and they're so appreciative, and there are times that it's emotional because I know that we are feeding a family that needs help,” said April Charlo.
She also emphasized that the food distribution days are made possible by a number of organizations, donations, CARES Act funding, and countless volunteers. Within the group of volunteers, Charlo is one of five co-organizers. Her teammates include Stephen Hunt, Jaimie Stevenson, Chelsea Kleinmeyer, and Patrick Yawakie.
Tribal and non-tribal community members are welcome to the food distribution site each Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. You can also sign up for the action group’s delivery service here.