Charit(able)

The Miracles of Montana Rescue Mission

The holiday season is sprinkled with stories of the miraculous. Although they can become buried beneath the lights, gifts and hectic routines, these positive tales of goodness, charity and redemption live in the core of the season. However, for Denise Smith of Billings’ Montana Rescue Mission, such stories are not reserved just for December. Denise says at Montana Rescue Mission she sees life-changing miracles happen daily through the charity of others.

“Those special kinds of stories happen every single day within the walls of our shelters—those miracles,” she says.

The Montana Rescue Mission uses classes, counseling and a range of services to uncover the root of each individual’s homelessness. In addition to providing food, clothing and housing, the group offers recovery programs, financial management guidance and spiritual recovery initiatives. With a focus on promoting self-sufficiency and overall wellness, the group works to meet the needs of community members.

“Our No. 1 goal is helping individuals to get healthy and transforming their lives from where they’re currently at to a new life with better opportunities for their future,” Denise says. “When you walk in our door, right on our door it says, ‘Do you want to get healthy?’”

When asked about inspiring encounters at the Montana Rescue Mission, she points to a former EMT named Travis. She says one stormy night, just as he was getting off of work, Travis saw a young kid running towards an irrigation ditch. He raced to the scene. Just as the child began sliding into the ditch, Travis rescued him. However, a downed power line had electrified the water, and as Travis pulled the child to safety, he was shocked by electricity. The child suffered burns on his back, but his life was saved. Travis’ injuries were severe and caused him to lose his job and become homeless. That was the first time he came to stay at Montana Rescue Mission.

Unfortunately, the incident wasn’t the only tragedy to plague Travis. Approximately 10 years later, he was traveling in a car with his fiancé and friends. The group’s car lost control, resulting in an accident that killed everyone in the car but Travis. Denise says the tragedy caused a downward spiral for Travis.

“That led Travis to the use of alcohol,” she says. “He was basically trying to slowly commit suicide with alcohol.”

However, somewhere during the tumult of his life, Travis remembered the positive influence of Montana Rescue Mission.

“He came to us again and said, ‘I need to get my life back on the right track again,’” Denise says. “So he came in and went through our New Life Program.”

Denise says the changes in Travis’ life after entering the program were inspiring. Denise says his life has been completely transformed. He has been out of the shelter for more than two years now and is successfully employed within the community once again.

“When somebody comes to us, we plant the seed and help them,” Denise says. “They might end up coming back; they might falter along the pathway, but we’re there to help them and, again, plant those seeds.”

As the holiday season approaches, the opportunity to contribute to these life-changing and life-saving moments increases. From November through February, Montana Rescue Mission implements “Code Blue,” a program that invites individuals off of the streets when the weather drops below 32 degrees. For these individuals, as well as the individuals regularly staying at the shelter, Denise says there is a great need for winter hats, boots, gloves, hand and feet warmers, coats and all kinds of winter clothing.

“It becomes pretty critical,” she says. “We get those donations in at our stores on a regular basis, and we pretty much stockpile them as much as we can throughout the year, saving them, because I can guarantee that by January, what we have put aside for winter is going to be gone.”

Beyond the immediate needs for donations, Denise says volunteers are welcome and needed not only during the holiday season but throughout the year.

“I encourage people to come out and get to know people we serve,” she says. “We have so many volunteer opportunities, and our doors are open 365 days a year.”

This holiday season, and throughout the year, donations can be dropped off at any of Montana Rescue Mission’s Bargain Centers or either shelter. Items can also be taken to the group’s Support Service Office, located at 2902 Minnesota Ave.