Faces of Billings 7

Sheldon Eaton, President of Eaton and Yost Construction, Co. and Manager ofUnited LUV

“I want to get up happy every day and find the joy in it,” Sheldon Eaton says. “I am thankful to be able to enjoy another beautiful day in spite of what I might be facing…we all have an opportunity to encourage someone in our daily walk.”

Sheldon is an optimist. When faced with adversity, he chooses to be a force of positivity through his good spirits and giving nature. 

“With United LUV, we see a lot of people going through some really tough stuff,” he explains. “To bring a little light to their darkness is very comforting.”

Born and raised in Billings, Sheldon loved growing with such abundant access to the outdoors. He enjoys the beauty and fresh air of the mountains. He is also an art enthusiast. Once, he discovered a piece of artwork which had been misidentified for more than 50 years. The piece is now on display at the Cody Museum. 

If granted the freedom to be financially independent, Sheldon would like to travel. He would also devote more time to United LUV, the nonprofit he and his wife, Vicki, and two sons, Dusty and Dallas, manage. United LUV was inspired by their middle son, Ryan, who was diagnosed with cancer at age 25. Ryan had a vision to provide iPads to those battling the disease. His family carried on this mission after Ryan succumbed to his illness in 2013.

Sheldon’s favorite quote, attributed to Charles Swindoll, conveys the positivity with which he lives his life. 

“Aim high, stand tall, stay faithful,” Sheldon says. “It’s just a good way to live.”

 

Kori Keller, Executive Director of the Ramsey Keller Memorial

The loss of a child is a tragedy beyond measure. For Kori Keller, the birth and death of her daughter Ramsey marked the turning point in her life. Yet, she refused to let Ramsey’s legacy be one of defeat.

“Her life deserved to be honored in the best way possible,” Kori says, “so we started her memorial and went on to help people in her name. It was a conscious decision to not stay angry and become bitter. It took a lot of determination.”

Determination is a defining trait for Kori. She believes those who know her would describe her as a “go-getter.” In her role as executive director for the memorial, she is constantly striving to help others who have experienced unthinkable loss. 

“My main job is fundraising so we can continue paying for infant funerals in Montana. I work with hospitals, funeral homes and families to make sure parents who have lost a baby never see the bill for a funeral.”

If granted financial independence, Kori would continue to advocate for those in need. 

“I would work tirelessly to reform the foster care system,” she vows. “We have two kiddos in care with us, and the system is broken—overloaded social workers with beyond max capacity on their plate. Add in funding cuts, and you’ve got a nightmare where little lives are impacted…it breaks my heart.”

Kori is a native of Billings and loves the small-town feel, yet big city convenience of the community. 

“I loved growing up here, hanging out on the rims—back when you could drive right to the edge watching lots of baseball at the old Cobb Field.”

She also relishes an opportunity to visit the ocean or somewhere tropical, preferring the beach over the mountains.

“I love the waves, the smell and the weather, but I hope to retire in Flathead Valley and have a little of both,” she says.

When asked to pinpoint an interesting or unusual occurrence in her life, Kori recalled a frightening moment for her and her sister. 

“My sister and I were almost kidnapped at ages 4 and 6. An angel intervened, and we were saved.”

She has been married for 21 years. She and her husband became engaged after 5 months of dating and married after eight months when she was just 21 years old. 

“I’m happiest when I’m surrounded by my kids and my husband,” Kori says. “I am also happiest when I’m shopping and when I am on Flathead Lake.”

Her favorite quote is Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.”

It reminds me that I cannot earn salvation, that good works are awesome, but it’s only because of His mercy and grace that we are saved.”

 

Briana Rickman, Executive Director for Dress for Success Billings

Those who know Briana Rickman would describe her as compassionate. 

“I absolutely love the work that I do and have always worked in the nonprofit sector,” she says. “I have a deep-rooted desire to help people and to see the good in others.”

Briana’s role at Dress for Success requires her to oversee the entire organization, including all fundraising efforts, volunteer recruitment and retention, program growth and implementation, community relations, and all marketing. 

“I’m also lucky enough to get to work with the women in our program from time to time, helping them to feel confident in themselves to land the job,” she adds. 

If she is ever feeling overwhelmed, Briana remembers a bit of advice her father used to impart during times of frustration. 

“Rome wasn’t built in a day. My dad used to always say this to me when I was feeling frustrated. He’s gone now, but I think of this often when I’m working on a big project either at work or in my home life. I’m impatient, and I want things to happen now! But he’s always in the back of my mind, reminding me that time is needed to create great things.”

Although she grew up in Riverton, Wyoming, Briana moved to Billings when she enrolled at MSU Billings to attend college. She found herself falling in love with her new hometown, as well as her soon-to-be husband. 

“I was adamant about moving out of state, and MSU Billings is where my brother attended school,” she recalls, “so I thought I’d follow in his footsteps. Plus, it wasn’t too far from home.” Briana met her husband through a mutual friend when she was 19, and they graduated from college together. 

 “We both loved it in Billings so much, we decided to stay and build our life in Montana. Billings gives me the ‘big city’ vibe without it being too big.” She and her husband entered and embraced adulthood together.

“We have bought three homes together, have a beautiful daughter together, and have gone on numerous adventures together. He encourages and supports my crazy ideas and is the first and last person I want to see every day.”

Motherhood marked a turning point in Briana’s life.

“All of a sudden, I was responsible for nurturing, protecting, teaching and molding this tiny human being,” she reflects. “From the moment she was born, I became a better person. My biggest wish is that she grows up to be genuine, determined and passionate about life and others.” These traits are reflected in Briana’s own character, as she has dedicated herself to serving those in need. If granted financial independence, she believes she would continue to work for Dress for Success or in the nonprofit sector. 

“Knowing myself, I would get too bored not working, but also, I know that I’m meant to help others. However, I would want to own a large piece of mountain property with a cute little cabin, off the grid somewhere in Montana…and maybe travel the world some.”

Briana feels a deep connection to the mountains where she spent many summers and weekends during her childhood.

“I’m totally a mountain girl. I grew up camping with my grandparents,” she says. “I’m most happy when I’m spending time with my family, breathing in the mountain air, casting a line into the water and sitting around a campfire.”

 

Lance Lanning, President of Provision International

“As a little boy, I was tongue-tied and couldn’t even pronounce my name correctly,” recalls Lance Lanning, a man with fierce determination, a big personality and an even bigger desire to help others. “I had to go to speech therapy all through elementary school. Twenty years later, I found myself speaking in different venues throughout the world to all kinds of people and nations about God’s love.”

A Montanan through and through, Lance enjoys the mountains and picking huckleberries. Although he grew up in Havre, his work with Provision International brought him to Billings. 

“I started speaking in middle and high schools across Montana, and we were based out of Billings,” he explains. Provision International is a worldwide Christian ministry outreach which focuses on networking resources to help people in areas of need. 

“Sometimes it’s through mission trips, building houses, shipping containers of food (Montana farmers’ crops like peas, lentils, beans), clothing, shoes, and other donations that we receive. Our main focus is to share God’s love and truth through everything we do.”

The definitive turning point in Lance’s life began with his own spiritual awakening, when he decided to ask Jesus to be his Lord.

“Shortly after, I joined a team and went on my first mission’s trip to Brazil…my life was never the same,” he says. “I believe Jesus gave it all for me, and I want to give it all for Him.”

Lance also believes in the power of sharing a meal. If a situation grows tense, he isn’t opposed to opening his home to ease the friction. 

“I’d have everyone involved over and cook steaks and twice-baked potatoes. Food always seems to lighten the mood, but not the body,” he adds with a wink. “I love to sit around the fire and just talk about life, laugh at the many mistakes I’ve made, and listen to people’s stories.” 

While Lance describes the past year as the toughest of his life, battling illness and finding no answers, he believes it has only strengthened his appreciation for life. 

“I’ve realized how fragile life is and how precious time is. I appreciate every breath I take and every day I get to wake up and spend with my family and friends serving the Lord.”

Lance is happiest when he is with his family, no matter the place or activity. His favorite saying affirms his dedication to serving others. 

“It’s not about how much you have in your hands that matters; it’s about what you do with what’s in your hands that counts the most.”