Lending a Hand

No matter how beautiful a landscape or how interesting a culture, some of us find travel more exciting and more fulfilling when we get off the tourist track and discover places or people who can use an extra hand.

And in Northwest Montana there are plenty of places where extra hands can make all the difference in enriching the lives of individuals with disabilities, maintaining trails in our vast wilderness, providing nutritional food for communities and much more.

Here are a few voluntourism experiences we invite you to add to your travel itinerary to Kalispell and Northwest Montana that will make all the difference to someone’s day and yours too:

Help someone down a mountain

Life in Northwest Montana is all about getting outside and enjoying this wild and scenic place, yet for those living with disabilities outdoor recreation can be much less accessible. The Disabled Recreation Environmental Access Movement, DREAM Adaptive Recreation http://www.dreamadaptive.org/ is based in Northwest Montana’s Flathead Valley and works to enhance the quality of life of individuals with disabilities by providing year-round adaptive outdoor recreational opportunities. Program volunteers get to help those with disabilities — children and adults — glide down Whitefish Mountain on skis, float the Flathead River or paddle on Flathead Lake. DREAM also offers special winter and summer weekends for military service veterans with disabilities. Volunteer training is required to make everyone’s day run as smoothly as possible.

Preserve Glacier National Park

If you’re a fan of the National Park System and especially Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana, you’ll know that it isn’t an easy task to maintain the park’s century-old structures and trails in such a wild, vast landscape. Glacier National Park Volunteer Associates https://gnpva.org/ take it upon themselves to help keep the park’s structures and trails in the best shape possible. From structural rehabilitation to painting buildings and bridges to maintaining and moving trails in the backcountry, the volunteer opportunities abound to preserve Glacier National Park as the “Crown of the Continent.”

Carve a trail

Montana is home to thousands of miles of recreation trails throughout its national and state parks and wilderness and recreation areas, and those trails are kept safe and sturdy with the effort of hundreds of volunteers each year.

One of the most recent and inspiring trailblazing efforts in Montana began in 2009 when trail enthusiasts in Kalispell and beyond began building and improving trails in nearby Herron Park and the John Chase Forest — with their goal to create greater public access for hikers, runners, equestrians and cyclists. Today 17 miles of stacked loop trails southwest of Kalispell connect Foys Lake to Blacktail Mountain to create the Foys to Blacktail Trails http://www.foystoblacktailtrails.org/. But the work is never complete and volunteers are always needed to maintain recreation access.

At neighboring Lone Pine State Park http://stateparks.mt.gov/lone-pine/ in Kalispell, volunteers celebrate National Trails Day https://americanhiking.org/national-trails-day each June alongside American Hiking Association volunteers across the country by rolling up their sleeves, maintaining trails and managing invasive weeds. The American Hiking Association  https://americanhiking.org and Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation http://www.bmwf.org/ also offer immersive multiday experiences in the vast 1.5 million-acre wilderness complex in Northwest Montana — marrying volunteer spirit and conversation stewardship to preserve trails, protect wildlife habit and train the next generation of wilderness stewards.

Nourish the body and the soul

The Flathead Valley with Kalispell at its center has long been home to a thriving agricultural community and farmers who value sustainable farming practices and locals who advocate for locally sourced food. The community’s Farm Hands http://nourishtheflathead.org/home/program supports ecologically friendly growing practices and viable ways to grow food and make good food accessible to all. Volunteers are always needed to help make these efforts possible. You can be a farm hand yourself by planting, weeding or harvesting at a local community garden; volunteering at a local farmers market; filling backpacks for area youth most in need of nourishing food; or delivering food to the food bank on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

For additional volunteer ideas for your time in Northwest Montana, please contact us at Discover Kalispell, http://www.discoverkalispell.com.No matter how you choose to volunteer your time here, you’ll leave knowing that you touched the souls of others, Mother Nature and enriched your own.

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