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Revitalizing Cut Bank, MT: Volunteerism Wins the Day

Updated: May 31


There has been a lot of interest statewide in Cut Bank’s revitalization effort, so I’m going to tell you about one of the recent projects. A little effort that seems mundane, but one that has made a huge impression. Flowerpots.


Like many of our recent projects, inspiration came from the Reimagining Rural program through MSU Extension. When I think of Extension programs, 4-H and agriculture come to mind. MSU Extension also has a Community Vitality arm (montana.edu) whose mission is

“…increasing the capacity of individuals and organizations so that they can make the positive changes they want to see in their community.” Its Reimagining Rural program specifically aims to increase volunteer engagement in rural communities.


Gathering the volunteers and resources to advance an idea can be a challenge. One of the speakers during the Reimagining Rural sessions was Deb Brown (buildingpossibility.org). She focuses on grass roots community strategies that I am going to paraphrase from memory…which means it may not be entirely accurate.

·         Identify a problem you want to fix and make a plan.

·         Small steps are great!

·         Ask and ye shall receive.

·         You don’t need a committee or lots of meetings. Just “find your people”.

·         Extend personal invitations.

·         Your efforts will likely move others to act.


Identify, plan, and take small steps: So back to the flowerpots. My friend Charleen Henderson and I identified these as a “problem that needed to be fixed.” The City of Cut Bank has over 4 dozen barrel planters scattered around town that were planted with the best of intentions, then mostly neglected over the summer. In the fall of 2022, we drove around town, took an inventory, made a plan to reconfigure them, and chose plants that might survive our not too friendly growing conditions. We talked to Janet Larson at Recoup Consignment and Flower Shop, and her grower got our plants started.


Ask and ye shall receive: The following Spring, the City of Cut Bank graciously showed up with their forklift and moved the planters around for us. The City also provided potting soil for last year’s planting as well as this year’s. Partial funding for the project was provided through the City budget, but planting 48 large planters is spendy, so LeAnne Kavanagh approached First Interstate Bank, and the project was awarded an additional $1,000 grant.


You don’t need a committee or lots of meetings. Just “find your people”. We “found our people” in a variety of ways. Those who attended the First Friday container gardening class participated last year. This year during our brand reveal event, Kari Lewis, our rock star Extension agent had sign-up posters geared toward areas of interest or concern that were identified in our recent community survey, one being the downtown planters.  


Extend personal invitations: We sent follow-up invitations to those who expressed interest in the planting project, as well as those who participated previously. Incidentally, I posted an invite on the Cut Bank Community Facebook page which has 2,500 members. Most of the folks who showed up were the ones who were contacted individually. Personal outreach has been more effective engagement tool than a generic social media post. We also invited people to adopt pots and care for the planters throughout the summer. This made a HUGE difference. The dedicated volunteers kept the planters thriving.


Your efforts will likely move others to act. We were absolutely thrilled to have youth involvement this year. 4-Her Destini Anderson saw the impact of last year’s project and wanted to participate. She applied for and received a 4-H grant that will be used to enhance the Main and Central planters with seasonal décor, and to purchase fertilizer to help the plants thrive. She, her mother, and sister also came to help clear planters and plant this year’s posies.

The results from last Fall’s community survey revealed how these flowerpots positively impacted community pride by dressing up our business district. Thank you, Deb Brown, and Reimaging Rural for handing us a grass roots strategy. Volunteerism wins the day!







Lisa Cline

Community Volunteer

Co-owner/Manager Marketplace on Main

Cut Bank, MT


 

 

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