DRUMMOND – It’s no secret that some families in Granite County need help making ends meet. And the Montana arm of the AmeriCorps has dispatched aid to help meet those needs.
Camille Gianaris is the AmeriCorps worker that has been assigned to Drummond High School since the start of the school year. She jumped right in by deploying several programs and projects, one of which was in the works before she got here.
But those programs are in danger of losing momentum if she cannot find new housing in the next few weeks.
Gianaris is an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ, the Northeast’s largest protestant denomination. When the opportunity to take a Sabbatical leave arose, she left her position and traveled through Canada preaching on the topic of homelessness for over a year. When her leave was up, she opted to stay in the field and landed in Fort Collins, Colorado to participate in programs specifically for the homeless population. From there it was a stint in Sedona, Arizona where she battled some illness, but got back on her feet and started looking for her next assignment.
That’s when the Home of the World Famous Bullshippers found her.
“I was on the internet one night and an AmeriCorps ad popped up out of nowhere,” said Gianaris of coming to Drummond. “I interviewed with recruiters in Washington and Montana, and one didn’t think I fit their program but said I needed to call the one in Drummond.”
AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. Members commit their time to address critical community needs like increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, sustaining national parks, preparing for disasters, and more.
Drummond fits into those program goals perfectly, specifically in the area of poverty. According to a 2016 Montana State University statewide study on the subject, Granite County has approximately 28% of its youth under the age of 18 living below the poverty line.
When Gianaris arrived, she discovered that work had previously begun on a program to help needy families with a single, well balanced meal each week. The families get a free crock pot and then Gianaris’ program provides them with the makings of one meal a week, again free of charge.
“I design the meals for each week and the program provides the funds to purchase the food,” explained Gianaris. “The canned food drive recently helped with a lot of the things we needed for several of the meals, like the Taco Soup we’re making this week.”
Gianaris has also been working with students to help prepare them academically. She has a program at the school library that allows students to come and get one-on-one assistance with a variety of subjects.
Additionally, Gianaris brought in a fellow AmeriCorps worker with the Montana Department of Labor to talk jobs and what they may look like in the future. Her curriculum has lesson plans for students from kindergarten through 12th grade, helping them comprehend what the job market of the future looks like and to learn valuable skills like résumé writing.
“We want to get them thinking about what they want to do a lot sooner than what’s been traditionally done,” said Gianaris. “We want to get them writing a résumé before they get to the 11th grade or later.”
Drummond Superintendent Christina Barbachano voiced her appreciation for Gianaris and the programs that have been deployed.
“Camille has taken on the crock pot, Food Closet, Snack Pack programs and After-School on since she began in September. She does a great job connecting with the families who could use some assistance,” said Barbachano via an email response Monday. “Drummond Schools hovers right around 47% of families who are served by our free and reduced lunch program. For some of our families, these programs are very appreciated.
“As she settles in and continues to hone in these programs, she also is adding some other projects to her repertoire - almost all of them have to do with the Montana Campus Compact objective of connecting students with their higher education or after high school plans. As the name implies, many of her activities are centered around college visits, preparing for college, understanding MT industries and labor trends, working with students to broaden their perspectives around higher education, etc...”
But all of that could get put on hold if Gianaris cannot find adequate housing. Since arriving in August, Gianaris has moved four times. She is seeking a place that she can reasonably rent for at least the remainder of the school year, if not longer. While housing is extremely scarce in the northern end of the county, Gianaris is hoping that a family may have space that would allow her to continue serving the underserved of the school district area.
Gianaris has to be out of her current residence by the end of the month.
If you have a room, apartment or house that Gianaris could rent or use, please contact the Flint Creek Courier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406.565.2150.