As the county and the world rolls into a new year, many people continue to lament the polarized political climate while others are unhappy at how badly COVID-19 has disrupted normal social structures like attending community events and going to church.
As an antidote to these ills, we prescribe community involvement. Rather than watch the TV news or glom onto stories on an internet website, where you’ll hear all about how bad the world is right now, why not make a commitment (dare we say a resolution?) to help make your community a better place by volunteering and becoming an involved citizen.
How might you do that? We can think of four ways right off the top of our head, but we’re sure there are many other ways as well.
Here’s our short list of ways to get involved in Teton County communities, not in any priority order:
1. Join a church. There are multiple different Christian congregations in every town in the county. Churches welcome new members with open arms and through involvement in their churches, many people find ways to give back — visiting people who are homebound, sponsoring families who are in need financially, for example. Others forge new friendships and strengthen their ties within the community.
2. Join a civic club. Teton County communities have many and varied civic organizations, including, to name a few: the Choteau and Fairfield Lions clubs, the Choteau Soroptimists, the Fairfield Junior Women’s Club, the Dutton Civic Club, the Teton County CattleWomen and more. When you join a club, you sign on to help that club accomplish its many projects that benefit the community. If you’re a Choteau Lion, you’ll help raise money to operate the Choteau swimming pool, you’ll help take care of the tennis courts, you’ll set up and take down at blood drawings and more.
If you’re in the Fairfield Junior Women’s Club, you’ll help with the holiday fair, trunk or treat at Halloween and Swim Day in the summer, enriching the lives of adults and children in Fairfield.
Belonging to a civic club gives you the chance to make a real difference in your community by helping your friends and neighbors in many ways.
3. Support a nonprofit organizations. There are many nonprofit organizations in Teton County that work to provide much needed services and to support governmental services like public libraries and K-12 education. Choteau, Dutton and Fairfield, for example, all have Friends of the Library groups that fund raise to purchase and provide “extras” to the libraries that serve the county. The Choteau Education Foundation exists to help Choteau Public Schools provide the best academic offerings that it can while the Choteau Booster Club helps student extracurricular programs. Dutton, Power and Fairfield Public Schools all have similar booster programs.
In Choteau, the Bright Eyes animal shelter always welcomes volunteers to help care for cats, dogs and more. If you have a kind heart and a love for animals, this would be a great way to help on a local level, to meet new people and to enjoy the rewards of seeing these innocent animals find forever homes.
If you think you’d be happier helping people, consider the Benefis Teton Medical Center Foundation, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Opportunities for All Scholarship, the Teton County or Fairfield food pantries or the Choteau, Fairfield, Dutton and Power senior citizens centers. All these organizations need volunteer help from time to time, and again, they offer boots on the ground ways to make the world around you a better place.
4. Run for public office as a school board member or to serve on a special district like the Greenfields and Bynum Irrigation districts and the Teton County Fire Fee Service Area Board. Running for public office and getting elected to represent your community gives you the chance to advocate for the best interests of your constituents. Rather than wasting your time and energy railing about the idiots of any party back in Washington, you can invest your passion and your talent to make a real difference in the quality of your local public school or in the governance of an irrigation district or the provision of structure fire protection throughout the county
If you’re elected, you may find that you’ll be working with people whose priorities and philosophies might be different than yours. To govern, all the members of each board have to learn to compromise, to see centrist solutions to difficult problems and to find a way to a consensus that is in the best interests of all your constituents, not just those who believe the same way you do.
These are just a few ideas for getting involved in your community, so find what you love and do it.