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Hi-Line Helping Hands: Havreites Helping Havreites

A post Wednesday night on a new Havre area Facebook page said an elderly woman on Laredo Road was out of water because of pipe problems. She was nearly out of food, and had no toilet paper.

It turns out that her daughter in Havre didn’t have a car to help her.

In a matter of minutes, another Laredo Road resident saw the post and took the woman some food and toilet paper. Soon others joined in, taking her food and promising to check on her as the days go on.

The woman and her daughter were overjoyed. The daughter poured out her delight on the Facebook page.

The new page, Hi-Line Helping Hands, started March 14 as it became obvious that a crisis was at hand. There are now more than 1,200 members.

Here are just a couple of things that came up on the page:

  • A woman said she was stranded at home with six kids. Could someone please stop at a school and get six of the to-go school lunches?

No sooner said than done.

  • A mom ran out of gas near the Boys & Girls Club.

Presto. A nearby motorist volunteered to bring a gallon can of gas.

And the list goes on.

It was the toilet paper shortage that got people started on the project.

On March 14, Bob Bergren bought $100 worth of toilet paper, put up a sign in Gary and Leo’s grocery store parking lot, and handed out the paper to anyone who needed it. Donations were accepted but not sought.

“I wrote on the back of one of my old campaign placards,” Bergren said of the sign inviting people to help themselves to the toilet paper.

Bergren is a retired Havre firefighter who was elected to the Montana State House, and the only Hill County resident ever to become speaker of the House.

Bergren put a picture on Facebook of him handing out the toilet paper — while the snow and temperatures fell — and the next thing you know, Hi-Line Helping Hands was going strong.

Most people on the page have called Bergren the mastermind of the effort, but he insists that’s not the case.

Havre needed the spark, he said.

“I was the spark, but I couldn’t have done anything without all these people who take part.”

Bergren is a recovering alcoholic. Seventeen months ago, his family was told that he probably would be dead soon. 

That woke him up. He’s quit alcohol.

He said he’s happy to be serving the community again, just as he did as a firefighter and a House member.

The page has become a place where people find out where they can help others, praise others for good works, or leave tips on how to deal with the crisis.

At Bergren’s suggestion, Bill Lanier compiled a list of restaurants in Havre that have pickup and delivery.

He tried calling the eateries one by one. If they didn’t respond, he drove to each one.

As the page has caught on, Bregren hopes it will be around long after the novel coronavirus pandemic goes away, saying the need for neighbors helping one another will continue.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said.

Write to John Kelleher at (406) 262-7778
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