Neighbors step up as coronavirus fears linger

By 
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic hit home in Dillon back in March, when a positive COVID-19 individual attended the University of Montana Board of Regents meeting. Several area residents – and their families – were required to self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the disease in town.

The generosity of neighbors of those quarantined inspired several to start up neighborhood care groups.

Alicia Sherwood was one of those quarantined (her husband had attended the regents meeting). Her neighbors dropped off milk, eggs and cleaning supplies, which encouraged her to pay it forward.

“It got me thinking – how can we, as a community, love our neighbors through this time? So we started (a neighbor care group) where we live, and there was a great response. Pretty much everyone responded and were excited about the idea,” she said.

Sherwood circulated a flyer in her Meine and Anderson Lane-area neighborhood offering phone numbers or emails for people to ask for whatever they needed, whether that was some flour from the store or a phone call for a chat.

Sherwood, who leads the DillonWomen ministry in town, brought up the idea with others in that ministry. It spread to other neighborhoods through churches within the Dillon Ministry Alliance – Vineyard Fellowship, Dillon Assembly, First Presbyterian, Our Savior’s Lutheran and Grace Bible Church.

What struck Sherwood the most was not that people were bringing supplies to their neighbors as needed, but the connections that formed as a result.

“Since we didn’t have confirmed cases here, it’s not been so much serving one another – though that has happened in small bits,” she said. “The best thing that came from these groups is the connections with one another. I met a lot of neighbors I’d never met before.”

Parkview Court residents Brianna and Christian Hanser picked up on the idea from Sherwood and their connections with Love INC’s ministries. Brianna Hanser said she found something similar.

“We didn’t really know what to expect, how many responses we would get. It ended up being great – so many neighbors responded within the next day or two,” she said.

And those neighbors offered their own talents. One, Katie Tackett, volunteered to make masks for whoever needed them, Hanser said.

Hanser said her family are new additions to town, so the situation gave her and her family an opportunity to meet her neighbors from a distance.

The Sherwoods are relatively new to the area, and the helping-each-other spirit in town convinced them to stick around. The pandemic just reinforced that view, she said.

“We think this is a great opportunity for us to really just connect with one another, support one another, serve one another, and love our neighbors,” she said.

Love INC, a ministry which connects local churches with community needs, has helped fill in gaps for the community at large as the virus continues to impact residents, Executive Director Laura Malesich said. Those looking for assistance can call Love INC at 406-660 3636 or email Malesich at director@dillonloveinc.org.