The Spirit of Giving Was Alive and Well at Christmas Stroll
Realtor Jeannie Steele and her family have been treating the community to a free buffet since 2017. Saturday night was no exception. Even though the weather was windy and cold, families were out with strollers, toddlers and teenagers. Many of them lined up to enjoy a free meal of cold cuts, fresh fruits, cheese and desserts at her building. Her story about the community buffet is a thoughtful one. “I really love our community. It has a community feeling about it that is so engaging,” she said.
Jeannie explained her motivation about putting on the buffet. She said most people are grateful. The families with children who probably don’t have much, stand in the back, not sure whether to partake or not. The children come first. “They always ask if the food costs anything,” she continued , ‘When I say no, they help themselves. One boy grabbed a cookie from my hand. I said ‘Wait a minute, what do you say?’ Sheepishly he said thank you but soon came back to apologize and asked if it was okay if he took some food home. The children are the ones who touch my heart. “
Jeannie said she came from a place of generosity. She was one of seven children. Her father, a Butte miner, was hurt in the mines, so had to go to school to learn another trade. During those hard times when he was recuperating, people left grocery bags on the doorstep, one with a $100 bill in it. Bill Richards became a teacher for 32 years. He told Jeannie “We are not here for ourselves, but for others. We should give to others when we can.”
The Stroll was sponsored by local business owners who jumped in to organize the event. Jeanne said she was motivated to participate in the Stroll due to the leadership and energy of the organizers. “Even people who have lived here all their lives, ‘lifers’ she called them, remarked it was the best Stroll ever,” she commented.
The parade saw many floats including 4-H groups and others. Foth Farms Float put a new twist on Christmas Stroll giving. They gave away bags of baby red potatoes to the crowd instead of candy. And yes, there was still lots of candy for the kids along the street.
Rough Riders’ 4-H club of 19 members and their parents sold New York steak sandwiches. Townsend District Forest Service employees came with their usual great chili and corn bread. Deep Creek Pizza was packed. Stores up and down the street, and on Front Street were full of shoppers buying gifts. Many of the businesses including Canyon Ferry Brewing and the Fishtale Travern offered hot chocolate and goodies for kids. Amanda Hazelett offered free facepainting for kids in her soon-to-open day care center. Lakeside Distillery owners Jake and Carolina Balllieu hosted an art display and gave tours of their distillery.
Historic Characters and unique entertainment were everywhere on Broadway. Townsend Hardware owner Monica Howick sang carols outside the store dressed in a period Christmas Carol outfit. “One of the stroll organizers contacted me to ask if I could put together a caroling activity outside our store. I got online, found an old-fashioned hat, made a cape from material I had lying around and began practicing Christmas carols.”
Ten-year-old Izzy Sentinella, a Townsend Elementary School fifth grader, played Christmas carols on her xylophone at the gazebo while Santa Danny Irvin greeted children who were both crying and otherwise, while they had their pictures taken with him. The Green Grinch of Doctor Seuss fame prowled around with his Jack Russel terrier mix, Jackie. Jeremy Schwartz of Helena sports the costume at most Strolls in the area, he whispered through his green mask.
The spirit of giving remains the bedrock of the Townsend Stroll. The nonprofit Christmas Connection offers tags to buy gifts for our town’s needy children. Organizers Carol Anderson and Brett Anderson kept their vigil at the lighted tree at Reading Leaves Bookstore. By the end of the evening, only one tag remained as generous givers had taken all of them.
Claire Harris and Jessica Crushe promoted donations to Love Wins Foundation founded in the name of downed law enforcement officer Mason Moore. A brochure explains that the foundation promotes communication between the public and law enforcement. It also gives grants to first responders across Montana,
Townsend Area Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Missouri Valley Marketing, and individual store owners wish to thank all who helped make the Stroll a success.
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