Team 56 Continues to Expand Their Message Across Lincoln County “Spread Kindness, Not COVID”

By Stacy Bender


As summer months simmered, preparations for the new school year began and social restrictions previously mandated by the State of Montana were lifting.  Simultaneously, a grassroots movement aimed at continuing to encourage Covid-19 prevention practices and reduce further spread of the disease amidst Lincoln County residents began.

Team 56 is a diverse group of volunteers with a wide-scope of perspectives and experience to draw from. Comprised of business owners, church members, school officials, government employees, medical workers and proactive residents who share an equal concern regarding future spread of the COVID-19 virus, the newly form conglomerate first convened mid-Summer.
Soon after that initial gathering, chosen representatives then appeared before several city and county officials in early August to share their ideas and seek permission in working towards further educating and engaging residents across the county in a proactive pursuit towards community health.

City officials in Libby, Troy, and Eureka, along with all Lincoln County Commissioners unanimously approved the non-profit’s motion to implement their plan and Team 56 then quickly shifted gears went to work.

Using social media as their initial tool, a Facebook page for Team 56 was established where handwashing, social-distancing and masking have since been addressed by local youth via short video installations.  The trilogy of reminders has become a bedrock around which the non-profit continues to build their outreach message, “Spread Kindness, Not COVID.”

As the 2020 school year began, Seniors at Libby, Troy and Eureka high schools were invited to select a mask design for their respective classes.  Those designs have since been chosen, ordered by Team 56, and are currently under production locally for distribution.

Suggestions were also taken from each senior class on a message they might like to impart upon their communities for consideration in light of the recent virus at play. “Help us save our school year…  take precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep our schools open!” can now be seen on posters actively being distributed by students to business windowfronts across the county.

Coming soon, a collage of 18 photos will be surfacing in Libby, Troy and Eureka.  Each set of photos will depict 18 local residents from that specific area whose faces will be properly masked for the identification challenge.  Through local newspaper ads, posters displayed inside grocery stores, and via the Team 56 Facebook page, each community will then be invited to identify, “Who is That Masked Man (or Woman)” amidst them?  A $100 cash prize will be awarded to the first person whom can identify the most faces their town’s collage.

Members of local acting troupe, The Kootenai Karacters, were also spotted this past weekend filming a comically informative skit written by Amy Smart. It’s message, to remain proactive and diligent with regards to personal and community health, consistent with the Team 56 mission.

“In these stressful times, we just feel it’s important to throw some fun into the set of circumstances we are all living-out at this moment in time,” shared one Team 56 volunteer.

How can the community get involved?  Tell you stories. What are your current fears? Have you been affected by the virus?  What have you learned? How might you encourage others to be better prepared to prevent infection themselves?

Send those thoughts and stories to your local papers.  Share them with Team 56 through their Facebook page at, or email the team directly at

Through collective conversations and ongoing education as facts surrounding the virus continue to develop, Team 56 hopes to remain a positive force county-wide aimed at encouraging both the prevention and reduction of COVID-19 in this area.

Christ Lutheran of Libby welcomes and ordains Pastor Abigail Orellano

By Stacy Bender


“Hope are high today,” shared Pastor Heidi Neumark of Trinity Lutheran Church/La Iglesia Trinidad in New York City during the recent Installation and Ordination of Pastor Abilgail Orellano at Christ Lutheran Church in Libby.  “No pastor could hope for a more supportive and kind welcome than Abby and Hans have received here.”
Pastor Neumark, also recently installed as Mother-in-Law to Abigail, had made the trek from NYC to be a part of the intimate and almost undetected milestone which transpired on Tuesday, September 15, inside the Christ Lutheran Church sanctuary.  Hans, Neumark’s son, and Abigail had been excitedly sharing video tours of their new church home prior to her arrival for the ordination.
“Yes, this is a day of hopes fulfilled and it’s also true that this day is not exactly what you hoped for,” Neumark went on.  “You have had not one, but three once-in-a-lifetime celebrations – your seminary graduation, your wedding, and your ordination – happening, well, not really the way you ‘hoped.’”
This past Spring, Pastor Abigail completed her recent studies and obtained her Master’s in Divinity from the United Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg, PA.  Prior to that, she had met Pastor Neumark and her now-husband, Hans, while on a one-year internship of ministry in NYC.
As the internship came to a close in the Summer of 2019, Abigail had been charged with directing the annual Summer Day Camp held at  Trinity Lutheran Church of NYC.  Hans, who had worked with the camp on many occasions, was simultaneously asked to step-in as assistant director.  The two discovered then discovered a connection while working together.
“It turns out, we made a really great team and balanced each other well as partners,” shared Abigail, “I only had two weeks left in the city when camp ended, but both Hans and I couldn’t imagine parting ways.  Soon after I moved back to Gettysburg to complete my last year of seminary, Hans followed and we realized that we were willing to make it work long term – we were married in May via a Zoom ceremony from his sister’s back porch!”


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Fran & Katie’s 2020 Giving Tree Holiday
applications now being accepted,

submissions due Friday, Oct. 30

By Stacy Bender


Serving both Libby and Troy’s local community for over 40 years, Fran & Katie’s 2020 Giving Tree program is now accepting applications from those who may be finding themselves in need of assistance as the holiday season grows near.

Applications for families in need are now available and can be picked up at the courtesy booth inside Stein’s Market located at 607 E. Missoula Ave in Troy. Those wishing to apply must have their requests submitted no later than Friday, Oct. 30.

Each year, the program coordinates with area businesses and generous residents to provide basic needs such as pajamas and a toothbrush, a traditional holiday meal, nutritious fruit, and more. Each child is also provided with a stocking and special gift for Christmas.

Those applying for consideration are asked to include a phone contact, number of family members, clothing and shoe sizes for each child in the household, and a notation of one “want” and one “need” this season.

With nearly 300 children and their families served in the past two seasons alone, the giving tree committee expects this may be one of their most challenging seasons yet given the current economic climate at play.

Those wishing to learn more about how to apply and/or to contact the program on how to become involved with this year’s outreach may do so by contacting Katie at  291-6485.

Newly Ordained and Installed Pastor Abigail Orellano enjoys a moment of celebration with her husband, Hans, following the quiet ceremony held at Christ Lutheran Church in Libby.  The Orellano’s parents and a select number of congressional representatives were on-hand for the service which was broadcast to those unable to attend through live-stream video. Photo by Stacy Bender, The Montanian