Volunteers take on a 10,000 pound veggie venture

L to R: Dave “Fish” Fishlowitz, Cole Walker, Alexandria Eanes, and Mandie Cox. Photo courtesy of Tom Esch.


By Tyler Whitney


A warm breeze can carry more than the sun’s embrace and the sweet smell of wildflowers when situations seem dire; it can bring hope, generosity, and in this case, a dump truck full of potatoes. Last week, First Presbyterian Church in Kalispell contacted Alexandria Eanes of Families in Partnership (FIP), the Executive Director of a local non-profit that serves children and families. They suggested a generous, if not odd proposition. By chance they had come across a large amount of uncommitted potatoes in Kalispell and wanted to donate ten thousand pounds of the root vegetable to FIP to distribute around town. Starting on Wednesday, FIP, Susie Rice, and a slew of volunteers, began packaging and distributing the potatoes to those in need.

This veggie venture begins, as many stories do nowadays, with Covid-19 disrupting life in America. Farms all over the US are experiencing a dramatic drop in demand as restaurants close down to slow the spread of the disease.  The potato industry is especially hard hit by these closures. Nearly 80% of potatoes grown in the US go to restaurants according to Tom Esch, of Esch Consulting, who has been helping coordinate the efforts between Steve Streich of Streich Farms, a potato producer in Flathead Valley, and First Presbyterian. Stuck with a surplus of near a million pounds of potatoes, it only made sense to find those in need rather than let the food rot in the fields and store houses. Fortunately, non-profits like FIP are in the perfect position to help.

Since the virus has been circulating, FIP has nearly doubled their workload serving the community; making sure that food insecure homes, the immunocompromised, and housebound senior citizens continue receiving food in Libby, Troy, and up in the Yaak. When Esch first called Eanes at FIP, he offered her 10,000 pounds of spuds. At first, such a number seemed ridiculous and she opted for 5,000 pounds instead, but as she reached out to friends, neighbors, and members of the community, it became clear that there was a much higher need. Not long after, a dump truck filled to the brim with Clearwater seed potatoes arrived at the front porch step of FIP and left back for Kalispell 10,000 pounds lighter. The question was then, as Eanes and her colleague Mandie Cox stood, hands on hips, masks on, tired but determined, how could that many potatoes be moved? The answer was easy of course; call Susie Rice.

In the best of times, Rice has served in several projects for the community from Habitat for Humanity to Loads of Love. But as the world slowed to a halt, Rice refused to let that keep her from helping others. With a mountain of potatoes on the way, it was Rice who spearheaded the distribution operation: finding bags and boxes from local businesses, organizing volunteers, and finding those who needed the food. Starting in the morning, a volunteer family, not afraid to get a little dirty, would show up for an hour shift and collect, bag, weigh, and load the potatoes into a large trailer provided by Lee Disney. Hannah James and her three kids Jocelyn, Zeke, and Eli did their part on Thursday helping Rice make a dent in the potatoes. By the end, the youngest boy, Eli, now seven, was no longer too keen on potatoes, and he much preferred to spend his time playing in the long grass and picking burrs off his pants.

After the truck was loaded, Rice and some other volunteers headed off to deliver sacks of potatoes to food pantries, schools, and senior centers in Libby, the Yaak, and Troy. Fortunately, even those who cannot leave their home right now to go pick up food will also be receiving a sack of potatoes through a host of other FIP delivery programs that, as Eanes puts it, “serve the pediatric to the geriatric.”

In a crisis such as the one we are experiencing now, it can be quite easy to forget that it was always the small things that truly bound us together, that made us a community. During the last recession in America, The Chronical of Philanthropy noted how the most hard-hit Americans donated or gave back more to their community in times of economic hardship than in times of prosperity. These studies of course only show what many of us know already: that suffering is not only an individual experience, but a community experience. When your neighbor, the person who bags your groceries, who pumps your gas, who repairs your house, who keeps the parks beautiful, who smiles when you pass by, who lends you some eggs and toilet paper, who opens the door for you, that when they suffer, you do as well. It is then up to all of us to come together in this time and remember our neighbor, and simply do our best to help.

If you would like to help, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer or donate in town; places where you can alleviate the suffering of others. But if you would like to help Families in Partnership specifically, or if you need assistance, they can be reached on their website, on Facebook, and by phone at 293-6242.

Local fly fishing outfit receives big recognition

By Brian Baxter


The prestigious Orvis Company, established by Charles F. Orvis in 1856 and originally based in Manchester, Vermont, has recently recognized Tim and Joanne Linehan’s organization, Linehan Outfitting, based in the Yaak, has been named Orvis’s 2020 Fly-Fishing Outfitter of the Year.

The recognition is awarded for excellence in sporting experiences through the company’s Endorsed Lodges, Outfitters, and Guides Program.

Allocation of  awards is based on a number of criteria, the most important of which is customer feedback. Also taken into consideration are the operations, environmental commitment to, and stewardship of their resources, and their partnership with Orvis in providing the finest sporting experience possible.

Linehan Outfitting Company, locally owned and operated by the Linehan’s has been in operation since 1992. They offer quality fly fishing and hunting experiences with a uniquely personal touch. Both avid fishers and hunters, their own experiences have honed their skills and intuition, and enabled them to perceive what makes an exceptional adventure for clients. Together the couple works along with talented guides to deliver exceptional customer service.

Joanne manages the day to day operations which are multi-faceted, but is somehow able to enhance the personal touch with exquisite meals, hearty and healthy packed lunches, and to-di- for pastries and baked goods. Tim and the hard working guide teams focus on sharing valuable outdoor experiences in the field. Linehan Outfitting promises to help clients find the outside within and learn something about themselves that they never thought they knew.

The outfitters, located in the extreme northwest corner of the Big Sky State, in an area that’s far less traveled than most, offer many local adventures. Their areas include the Yaak, and tremendous float fishing for rainbows and Westslope cutthroats all along the beautiful scenes, skies, serpentine bends and awesome trout habitat of the Kootenai and Clark Fork Rivers. In addition, they provide walk-and wade, small-stream experiences, and float-tubing on alpine lakes in some of the most fantastic scenery in Montana. To top it all off, at the end of the day, the Linehan’s offer clean, comfortable lodging, with the decorative and functional rustic accent that seals the deal for a true northwest Montana experience.


Story continued on
Page 7

Winners of Orvis Award, Tim and Joanne Linehan. Photo courtesy of Linehan Outfitting Company.

County nears 1,000 

residents tested for Coronavirus

By Tracy McNew


According to Lincoln County Health Officer, Dr. Brad Black, the key to keeping our county’s residents healthy while Coronavirus is still a threat, is ongoing testing to monitor the situation that can change rapidly. His goal is to test 1,000 people per month, every month, for a time period that could last over a year or until a vaccination is developed. 1,000 tests, he feels, “would be sufficient to have an understanding of whether the virus is being spread around our community and if so, how much.”

As of May 2, 910 people had been tested in Lincoln County and only seven of them have been positive for the virus. At that time, all seven positive cases had been resolved, but 143 test results were still pending.

Although Coronavirus is not showing up in more recent testing, it is anticipated that positive tests could increase at any time since businesses are  opening back up and more people are getting out of the house to travel and socialize.

When a positive test is detected, Lincoln County Public Health makes it a priority to reach out to  other people that have interacted with the person who tested positive. Those contacts are asked to have a Coronavirus test and to self-isolate in order to stop any potential spread. Without this “contact tracing,” the virus could spread very quickly because people who do not feel ill can still be contagious. One person could unknowingly infect ten, twenty or even fifty others depending on how much interaction they have, and each one of those people could infect others as well.

That’s why safety precautions while out in public are so important. Our business community has done well by taking steps to reduce viral spread, Black said. He used a highly visible store, Rosauers, as one positive community example. All employees there are wearing masks to help protect the store’s customers as well as themselves. They are also being voluntarily tested for COVID-19, taking additional precautions with cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, and offering special hours for senior and at risk shoppers.

“These are important steps to help protect public health into the future,” said Black. “Coronavirus isn’t going to go away and we need to stay vigilant in order to ensure that it doesn’t severely impact us locally. We have a large population of vulnerable people who have underlying lung disease from asbestos exposure and they could be affected very seriously by the virus.”

He recommends frequent hand washing, mask wearing in crowded places, and of course maintaining social distancing as much as possible during the phased reopening.

“If we all do this well, then we should not have to experience additional shut downs in the future,” Black told The Montanian.

Phase two reopenings will likely take place at different times in different places based on spread of the virus. It is also possible that communities will need to back track into phase one or even go back to stay at home orders if there is a significant rise in cases and more extensive community spread is detected.

In order to make informed decisions about reopening and remaining open, ongoing testing will be necessary. “Once again, the goal of testing more intensively is to monitor the level of Coronavirus activity and use proactive and less interfering social distancing to limit the speed of increasing spread which will allow our community to keep businesses open and avoid going backward toward a shutdown,” he said.

For now, drive through COVID-19 testing is available in Libby in the CARD Clinic’s parking lot located at 214 East 3rd Street on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays beginning at noon.  For more information or to get on the testing schedule, contact the Lincoln County health Department’s COVID-19 Information hotline at 293-6295.

Testing only takes a few minutes, it is done using a swab of the person’s throat, and the government’s Coronavirus response acts have ensured that it is fully covered by insurance carriers or by Medicaid expansion for those who are uninsured.