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Hot Springs receives Heart and Soul grant

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The Orton Family Foundation has awarded the town of Hot Springs a $20,000 grant to implement a program intended to generate community-driven development.

Community Heart and Soul is a program run by the Orton Family Foundation of Shelburne, Vermont. According to its website, Community Heart and Soul aims to encourage community development in small cities and towns across the country. The program brings community members together to define the unique character of their hometown. Then communities develop projects that will strengthen and enhance that character. 

A certified Heart and Soul coach from Havre will lead Hot Springs through a five-step process where community members will identify strengths and opportunities for growth in Hot Springs.

Jason Moore is president of Montana Co-op and led the effort to secure the grant. The co-op is working to increase access to fresh, local food by establishing food distribution hubs throughout the region. 

Montana Co-op arose as an “action project” after the Heart and Soul process was implemented in Polson from 2012 to 2014. In Polson, Heart and Soul discovered that the community needed better access to healthy food.

Moore said he hopes the Hot Springs Heart and Soul process will encourage the town to establish its own food hub, based on Hot Spring’s specific needs. 

“It reaches deep into the community,” he said.

Moore said that he looks forward to working with Heart and Soul again. He said that there are some things he hopes to adjust from the Polson project. He said he would do more collaboration with CSKT on the Hot Springs project.

“Any time you do a project, the second time you do it a little better,” he said.

In the last eight months, Moore met with the mayor and the city council in preparation for the Heart and Soul application. He said the council supported the project. The community response has been positive as well. According to Moore, five public meetings on the topic have been held to date. Attendance has ranged from five to 30 community members. Moore said he thinks the project will bring the community together and have a lasting impact.

“People say, ‘You’re just a dreamer,’ but we’ve had some great successes,” Moore said.

Moore said that Heart and Soul will provide direction for future community projects, and a number of ideas have already arisen. Camas Organic Market in Hot Springs plans to sell local food and prepared meals through a website in partnership with Montana Co-op. Community members have pointed out the need for a soup kitchen in the town. Another proposal is to relocate the Hot Springs radio station into the Hot Springs school, where students could run the station and create content for the radio. Youth development was a focus of the Polson project that will likely carry over to Hot Springs.

The next Heart and Soul meeting will be held on October 18 at the Tribal Nutrition Center in Hot Springs. Those interested in becoming involved can contact Jason Moore at the Montana Co-op.


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