A person can say they care about something, and sometimes you can see it in their eyes.
Judy Sommers can’t help but get tears in her eyes when she talks about the connections she’s made in the Flathead Valley community in the past 40-plus years.
“It’s amazing to get involved in the community and see people working hard, and watch their projects coming together,” Sommers said.
The “retired” insurance professional took on a new role last year as the executive director of the Flathead Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports local nonprofits and community improvement projects. It’s a role her friends say she’s been indirectly training toward for most of her life.
“Judy is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. She is willing to bend over backwards for pretty much anyone, anywhere at any time,” said Katy Croft, a friend of Sommers and co-volunteer.
Whether she’s volunteering for a local organization, raising money for community projects, or paying-it-forward to a stranger, there’s rarely a dull moment for Sommers.
THE LONGTIME Kalispell resident was born and raised a California girl. But she moved to Montana as a teenager, and now she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We have an amazing community and I’m so glad that I live here,” Sommers said. “If you go to the grocery store and you are walking down the sidewalk, people say ‘hello’ to you and they smile. If you have a flat tire, people are going to stop and help you.”
Sommers was in her early 20s when her and her family’s lives were changed forever.
Her brother was involved in a major car crash that paralyzed him. He was in the ICU in Great Falls for a month, Sommers said. She and her parents took turns being with her brother. When they weren’t with him, they were sitting in the waiting room getting to know other families who were going through similar situations.
“When you have things like that happen, you see what’s really going on. It changes your perspective on life,” she said. “My brother is still alive. I have a lot to be thankful for.”
After his accident, her brother went back to support other Montanans who became paralyzed. Sommers also adopted a can-do attitude to get through her own personal struggles and likes to pay it forward whenever she can.
“Whether she is attending advisory group meetings, helping out at events, or staying up all hours of the night to assemble silent auction raffle baskets, Judy is always positive and cheerful,” Croft said. “She’s super dedicated and won’t ever leave anyone hanging.”
Sommers said she would rather be enjoying life from behind the scenes. But when you’ve got a resume with volunteer experience that takes up more than half a page, her friends said it’s hard not to take notice.
Sommers has decades of experiences volunteering with a variety of organizations, ranging from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, instructing hunter education, and Human Therapy on Horseback. She’s been involved with 4-H, the Kila schools, the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run and more.
Sommers said in addition to her community endeavors, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She has five children, ranging from 20 to 40 years old. Sommers is joined by her husband Brian at many volunteer endeavors.
“It’s about giving your time and giving back, especially for the programs that really need the help,” Brian Sommers said. “If there’s things we both like, we like to do it together.”
Brian Sommers said his wife has always been community-oriented.
“She is in to helping the community as much as she can, and she’s been this way for as long as I’ve known her,” he said.
Sommers said helping people and helping her community is simply in her nature.
“I do it out of the goodness of my heart,” she said. “I don’t want recognition for it. I will do it until the day I die.”
Reporter Breeana Laughlin can be reached at 758-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.