A couple who has gone the distance to provide care and support for local veterans received the Brent Hall Award from the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce at the Chamber’s annual awards banquet Thursday in Kalispell.
Allen and Linda Erickson, who founded the Northwest Montana Veterans Food Pantry, were honored with the award that honors a person(s) whose legacy exemplifies a spirit of giving, community and business leadership, volunteerism and advocacy for the support of others.
The award is named after the late Brent Hall, an Evergreen business and community leader for decades.
The Ericksons organized the first Northwest Montana Veterans Stand Down in 2000 that was attended by more than 1,000 veterans and their families. That event distributed more than $500,000 of new military clothing and civilian clothing, goods and services and administered 300 flu shots to veterans.
In 2002 they opened the Veterans Food Pantry and an outlet for clothing. They moved into their current facility at 1349 U.S. 2 E. in Evergreen in 2010, quadrupling their space to 11,000 square feet, allowing for more services to veterans.
The nomination letter pointed out how the Ericksons have grown the Veterans Food Pantry from using a single van to distribute loads of potatoes to what it is today — a nonprofit with an average annual revenue of $750,000 that helps thousands of veterans each year.
The Ericksons also created a veterans service center that provides shelter, meals, clothing, blankets, food baskets, medical attention, monthly haircuts, access to the internet and peer counseling. Their Veterans Clothing & More store is open to the public. Donated clothing and furniture are used to help homeless veterans. They also provide monthly food boxes to qualifying veterans and their families and additional holiday food boxes.
And finally, they created the Durable Medical Equipment Loan Program that provides low-income, at-risk individuals with medical equipment. It also provides short-term equipment loans allowing individuals to purchase equipment at discounted prices, which improves quality of life while saving hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.
The Ericksons’ family issued a heartfelt statement, saying “through adversity, life’s challenges and struggles, you’ve shown us that you are a rock-solid couple who can rise above everything with hard work, compassion and unconditional love for everyone. We are proud of you as you have left a great legacy with your kids, grandkids and great-grandkids along with our community through your solid foundation.”
Other awards presented by the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce included the Energizer Bunny Award, which went to Julita Ward for her active involvement with the Chamber.
“Sprucing Up Evergreen” awards went to Mitch’s Autowerx for its recent remodeling project; the Evergreen School District for its logo display on the school fence and new pavilion; and Jeff Brown of The Hardware Store and Keith McAtee from Grime to Shine for helping the Chamber re-stain its Information Center.
News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or email@example.com.