Need Programs Help 5,000 in Montana

It’s a great concept. Tell people about those who need help, through the Great Falls Tribune, websites, social media and other outlets, and people will respond with kindness.

My Neighbor in Need is a great idea, and it’s flourishing in Cascade County, northcentral Montana and beyond, into 44 cities, including 11 in Wisconsin. Montana cities include Chinook, Havre, and in Cascade and Teton counties.

The brainchild of Great Falls’ Dave Snuggs, My Neighbor in Need also created a related program, My Student in Need, to help school students.

Last week, My Neighbor in Need last week celebrated a milestone: the 5,000th need fulfilled by programs in those 44 cities. The family helped on that day included a mother, named Angela, who moved with her family from California but needed two mattresses. Angela said the program doesn’t only help people in desperate poverty; it also helped boost her family, even though husband and wife both work.

“Anyone can have a need,” Snuggs says. He came up with the idea to use the Internet and social media in part to reach people.

“I knew this idea would work; I just never knew it would work to this level,” Snuggs said Tuesday.

He originally hoped to help 200 people a year. Instead, it’s mushroomed to 1,100 people.

Here are memorable moments from the programs:

Just launched in Great Falls in 2012, My Neighbor in Need helped Robyn Rogers, who took off six weeks from work to care for her terminally ill husband. The woman was days away from having her utilities shut off, but My Neighbor in Need stepped in and paid those bills.

When My Student in Need was about to launch at the end of 2013, Glenn and Juliann Bliss of General Distributing donated $25,000 to get the program going. That’s the largest single donation to date for the group.

Early on, a mother “just couldn’t afford to buy a bed for her 7-year-old,” Snuggs said. “We went to the house. He (the son) had created a nest (of clothes and towels) on the floor. That was his bed.” A Great Falls family gave him a bed and bought him new sheets. The boy was thrilled. “I’m a hockey player. I’m telling you, I was bawling,” Snuggs said.

Snuggs said the group received a “jaw-dropper” of a donation this summer. “We just receive a $10,000 donation from Leslie Oakland and John Thomas,” he said. The average need for an adult is $42, and for a student $26. The donation will help hundreds.

• Crystal Inn was upgrading its bedding and recently donated 60 queen beds in good shape to My Neighbor in Need. Beds are the top request of the organization.

• A woman was beaten severely by a family member. “Her whole mouth was just destroyed,” Snuggs said. His personal dentist teamed up with another dentist to perform about $4,000 in dental work on the unfortunate woman. She stopped by later to talk, he said. “To see her smile, I thought, ‘How cool is that?’”

“This is why God picked me to do this,” Snuggs added.

Snuggs traced the idea back to 2001 in Greensboro, N.C. He was working late at the Brian Park Golf Club, and a caddy’s car wouldn’t start. Snuggs drove the man home; the man mentioned other needs he had. Snuggs asked the caddy why he didn’t ask for help.

“How do you ask?” the caddy said. “I’ve got pride.”

One key to the program is people can give and receive help anonymously. Another big help is having a weekly Tribune story listing a half-dozen needs. “By noon, four of those six already have donors,” Snuggs said. Most are fulfilled by the end of the day.

He praised the Montana Farmers Union for its support; he said it’s not unusual for farmers to aid their neighbors.

“They get it,” Snuggs said.

Hats off to Snuggs, who takes no pay for his work for the group, and to everyone else involved.

— Tribune editorial board