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Evergreen - Cinnamon Davis-Hall -- A helping hand and a heart for veterans
The Daily Inter Lake - 8/1/2021
Aug. 1—The Northwest Montana Veterans Stand Down & Food Pantry, based in Evergreen, is dedicated to extending a helping hand up to homeless, low-income, and at-risk veterans and their families. The pantry also houses a thrift store and provides medical equipment and loan programs, homeless facilities and more.
With all the networking she does, the organization's outreach coordinator, Cinnamon Davis-Hall, is probably one of the most interconnected individuals in the Flathead Valley. As part of her responsibilities, she regularly attends and speaks at a broad range of meetings with diverse organizations, including both nonprofit and private organizations, veterans service organizations, and businesses, especially around the holidays. She also serves on panels for the governor, homeless outreach and suicide prevention committees, and collaborates with all the valley's food banks and VFWs, always striving to connect people to the right resources. Her goal is to glean information that will benefit the pantry while also sharing what the pantry has to offer. This fall Davis-Hall has been invited to participate in the Leadership Flathead personal and professional development program of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.
DAVIS-HALL grew up in a family immersed in helping veterans. She never thought twice about her father and mother, Allen and Linda Erickson, offering their couch to veterans and didn't realize at the time those veterans were actually homeless.
In Libby in 2000, Davis-Hall's father founded the Veterans Food Pantry and held the first of the annual stand down events, — a military term for when combat troops can take a break from constant alert status and the hardships of battle to enter a safe zone where they can eat, rest and receive medical treatment. Today's stand down is a place where veterans receive free services, medical evaluations, food, clothing and supplies.
"My parents are my inspiration," she said. "They've always been very hard workers. They've confronted obstacles through the years but they don't give up." Her dad, a Navy veteran, believes in veterans helping veterans. "My parents stay true to the pantry's mission."
A FLATHEAD Valley resident since kindergarten, Davis-Hall has been involved with the Veterans Food Pantry for almost 14 years. Prior to that, she'd managed bread stores, and worked in merchandising and marketing. It was her marketing and catering management at the former employee-owned Tidyman's grocery store in Kalispell that helped cultivate the sense of joy she now brings to her career at the pantry.
"We were a family," she said of Tidyman's. "The managers told us if we didn't feel we could bring happiness and joy to work on a given day, it would be better to stay home. That resonated with me. That's how life should be."
As engaged with the community as she is, Davis-Hall emphasizes her family is her primary focus. Widowed in 2008, she felt she needed to first take care of and raise her three children. She gave up her other jobs, withdrew from the nursing degree she was pursuing at the time and was then able to become more involved in the pantry.
"I saw the need for both the pantry and for the community," she said. "Helping veterans is like no other feeling after what they gave to us. I appreciate what they did for us."
And it's not just Davis-Hall who's stepped up to help her parents help the veteran community. The entire Erickson family is involved in Allen and Linda's efforts. Her six siblings (her older sister is named Ginger), nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles, grandkids and great-grandkids all converge on the Libby stand downs to help. Any given year at least 23 family members are there lending a hand.
THE FAMILY also has boots on the ground at Camp Ponderosa. For the last two years they have been renovating the former correctional facility on 79 acres in the Seeley-Swan Valley into a camp retreat and learning center for veterans, aiming for a family-style setting. Church groups and veterans have also helped with the long-term project.
As busy as Davis-Hall is, she says her biggest challenge is trying to find that everyday balance between her home life and her work life. With two teenage boys at home she says there just aren't enough hours in the day. She is also a certified nurses aide at Brendan House, a Boy Scout volunteer, Evergreen Lions Club member and sells Norwex cleaning products in her spare time.
But all the success stories she's witnessed through the Veterans Pantry keep her going.
"Sometimes listening is all someone needs," she said. "If they pose a problem I'll help them find a solution. Sometimes they already know the solution. I'm there to let them know someone cares. To get them to quit living in a flight or fright mindset, to get them to rationalize, to get them out of trauma.
"About six years ago an individual came to me. I was able to help him move out of state so he could reconnect with family," she recalls. "A couple of years later he came back to visit. He was happy and had a love for life again. Watching a veteran or his family grow and get out of the situation they were in, that's what's most rewarding. Just seeing them smile again."
The 2021 Northwest Montana Veterans Stand Down will take place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 9 and 10, at the Libby Armory. Watch the Daily Inter Lake for forthcoming details, log on to www.veteransfoodpantry.org, or contact Davis-Hall at 406-250-2394.
Community Editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or email@example.com.
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