BILLINGS — After the announcement last week on Dec. 6 that the decade-old city-run Snow Buddies program had been suspended due to a lack of volunteers, one Billings man didn't want to stop helping.
Justin Voeller put out a call for help on social media and quickly created his own snow buddies group that is not affiliated with the city. One week later, the group now has six volunteers.
"And we've had a lot of people asking for assistance. Which is great because we can get out there and help the people in this community," he said Monday. "I put a call out on Facebook to see if anybody would need help clearing snow because of the program being paused, and I didn’t want the people that I helped out to go without.”
Voeller had volunteered with Snow Buddies since 2018 and didn't want to leave those he had helped in the past behind this winter.
“I’ve been helping them for four years now and one lady in particular she, she actually reminds me of my grandma. So, I try to get over there as much as possible,” he said.
Britney Nelson, who just moved to Billings from Chinook in April, is one of the six who is ready to get to work helping the community.
“It just makes me feel a lot better and you know, know that I’m taking care of somebody and that’s one less thing they have to worry about,” Nelson said.
Shoveling snow for those unable to do it themselves, Nelson is inspired by Voeller's actions and wanted to be involved in the work.
“If you notice that your neighbor or somebody in your life could use a little bit of help, you could just do it and not be part of the program. You’d be part of something bigger,” Nelson said.
If residents need help shoveling, they can post on the Billings Snow Buddies Facebook page and a volunteer will reach out privately to receive the address.
“Hopefully next year, we can pass this back to the city, and the city can maintain it from there on with a renewed sense of volunteering and people that need help,” Voeller said.
Tina Hoeger, the city's Code Enforcement Division Manager, said in an email that the city has directed one person to Voeller and the volunteers to receive assistance. But they are still open to reviving the city-run Snow Buddies if they can find the help.