BILLINGS — This week's cold weather has shelters like the Montana Rescue Mission in Billings busy— even more so with Christmas right around the corner.
The program is located at 2822 Minnesota Ave. in Billings and serves individuals and families in the community who are experiencing homelessness. Shelter, meals, education, treatment, and more are offered at no cost to those in need.
According to their website, Montana Rescue Mission provided 36,000 sheltered nights in 2021, and the executive director, Matt Lundgren, said they served around 400 people in November.
Billings has a large need for services like this one that provides shelter, meals and more for the homeless community.
This Christmas, the program decided to do something special for its guests.
“It’s not just the hats, gloves, boots. Those are things that we give people all the time when it’s cold. But for Christmas, we wanted to do something special," Lundgren said on Friday. "Maybe it’s nail polish, eye shadow, and for the guys maybe it’s a fancy shaving kit or the Axe body spray."
Lundgren said they asked for donations from community members that could be gifted to make these men, women and children feel special.
"If you don't know what to buy, gift cards are always really helpful because then we can actually take the guests in our van up to Target or Walmart or whatever it is," Lundgren explained.
Although the majority of gifts have already been collected, Lundgren said they are still looking for just a few more for some last-minute guests.
“Last night we just got 10 more people in, so I’m still looking for five presents for men, five presents for women, and then we had three girls, (aged) three, seven, and nine, and we’re looking for presents for them,” Lundgren explained. "For the girls, just toys would be amazing."
And with Christmas quickly approaching, Lundgren says this is a great time to give back.
“If you’re in the homeless shelter, you basically just have the clothes on your back and whatever you came with," Lundgren explained. “Just something so people feel special at Christmas. Maybe a new wallet or a pair of sunglasses, or a neat hat. Those are the kinds of things we want at Christmas so everyone has something to open Christmas morning.”
And community members are grateful to be able to give back.
Stacey and J.R. Baumann visited the shelter on Friday to drop off a donation and said they have been supporting the mission for two decades.
"I just think it's so amazing what they're doing. They actually help take people in to get them back on track with their life," Stacey explained. "Not necessarily just put a roof over their head, put a meal in them. Their new center will have classes and people can learn a new skill or trade."
And J.R. agrees.
“Everybody has lows and highs, and there’s nothing special about us that’s different than the people out there," J.R. explained. "We’ve just been blessed along the way, and people helped us out along the way, and I think people out there just need help. If you can pay that back to people and help them out, I think you’re blessed all the way around."
Lundgren said he is very grateful for people like the Baumanns giving back to their community.
If you would like to give a special gift this holiday season, donations can be dropped off at the Montana Rescue Mission Administration building at 2902 Minnesota Ave. in Billings.
“This Christmas would you consider donating to the Montana Rescue Mission? We’re still looking for presents for five men, five women, and three girls aged three, seven, and nine," Lundgren said. "Would you help us because we want to make this a great Christmas for our homeless brothers and sisters to encourage them in this community? Thank you Billings for your care and your generosity, and Merry Christmas from the Montana Rescue Mission."