2018 ROC Tour: Under the Big Sky

This is part three in a series of blog posts by Lorie Cahill, the ROC Association Director for the Mountain West region. The series chronicles the visits she made in 2018 to the ROCs in Montana. Check out part one and part two if you missed them.

As we headed back towards home, I was looking forward to seeing Marty and Susan Villareal leaders in the River Acres Community in Missoula. Marty is a 30-year retired mechanic who loves to hunt and joined his wife Susan in saying that they love spending time with their five grandaughters and family, some of who live in the community as well. Upon arrival at the community, we were warmly welcomed into their home where we talked about the reason they do what they do for the community. Their answer: “Because we want to succeed! We have family who live here as well and we want affordable and secure homes for them and the other member who live in the community.” It was evident that the two are the “Heart of the community” and have made numerous efforts throughout the four years of service on the board to improve and support River Acres in succeeding. When asked what they thought about the ROC tour, they said “It is really nice to know that there are other resources available for us in addition to NeighborWorks Montana.” Our talk was one of common goals and challenges as well as just plain good conversation. River Acres is a small quaint community with a mix of age groups and a friendly atmosphere. They have made many improvements and hope to do many more. I met Marty and Susan a few years back and enjoyed catching up with them. They are a nice couple that care deeply for their community. I am again inspired by their commitment and their efforts.

ROC on, River Acres!

Susan Villarreal, Secretary for the River Acres Board of Directors, stands in front of her home in the Missoula, Mont. ROC.
Susan Villarreal, Secretary for the River Acres Board of Directors, stands in front of her home in the Missoula, Mont. ROC.

Down the road just a few minutes is Buena Vista, also in Missoula. The 36-home community established in 2013. We are meeting with Terry and Sheryl Huetter — long time leaders at Buena Vista. Terry has been President on the Board since it was established as a ROC. I met Terry and Sheryl some years ago at our first CLI in Florida. Terry is very humble about his efforts and commitment to the community of Buena Vista. For the past 6 years, he has led the way to numerous improvements such as, connecting sewer to the city’s system, upgrading roads, and making a community garden space, and horseshoe pit, just to name a few. Terry has mapped out a three-phase improvement plan for the community for improvements and is also looking to do a project with solar power. He has inspired his community through his hard work, dedication and leadership. Along with his Board of Directors, the group is making Buena Vista a safe, affordable place for the community members. Terry and his family lived in the community for 7 years prior to the purchase of the ROC, and have been front and center to all of the changes. I am inspired by their pride of ownership and committed attitude towards the successful future of their community! I have driven through the community many times but as I drove out this last time, it was very clear they are heading in the right direction!

Picture of a home in Buenta Vista in Missoula, Mont.

Last but, certainly not least, we headed to Northwood Community in Pablo. As we pull into the entrance, we were met with welcome signs made by the community. How great is that! We head over to meet Mary Sherman the President of the Board there at Northwood at their community center. They have gathered as a community and prepared a BBQ for us with many of the food items coming from the community garden located right behind the community center. Mary lives there with her husband Dee and their children. Northwood is a 44-home community that became a ROC in 2014 and is located in the heart of the Rockies on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Mary has been their President since it was established as a ROC. Since then, she has been working hard at it making improvements and supporting the community in every way she can. Some of the things they have accomplished are building a playground for the kids in the community, and setting up a large community garden that produces quite a harvest of food that Mary can be seen loading into her red wagon and taking around to share with members of the community. They’ve also built bus stop shelter, made road improvements, and removed several abandoned homes. Mary has worked hard and committed herself to numerous hours of improvements to homes and lots. When I think of Mary, I think “Big Smile, Big Heart, Big Job!” She is a go-getter! If it’s something her community needs, she is going to find a way to get it. She truly puts her all into caring for her community. She has planned many social events with her community as well as worked with local law enforcement to reduce drug use and crime in their community. In 2016 Northwood endured a tragedy in their community when a young boy was run over on Thanksgiving and died as a result. Sherman and neighbors gathered together as a community and held a candlelight vigil to honor the boy and made efforts to raise money to help the family. Mary’s leadership is one of example that her community can do what it takes to be successful in having a safe and affordable place to live. Mary is most certainly the heart of the community! When asked what she thought about the tour, she said “I just love to talk to others about all the things we have in common, to know we all have struggles and to be able to share our ideas.”  To say that I am inspired by this woman who does this while raising 2 teenage boys is an understatement. Mary is to be commended on her leadership and pure determination to make things better for her family and the community. Thank you, Northwood residents, for making us feel so very welcome in your community. You’re ending to my tour left me feeling very hopeful about the phrase we live by: Better Together!

ROC steady, Northwood!

Northwood Community members set up a barbecue for the Cahill's visit to to their Pablo, Mont. ROC.
Northwood Community members set up a barbecue for the Cahill’s visit to to their Pablo, Mont. ROC.

Thank you to all who welcomed us into their community! It was a great tour. I really enjoyed talking with each of you and seeing first hand all you have done in your communities. You are truly to be commended for your efforts!