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Bitterroot teen gathering warmth for the community

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Morgan Bisel is in her fourth year of gathering new and gently used warm clothing for people who are experiencing homelessness.

Bisel, 14, is now a freshman at Corvallis High School and she has expanded her outreach with 12 bins around the Bitterroot Valley sporting her handmade signs that say “Morgan Bisel’s Helping Hands.”

She is hoping for donations of warm articles of clothing like hats, gloves, coats, boots, sox and thermals in any size by Dec. 18. She will take the donated items to The Povarello Center [homeless center] in Missoula and The Salvation Army Service Center in Hamilton, where she has an official business partnership.

“We’ve reached out,” Bisel said.

Partnering with her efforts this year are Massa Home Center, Canyons, Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply, Sapphire Lutheran Homes, Cornerstone Bible Church, Hamilton Latter-day Saints Church, Roots Church, the Corvallis School District, the Rotary Club service organization and their youth service group Interact.

“Mrs. Alyce Leonardi [CHS Interact advisor] has been a huge help,” Bisel said.

Bisel met with Rotary two weeks ago where she presented her project then returned on Monday to receive warm articles of clothing and a cash donation.

“I used the cash to purchase more collection bins,” she said. “Jeff Wolfe at Massa gave me a huge discount and we were able to purchase eight more bins, previously we only had four. Rotary donated a whole bunch of great stuff.”

Bisel said the kind-hearted donations are important.

“I read an article in the newspaper about a homeless man, Jack, who died in the cold as he was walking to Missoula to get treatment for his feet,” she said. “That can happen to any homeless people. There are more homeless people here than people think. At first, I thought homeless people only lived in big cities but they live here in Hamilton too.”

She said the homeless camp by Grantsdale causes her to worry.

“They are just living in tents,” Bisel said. “There is an opportunity to help so many people in need. Since the homeless don’t have money or resources to get good warm clothing they need help. I think we, as a community, should help them any way we can.”

Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf, the community outreach director for Sapphire Lutheran Homes, said Bisel’s efforts are inspiring.

“We like her spirit,” Farrenkopf said. “We like her enthusiasm and Sapphire Lutheran Homes is happy to partner with her and host a collection bin this year. I picked up some items at Ford’s Department Store this morning — gloves, a blanket and sox. Ford’s has a great selection so if you’re looking to shop local and support a young lady who is out doing good, check them out.”

Bisel said that during the first year or so of her efforts she counted the number of warm clothing items she received but when the donations began pouring in and she stopped counting.

She thanks all who have helped her every year.

“A couple of years ago we received an anonymous donation of $200 to Super One and I just wanted to thank whoever did that,” she said. “With that money, we were able to provide Thanksgiving dinners for 10 families.”

Bisel plans to take the warm clothing items to the homeless donation places over her Christmas break from school, but she has already begun meeting needs.

“The Salvation Army will call requesting things like gloves and we’ll run some over right away,” she said. “Fidelis [Temukum] doesn’t have room to keep things there.”

Her thank you list continues.

“I have some more business ‘maybes’ who will be calling me about joining this year,” Bisel said. “I really appreciate all the community members who have stepped up to donate. I want to also thank all of my friends in Interact. Let’s share our warmth.”

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