Andrew Walters Foundation raising funds to help locals

By MICHELLE MCCONNAHA for the Ravalli Republic | Oct 28, 2017

The Andrew Walters Foundation for Charitable Giving is raising funds to provide assistance to families and individuals in need.

Irene and Ron Walters formed the foundation in remembrance of their son Andrew, who died at age 18.

“Our foundation fills in the gaps of services in Ravalli County,” Irene Walters said. “Our main missions are food security, housing insecurity, medication and health care insecurity. There are no paid positions in our organization and all the money stays in the community.”

Irene Walters works at Sapphire Community Health Center, which gave her a room to store supplies for the foundation.

“We partner with Bitterroot Drug and whatever I donate Pete (Seifert) matches, so we can pay for people’s medications if they can’t pay for them,” Irene Walters said. “We have a backpack program, so folks who are homeless or at risk can come into the Sapphire Community Health Center and ask for a backpack.”

The backpacks are filled with grooming supplies and canned food that can be heated over a fire.

“No questions asked; they can just come get one,” Irene Walters said.

This is the second year of the Andrew Walters Foundation’s free Christmas store. Parents and children can select a gift for each other and volunteers wrap the items.

“When Andy was a little boy we used to take him to the Angel Tree,” Irene Walters said. “When he was 5 he said ‘If everyone gave a dollar there wouldn’t be any more poor people’ and that’s why we wanted to do this after we lost him.”

The Andrew Walters Foundation has provided hotels for people when they are homeless and put locks on doors for people when they were having trouble being secure in their homes.

Irene Walters said the average family income in Ravalli County is $20,000.

“Homelessness can be a chronic state of being or a temporary state, and we have a lot of people sleeping in cars, tenting in the woods, and couch surfing,” Walters said. “These are families. We had a family this summer with two children who camped for months just to save up enough money to get into a hotel.”

She said people are sleeping under bridges and that there is a five-year waiting list to get into low-income housing in Ravalli County.

“We have so few low-income housing options and such a great need,” Walters said. “We’ll be doing a fundraiser every couple of months to get our message out there and to keep funds coming in regularly.”

Walters proudly announced that the Andrew Walters Foundation is gaining volunteers.

“Sandy Batson is a volunteer, as are Judy and Dane Kendal,” she said. “Bonnie Peterson, Dwight and Brenda Olmstead also help us. Sapphire Community Health donates space to me."

Andrew Walters Foundation volunteers are selling raffle tickets to raise funds for the Christmas store. The purchase of raffle tickets for $10 buys two opportunities to win “A Week Without Dishes!”

The Silver Packages is valued at $230, with restaurant gift certificates to BJ’s Family Restaurant, Pizza Hut, Coffee Cup, KFC, Back Door Deli, Chengs Family Restaurant, and Fiesta En Jalisco. The Gold Package is a $355 value, with gift certificates to The Edge, Bouilla, Filling Station Grille, Spice of Life, Naps Grill, Moose Creek BBQ and Mineshaft Pasties.

To purchase a ticket, call Sandy Batson at 396-8020, Irene Walters at 647-1305 or visit Sapphire Community Health. The raffle drawing will be held Nov. 1.

The Community Symposium on Homelessness will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Bitterroot College.