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'A Win-Win': Pickleball group giving back to Montana church

Pickleball at FUMC
Posted at 4:55 PM, Jun 17, 2024

BILLINGS - A pickleball group is raising funds to help a community program started by First United Methodist Church located in downtown Billings.

The group was allowed the opportunity to play inside the church's gym during the colder months, and so they started collecting money and other donation items that are given to the community care closet organized by the church.

The community care closet helps provide the unhoused population in Billings with clothes, hygienic items, and food.

Pickleball at FUMC

And while the group's generosity is paying dividends for the community, according to group member Marti Miller, it all started with the church's kindness first.

"We play pickleball outside in the summer but obviously can't play in the winter," Miller said. "So Pastor Pat said, 'Would your team like to play inside?' It just worked out so perfectly because the space was open and we needed somewhere to play."

After a few weeks of playing inside the church's gym for free, Miller and her group came up with a way to help the church as well.

"Everybody else that plays inside has to pay, either at the Elks or whatever," Miller said. "So we thought, well, we'll just give back some way."

Marti Miller

So Miller contacted the church and asked how they could say thanks. Associate Pastor Brian Hunter came up with the idea of collecting donations for the community care closet, which is purely run off donations.

"We provide sack lunches, clothes, hygiene essentials, and things like that," Hunter said. "All the stuff that comes in from the church or other folks in the community and these pickleballers have helped a ton with that."

Hunter said that the group has made a huge impact. According to Miller, they have raised more than $2,000 during the winter months and also given donations on at least 40 of the days they've played.

Brian Hunter

Miller said anyone can play, with the only stipulation that some money or a donation item must be brought in and the church couldn't be more grateful.

"It's been a really cool partnership between this community group and another community group and they really benefit each other," Hunter said. "Oftentimes, things like this don't come together quite like you want it to but this one just fell into our lap perfectly."

And perhaps fellow player Larry Elder summed it up the best, who said it's been a fulfilling situation for both the athletes and the facility.

"It's a win-win for both sides because it gives us a place to play year-round and in the winter, and it benefits the community," Elder said. "So it's a good deal."