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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Greg Gianforte (Montana)

Congressman Greg Gianforte recognized Gerri Backes of Kalispell with his Spirit of Montana commendation for supporting and caring for seniors in her community, particularly during this unprecedented time.

Gerri is president of the Kalispell Senior Center. While the COVID-19 outbreak forced the center to close, it hasn’t stopped Gerri from making a difference. Gerri regularly checks in on the center’s members, including making house calls to deliver games and books. To Gerri, this group is family, and she’s committed to seeing them through these difficult times.

Gianforte’s Spirit of Montana is a weekly recognition of Montanans for their accomplishments, dedication, or service. Gianforte highlights the recipient in the U.S. House of Representatives and personally contacts the honorees.

Gianforte encourages anyone to nominate Montanans for the Spirit of Montana award by contacting his office at 202-225-3211 or by email at

Gianforte’s statement in the Congressional Record follows:


Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor Gerri Backes of Kalispell for supporting and caring for seniors in her community as we face this unprecedented time.

Gerri is the president of the Kalispell Senior Center. Since taking over last summer, she has made increasing social events a priority, with a goal of creating programs that seniors will look forward to. Gerri says this new approach has paid dividends and now their group is closer than ever. Last year, she set up a “90-plus” party for 17 members of the senior center, and dozens showed up to celebrate their long, fulfilling lives. She says parties like these promote community and build critical relationships that ultimately improve the life of her members.

She also oversees the center’s “Warm It Up” program. Through this major project, seniors knit hats, scarfs, and quilts to donate to organizations and schools throughout Kalispell. In 2019 alone, they donated 3,000 items. Under her leadership, the center also offers exercise classes along with educational presentations on health care and fraud. They play penuckle on Tuesdays and Fridays and have a very popular weekly Bingo night. But all of that has come to a screeching halt.

Officials closed the center in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, seniors are confined to their homes, isolated and with little to no social interaction. Luckily for this Kalispell group, they have Gerri.

For Gerri, one of the best things in life is laughter. She says it keeps the soul happy and hopeful. While the center’s doors are closed, Gerri has been making phone calls to check up on her friends, and she refuses hang up until she gets a laugh. And that’s not all she does.

During these long days at home, it’s easy to get lonely and restless, so Gerri delivers puzzles and books to her friends. She says this group of Kalispell Valley seniors is her family, and she’ll continue to help them whether the center is open or closed.

Madam Speaker, for delivering laughs and hope to Montana seniors, I recognize Gerri Backes of Kalispell for her spirit of Montana.