Alli Friedman

KCFW Reporter

POSTED: 7:38 AM Aug 06 2014   UPDATED: 2:05 PM Jul 02 2014
alli

Alli Friedman is a reporter for KCFW in Kalispell. She was born and raised in southern California, and is excited to be living in northwest Montana.

Alli earned her BFA in Television and Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University in Orange County, CA. 

While in school, she interned for NBC LA, KTLA-TV, and PBS SoCal. 

When Alli isn't in the newsroom, she loves to travel, work out, watch hockey and hang out with friends and family.

Being new to Montana, Alli is excited to adventure and explore the outdoors. 

If you have any questions, comments, concerns or story ideas please contact Alli by email.

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Alli Friedman's Latest Stories

Landslides continue to threaten Flathead Valley homes

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 6:18 PM Oct 22 2014   UPDATED  2 mins

Landslides continue to threaten Flathead Valley homes

KALISPELL, Mont. -

A second landslide in a Flathead Valley neighborhood has left residents even more fearful than the first.

The first slide happened in 2010, near Whitefish Stage and Bruyer Road. The second slide, which started in June, is just a few hundred feet to the north of that one. Recent rains have made it worse.

Residents like Janet Rodeghiero are anxious.

"I am concerned for all of us. It isn't just right below one person's property and it can cover and impact a lot of people. It’s a very complicated issue and I think a lot of people should take more interest in it," Rodeghiero said.

Rodeghiero is no stranger to the problem. She’s lived in the neighborhood since the first slide started in 2010.

That’s when neighbors took action. They received a $300,000 federal emergency grant to repair it. But the county backed out of the deal.

NBC Montana tried to contact representatives from the Flathead County Commissioner's office, but no calls were returned.

"The more time we waste, the worse it’s going to get," Rodeghiero said.

Residents also took legal action. There has been no settlement and nothing has been repaired yet.

Now the new slide is threatening more homes.

One homeowner who lives above one of the slides says, because it has taken the county so long to repair the first slide, he’s worried the second slide will never get repaired.

Other residents are not that concerned.

"I don't think too much about it. I don't lose any sleep on it...You're a little bit curious as to what will happen in the future...We've been here a long time and we've seen no movement ourselves,” said Doug Johns.

Johns questions if he would have just paid someone to fix the problem himself.

“It could occur again, but I’m not particularly concerned about it. I’ll take responsibility for our own property. I’m going to ask for assistance from somebody else,” Johns said.

Residents say they are still negotiating with the county and are hoping a deal is made soon to fix both slides.

Whitefish Lake barge fire causes thousands of dollars in damage

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 3:43 PM Jul 05 2014   UPDATED: 11:23 PM Oct 21 2014

Whitefish Lake barge fire causes thousands of dollars in damage

KALISPELL, Mont. -

For the second year in a row, the fireworks barge in the middle of Whitefish Lake went up in flames during the 4th of July fireworks show.

It was not planned, and has some residents calling for changes to be made.

"We were probably one of the closest boats to the barge, and about 6-7 minutes before the finale all of a sudden the barge started on fire again. It started really small and then about 3 minutes after it was like the whole barge was engulfed in flames,” said Whitefish resident, Lisa Witzke.

Witzke was there when the barge caught fire last year and says she isn't surprised it happened again.

"It is what it is, you know fireworks, it’s all at your own risk," Witzke said.

Big Sky Fireworks is the company that has been doing the fireworks show on Whitefish Lake for the past 4 years.

NBC Montana went down to the scene of the fire today and met Dan Schuler, the pyrotechnician for Big Sky Fireworks. He was one of the people who set up, and set off the 720 fireworks. He says, it is something that just happens.

"When the fireworks go off they have a lift charge that pushes them up into the air and that lift charge has a lot of sparks and when you just can’t get any wind to blow them off the barge, they all just land on the barge," Schuler said.

And it was the accumulation of those sparks that caused the fire. But, because this had already happened last year, Schuler and Big Sky Fireworks said they were more prepared.

"We were worried from last year, we did make some steps to try to fix that. We did bring some fire extinguishers,” Schuler said.

And they had to use them, extinguishing two smaller fires on the barge before the big one broke out.

But residents around Whitefish Lake think something more needs to be done.

"They might want to make modifications, I guess. I hear building it on a metal barge rather than a wooden one might help the problem,” Witzke said.

But that doesn't mean people didn't enjoy the show.

"So the show went up as planned. If you didn't see the barge on fire you wouldn't know there was a problem with the show,” said Schuler.

"We had a great time last night,” said Witzke.

This barge fire cost the fireworks company thousands of dollars and the barge that belonged to the city of Whitefish is completely destroyed.

Suspects commit fraud using checks from deceased person’s account

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 6:10 PM Oct 21 2014   UPDATED: 11:04 PM Oct 21 2014

Suspects commit fraud using checks from deceased person’s account

KALISPELL, Mont. -

The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office is searching for two people suspected of writing checks on a deceased person’s account.

The sheriff’s office says one bank in Kalispell reported someone was writing checks from a closed account at local businesses that do not have check scanners.

When the businesses went to deposit the check, the bank was notified about the account activity. It was at that point the businesses found out the checks were not good.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry says it’s fraud.

“Fraud is a felony and it does carry the potential for jail time and a very stiff fine, in addition to restitution, which we always attempt to get for whoever the victim may be," Curry said.

Curry noted that this is not a new problem.

"Unfortunately, cases of fraud are all too common. We see a lot of them," said Curry.

A financial adviser at Park Side Credit Union, Rob Lefkowicz, explains that it is important to have a payable-on-death beneficiary on the account. That way, if the account holder dies, the account can be closed on the spot.

"When you close an account and you have all the appropriate documentation, such as a death certificate, and you are the payable-on-death beneficiary, in the vast majority of cases, that account is closed right on the spot. There are some cases where there's long-term investments or securities that aren't able to be closed on the spot. But for regular consumers, most of the accounts are closed very quick and on the spot," Lefkowicz said.

Doing that won’t stop all fraud.

"I would suggest to the merchants is take that extra step and ask to see a driver's license, match the name on the checks with the name of the person in front of you." said Lefkowicz.

For current account holders, Lefkowicz has simple advice.

"Consider the number of accounts that you have open. If you have accounts open from years ago and checks laying around that you haven't used, you probably want to consider closing those accounts and shredding the checks so you don't have that liability," he said.

The sheriff’s office is confident the suspects will be caught.

“Fortunately, at least for us and the victims, these cases are almost always caught. People just don’t get away with this sort of thing. There are too many safeguards in place, and it always turns out that we end up getting the person,” Curry said.

The sheriff’s office is still investigating and nobody is in custody yet.

It is still unclear how the suspects in this most recent case knew the deceased person or got ahold of the checks.

Kalispell reviews proposals to solve parking issues near Flathead High

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 2:19 PM Oct 18 2014   UPDATED: 10:46 PM Oct 19 2014

Kalispell reviews proposals to solve parking issues

KALISPELL, Mont. -

Different plans, proposed by different agencies, has left the City of Kalispell at a standstill over how to deal with rising congestion around Flathead High School.

Flathead High students and staff park on the street during school hours. This frustrates residents who cannot find a space to park their own vehicles.

So, they are asking the city to make a residential parking permit program. But, the school district is pushing for a different proposal.

Jordan Boyce is a Kalispell resident who lives across the street from the high school. He says, school days give the neighborhood a different look.

“There’s a lot more residents without driveways, and so that main road is very full all the time,” Boyce said.

Residents and the school district are both working on a fix.

“The original proposal from the residents was a residential parking district that would require a permit to park on the streets within a distinct boundary within a couple block radius within the high school and Elrod elementary,” said Kalispell City Planner, Kevin LeClaire.

The school district, in addition to adding parking spaces on school property, want parking restricted on only one side of the street. This would give residents a space to park on the other side of the streets.

“The city has no stake in it other than to help try and facilitate a process that hopefully results in a positive solution,” LeClaire said.

The residents and the school district met to try and compromise. Eventhough they are not successful yet, they seem to be close.

"They've gotten closer together in some kind of a hybrid solution. They’re still not together. I wouldn't say they're holding hands and saying we're both in this together, but they're getting closer," LeClaire said.

If the parking district is approved, the permits could cost between $15 and $30. They would be required only during school hours, Monday through Friday.

"They need to be enough to pay for the program because the city doesn't have a pot of money just to do this," LeClaire said.

Boyce, along with other residents, has hope that the end result will benefit everyone.

“I think it can happen. We’ll just have to be creative. I think Kalispell can do it thought,” Boyce said.

The Kalispell City Planning Board will have another work session on the matter on October 28th, 2014. But, they say they are not sure when a decision will be made.

FWP seeks tips in deer poaching cases

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 1:48 PM Oct 17 2014   UPDATED: 5:51 PM Oct 17 2014
FWP seeks tips in poaching cases
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials are asking for the public’s help in catching people responsible for killing deer illegally in the Flathead Valley.

The poaching is happening along the entire length of Farm to Market Road, and the area west of Kalispell to Kila.

Wildlife officials say people have been using spotlights throughout the night to shoot deer. Then, they’re leaving the dead carcasses to waste in the fields along the road.

FWP officials are especially concerned because several people were recently caught poaching in the same area, but could be at it again. That is why they need help stopping these people, sooner rather than later.

“Every time someone shoots and animal and leaves it go to waste like that, it detracts from everything, like people who want to watch the deer, the deer’s reproducing, people that want to hunt deer. It just robs everyone, so we want to have a stop to this and the only way to do that is to catch who's doing it," said John Fraley from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Anyone with information about these cases is asked to call 1-800-TIP-MONT.

Flathead County purchases land for new Bigfork trash site

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 6:36 PM Oct 16 2014   UPDATED: 11:19 PM Oct 16 2014

Flathead County purchases land for new Bigfork trash site

KALISPELL, Mont. -

In August, NBC Montana was aware of a plan to consolidate trash sites in Flathead County. That plan has changed after Bigfork residents feared their trash site would be eliminated.

Instead, the county agreed to purchase five acres of land to build a new trash site, behind the Little Brown Church off Highway 83 and Highway 35 in Bigfork.

Flathead County solid waste officials explained they were considering consolidating the Lakeside and Bigfork trash sites to make a “super site.” That was to save money and make managing trash easier.

Bigfork residents wanted to keep a trash site of their own. The county said if that were to be the case, something would have to be done with the current site. The county and residents worked together to come up with a new plan.

County Commissioner Cal Scott says the current site isn’t safe and is hard to manage.

"The property was limited to kind of an off-pie shaped piece of land that didn't allow the trucks to move around safely, given the highway was right next to it, and to back up, move around pick up the containers and handle those well," Scott said.

County commissioners signed an agreement to purchase five acres of private land for $150,000 for the new trash site.

"We'll have equipment and we're looking at trash compactors," Scott said.

Recyclers like Christina Sjoquist say it is time for an upgrade.

“For such a lovely community as Bigfork, it’s just shameful to have this ugly garbage site right next to the highway. It’s just visually shameful,” she said.

Sjoquist says its hard to drive in and out of the site because it’s right off the highway.

“Today’s a beautiful October day. But you can imagine somebody slowing down to turn into this on highway speeds in January and I’m sure there have been some rear-ends and collisions, and we don't need that," said Sjoquist.

County officials say the new site will have a paved driveway to solve the traffic issue. It will also be gated, similar to the Columbia Falls trash site.

The county will hire staff to police the area when the site’s open.

“I’ve been recycling since the 1970s and it’s nice to see the Flathead Valley coming up to speed,” Sjoquist said.

Bigfork residents will have to pay around $34 annually for the trash site.

The agreement to purchase the land has already been signed by the county, and the new site could be constructed by next summer.

Whitefish High School construction project over budget

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 5:56 PM Oct 15 2014   UPDATED: 11:15 PM Oct 15 2014

Whitefish High School construction project over budget

KALISPELL, Mont. -

Whitefish High School’s new campus is about a month away from being complete, but before contractors can wrap up work, the school has to come up with a chunk of money.

That’s because the renovation and expansion project went over budget by $236,000. The cost was originally set at $22.5 million. $14 million of that money was from a bond and some from private donors.

Now, school administrators will be paying the bill with money from a fund they needed to change district policy in order to use.

"The project ended up being $236,000 over budget," said Whitefish School Board Trustee David Fern.

That’s the problem school officials are now facing, before they can put the finishing touches on the new school.

“We expected it. We’ve been working with a slight deficit for quite a long time. We’re structured with an oversight committee so we’ve been examining the budget,” Fern said.

The school board will pull money from a tax increment finance fund, or TIF fund, to make up for the budget shortfall.

That money comes from taxpayers in the city of Whitefish. The school board puts away that money for capital improvements, professional developments and as a reserve fund.

“It was not the intention to use the TIF, or tax increment fund dollars we had available, but we have dipped into it a little bit, just to balance the budget,” Fern said.

District policy only allows a percentage of the fund go toward capital improvements. The school board voted to suspend the rules for six months and use the money to finish the high school on time.

“That’s really a small percentage of the original cost so if they went over budget, I consider that to be a very small percentage of the original. It’s not very significant to me,” said Whitefish resident Ashley Lohr.

Lohr isn’t surprised the project ended over budget.

“If the school board approved using those funds, then I’m sure they know exactly what they’re doing,” Lohr said.

But not everyone agrees. NBC Montana spoke to several other residents who say the district should have stayed within its budget.

The school board will dip into the TIF and pay off the bill before November 15, when the school is expected to be complete. They also plan to find a way to replace the money and put it back into the fund.

TeleTech hosts job fair to fill nearly 200 job openings

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 5:45 PM Oct 14 2014   UPDATED: 11:20 PM Oct 14 2014

TeleTech hosts job fair to fill nearly 200 job openings

KALISPELL, Mont. -

A Flathead company launched a job fair to hire close to 200 people. So far there are 13 new hires.

TeleTech is a consumer analyst company. Its employees work as call center operators for a financial institution. TeleTech officials say calls are up, so they launched a job fair to interview and hire new workers.

The director of the company, Tory Graham, says people can be hired on the spot if they meet the qualifications. Graham says the jobs offer good money and stability.

Brittany Oberman is new to the Flathead. She just got a job working at Whitefish Mountain Resort, but she says that isn’t cutting it.

“I’m just looking for a second job, the mountain doesn’t start until December. So I’m just looking for some fill-in money right now,” said Oberman.

Oberman says it has been hard to pay all of her expenses.

"To pay rent and then all of your utilities and then gas -- gas prices are really high. You kind of have to [get a second job] these days, especially if you want to live on your own or have your own place,” said Oberman.

She found out TeleTech was hiring from an online advertisement. The company is looking to fill 195 positions to meet increased call demand.

"Right now we are hiring for our customer support representative position and that position would basically answer inbound phone calls for a large financial institution,” said Graham.

With this hiring event, people looking for jobs can bring in their resume, take an online assessment test and possibly get hired on the spot.

“We are looking to hire between 100 and 200 people today,” Graham said.

So far, only 13 people have been hired. Oberman wasn’t one of them but says the company will let her know in a few days if she got the job. She’s hoping for the best.

“It’s probably going to teach me how to work with different companies, probably larger corporations,” Oberman said.

"We just recently increased our wages and our bonus package, so I think that really attracts more candidates to this type of job and will help the process be a little easier," Graham said.

Starting wages for the company are around $12 an hour, more than $4 over the state’s minimum wage.

TeleTech hopes to fill all 195 positions between now and another hiring event next Tuesday, October 21.

Chess fanatics gather for Flathead tournament

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 2:39 PM Oct 11 2014
Chess fanatics gather for Flathead tournament
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Stiff competition and high drama at a tournament in Kalispell. It was a battle of wits, centered around the chess board.

The Flathead Chess Club hosted the chess tournament at the Red Lion Hotel. There were four timed rounds and each player was given 30 minutes to compete.

17-time state champion, Greg Nowak, known by his chess peers as “The Octopus” made an appearance.

Other participants say the tournament is a great way to promote the timeless game.

 

"I see a lot of young people turn out so that's really nice. I think it’s really good for young people to get involved with chess because its good for your mind and it helps you meet other people and it just overall develops you as a person,” said Wilton Strickland, a chess fanatic.

People also had the opportunity to take a chess lesson at the tournament.

The Flathead Chess Club hopes to plan many more tournaments like this one in the future.

5k raises money for historic train restoration and museum

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 2:32 PM Oct 11 2014
Somers 5k raises money for historic train restoration and museum
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Over 75 people ran or walked in a 5k this morning to help the Flathead Lake town of Somers, south of Kalispell, get back in touch with its roots.

A group of residents, called the Somers Company Town Project, are working to restore an old S-2 train engine.

It was once used on the Great Northern Railroad in Somers in the 1920s.

Proceeds from the 5k will help build a museum around the engine with pictures and artifacts from the logging and railroad days in Somers.

The president of the project says the goal is to preserve what Somers once was, an industrial hub for the valley.

"It’s nice to see the young families get involved and kind of take hold because they are the next generation and this museum behind us is built for people in the town. It’s not about the mill and the railroad; it’s about the people that lived here, died here. There are a lot of names that are unknown and that's kind of what we're hoping to build," said David Ruby, President of the Somers Company Town Project.

So far, $50,000 has been raised for the whole project. That puts the group $15,000 short of finishing.

Ruby says he hopes to raise that money within the next year.

FWP seeks comments on land acquisition in the Flathead

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 2:25 PM Oct 11 2014
FWP seeks comments on land acquisition in the Flathead
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is asking for feedback on a $42,000 project to acquire land along a popular fishing access in the Flathead.

The Pine Grove Pond Fishing Access is located three miles northeast of Kalispell, near Whitefish State Road and Rose Crossing.

FWP officials want to take over four acres of land between the popular fishing access and the whitefish river. They say they’d use it to give the public an additional 750 feet of river shore to fish.

The private owners of that land say they’re willing to sell.

FWP also hopes to have an extra third of an acre donated to build more parking to ease congestion along the access.

"We just think it would be nice to provide additional access to that land and to the Whitefish River for people and we're going to keep it undeveloped, sort of in its primitive state for people to enjoy," said FWP Fishing Access Program Manager, Tony Powell.

The deadline to send in your comments on the land purchase is Friday, October 17th.

New city policy in Whitefish prohibits gated communities

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 4:24 PM Oct 10 2014   UPDATED: 11:04 PM Oct 10 2014

New city policy in Whitefish prohibits gated communities

KALISPELL, Mont. -

A new city policy in Whitefish now prohibits gated communities. It became official this week.

City leaders say gated communities just don’t match the city’s vision for growth.

There are currently two gated communities. One of them, Grouse Mountain Estates, wants to add more gates. They currently have two gates inside the subdivision and want to expand with more gates at the front. It would eliminate public traffic to the roads.

With this new policy, the city won’t allow it.

"That's not something the City of Whitefish wants or desires and...is not consistent with what Whitefish is and what we want," said Whitefish City Councilman Frank Sweeney.

Sweeney says while the ordinance was just passed this week, it is something that’s been on the radar for years.

"It’s a policy that we are giving some breadth to, that the City of Whitefish in its visioning sessions for the growth policy in 2007 made very clear that we didn't want gated communities," said Sweeney.

"I think it’s unlawful what they passed," said Sean Frampton, an attorney for the Grouse Mountain Estates.

Frampton says his clients have the right to put up more gates. He claims when the city allowed the estates to be built, there were circumstances written in the approval documents that allows them to be private.

"First, they said it’s a private road and that it’s for the sole use of the owners. Secondly, they made as a condition of approval, that the homeowners' association could close the roads off to the public. So that's what their rights are and this law would interfere and contravene those rights," said Frampton.

"We want the free flow of traffic. We want the public to have access throughout the community and it’s also really important for emergency services," said Sweeney.

Frampton says he is not sure how the Grouse Mountain Estates wants to move forward, but he is ready to advise them.

"I am in the process of drafting a legal opinion for my client, which then they can discuss and decide how they want to proceed with it," Frampton said.

The city policy does not require any of the current gated communities to take gates down, just to prevent them from building more.

Scammers pose as Flathead Electric Cooperative employees

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 6:07 PM Oct 09 2014   UPDATED: 9:02 PM Oct 09 2014

Scammers pose as Flathead Electric Cooperative employees

KALISPELL, Mont. -

There is a new twist to an old scam in the Flathead that targets businesses.

Scammers are now posing as Flathead Electric Co-Op workers, and now the caller ID says the call is from Flathead Electric.

Businesses that use a lot of electricity and have high electric bills are told their bill is overdue and the power will be shut off unless it is paid immediately. Scammers ask for credit card numbers. The caller has a thick foreign accent.

The owner of the Tree Frog Tavern, Julie Smith, says she’s been targeted before. She got a phone call a few months ago from apparent electric company employees threatening to shut off her power.

"It was on a Sunday at around 7 o’clock at night, and there was somebody claiming to be the power company, and that we were behind on our bill and they were going to shut off our power," Smith said.

Since then, Smith has gotten more calls. Her employees who answer the phone notice that the caller ID now says it is Flathead Electric.

"It was the same foreign accent, same whole scenario of what had happened before and so she [the employee] just kind of laid into him and then they hung up the phone," Smith said.

Smith says the foreign accent was what gave it away, and that is why she didn’t fall for it. But she’s concerned other people will.

"More and more, we are doing business with a lot of different cultures. When you call for help for your computer, etc., you do get some foreign people answering your phone calls," said Smith.

"We don't outsource anything. Everything's locally owned and operated," said Wendy Ostrom-Price, from Flathead Electric Cooperative.

At least one business has fallen for it, and reported it. They gave their credit card number to the scammer on the phone.

“Just yesterday, on Wednesday, for example we received five calls in a row,” Ostrom-Price said.

Officials say the scammers are hard to catch.

"Law enforcement hands are really tied, because these people operate in clandestine offices and they move around and they change their phone numbers and they're virtually impossible to trace," said Ostrom-Price.

"You would think that with the computer powers we have and the technology that we have, there must be a way to stop these people,” Smith said.

Officials also say this is not a new problem. But now scammers are changing their angle. They used to target the elderly -- now they’re going after businesses.

Electric company officials say it is best not to give personal information to anyone over the phone. Rather, call or walk into your local co-op and make sure they verify the status of your account before making any type of payment to anyone.

Sen. Tester dedicates FVCC veterans' center

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 4:36 PM Oct 08 2014   UPDATED: 11:19 PM Oct 08 2014

Sen. Tester dedicates FVCC veterans' center

KALISPELL, Mont. -

A new space at the Flathead Valley Community College gives student veterans a place to call home.

Sen. Jon Tester was on hand to help cut the ribbon Wednesday morning. The center was built last fall in response to a large influx of veterans coming back from war.

Now, student vets have a place to study, eat lunch and share experiences with fellow vets.

Tester says it is an important step to help vets get accustomed to normal life.

"First of all, it’s part of the transition back into civilian life for our soldiers, both male and female. To be able to have an area that they can be alone or visit with people who served like they have. I think it’s just really, critically important, when it comes to higher education," said Tester.

NBC Montana spoke to several veterans and found out how the center has shaped their education experience.

Eric Hill spent ten years in the Marine Corps. When he got back in 2011, he never imagined he would go back to school.

"I definitely never thought that I'd be back in the Flathead Valley, and that I would be going back to school at all," Hill said.

Now that he is back, he’s been able to call a new space at the college home.

“It’s our safe place,” said Hill.

Hill says he didn’t feel comfortable in other parts of the school.

"A lot of people don't like using the library, being around the generation gap of people that maybe were 4-years-old when the war started, and they're very anti-you and they don't really like what you stand for," said Hill.

Hill explained finding a place to study and eat lunch with fellow vets has eased those thoughts. He said he feels more comfortable sharing a space with people who have experienced what he’s gone through.

“We have some type of specific bond with each other,” said Hill.

Other veterans, like Theresa Williamson, feel the same. Williamson served in the Navy, and like Hill, she never thought of going back to school.

"I wasn't the greatest in high school with my grades. I was a 'C' and 'D' student, honestly, because I just didn't really try. So, did I honestly think I would go back to college? It’s just not something I thought I would ever do," said Williamson.

She says with the help of the veterans' center it has been an easy transition.

"Being able to come and joke around and relax, it takes all the stress off doing all your college courses," Williamson said.

Most of the veterans say their school experience would be a lot different without the center.

"I would be doing a lot more -- or attempting to do a lot more -- of my homework and school work at home, just because the atmosphere outside of here is still one that most people are trying to integrate with and may not be comfortable with," Hill said.

"It would make life a lot more difficult if this center wasn't here. Not having this peer support that we get here, because it’s just not as warm and inviting in some of the other areas," said Williamson.

There are also advisors in the center to give counseling and help to the veterans until they graduate.

There are currently 107 students using VA benefits at FVCC.

FVCC culinary students open simulated restaurants

FLATHEAD COUNTY

alli By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
POSTED: 2:56 PM Oct 04 2014   UPDATED: 10:41 PM Oct 04 2014

FVCC culinary students open simulated restaurants

KALISPELL, Mont. -

Culinary students at the Flathead Valley Community College are inviting the public to dine in their student-run restaurants.

This is the first year the capstone program is allowing students to plan, open and run their own restaurants.

NBC Montana got a sneak peak at the restaurants and heard from students about their experience thus far.

Taylor Baer always knew she wanted to be a chef, a role she’s getting to play early at her own simulated restaurant. It’s a bistro style menu.

"We obviously wanted to elevate it a bit more past the conventional cheeseburger. So, we have an avocado and bacon cheeseburger and so we really just found basic recipes and then tried to increase them with all the things that we've learned over the past few semesters here," Baer said.

But, to open took more than just the food; something Baer says she didn’t expect.

"It’s really a good experience for us all to kind of realize there’s a lot more to owning a restaurant and starting a restaurant then just making a menu, which I think is what we kind of thought it was," Baer said.

"Not only are they opening up a restaurant but they've gone through a whole marketing plan, a public relations plan, they've learned how to make budgets out, they've learned how to go to a banker and see if they can get money to support this particular restaurant," said Chef Howard Karp.

Karp is the culinary professor at the college. He says the program is designed to give students real life experience.

"With this program, we really want to produce a student who is going to be a caliber of high manager, or an owner an entrepreneur, or an executive chef. So, we've prepared them to learn all of those qualities," Karp said.

"The skills that I’ve learned here can translate anywhere. I’m incredibly confidant that I can walk into any restaurant, bar, anything and know that I have the foundation for the skills that I could get the job," Baer said.

When the restaurant opens, half of the capstone students will be chefs. The other half will be servers and accountants.

After three weeks, they’ll switch and a different restaurant will open up.

The public is invited to dine starting Tuesday, October 7th through October 23rd. The restaurants will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays during those dates.