By Ron VandenBoom
It could be viewed as a Havre version of Hollywood Squares, but to many of the residents at Northern Montana Care Center, it would be more accurate to call it "Hollywood Cares."
At least that's the impression Evelyn Lynnes, president of the Residents' Council at Northern Montana Care Center, has now that more than 45 local and national celebrities have returned their autographs to be included in the Northern Montana Care Center (NMCC) Celebrity Quilt.
Some of the nationally known celebrities that have returned their signature are: Bob Hope, George Jones, Al Gore, Sally Field, James Earl Jones, James Caan, Bill Shoemaker, and Rosie O'Donnell.
Also on the list of celebrities is: Hulk Hogan, John Travolta, Pat Sajack, Jane Fonda, Tim McGraw, Charlton Heston, Hugh Downs, Angelica Huston, Amy Grant, Alex Trebek, Jerry Lewis, Reba McEntire, Regis Philbin, Bob Barker, Gerald Ford, Arnold Palmer, and Paul Harvey, and the ever popular Gov. Jesse Ventura.
The idea for the quilt came to the council back in January when they were discussing projects for the residents.
"We just got the buggy idea in our head that we'd like to make a quilt," Lynnes said. "And we thought that this would give an opportunity for the residents that would like to do this to work with it."
The residents drew up a list of 100 celebrities they would most like hear from and arranged to send out a six by eight inch swatch of fabric with a letter asking them to sign and return the block.
"We were just surprised at the number they got back," said Ila McClenahan, activity director at the Care Center. "we were hoping for maybe 25 we thought if 25 come back we would be absolutely thrilled."
Some of the celebrities contacted declined, for one reason or another, to give their autograph, McClenahan said.
Billy Graham, for example, had to decline due to the debilitating effects of Parkinson's Disease. Graham did, however, send a very nice letter explaining why he had to decline and wishing the residents the best of luck with the project.
One of the favorite signatures belongs to local celebrity artist Don Greytak.
McClenahan said after receiving the request sent to him, Greytak came to the care center with two samples of his drawings and asked which one they would like. He then returned the next day with the selected drawing on the block.
Other local celebrities to sign blocks were: Sen. Conrad Burns, Sen. Max Baucus, Rep. Rick Hill, Rep. Antoinette (Toni) Hagener, former Gov. Stan Stephens, Gov. Marc Racicot, Lt. Gov. Judy Martz, David Henry, Lori Henderson, the Rev. Walt Kirkegaard, Mike Tilleman, former Governor Tim Babcock, Ken Overcast, Loree Payne, Ginnie Streeper, and Havre Mayor Phyllis Leonard.
McClenahan tells a story of how one of the residents commented one day that she didn't think anybody cared about the residents at NMCC.
McClenahan said she then started to read the names of Reba McEntire, Charlton Heston, Gerald Ford, and others who had responded to the quilt request and at the end the lady said, "people really do care about us."
"These are pretty famous people and yet they took the time to share with us," McClenahan said. "That's exciting and it means a lot to the people here."
The completed quilt will have its first public showing May 13 at the annual Community Health and Safety Fair. The residents also plan on showing the quilt at the Great Northern Fair in August and, hopefully, at the State Fair in Great Falls, also in August.
McClenahan said they will also enter the quilt in the Montana Health Care Association competition, where it will compete against other projects and activities.
It's too early to know what will ultimately be done with the quilt, but making a display of the quilt at NMCC is one possibility.