By Jared Ritz
Steve Flatau isn't sure how he began singing around the community, but he does remember the incident that started it all.
"It was right at the start of the Gulf War and everyone was real patriotic," Flatau, the senior minister at Havre's Assembly of God church, said.
Flatau was asked to sing "God Bless America" at a Havre High School basketball game. Those in attendance were visibly moved, some even to tears, Flatau said.
"I never dreamed the people would react the way they did," he said. "It was an awesome experience."
Since that day in 1991, Steve has sang at other basketball games, as well as a variety of other functions throughout the community, including holiday celebrations, and, by his count, more than 100 funerals.
It's a record of community service that Steve shares with other members of his family. His wife, Jan, and their daughters Carrie, 17, and Steph, 14 are routinely busy with community activities.
Steve's main contribution to the community, musical or otherwise, comes through his church. With the help of his wife and daughters, who all sing or play various instruments, Steve brings a tuneful presence to service every Sunday, as well as a leadership one.
Every Wednesday night, the church's old bus garage, which the parish recently transformed into a youth center, fills with 40 to 60 kids for youth group. With that many children attending, running it all can be a daunting task, one that members of the Flatau family share.
Carrie, a junior at Havre High, takes an active leadership role in the meetings, coordinating, practicing and playing in the Youth Worship Band, which includes Steph on drums.
The role of the band in these meetings is an important one, Steve said.
"They play around five or six songs," he said. "They lead them together in worship."
Along with the youth group, which serves middle and high school-aged children, the church runs an annual basketball camp, the second of which begins in June.
The camp sprang from the Flataus' feeling that Havre needed a camp based less on competition and more on basic skills. The camp is specifically designed for grade school children.
Along with the Flataus, three area coaches who attend the church regularly help out with the camp.
Jan coordinates the camp and each family member helps run it. Steve, who played basketball when he was younger, said having the camp focus on beginning skills is a crucial part of learning to love the sport.
"I really like to see others enjoying the game," Steve said. "Since they are so young, they have to learn what to do before they fall into some bad habits and get too competitive."
The Flataus said they plan to continue to do these and other activities in the community for a long time, and have no future plans to leave the city.
"We never thought our kids would be born and raised here," Jan said. "But we fell in love with the town. Our hearts are in Havre."