Project Sweatshirt hits the county

Mikaela Koski
Thursday, December 27, 2018

SCN photos by Mikaela Koski
Several Columbus first graders show off their new sweatshirts. The shirts came to the students in red Santa bags such as those pictured to the right.

SCN photo by Mikaela Koski

The sweatshirts came in festive Santa-sacks.

Christmas came early to schools across Stillwater County.

Montana Rail Link (MRL) put Project Sweatshirt into motion last week, bringing more than 50 red Santa bags into the Columbus, Park City, and Reed Point schools full of surprises for the students.

Thursday, MRL donated more than 800 sweatshirts to the Columbus community alone.

In the afternoon, Columbus Elementary School students filled the middle school gym. The kids got to play a game of “Safe or Out?” with MRL staff to review railroad safety. As the children decided whether or not each scenario was safe, almost 40 red bags bearing Santa’s face were brought into the room.

Each bag corresponded to a teacher, and thanks to coordination between MRL and the school, each student was given a sweatshirt that was the correct size. The bags contained shirts for the district’s 750 students, as well as the staff, according to Columbus Superintendent Jeff Bermes.

MRL also donated 60 sweatshirts to Stillwater County. County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Carol Arkell said the sweatshirts were dispersed to county employees and to Columbus Fire Rescue members.

Project Sweatshirt also visited students in Reed Point on Thursday and kids in Park City on Friday. The sweatshirts feature the school’s colors and mascot.


In a press release, MRL said this year Project Sweatshirt will distribute almost 4,000 sweatshirts to 13 Montana schools located along the rail route.

Project Sweatshirt is sponsored by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. This is the project’s fifth year, and including this year, MRL has given out more than 12,000 sweatshirts.

In the release, MRL Vice President of Operations Stacy Posey explained, “This idea came from our employees who were asked how they would like to partner with the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to give back to the communities in which they live and work. The past four year’s sweatshirt programs were a huge hit with kids and teachers across the state.”

He added, “We pride ourselves on being a good community partner and neighbor and are proud of our employees and their involvement in the communities in which we operate.”

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation “strives to better the human condition by supporting programs and services that give people the tools to enhance the quality of their lives and to benefit society as a whole,” according to the press release.

It goes on to note: “Funding for the foundation comes from personal contributions from the Washington family and annual contributions from The Washington Companies. Since its inception in 1988, foundation giving and the Washington family’s personal contributions and pledges to charitable causes total more than a quarter of a billion dollars.”

MRL, created in 1987 and based in Missoula, operates more than 900 miles of track in Montana and Idaho. The company employs almost 1,200 people.


During the Columbus assembly, a $20,000 check was given to the Granite Peak Playground committee.

MRL’s Chief Sales and Marketing and Information Officer Jim Lewis presented the check to the group and explained the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation promised to donate $20,000 if the playground committee was able to raise $100,000 toward its goal.

The group has raised more than $100,000 this far, so the foundation was able to make its donation.

The playground is set to include a railroad-themed section.