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Whitefish, Bigfork teens honored for book-club work

March 10, 2019

A Whitefish freshman and two Bigfork sisters recently received recognition on the floor of the United States Congress.

Faith Blackaby, a freshman at Whitefish High School, was recently awarded the Spirit of Montana commendation by Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte for her work in establishing an elementary school book club. The award also went out to Flathead High School students Julia and Jillian Wynne of Bigfork, who worked on book clubs while they were students at Stillwater Christian School.

After her sister Julia, a Flathead High junior, started a weekly book club for third- and fourth-graders, Jillian, a freshman, and Blackaby started their own book club for girls and designed and published calendars featuring photographs and stories about local veterans.

The proceeds from the calendars benefited the Northwest Montana Veterans Food Pantry.

Gianforte entered a statement congratulating the three girls into the Congressional Record on Jan. 25.

“Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor Faith Blackaby of Whitefish and Julia and Jillian Wynne of Bigfork, teenagers who encourage girls to read and whose work has benefited veterans and pet adoption centers in their communities,” he said. “Mike and Renee Wynne and Dean and Janet Blackaby have reason to be proud of their children. I thank the Wynnes, the Blackabys, and all in the community who support and encourage Julia, Jillian, and Faith in their service.”

The award is a weekly recognition of Montanans for their accomplishments, dedication or service, according to a release from Gianforte’s office.

Blackaby said the award was a surprise to all involved.

“I actually didn’t know I had gotten the award until a couple days later. I was reading an article and then it had my name in it, which was super surprising,” she said. “I know there’s so many people in Montana and most of them are doing great things and I’m just really glad to be considered within that group.”

Blackaby said the book club idea was borne out of her and Jillian’s love for reading.

“We were both really into books and still are, so we just figured we’d like it and it would benefit [the students], so we decided to mash it all together and have some fun,” she said. ”[We enjoyed] really just getting to talk to the younger students and seeing them so excited over books, it was really fun.”

Julia continues to be involved with an afterschool book club at Hedges Elementary School in Kalispell.

Blackaby said her older sister, Kelsey, got her excited over reading early on.

“My older sister definitely started it. She’s an English major and loves everything related to literature. So it kind of came from that and just her telling stories, and then I started reading and turns out it’s actually kind of nice,” she said with a laugh.

While she’s not currently managing the book club anymore, she said she’d love to work on a similar project in the future.

As much of a book-lover as she is, Blackaby said she’d love to work on a similar project in the future.

“This was actually my first book-club experience of any sort,” she said.