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Huckleberry huckleberries

Eight glowing huckleberry candles to Har Shalom for once again welcoming the public to its lighting ceremony this Hanukkah, and to unity-minded people like Josh Elmer, who attended the first night’s ceremony in order to express solidarity with the local Jewish community.

"I feel like, especially with some of the things that have been happening recently, we could all do with having a better feeling of unity between us," Elmer was quoted saying in a Missoulian news story published Monday.

Har Shalom began holding the public ceremony in 2014, inviting folks of every faith to attend the lighting of its 9-foot-tall menorah made especially for its congregation by Missoula College welding students. This year, the eight days of Hanukkah began last Sunday at sundown and will end Monday evening.

Heartfelt chokecherry condolences to the family, friends and classmates of a Missoula kindergartener who died last weekend of influenza and pneumonia. Allison Eaglespeaker, who attended Russell Elementary School, was only 6 when she became Montana’s first flu-related death of the season. To help her family with funeral expenses, visit the GoFundMe account set up on behalf of Allison’s mother, Crystal White Shield. To get a flu vaccine, visit the Missoula City-Council Health Department at 301 W. Alder St. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or call the vaccination clinic at 258-4745 for more information.

Housewarming huckleberries to Missoula’s YWCA, city councilors and Sussex School board for supporting plans to build a much-needed shelter for homeless families and domestic violence survivors. During its regular meeting Monday evening, City Council members unanimously approved the YWCA’s proposal to build a facility to house up to 31 families with dependent children, as well as 13 sleeping rooms to provide a warm, safe place for families escaping domestic violence, and overflow space that can welcome up to eight more families. The new facility will be near Sussex School, which earlier provided a letter of support for the project with some specific requests, such as screening residents for drugs and violent criminal histories.

Sliced chokecherries to the proposed cuts at Montana Tech in Butte. Billed as “Montana’s premier STEM university” — for science, technology, engineering and math — the learning institution affiliated with the University of Montana has experienced declining enrollment even as its faculty has grown in number. Montana Tech currently has a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:8 and hopes to get closer to 16:1 by cutting four programs, 13-and-a-half faculty positions and at least 10 staff positions. The programs that will be cut include health care informatics, professional and technical communication, data science and statistics, and general studies at Highlands College.

A string of huckleberries to the Downtown Missoula Partnership for organizing the 16th annual Parade of Lights this past weekend, and to all the participants who put together 32 floats to feature in the parade, all the sponsors who offered an array of family friendly activities — and of course, to Santa, who showed up for photos in the Florence Building. As in years past, the festivities concluded with a tree-lighting and caroling at the XXXXs on North Higgins.

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