Chuck and Gerry Jennings are 2019 Paris Gibson Award winners

Chuck and Gerry Jennings are the 2019 Paris Gibson Award winners.

The community activists were selected by members of the Paris Gibson Month Celebration Committee for their significant impact to the City, leadership for the community through volunteerism and actions for the betterment of the community exemplified by Paris Gibson, the founder of Great Falls, according to a release from Great Falls Park and Recreation.

The following is from a Great Falls Park and Recreation press release:

Jennings Photo 2

Gerry and Chuck Jennings. Photo courtesy Great Falls Park and Recreation.

The couple moved to Great Falls in the early 1970’s where Chuck joined a medical practice, and Gerry set aside teaching nursing to raise their four young children.

Great Falls couple sells 262 acres to Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to expand public lands

Moving into the Fox Farm neighborhood, Gerry noted that the city was struggling with how to develop three areas that were dedicated park land, but were just grassy lots.

With Chuck’s support, Gerry formed a plan, went door to door for donations and raised $10,000. That money was spent on trees, playground equipment and fitness trails at Grande Vista, Meadowlark and Montana parks.

As a parent, Gerry had been frustrated by the lack of Advanced Placement classes in Great Fall schools. In 1985, working with then Superintendent Jerry Weast, she assembled a group of 40 people and under her leadership, they put together a “College Bound” booklet, got updated college catalogues, started the “Visions” newsletter for parents, and instituted twice yearly college bound workshops.

Gerry still helps with the twice-yearly “Visions” newsletter and convinced the district to start AP classes.

Chuck and Gerry have a soft spot for United Way. Gerry spent eight years on the board, including as president. In the 1990’s, there was a series of community goal-setting sessions called Vision 2000. Gerry chaired the environmental protection committee.  Chuck chaired the trails committee. They became founders and funders for the River’s Edge Trail. Gerry does grant finding and writing.  Chuck is currently secretary of the Trail Foundation.  Longtime trail supporter and worker, the late Doug Wicks said, “Chuck and Gerry are such good ambassadors for River’s Edge Trail. They use it a lot.”

In 1992, a meeting was held in Great Falls to introduce people to the Montana Wilderness Association. Gerry was among the 30 in attendance. She helped form a chapter here that soon had more than 100 members. She was past president of the local chapter as well as the MWA. She and Chuck both remain active in the organization. They are also founding members and donors of Friends of the Little Belts, a group devoted to promoting one of our closest mountain ranges, and they are active Silver Crest Trails Association members doing grant writing, volunteering, trail clearing and donating. Chuck is current president. They are volunteers with Get Fit Great Falls established to get youth outdoors.

Progressive movement is organizing in Great Falls

Eight years ago, Gerry was among the original trustees of the newly founded Great Falls Public Schools Foundation. Gerry remains active on the foundation board and both she and Chuck are active supporters of public education. She is currently serving on the Great Falls College-MSU Development Board.

They both worked with the Special Olympics state competition in Great Falls this spring.  Chuck chaired the track events. Gerry chaired the bicycle events.

They are both active members of their church, Eagle Mount, Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art and Great Falls Rising. Gerry served on the Great Falls Symphony Guild and Symphony Board for many years, including a term as president. Chuck has been involved with Boy Scouts for many years, first as a scout leader with his own sons, then volunteering as needed with the next generation. They have helped their son and other owners turn eyesore buildings downtown into a boutique hotel, Hotel Arvon, and Celtic Cowboy.

Through the years Chuck and Gerry have made numerous medical relief trips to areas in dire need of care.  They have served communities in Malawi, Uganda and the Honduras. In those places, as Chuck practices medicine, Gerry puts her nursing skills to work in assisting him.

As winners of the 10th annual Paris Gibson Award, the Jennings will receive a $500 check provided by Jimmy and Debbie Filipowicz of Steele, Etc., for the charity of their choice; a plaque, donated by Greg Hall of Access Fitness; and a tree, donated by Steve Tilleraas of Tilleraas Landscape Nursery with a granite marker, donated by Montana Granite, to be planted in West Bank Park.

They will ride in the July 4th Parade in a 1918 Model T Ford, owned by Kurt Baltrusch, of the Skunk Wagon Club. They will receive their check and plaque at the Great Falls Municipal Band Concert on July 3 at 7 p.m. at the Mansfield Convention Center.  During the presentation, a moment of silence will be observed for Doug Wicks, first Paris Gibson Award winner and longtime River’s Edge Trail worker, who died in August, 2018.

Previous Paris Gibson Award winners include: Doug Wicks, 2010; Norma Ashby, 2011; Greg Hall, 2012; Ian and Nancy Davidson, 2013; Gene Thayer, 2014; Bill and Joan-Nell Macfadden, 2015; Arlyne Reichert, 2016; Sheila Rice, 2017; and Brad Talcott and Linda Caricaburu, 2018.

For further information contact: Norma Ashby Smith, 453-7078,