Dragon Hollow Playground Rebuild - Featured

SAVING THE DRAGON: Missoula’s Dragon Hollow Playground Rebuild

Dragon Hollow Playground Rebuild

Seventeen years ago, 4,000 volunteers came together and in nine days made a dragon come to life. The architects were school children, and I have been told they had some very imaginative ideas including installing a spit bucket that could be used to keep the slide lubricated. Although all ingenious ideas could not be incorporated, a playground took form and it became a treasured icon in Downtown Missoula.

An army of volunteers was again raised, but this time it was to “Save the Dragon,” because in the words of my three-year-old daughter, the children played so much they wore the playground out.

Super PowerHow it all started:

The project began when the original architects recommended an extensive refurbishment of the entire play area.

As we began to fundraise, it became clear that not only did we need to renovate the original structure, but we also needed to make sure that all children, including those with disabilities, could enjoy this play area. It was simply the right thing to do. With an amazing committee leading the charge we tackled this project and the Missoula community responded, much the way they did 17-years ago, with their full support.

Daughter Swinging Bob and Maeve

To refurbish the existing structure wood was replaced with low maintenance recycled structural plastic, many of the components were replaced including new slides, ladders, tunnels, and any remaining wood was painted and stained.

Dragon Hollow Kids

Along with these renovations to the current structure all inclusive features are being added including:

  • A rubberized pathway throughout the park to allow access by wheelchairs to existing play features
  • New inclusive elements such as a cozy cocoon where children with autism (and others) can retreat from the crowd
  • A large, cable jungle gym that spins
  • A merry-go-round that can accommodate two wheelchairs and a net swing to provide extra support
  • A slide where two can ride side-by-side, accessed by a climbing slope rather than steps
  • A swing designed so two can ride face-to-face
  • Activity panels and musical instruments.

On Thursday, late in the afternoon, a crew of volunteers from our Missoula bank joined in the efforts digging post holes, deconstructing portions of the old structure, building new steps and a lucky few were assigned the task of recreating art from the build 17 years ago. All-in-all nearly 1,500 volunteers are helping with the efforts, many in the pouring rain, and the dragon will be saved for children of future generations to enjoy.

Stockman Volunteer Stockman Volunteer Stockman Volunteer

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VA Loan Application

VA Loans and More: Helping Veterans Pick the Right Home Loan

Becky Pederson - Missoula

Becky Pederson
Mortgage Loan Officer in Missoula
NMLS #1115389

What do you think about when you hear VA (Veterans Administration) loan? For me, it’s a way to help out fellow Veterans.

I feel greatly humbled to be in a position where I’m able to help veterans, like myself, achieve the goal of homeownership. Whenever I’m helping a fellow veteran, I like to let them know about all the home financing options available for them to consider. They’re often surprised to learn there are more resources and options available for Veterans wanting to buy a home than just a VA loan.

Benefits of VA Loan Programs

The benefit of VA loan programs is they don’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance.

The funding fee associated with VA loans is dependent on whether a Veteran receives monthly disability from the VA, and if so, the interest rate on your loan program may be even lower. But wait! There are more home financing options available!

Montana Housing offers several wonderful programs to help out first time home buyers.

The Montana Veterans’ Home loan Program offers a low rate home loan program for Veterans in addition to the down payment assistance programs they offer.  https://housing.mt.gov/HBVHLP

One of my favorite grants available for Veterans to use is the Dream Makers Grant. The grant provides a 2:1 match of your savings. This means if you save up to $2,500, the grant will match it with $5,000. You could have a total of $7,500 to use as a down payment for a new home! https://penfedfoundation.org/apply-for-assistance/dream-makers/

There are several more programs available for Veterans, but there is no need to feel overwhelmed when buying a new home or refinancing. Stockman Bank has a team of home lending officers ready to simplify the process, and make home buying or refinancing less stressful and more rewarding.

VA Loan Application

Now that you have an idea of what is out there, here are a couple helpful tips about VA loans:

1) When applying for a VA loan, you’re going to need your DD214, member copy 4.

I always thought that I would never lose my DD214, but I did. So, if you don’t have it, you will have to request one from the VA. This can take up to 4 weeks depending on where you have to get it.  https://www.va.gov/records/get-military-service-records/

2) Find out if you are eligible for a VA loan. Work with someone who understands the ins and outs of the VA home loan process. There are certain things you will need to know before you begin shopping for a home.

I strongly believe being a homeowner improves the quality of life for anyone. Being a homeowner improves your overall financial well-being, and provides a sense of belonging and structure. Your home is a place where you can make it your own.

If you are looking to buy or refinance a home, contact us to help you get started on the road to home ownership today!

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Front porch of house with flowers

Curb Appeal – A First Step When Selling Your Home

This is the time of year when the housing market heats up just like the weather. If you are selling your home, one of the best ways to attract buyers is to draw people in when they first arrive. This is known as curb appeal.

Our lenders offer some great tips on ways to attract interest in your home. After all, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression!


Everette Cornwell

Everette Cornwell
Real Estate Loan Officer, Great Falls
NMLS ID# 794613

A few tips from Everette.

Add a Fresh Coat of Paint

Depending on your budget, painting the exterior of your home can give you a lot of bang for your buck. If your home has old wood siding, it regularly needs the protection of a new coat of paint. If your home was built before 1978, when lead paint was banned for residential use, you may want test your home’s exterior for lead paint. Regular maintenance can extend the life of your home’s paint, such as washing the exterior of your home using a mix of water and phosphate-free cleanser, caulking joints, and touching up blisters or peels before they spread.

Covered porch with stairs

Update your Walkway

Broken, cracked, or uneven concrete sidewalks are not an uncommon sight for homes built 30-50 years ago. Troublesome tree roots can disturb and buckle walkways, as well as encroach on your plumbing and irrigation. Some people opt to replace their concrete walkways with products like interlocking pavers since these can be reinstalled without showing signs of disruption. Maintain your current concrete walkway by pressure washing and removing any weeds or grasses that have grown in between the cracks.


Monica Waters

Monica Waters
Real Estate Loan Officer, Sidney
NMLS# 181589

A few tips from Monica.

Add Symmetry

Add symmetrical structures around your home, such as light fixtures along your walkway, or potted plants on either side of your entryway or garage. Symmetry is not only pleasing to the eye, it’s a quick and easy way to boost curb appeal for your home.

Front door symmetry

Makeover your Mailbox

Is your mailbox in need of being repaired or replaced? Make sure your mailbox is visible and the door to your mailbox closes all the way so mail does not fly away.  From a design perspective, your mailbox should complement your home’s exterior. If your mailbox is located near the front of your property, dress it up by painting the post and surrounding it with colorful flowers.


Kristen McLaughlin
Kristen McLaughlin
Real Estate Loan Officer, Helena
NMLS #1746704

A few tips from Kristen.

Emphasize the Entryway

The front door should be the focal point of your home’s exterior. You can draw attention to your entryway, and make it feel more inviting, by painting your front door a rich color, updating door hardware (such as adding a keyless entry lock), adding a new knocker or updating the light fixture outside your home. If you have a front porch, make sure it’s freshly painted, repaired, clean and nicely furnished. You can also add a welcome mat if you don’t already have one. Another important feature to pay attention to is to make sure the house numbers of your address are visible, not covered by trees or shrubs, and well-it at night. This will help visitors and potential buyers to easily find your home.

Front porch of house with flowers

Replace your Gutters

Gutters are an important feature of your home since they direct water away from your home’s exterior.

Keep an eye out for warning signs that your gutter system needs to be cleaned, repaired or replaced. Repair any cracks or splits in your gutter system because water will not only damage the gutters further, but it can also damage the fascia boards behind the gutters, the shingles above the gutters, and the foundation below. Cleaning your gutters a few times a year will enhance the longevity of your system.

A home’s exterior deserves just as much time and attention to detail as the interior does. Improving and maintaining the look of your home can increase the value of your home and improve the chance of quickly selling your home. From fresh paint to adding colorful plants, these tips for updating the exterior of your home can be accomplished by just about any homeowner, with little stress on your budget if you do most of the work yourself.

Happy spring! Happy home selling!

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Graduation 2019 - Featured

May Is Graduation Month in Marketing

The month of May is a time to celebrate: beginning of spring, the end of the school year, and of course graduation. The Stockman Marketing Department realized that collectively, we have five graduates this month, including one of our own. From preschool to college and stops in between, there is so much to celebrate. We wish all graduates across the state a bright future.

Peggy & Tanna – College

We begin with Tanna, the Digital Media Coordinator who graduated as a non-traditional student from MSU-Billings on May 4th. Her proud mom, Peggy, wrote a few words and all of us couldn’t be happier for this wonderful, young woman we work with every day!

My heart is full of pride for my daughter, Tanna, who just graduated from MSU-Billings on May 4th. Tanna chose to be a non-traditional student. She began her full-time banking career at the age of 18 as a teller. She has worked hard to reach goals, advancing her career steadily, while completing online courses and taking night classes after a full day of work. She has sacrificed weekends and evenings to not only pass her classes but to excel in them. Every bump in her pathway she hit head on without slowing down.

In addition to work and school, Tanna has also volunteered for community service, including being a CASA representative. Tanna’s journey to graduation has taken her a bit longer than a conventional full-time student, but I’m proud to say that she is graduating debt free and on a strong career path!

Tanna and her Mom

Julia & Siobhan – College

Julia, our Digital Media Manager, is thrilled to have her youngest graduating from college. Life without a college student will be an exciting new chapter in her life with hopes of travel on the horizon.

Our daughter, Siobhan, is graduating from Pacific Lutheran University. She has embraced these past four years with gusto! She participated on the PLU crew as a four year varsity rower and will be attending the NCAA Rowing Championship in June. Travel has been an important part of Siobhan’s college experience which has included studying in six countries. When she walks across the stage as a Magna Cum Laude graduate at the end of this month, my husband and I will undoubtedly be the proudest parents in the arena.

Siobhan Outside Siobhan's Crew

Cindy & Maggie – High School

Cindy, Director of Marketing, will be celebrating high school graduation along with all the festivities like the all night grad party, summer orientation, and packing for the dorms.

My daughter, Maggie, is graduating from Billings Central Catholic High School. She is getting ready to move on to Boise State University, made possible by an academic scholarship she worked very hard to achieve. I am so proud of her and so excited for her. She’ll experience so many new things, from a new city, to new friends and new adventures. It will also be new for her Dad and me since Maggie is our youngest child. 

All of a sudden, our life and home will be much quieter. Maggie is ready for all of it and can’t wait to start this new chapter of her life. As for her Dad and me? Well, we can’t quite believe we are at this place in our lives, but I’m sure we will figure it out!

Maggie Lyle Maggie Lyle

Emily & Claire – Kindergarten

Emily, Marketing Officer for the eastern banks, is excited to see her darling daughter graduate from Kindergarten, who will be off to first grade sooner than you can believe.

My daughter, Claire, is graduating from Kindergarten. I am a very proud Momma of my brave little girl. This past school year has consisted of many “firsts” for us. From the very first day of school to her first big test, first time to check out a library book, first field trip, first Christmas program, first “spring break”, and now Kindergarten graduation just around the corner, I couldn’t be happier for her and what she has accomplished this year.

Kindergarten graduation may seem a little silly to some people, but I really think it’s a neat milestone to recognize this accomplishment in these small children’s’ lives and show them how proud we are.

Claire - 1st day of Kindergarten Claire - T-Ball with Bat

Mindy & Isaiah – Preschool

Mindy, Marketing Officer for the western banks, will be experiencing her very first child’s graduation from preschool.

Our son, Isaiah, is graduating from preschool at Missoula Early Learning Center. He is beyond excited to start Kindergarten. We are fortunate – he has a passion for learning. He is an artist and can spend hours drawing and creating. He is interested in science, how the human body works and definitely does not want to travel anywhere that there is a volcano. He is looking forward to being old enough to own his first airplane and would like to be a pilot or maybe a fire fighter.

When you have a child, everyone tells you to treasure every moment because they grow so fast. I can’t believe Isaiah will soon be starting Kindergarten. We are so proud of the kind soul that he is becoming and hope that he continues to have a love of learning.

Isaiah - 1 Isaiah - 2

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Estate Planning

PLANNING AHEAD: An Estate Planning Blog Series

This is the first posting in a new blog series from Stockman Wealth Management (SWM) on estate planning, the process of planning for passing assets on to loved ones.

Why you should plan ahead

Estate planning has the connotation of being only for “high net worth individuals” or “one-percenters.” But even those of us with a modest amount of assets (such as a house, car, furniture, or boat, not just cash) can find use and even comfort in an estate plan.

David Morgenroth, CFP Missoula

David Morgenroth, CFP Missoula

It’s not rocket science

Developing a plan is not rocket science; in fact, it demands more emotional intelligence than grey matter. The steps toward planning for the future are fairly simple and straightforward in most cases, but taking action is often the problem.

Jennifer Hemphill, CFP Great Falls

Jennifer Hemphill, CFP Great Falls

An emotional factor

Ultimately, you have to confront your own demise when estate planning, and the unconscious urge to avoid thoughts of mortality is enough for many to put the whole thing off as long as possible. This is the emotional factor – in essence, you must plan for your passing while you are still alive. In large part because of this conundrum, more than half of all Americans who own property die without a will (see www.caregiverslibrary.org.).

Brenda Hittmeier, CFP Billings

Brenda Hittmeier, CFP Billings

Encourage and support

Financial planners, especially those with the CFP® (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™) designation, have the background to help with the emotional and organizational processes of planning. They can define and clarify the process and can make recommendations of qualified professionals (such as attorneys and accountants) for specific legal and tax concerns.  The CFP® professionals at SWM are well-versed in the estate planning process, and can encourage and support you in all stages of planning.

Hannah Santa Cruz, CFP Missoula

Hannah Santa Cruz, CFP Missoula

This series will continue over the next few months with discussions on a variety of estate planning issues, such as property ownership and rights, powers of appointment, trusts, beneficiaries and giving, executors and guardians, succession planning (for businesses, farms, ranches, etc.), probate and how to avoid it, and many more. There is a lot to cover!

If you have a specific topic in mind, please let us know and we’ll write about it. Also, we welcome questions and comments any time!

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