The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Top selling wreath holds special significance


December 27, 2017

For nearly two decades, the Whitehall Saddle Club Wreath Auction has shown the true giving nature of the local community with money raised going to the local food pantry and area nonprofit organizations.

This was once again the case in 2017 at the event that takes place at the Whitehall Christmas Stroll. The highest selling wreath at the auction was also of extreme importance to buyer Francine Giono-Janik.

The $320 made from the wreath made by local resident Susan Mercer will be donated to the Mason Moore Foundation. The foundation was established in 2017 in honor of Moore, a Broadwater County Sheriff's Deputy who was killed in the line of duty in May. The foundation exists to show love and support of law enforcement agencies in Montana, and will promote and educate the public, state and local leaders about ways in which they can support law enforcement.

Purchasing the wreath was very personal for Giono-Janik who was shot in the line of duty April 4, 1992, while serving as a trooper for the Montana Highway Patrol.

Giono-Janik said she bid on several wreaths at the event, but really wanted the one for the Mason Moore Foundation, and was thankful Rocky Mountain Bank allowed the wreath to go up for resale so she was able to make the purchase.

"Although I had only met Mason once, he was a fellow officer. He was killed not far from where David DeLaittre was killed. David's father worked with me on the Montana Highway Patrol and when I finally made it home out of the hospital, David who was five years old, brought me a teddy bear as a gift," Giono-Janik told the Ledger.

Bridget Morse of the Whitehall Saddle Club said Giono-Janik really felt strongly that the wreath was destined to be hers.

"And that the proceeds were going to the Mason Moore Foundation, a fallen police officer, and that the wreath was made by an area officers wife, and the fact that the bank outbid her the first time and then put it back in for resale (a common feature at the wreath Auction to raise more money for some funds) allowing her to purchase it added to the emotions," Morse said.

Looking back at the shooting, Gino-Janik said it happened after she pulled over a man for having no license plates.

"As I exited my patrol car he shot me. I returned fire and killed the suspect. It was later determined he had murdered two men in Nevada," she said.

Because of gun shot injuries to her left shoulder and right leg, she retired in 1995, the same day her brother Greg Giono retired due to injuries he received as a MHP Trooper in a crash while trying to stop a drunk driver.

Giono-Janik said the wreath is very special because it will go to a great foundation that supports the families of the law enforcement officers that have given the ultimate sacrifice. She will hang the wreath year round to show support for all law enforcement and praised Mercer for her work creating it.

Mercer said she choose the Mason Moore Foundation because it is a cause near and dear to my heart.

"I've recently come to know Mason Moore's widow Jodi and want to help her promote the foundation in any way I am able," she said. " As of now the funds for the wreath will not have a specific purpose. The foundation members are currently fundraising to build up funds in the account. In the future, The Foundation will provide grants to local law enforcement agencies to provide for programs or special equipment that may not be available through the standard governmental funding process."


Bridget Morse of the Whitehall Saddle Club said the total for the wreaths in 2017 was $3,560, there was an outright donation of $300, and the voting for the wreaths brought in a total of $4,227 for area nonprofits.

"So all of this was donated. The wreath makers donate their time and talents to make wreaths. The buyers get to display these wreaths at their business or homes and enjoy the holiday spirit," Morse said.

She also wanted local residents to know that first and foremost, the auction is a fundraiser for the Whitehall Area Food Pantry with 100 percent of the voting money going to them, adding any funds from wreaths that were earmarked for the pantry will also go to them.

Courtesy Photo

Pictured is the wreath made by Susan Mercer.

She said the pantry got a check for $547 to purchase fresh foods and milk, along with canned foods that were converted into votes which filled the back of a pickup.

Morse said well over $1,500 was donated to fight area hunger.

"The Saddle Club just acts as a facilitator for everyone to join in the holiday spirit of giving and highlight area needs. And any money the WSC receives goes into paying for the costs associated with putting on the auction and then into improvements, insurance, and events. I spend the days following the wreath auction balancing out the cash, making deposits, writhing checks, making out Christmas cards to go with the checks, thank you cards for the wreath makers that donated to the WSC, and getting the spread sheet to the Whitehall Ledger for a thank you ad," she said.


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