By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
First, Justine Murray launched a nonprofit. Then, she and her partner, Matt Connery, hiked and whitewater rafted 850 miles from the southern border of Idaho all the way to Priest Falls in the panhandle, raising more than $60,000 in donations, pledges and with a post-hike slideshow event.
Each of these steps were taken with Murray’s son, Ethan, in mind. Ethan, who struggled with addiction and mental illness, was shot and killed by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy in May 2019. It was an event that sent Justine Murray on the path she is now, running the Ethan Murray Fund, which aims to “offer financial support for mental health, homeless and addiction services in North Idaho.”
The nonprofit is now making good on that promise of financial support, as Murray, Connery and other Ethan Murray Fund board members Val Plaster and Judy Colegrove presented a check Jan. 25 for $20,000 to Bonner Homeless Transitions.
“I like everything they do,” Murray told the Reader. “They are very transparent with what they do, and I really appreciate that.”
This isn’t the first time Murray has found herself chipping in on BHT’s operations. For years now, her downtown Sandpoint business La Chic Boutique has been collecting socks for BHT’s clients.
“Not only do they get housing for people, and stability, but they also go beyond that and they help them get back into the community, back on their feet, with things like transportation, medical [help], parenting classes, nutrition classes,” Murray said.
BHT aims to give people a “hand up” rather than a “hand out,” according to board vice president Ann Gehring, by providing people with transitional housing and other resources meant to help them help themselves. When Murray came to her with the sizable donation, she said she was “flabbergasted.” Asked if there was anything she’d like the community to know about BHT’s operations at this time, Gehring emphasized that the group is actively housing families when they are most in need.
“We just want to shout from the mountaintops that we are helping children,” she said. “They have some stability in their life that maybe they didn’t have. It’s really, really a good thing for children.”
Murray handled introductions between her board and BHT members at the Jan. 25 check presentation, during which the BHT board and staff expressed their gratitude for the gift. Murray shared her thanks for their hard work supporting the local homeless.
“You guys were on our mind the whole hike through Idaho,” she said.
To learn more about BHT, go to bonnerhomelesstransitions.org. To learn more about the Ethan Murray Fund, visit ethanmurrayfund.org or follow the nonprofit on Instagram @ethanmurrayfund.
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