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Having flown to Normandy, France, for the 75th anniversary of D-Day this summer, Miss Montana has taken off on another international mission. The vintage World War II aircraft left Montana this weekend loaded with volunteers, diapers and other donations for Hurricane Dorian's victims.

The relief flight to the Bahamas took off with support from the Museum of Mountain Flying in Missoula, where the recently restored 1944 Douglas C-47 aircraft is based. Board members for the nonprofit museum contacted a charitable organization in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and asked how they could help.

The plan is for Miss Montana to haul thousands of hot meals twice daily between Fort Lauderdale and Grand Bahama, one of the islands hardest hit by Dorian during Labor Day weekend. The Montana airplane reportedly was making its first 200-mile round trip flight to Grand Bahama airport on Monday morning.

In addition to its pilots, Miss Montana carried several other Missoula volunteers who plan to assist as they can with hurricane relief efforts. Missoula residents provided some donations that were loaded aboard the airplane, which then flew to Billings where it picked up a load of diapers provided by the Billings Food Bank.

The Billings stop was arranged through the Yellowstone County Museum, which hosted Miss Montana a week earlier as part of the Billings museum's 65th anniversary celebration. Sheryle Shandy, Food Bank executive director, said that Charlie Yegen, a musuem board member, contacted her about helping. Billings Food Bank also is prepared to supply diapers and wipes requested to a second Montana plane that may be heading to Fort Lauderdale.

Kudos to the pilots and other volunteers who stepped up to show that Montanans can and will assist the Hurricane Dorian victims. The volunteers reportedly are prepared to stay for weeks shuttling meals to needy folks on the decimated island.

Those of us back in Montana can help, too. The Billings Food Bank is collecting donations to fill a truck for Fort Lauderdale, Shandy said. The truck will be able to carry more cargo at a lower cost from Montana to Florida than the airplanes can.

Items needed for the hurricane relief truck include:

personal hygiene items

paper products

new or clean bedding and towels

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new casual, comfortable clothing suitable for the Bahamas' warm climate

sleeping bags in good condition

new socks and underwear

flashlights and batteries

adult and baby diapers

baby formula

nonperishable food, including cereal, single-serving snacks, one-can meals and No. 10 large canned foods for large group meal preparation.

The Food Bank also needs volunteers to sort and pack the donations. To volunteer or get more information, call 259-2856.

The Food Bank is open to receive donations from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 2112 Fourth Ave. N.

Another way to help hurricane victims is donating to the American Red Cross. Donations may be made online at https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-dorian-donations.html/.

Readers are encouraged to give what they can to aid homeless Bahama residents who now have nothing. Thanks to the Montana aviators, museums and their sponsors for showing us how to help.

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The Billings Gazette

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