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Community Closet Supports ASPEN Media Literacy Project

When you shop at and donate items to Community Closet stores, proceeds are re-invested in the community through grants to community charities and projects throughout the year. The Community Closet board and staff are inspired by the many powerful projects our business model supports. ASPEN, the Abuse Support and Prevention Education Network, receives quarterly support, is an annual donation jar recipient, and most recently was awarded a special project grant.

The Community Closet grant was for Aspen’s two-day Media Literacy training with the CEO of the Center of Media Literacy, Tessa Jolls, this July 15 and 16. Media Literacy is a 21st century approach to education that provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and participate with messages in a variety of forms; from print to video to the internet. Media Literacy builds an understanding of media’s role in society and the essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens in a democracy.

Why would ASPEN - whose non-profit mission is to provide support services to victims of domestic and sexual violence and provide violence prevention education and awareness to our communities - focus on Media Literacy? ASPEN has observed the growing impact media messages are having on individuals’ health and well-being. Every day, we are all bombarded with news, advertisements, email and text messages from friends and colleagues, and ceaseless social media feeds. Historically, this flood of information is at an all-time high and is more accessible and increasingly targeted to younger and younger audiences. Because the internet, social media outlets, and do-it-all smartphones are relatively new; education and training about how to analyze and evaluate the media we ingest are lagging behind. Aspen Executive Director Heidi Barrett, says, “At ASPEN the health and well-being of people of all ages is of utmost importance to us. Media of all types affects our lives on a daily basis.”

As most know, Park County, Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. There are many reasons for this including our rural nature and lack of mental health services, income disparities, climate, and high elevations have been linked to suicide increase. The independent outlook of many people who chose Park County as their home is often a barrier to seeking help when they are depressed or suicidal. In support of their mission, one of ASPEN’s goals is to help community members become more media literate and better able to process and assess the many messages they receive daily. Often social media posts, sometimes taken out of context or proportion, cause great distress for youth and even adults, and have been linked to suicide.

The July training at ASPEN was impactful and will have a ripple effect in the community. By bringing the expert in the field to Livingston to teach the two-day course, ASPEN was able to raise Media Literacy knowledge for members of the Livingston School District, including Superintendent of Schools Don Viegut and Curriculum Director Todd Wester, the ASPEN staff, and members of the healthcare community. ASPEN’s Education & Outreach Coordinator, Jenny Jo Allen, will bring what was learned into area classrooms and add a media literacy section to the violence prevention and healthy relationship lessons in the schools. Barrett says, “At ASPEN we believe in building strong, resilient communities, where people of all walks of life feel safe and productive. Better navigating all the media and messages presented to us daily can empower community members to act in their own self-interest and to identify unreliable and untrue news or ads when they encounter them.”

If you are interested in learning more or hosting a presentation regarding Media Literacy, contact ASPEN at 406-222-5902.

Community Closet has given over $460,000 in community grants since 2005 and our next grant deadlines are September 30 and December 30, learn more at

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