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Monday, January 18, 2010

Everyday MT Tow Hero

Round of applause goes to Ralph Hanser of Hanser's Automotive and Wrecker of Billings for saving some pretty plants while helping his community! Great job! Here's the story from the Billings Gazette:

Hundreds of plants from a semitrailer bound for Washington are ending up in Billings-area homes with the sales revenue going to help the needy.

On Jan. 4, the truck jackknifed and slid into the ditch near Big Timber. Hanser’s Automotive and Wrecker of Billings got the call to pull the truck out and tow it to Billings.

Owner Ralph Hanser had his employees move the plants inside during a bitter cold spell and water them while the insurance company completed its investigation. This morning two weeks after the accident, the insurer told Hanser to dump them in the landfill.

“Apparently, they were saying that because of the time that had elapsed,” he said. “Would you have wanted to take them to the landfill? They’re beautiful.”

So, Hanser offered to forgive his company’s bill of $3,000 to handle the cargo and got the insurance company’s per-mission to take possession of the plants and give them away.

Then he called the Montana Rescue Mission and offered to haul the plants to the MRM’s Bargain Center at 1233 24th St. W., so the nonprofit could sell them.

“Wouldn’t it be great if they could raise some money this way?” Hanser said.

Vern Turner, who manages the Bargain Center on 24th Street West, had his employees move furniture out in front of the store to make room for a steady stream of palms, scheffleras, ferns, dracaenas and yucca plants that originated in Florida.

One shopper, Margaret Converse, laughed as she watched the action.

“I feel like I’m in a forest,” Converse said, before grabbing a few plants for her home.

Plants also are being sold at the other two Bargain Centers at 1140 First Ave. N., and off of Wicks Lane and Main Street in Billings Heights.

“This will be a good time to help the ministry, when we’re struggling,” Turner said. “Actually, all the non-profits are struggling now.”

Coughing with bronchitis, Deanna Zerbe took a sick day Friday from teaching second grade at Lodge Grass Elemen-tary. She filled two grocery carts with 5-foot-tall ferns to decorate her classroom and use in science lessons.

“The students don’t have access to plants very much and we’re going to be studying plants,” Zerbe said.

The original cargo bound for a Home Depot in Washington was valued at $60,000, Hanser said.

MRM is selling the plants at 35 to 65 percent off that price which potentially could feed $39,000 to MRM.

When asked why MRM is selling at such a steep discount, Turner said MRM wanted to both help people and sell them quickly.

“We wanted to pass on the saving to our customers so they got blessed and we got blessed,” he said.

Contact Jan Falstad at or 657-1306

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