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New center plans to support Montana’s deaf community

Hollis Fudge, along with two of his children, is deaf and he and his wife, Amanda, feel it is important for them to have a good community to be involved in.

“I want to encourage the hearing community to be involved and take advantage of deaf perspective,” Amanda said.

Hollis said they love Great Falls and brainstormed ways to connect and grow.

He is now on the board of directors for Conservatory ASL Northwest, also known as CAN, which will be a launchpad for ideas in the ASL (American Sign Language) community.

CAN’s goal is to connect, cultivate, and empower deaf and hearing signers of all ages by facilitating both knowledge sharing and social interactions in ASL.

Fudge added that learning ASL can benefit everyone.

“It is for everybody and it includes everyone. Deaf children, parents of deaf children, it gives people a different approach to language,” Fudge said.

The center will be housed in Five Loaves Coffeehouse’s main location at 4117 2nd Ave North.

CAN is working with World Deaf Architecture President Robert Nichols and the remodel will start in about a month.

“Many people in our community have lots of ideas and skills. I know one deaf person who is an awesome mechanic, and we have plumbers, and IT people so all sorts of various skills. They would be offering their skills. We will set this up and they will be involved and can use this place to connect to their skills,” Fudge said.

CAN will host cultural classes, adult education, kid’s activities, and more.

They will even have sign language and interpreting classes for the hearing community.

Fudge said one project he is working on is preserving the history of the deaf community.

“I want to film deaf people around Montana and record their history. There are many people who have such cool stories. I want to gather those,” Fudge said.

The records will be housed in a media room. Residents will also be able to rent the facility for small events.

The location will continue to sell coffee, but won’t be open until late summer. The group hopes to open CAN by the fall of 2019.

“The hearing community and the deaf community can both benefit from each other. They both have a lot to offer,” Fudge said.

Margaret DeMarco

Margaret DeMarco

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