It’s kind of the theme this time of year, but I think I can just say that it is the new and ever present theme of my life these days (years!). I wanted to tell you a bit about my past week- much of which I spent in Pittsburgh meeting up with 8 other incredible refugee centered non-profit leaders- most with an organization about the same age as Soft Landing. Finally getting to meet these women in the newly formed Hello Neighbor Network whom I have been corresponding with for quite some time was magical- instant sisterhood doesn’t even begin to describe it. It feels amazing to see yourself in other people that you so quickly come to know and admire. It builds excitement and confidence for the great work we are doing here at Soft Landing and puts into clear view a vision of individuals living by the same dedication all across this country. It helps us look at these challenging political times and say, “Yeah, we got this. This is worth it. Keep going.” But do you know what feeling crept up on me the most? Gratitude. Gratitude for this incredible community that truly does so much of the heavy lifting- and always with a smile and open arms. Gratitude for my Molly (our amazing co-founder and Deputy Director) and Greta (also a co-founder and our Family Resource Manager) and Maria (our new superstar in the fundraising- and more!-department). Huge gratitude for the Soft Landing board and their steady vision of how to make this organization and the work we do focused, sustainable, and with a life bigger than all of us. I honestly don’t think I was homesick in the few days I was gone, but I certainly thought about home every second- with gratitude. Man I love you guys.

OK, enough of the mush! Who hasn’t ordered their Thanksgiving treats yet?!?! We have sold close to 2,000 individual treats to over 100 people- translating to almost $3,000 in economic benefit for the chefs- 100% of sales going directly into their pockets! Woohoo! But you know what… We are only half way! I am thinking we need to try and double that. Can you help us make it happen? Ordering is open until Saturday and if you haven’t ordered, there is still time. There is also still time to TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS!!! Have them go to and put an order in to spice up their holiday table.

Thanks for being on this delicious and worthwhile adventure with us 😉

In love and gratitude,


PS- If you haven’t seen this yet- we are so so happy for Kasse, Tosha, and the kiddos! They went through the rigorous process to be selected for one of Habitat for Humanities homes in 2020. Check out this great story here. Habitat is still on the search for the location (in Missoula) where this house will be built. If you have a spot, know a spot, have any leads and just have more questions, please reach out to

Newsletter 4/12/19


As I was stumbling out of the office today, in a rush to reunite with my kiddos at the end of a busy day, I couldn’t help but smile as I walked past room after room of refugee students hard at work studying with volunteer tutors (Shyla- Our AMAZING practicum student built this program that serves 15+ kiddos twice a week from SCRATCH! She is incredible!).  I had to dodge a few balls from the kiddos who were taking a break from studying to unwind with an impromptu game of “using a youth basketball to play soccer in tight indoor spaces while not trying to knock pictures off of the walls”.  My walk towards the back door then lead me by the father of the first refugee family who arrived to Missoula in August 2016, shepherding a brand new family that arrived just in the last couple weeks as they were looking through items (that had been so so generously donated by our community) for their new apartment.  By the time I high-fived another neighbor, smooched a kiddo good bye and got out the back door, I was no longer just smiling- I was grinning ear-to-ear, absolutely in awe of what we have created here.  

The last couple weeks, we have also been honored to have been a part of several wonderful events with incredible partners. Our timely lecture at UM (live streamedby MCAT) in partnership with Climate Smart Missoula and the JRPC looked at howclimate change is driving human migration.  Over the next 2 days, we saw this topic being covered by a few major news outlets, like here and here (Trendsetters, I know!). We had so much fun, and full bellies, at the Celebrate Islam Week Banquet put on by SALAM that we were so lucky to help sponsor this year. At this event, we got to meet an incredible woman, Asmaa Albukaie. Forced to flee after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of her husband, Asmaa and her two boys were the first Syrian refugees to arrive to Boise after the start of the Syrian civil war. There is so much I could say here about her amazing and inspiring talk, but our biggest take home were the photos she showed of her “American mom and dad” and her “American sisters” who got this single mother through the most trying times of resettling in a new home and truly became her family.  We looked around the room and saw the new mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers holding hands with many of Missoula’s refugee families and again, I KNEW this community was doing something amazing. A huge thanks goes out to the incredible Clem Work, Soft Landing board member, for finding and arranging both of these speakers- no small task!  We love you!

Lastly, you guys showed up in droves for our new food adventure, United We Eat @home this week! One email I received before the pick up time was even over said it best, “We (my 11-year old son and I) just picked up and ate our first United We Eat meals—best meal I’ve had in Missoula in years.  The boy loved it too!  Wow!  Our compliments to the chef.  That was outstanding and I can’t wait for the next one!”.  If you didn’t already get an email in your inbox today with the new menu- please sign up if you don’t want to miss out!

OK!  That’s it from me! I hope you all have lovely weekends and can take advantage of every sliver of sunshine thrown our way.

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole
ED Soft Landing Missoula

United We Eat

The first week of United We Eat @home was an amazing success! Sign up here if you haven’t already so you don’t miss your chance at an amazing and affordable meal cooked weekly by refugee and immigrant chefs!

We are also in need of volunteers in the kitchen for this new program!  Email if this sounds up your alley and you have availability Tuesdays and Wednesdays!


People, Partners, Programs

Lawrence & Argyle is an apparel company based out of Chicago that celebrates America’s immigrant heritage. They partner with non-profit organizations throughout the year and we are lucky enough to be chosen for this quarter!
If you purchase any of their apparel, 50% of the proceeds will go directly to Soft Landing Missoula through the end of June!  Take a peek around their store to support refugees and immigrants here under the big sky.

Upcoming Events

Bingo! for the Lifelong Learning Center:  English classes (and more!) though the LLC are essential for the success of refugees in Missoula.  On April 17th from 6:30-8:30, come out and have fun while supporting their incredible and life changing work! <<LEARN MORE>>

World View Film Series: Cultures in Harmony- Join us for the third film of this series in partnership with The Roxy! Under African Skies will be playing at 7p on April 22nd. <<LEARN MORE>>

Painting with a Purpose- Painting with a Twist® is proudly sponsoring SLM for their monthly fund raising event on April 30th at 6:30p. <<LEARN MORE>>

A few more photos for your enjoyment!

Thank you to the Rocky Mountain School of Photography and MAC for working with Soft Landing Missoula to help 2 ambitious women learn to use their Camera’s in the RMSP “Mastering Your Camera” course. Learning the art of Photography has been a skill that these women have been excited about since they arrived in Missoula last spring, so thanks for helping make photography a reality for them!

Everyone wants more food photos right?  If this makes you hungry- 
sign up to receive weekly menus for United We Eat @home!

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SLM Newsletter March 20, 2019

Happy first day of SPRING!

OK, I had to get that off my chest first!  I have some really awesome things to announce in this newsletter, but maybe none compare to the sun and melting snow we have been experiencing in the last couple days- I am ready for SPRING and welcome it’s arrival!

We had the privilege of attending two birthdays over the lovely weekend- a Congolese “baby welcoming” party for a 1 mo old and a birthday party for a Syrian kiddo turning 5. It was pretty incredible to celebrate family, birth, and growth in this season of renewal and to know that Missoula was a safe and welcoming place to do so.  Both locations were packed and fun and amazing- full of family, friends, and new communities. As we have seen time and time again, and know from our own lives as well, both of these parties centered around the sharing of food.  In our own way, we are honored to be a part of including programing for Soft Landing Missoula that recognizes and utilizes the simple yet essential idea of a shared table with enough seats for all- even if you have to bring your own folding chair to squeeze in!

So… getting to that announcement then, eh?  Soft Landing is expanding the offerings for our United We Eat program that has brought you Supper Club, holiday cookie sales, and many other opportunities for a seat at the table as well as economic opportunity for refugee chefs!  What? How? When? Sign me up!

Once a week, starting Friday April 5th, you will now be able to pre-order wonderful meals from amazing chefs for enjoying in your own home.  Once a week, you won’t have to worry about dinner but instead can quickly pick up a preordered, prepaid meal that means sharing flavor, tradition and generosity with your family.  This is a pilot program that we are launching through July to test the feasibility of running it year round- fingers crossed because that part is up to you! United We Eat @homewill be hijacking this email list for one month as we share the news while we recruit you to join the UWE @home list. For a direct link to learn more about how this works, see chef bios, and sign up for future emails, go to I apologize in advance for a few extra emails in your inboxes for this month long recruitment period but starting in May, only people on the UWE@home email list will receive emails specific to that program- so hop to it (spring pun intended!)! Seriously, this is not to be missed!

I also need to give a special announcement for a long awaited 5th lecture in our Soft Landing Missoula Presents! lecture series.  There is much more info here and below on this timely and important lecture titled “Refuge in a Changing World: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security”that takes place April 1st at 6:30 at the UC Theater. Guest speaker and author Todd Miller will share his stories and experience on this topic to be followed by a panel of local experts. We have some incredible partners- Climate Smart Missoula and the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center- that have helped us tremendously in presenting this lecture and HUGE thanks go to SLM board member extraordinaire, Clem Work, for hours and hours spent making this happen!

Lastly, and kind of on a more somber but incredibly hopeful note following the tragedy at two New Zealand Mosques last week, we want to make sure you know about the upcoming week of events put together byStandingAlongsideAmerica’sMuslims (SALAM) forCelebrate Islam Week. We are honored to be a sponsor of the week’s kick off event on April 8th, the annual banquet and key note speaker, and are in awe of all of the wonderful events happening through out the week. Attendance at these events is a tangible way we can “show up” for Muslims in our community- with open hearts and open ears- to celebrate, learn and honor the beauty and contributions that diverse peoples and religions bring to our community, our country and our world.  Again, lots more info below and the banquet tickets sell out every year so get yours ASAP!

Wow!  You guys still with me?!  So many big things going on and we truly hope you can be a part of it all in this busy and wonderful spring season.

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole
ED Soft Landing Missoula


United We Eat

Announcing the launch of our new pilot program to bring you a deliciously prepared meal one night a week for enjoying at home! United We Eat @home is here! Go to the website to learn more and sign up!

In lieu of an April Supper Club, we will be sponsoring and attending the opening banquet during SALAM’s Celebrate Islam Week on April 8th. Featuring Keynote Speaker Asmaa Albukaie of Boise, ID (via Syria), and food from all over the Arab world, get your tickets fast- it sells out every year!

People, Partners, Programs

Dear Liz Colantuono- a love letter from Mary Poole…
Where would I be without you?!

What’s Going On?!

>> Come see the Congolese Choir, the Women’s Choir and more perform at a benefit concert on Thursday April 21st from 7-9p for the Florence Project put on by many incredible partners. <<READ MORE

>> Bouncing for Bucks at Flying Squirrel Missoula!  Come have fun with us on Friday April 22 from 5-9p and 1/2 of your admission price will go to Soft Landing Missoula. <<READ MORE

>> Don’t forget to check out all of the incredible upcoming events for Celebrate Islam Week and get your tickets to the delicious opening banquet on April 8th<<READ MORE

>> Soft Landing Missoula Presents! Lecture Series: Refuge in a Changing World- Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security. Join us and speaker/author Todd Miller as we explore this timely and important topic. See poster below. <<READ MORE


2/28/19 Newsletter


Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs).

Would you know what I meant if I said the term SIV? Many people have never heard of this status for coming to the United States as a refugee. It was created to provide a path to safety for the brave and generous men and women from Iraq and Afghanistan who put their lives on the line to serve along side our own US Military as interpreters and provide an essential lifeline for our soldiers to the communities they were working in. Recently, we sponsored a film for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival called “The Interpreters”.  This film showed the hardship and danger that Iraqi and Afghan translators face due to working with the US- tens of thousands of who, with their families, are still in very eminent danger. 
In response to the continued slowing down of refugees into America- including SIV’s- we sponsored this film and partnered with Soft Landing Missoula board member and Marine Corps veteran, Clem Work, and a local Missoula veteran who worked along side interpreters in his tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan, Andrew Person, to present an op-ed advocating for SIVs.  As stated in the op-ed, “Nearly 73,000 SIVs have settled in the U.S. in the past 12-plus years (only two in Montana), but delays and red tape are putting applicants in harm’s way.”  We want you to know that there are still tens of thousands of people who qualify for this status, waiting somewhere, hiding somewhere, for America to say thank you and welcome them home.  

Please take a moment to read the rest of thisvery thoughtful op-edand join us in advocating for SIV’s by calling on Congress and the President to prioritize getting these families to safety.

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole
ED Soft Landing Missoula

March Supper Club!


Join us at Masala for Soft Landing Missoula’s March 10th supper club! This month we are excited to showcase the talents of guest chef Merry Gebray from Eritrea.

Merry’s meals are wonderful, packed with flavor and prepared with heart. There will also be a coffee ceremony following dinner—a daily tradition and staple of Eritrean culture!

Call Masala at (406) 926- 6444 to reserve your seat!

Reserve your spot today- they go QUICKLY! More details here.

Volunteer Spotlight- Chase Gay (aka Mr. Cheese)


Chase volunteers with our Teen Team and has also made numerous trips to Helena to help families with their Green Card applications. He also comes to our office every Thursday to meet with clients, answer phones and help with whatever comes up. One of the refugees was gushing about how nice and helpful Mr. Chase is and accidentally called him Mr. Cheese instead. Now, of course, that is all we can call him. We are so grateful for you, Mr. Cheese! Find out more about this incredible guy here.

Upcoming Events

Flying Squirrel Bounce Night!


Looking for a warm, dry place to spend some quality time having fun with family and friends? Take a break from the cold and come hang with us at Flying Squirrel Missoula for our first Bouncing Bucks Jump Night fundraiser!

On March 22, from 5-9p, 50% of your admission ticket will go to Soft Landing Missoula if you just say you’re with us!

Spread the word, bring your friends and make sure everyone mentions Soft Landing when purchasing admission tickets for us to benefit from this fun evening! We will also be there jumping with a crew of awesome kiddos!

IRC Petition- DUE MARCH 4TH!!

We have so many wonderful partners participating in the 2019 Legislative Session, working together as members of a coalition called MIRA, Montana Immigrant and Refugee Advocates.

As part of the effort to show support for refugees in Montana, on March 8th, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) will be hosting their first legislative briefing in Helena to educate state lawmakers about refugees and their resettlement process. 

Leading up to this day, they also need our help! They will be bringing this petition to Helena and it will be shared with all Montana legislators. Please circulate within your networks and share state wide! To show support for your new refugee neighbors and to tell legislators that you believe in the value of resettling refugees here in Montana, click the link below. Lets help them get hundreds, if not over a thousand signatures! It is an easy and quick way to Stand With Refugees! Link to sign the petition here!


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Soft Landing’s 3rd Annual World Refugee Day Cup is happening June 16th 2019. More info on how to play and party with us coming your way soon. See you there!!!  

Happy Galentine’s Day!


Happy Galentine’s Day!!

Today is all about ladies celebrating ladies and MY GOSH do we have some amazing women in our lives. Soft Landing is completely run by women (with a shout out to our great male board members and volunteers as well!), but today we want to celebrate one girl boss that we are so grateful to know- the lovely Miry Whitehill of Miry’s List.

It has been incredible to be inspired and supported by other groundbreaking organizations around the nation and Miry’s List is one of the best “sisters” we could ask for. Miry is always a text away and has been a huge part of helping Soft Landing find our footing. We are constantly inspired by the work they do, the persistence they have, and the light they spread in their community and beyond.

For Christmas, Molly got Mary the perfect present: a Miry’s List sweatshirt and she hasn’t taken it off since! Go grab yourselves one too! And while you’re at it, go follow along with their journey, it’s a pretty spectacular one.

On this Galentine’s Day, we celebrate the women who see a need and meet it. The women who are faced with a challenge and choose to share love. The women who know that supporting other women will raise everybody up. Happy Galentine’s Day, everyone! Today and every day, let’s celebrate the women who bring light to our lives. Spread the love today and always.


January 17 Newsletter

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Here we go 2019!

For Soft Landing Missoula, 2018 was filled with more joy, adventure, challenge, and light than seemingly possible. Excuse my baby analogies (you all know I am obsessed), but I feel like 2017 was a year when we were just cutting our teeth and looking around in wide-eyed amazement.  In 2018, we started to motor. No more crawling, we are walking now- although at times, still a little wobbly 😉 We know more of what we need and want, we can understand other’s needs and have begun to meet our own and theirs.  I think we saw our largest growth in 2018 with relationships.  Relationships with refugee families who continue to awe and inspire us the more we get to know them. Relationships with our community partners such as the Life Long Learning Center, Missoula County Public Schools, Pathways, and the IRC who are all working incredibly hard to make Missoula a place where refugees can THRIVE. And relationships with you all- our volunteers and supporters, who it goes without saying, our work wouldn’t be possible without and who we have also just had plain fun getting to know better and seeing more often!

One thing we learned about you all last year is how much you guys love to hear about what is going on in the office and around town on the day to day. Along with increased social media content that you enjoyed (Thanks so much Sophia!!! Find us on Facebook and Instagram if you haven’t already!) you guys showed us that you really liked hearing about our new and old (mature?) programing, who else is doing great work, and who we are having fun with.  To honor this, we will be re-working our newsletter in the near future, and it is my goal to offer you more insight and information on Programming, Partnerships, and People (catchy huh?) moving forward.  We will certainly still announce events in the newsletter, such as our World Refugee Day soccer tournament in June, Welcoming Week activities in September, monthly Supper Clubs (see below for the announcement of the January date and menu!), a VERY EXCITING new food initiative in the pipeline, and many other ways to celebrate throughout the year.  We will still shine a light on local, state, and national action related to refugees and immigrants and we will still let you know of ways to get involved through volunteering and donating.

We are so excited about serving refugee families and you all even better in 2019, that we started the year off with a little creative and simple project that will hopefully make everyone feel a bit more valuable and connected.  On the largest wall in our office, we have put up 3 huge Resource Boards whose purpose is to post Wishes and Opportunities for both refugee clients and the Missoula community in order to better facilitate those relationships and connections that serve each party.  On the “Opportunities” end, this can be something as simple as posting an available couch to find a home in need or something more comprehensive such as offering a service like lactation consulting for new mothers. On the “Wishes”, we have already found things such as gymnastics lessons and help setting up WiFi.  These boards go both ways and we highly encourage you to call in or visit our office to post something and see how you might be able to get more involved.

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We love you. We are grateful for you. And we are looking forward to a dynamic, life-affirming, and fun 2019.  Lets do this Missoula!

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole


January Supper Club!

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Join us at Masala for Soft Landing Missoula’s January 27th supper club! This month we are so excited to showcase the talents of guest chefs Ammar & Zena Omar, brother and sister, and owners of the new food truck and catering business Kamoon Arabian Cuisine. This will be an excellent opportunity to explore new flavors while supporting refugee entrepreneurship in Missoula, MT! Check out this great recent article from the Missoula Current. View more details and see how to make reservations here.  Act quick- they go FAST!

Educational Opportunities for English Language Learners Info Session

Are you a volunteer, mentor, teacher, friend, or refugee that is interested in learning what it takes for an English Language Learner to access higher education and increase opportunities for career and financial success in America? Saturday, January 26th, the Life Long Learning Center, Job Services Missoula, and the International Rescue Committee are putting on an informational session to help us all understand goals, timelines, and steps we can take together to help refugees achieve these goals! More information available here and on poster below.

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The Lucky Ones

If you are in or near Dillon, MT today, join myself, Mayor Wilmot Collins, and Jen Barile of the International Rescue Committee for an Opening Reception and Panel Discussion for UMW alumni Madeline Scott’s incredible photo exhibit “The Lucky Ones”.  This unique project chronicles the lives of refugees arriving in Boise in spring of 2017 during the turbulent time of travel bans and national fervor. See poster below for times and location info.

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December 6 Newsletter

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“Public Charge”- What is this?

With the upcoming December 10th deadline to submit a public comment on proposed changes in “Public Charge” qualifications, we have been hearing this term a lot- but what is it? On the most basic level, public charge refers to how likely it is that a person will become a financial burden on the American economy and then works to exclude them from the chance of gaining citizenship.  In my perspective, it is an odd thing for our nation to judge individuals on, not only considering the multiple fact-based studies that show the huge over-all economic benefits that immigrants and refugees bring to our country, but also because it just seems kind of counter to our “anyone gets a chance”, “boot strap” values (admittedly spoken from a place of privilege) and the fact that “economic” isn’t the only benefit or measure of value that exists. We currently have some basic federal regulations around this, but these new proposed changes tighten that definition and will directly and indirectly affect many classifications of immigrants and refugees.

SLM put out this statement a couple weeks ago and now the deadline is upon us- only 4 days left.  We are encouraging you all to read our statement and use this great toolkit from the International Rescue Committee, as well as this powerful letter from Welcoming America, to draft your own unique and personal statement to submit on or before December 10th. So… full disclosure, I am the one who totally freezes on the line while trying to call my elected officials and then basically sputters non-sense.  This idea of a “unique and personal” statement kind of terrifies me. I think the thing that gives me strength is knowing that I will be joining YOU and 132,024 other comments and mine does not have to be perfect, it just has to be from me. So here goes. In hopes to persuade some of the rest of you that might also be balking at this as well, here is my own short and imperfect comment for submission:

I am writing as an individual, but also on behalf of Soft Landing Missoula, a nonprofit organization in Missoula, MT that works with refugee families and started in 2015 as a response to families fleeing and being torn apart by war, terror, and persecution. I am writing to strongly oppose the proposed changes to tighten the definition of “public charge” in relation to immigration status and citizenship criteria.  These changes would not only put families in fear of seeking resources to support a healthy family in the relatively short time it takes them to get their feet under them and give so much back to our country both economically and culturally, but it would also seriously impact the ability of immigrants and refugees to be reunited with their families. As a mother, a daughter, and a wife, I believe that there is nothing more important in this whole world than being able to be with your family. This is something that we as Americans so often take for granted but still is revered as the cornerstone of our nation. Family reunification is a real trial that I see daily with refugee families who have landed in Missoula and are trying to find and be reunited with loved ones that were scattered to the wind- sometimes in a matter of minutes and sometimes over years of struggle. This is already an extremely challenging “long shot” for so many families, I can’t imagine making it even more difficult.

It is for this reason and more that I wholeheartedly oppose these proposed changes.  This is not what we are about as Americans. I know we are a country that values family and the ability of a person to start with so little and give back tenfold.  This is the America I believe in.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

OK!  Your turn!  Here is the link to the website to submit your comment. You have 4 days to add to the 132,024 comments that have already been submitted.  Go get em’!

In love and gratitude, 

Mary Poole
ED Soft Landing Missoula

December Supper Club!

Join us on December 16th at 5:30 at Masala for Israel food!  The chef, Tedesse Gebreslasie is from Eritrea but spent 7 years in Israel as part of his long journey to safety, some of those years working as a professional chef!
Find out more about cost, full menu, and how to join us next Sunday evening here.

Where: Masala, 206 W Main St , MT 59802

When: Sunday, December 16th.  Doors at 5:30 pm and dinner at 6:00pm

How: To make a reservation call Masala @ (406) 926-6444.

Please direct any further questions to

Volunteer Party at Imagine Nation Brewing- December 9th!

Join us on December 9th for our end of year Volunteer Party to celebrate all you do for Soft Landing and Missoula’s refugees! We are so grateful to have such incredible volunteers and want to personally invite you to enjoy an evening at Imagine Nation Brewing full of raffles, prizes, and awards. The party starts at 5:00, so come grab a drink on us and take a look back at what an incredible year 2018 has been.

We couldn’t do this without you!! Thanks for helping to make Missoula a place we all can call home!


Soft Landing Missoula at the MADE Fair!

We will be at the MADE Fair this Sunday, December 9th from 11am-6pm. While you are shopping, come find us for sweatshirts, t-shirts, totes, stickers and much more for everyone on your holiday list! All of the non-profit booths are located in the hallway of the Main Gym floor.  See you there!


November 29 Newsletter

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Same strength, Different path 

While Soft Landing Missoula is an organization that works MOSTLY with refugees, we have also been honored to work with a couple people who are in Missoula seeking asylum. The reasons that have brought them here can be strikingly similar, if not at times even more severe, than the refugee families that have found a home in Missoula.  One of the biggest differences, is that people seeking asylum have to apply for and prove their case while already in the U.S.  For a refugee family, this process takes place before they arrive and once they are here, this is their home and they can begin a new life with a path to citizenship and all that entails.  Someone with an asylum claim, on the other hand, exists in a state of limbo, a state of worry that they may not be able to stay, that they may never be able to be reunited with their family in safety. Uncertainty is a constant companion until the day their case is approved and this process can take years.  The point is, refugees AND those seeking asylum for themselves and their families ALL deserve a shot to be heard and treated fairly and humanely. Historically, we as Americans have known this is the right thing to do and have acted in accordance with U.S. and international law, which absolutely allows both forms of seeking safety in this beautiful country.  Currently, on our southern border, this is now coming into question as our administration is throwing up every obstacle they can to vulnerable families looking for safety.  Soft Landing has laid down a statement in an op-ed in today’s Missoulian to explain a bit more and call us to action by making sure we are holding our elected leaders accountable.  You can see that statement here.

It can seem a bit isolating way up here to know the best ways to help. We have sought out advice from people who know better than us on how you can be a part of direct action to help families seeking asylum right now.  This shouldn’t be a substitute for calling your representatives, but you can also reach out to El Otro Lado (The Other Side). El Otro Lado, run by Nicole Ramos, an exceptional immigration attorney that has been working on & across the border for a long time, needs both help & money. 

You can DONATE to El Otro Lado or find more general info here.

They also have opportunities to volunteer for professionals and students with a legal background and you can fill out their online form here. 

Lastly, I want to leave you with a story of hope.  A story from right here in our little mountain town.  As I said, SLM has worked with a couple incredibly resilient, strong, and perseverant folks seeking asylum while in Missoula.  Even with all the chaos surrounding this process right now, a dear friend just had her asylum case officially approved after YEARS of waiting. I thought my heart would explode when I heard this wonderful news!  Just two weeks prior (before she learned her asylum was granted), she had come into the office with a lightness of step and a smile.  In the 3 years I have known her, she has had some understandably challenging times, as you can imagine, but something about her that day was glowing. “Mary”, she said, “I know now that I have strong friends because I am strong.” Truer words were never spoken and we are so incredibly proud of her and are overjoyed for her next chapter.  She now gets to file the paperwork to be reunited with her children after 5 long years. We will be with her through this next challenging step, and know her strength will continue to shine. 

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole 

A HUGE THANKS for a successful Giving Tuesday!

You guys!  We has set a substantial goal of $5,000 for Giving Tuesday 2018.  You guys blew that out of the water with an impressive $6,559!!!  What?!?!?  We are so grateful for this incredible community (and beyond!) who cares as much as we do about supporting refugees in Missoula- and shows it every day, but especially on days of giving 😉  Thank you, thank you, thank you!


2019 Vista opening with Soft Landing Missoula

Join (or help us spread the word!) Soft Landing Missoula’s dynamic team in an exciting one year, full time position through the Americorps VISTA program. Term starts in late January and we are reviewing applications now! We are looking for a motivated team player to jump into our fun, busy office. See below for more information on how to apply.


Volunteer Training Opportunity

So many Missoulians are currently working with refugee students, young and adult, as tutors, teachers, or mentors.  The University Of Montana School of Psychology Program and Soft Landing Missoula are bringing you a workshop lead by two phenomenal women with extensive experience working with refugees, both at home and abroad.  If you are currently working with someone, or even if you are interested in getting more involved, join us to learn more about “Cross-Cultural Tutoring: Understanding Refugee Students and their Families” with Diana Diakow, M.A. and Anisa N. Goforth, PhD, NCSP.  More info about this free opportunity here!

Fun Weekend of Events that Give Back!

People are awesome and incredibly generous. This weekend, three separate events are being put on by businesses and individuals to support SLM and Missoula’s refugee families.  Check out all 3! 

1) Get your sweat on!
2) So you can eat more cookies
3) Then pamper yourself while helping refugee women do the same!

November 13 Newsletter

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A “full” place…

I don’t mean hectic or overwhelming (most of the time anyway!), but full to the brim of life and love, mentorship and friendship, coats and more coats, laughter and tears, learning and playing, and of course, our most favorite thing- babies!  😉  This is what our office has become EVERYDAY! Wow! It really is a dream realized. 

When Molly Cottrell and I set out a little over 2 years ago, planning our vision for what a Community Resource Center space might look like to turn this idea of a welcoming Missoula into reality, I think it looked pretty darn close to this.  We get over 100 visitors weekly, coming in for a huge variety of reasons!  We still teach driver’s education classes and run free in-kind donation “shopping”, but on any given day, there are countless other things people are stopping by for as well.  Helping with confusing mail, taking a back seat on important phone calls just in case a little guidance is needed, checking out articles on current events, setting up email accounts, helping secure culturally appropriate food and home items, assisting motivated entrepreneurs, and yes, snuggling babies- are just a few of the things we get to do all day! Some folks just come in to connect- community members wanting to know how to get involved, refugees using our WiFi to talk to loved ones back home, folks swinging by on their way home from work just to say hi and sit for a bit while their kiddos play.  Last Tuesday, we had 2 new tutor/mama matches join another long time Tuesday am pair and I was just floored to see the excitement, understanding, confidence, and growing friendship that was already blossoming that very first day.  I can’t count the number of moments I have peeked out of my office in the last couple months and into the common area to just see it all happening, and I am in AWE. 

I am in awe of what Soft Landing does and I have to give credit where credit is due. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting our staff- you are missing out! Many of you know Molly Cottrell- co-founder, my rock, and the real reason the office doors open on time every morning, but the two of us are overjoyed to have quite the team now!  Molly and I plugged along (with HUGE board and volunteer support) for a year before we were joined by the best Vista Volunteer you could ever ask for- Megan Anderson- who has made much of our food programing and so so many other things possible this year.  There is absolutely no way we could do what we do without her (and we are terrified for when her year is up!). Sophia Bay joined us 3 months ago and is the reason that you guys all love our Instagram feed now 😉  Hired for Development and Communications, she jumped right into the last line on the job description “and other duties as assigned” with gusto- especially the baby squeezing! Lastly, we can’t even express how excited we are to have realized another dream and hired one of our longest running volunteers- Greta Bates.  Greta was part of the founding crew, having had experience with working with refugees back east while in College, she was on a mentor team for the second family that arrived in Missoula. We have watched as she falls into such an easy and honest relationship with everyone she meets.  She is now connected, on her own, with the majority of Missoula’s 50+ refugee families and we hired her as our Family Resource Coordinator to ensure that Soft Landing cultivates solid and true relationships with refugee families so that our programming can be client driven and relevant. That and she has a super cute new baby!  Is anyone seeing a theme here?!?!?! 

Most importantly, our office is lively and amazing because of our new neighbors- refugee families that share so much with us: joy, struggle, humor, generosity, tenacity, insight, perspective, dreams, and baby snuggles (I can’t stop!!!), we are honored to have our little office be a place where all of this magic happens… So, mix the 5 of us in with at least a couple amazing volunteers each day, an incredible intern or two, and add a sprinkling of new neighbors filtering through all day- and lots of babies!- and you start to get an idea of what I say when I mean “full”, in the best way.

Well, I congratulate you if you got through all of that. I feel like it had been a while since I gave a good office update, and we have so so so much to good stuff to share!  Thank you Missoula- new and old- for making our vision a reality. Stop in and see us sometime 😉

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole

PS- To share one of the most powerful moments over the last week… The morning after the elections, we got to show two Eritrean fathers an article about a newly elected, first-generation Eritrean American Congressman from Colorado.  Talk about excitement and a sparkle in the eye as they thought of their own children and the promise and opportunity of America with a little hard work, passion, and gumption! 


November Supper Club is here!!

Call Soft Landing Missoula (493.0504) quick to join us on November 19th- next Monday!- at Scotty’s Table for a special Eritrean Buffet. Perfect food for a warm cozy early winter evening, the chefs are excited to share a variety of delicious entrees with you from their home country of Eritrea, as well as the beautiful and delicious Eritrean Coffee Ceremony.  More details available here.  


Volunteer Opportunity! Driver’s Education.

One of our best loved and most impactful programs, learning to drive becomes a cornerstone of a family’s self sufficiency, independence, and economic opportunity. Join us in helping people’s worlds grow.  Find out more info on this fun and rewarding opportunity here.

Huge thanks to Gallatin Refugee Connections and the great people of Bozeman!

GRC collected over 200 welcome kits for IRC and SLM clients last weekend!  This is the second year in a row that this incredible fall drive has overwhelmed us with generosity!  You are all amazing!  Great pictures and article here 😉

“Public Charge” Changes Imperil Refugees and Immigrants

As we now realize, this proposed change could affect refugees as well, because many families could withdraw from SNAP or TANF out of fear, as they have done in the past. We are re-running this updated statement, with a link to the IRC’s excellent toolkit.  Please join us in making our voices heard BEFORE December 10th, when the public comment period will be closed and this could be a permanent change.

Kamoon Arabian Cuisine

Have you been missing Ammar’s incredible food at the Farmers’ Market?!?  Did you know that he caters?  He also just purchased a food truck and we will keep you up to speed with Kamoon Arabian Cuisine about town, but check out his expanded catering menu for holiday gatherings with family and friends!  

More wonderful Pakistani cooking classes with Dr. Qureshi!

There may be a few spots left in this Thursday’s class.  A great date night or ladies night, Iv’e always wanted to know how to cook a true Tikka Masala!

October 18, 2018 Newsletter


You do you.

So, the elephant in the room and on everyone’s mind is Missoula’s visitor that is flying in (and out) this evening.  There are a lot of opinions, actions, and in-actions happening around this strange and somewhat confusing event.  We are an organization who strives to be inclusive and a-political, yet we are still staring down a situation in which the very heart and soul of our work is being threatened and systematically dismantled by current politics. What is the appropriate response? Yeah, we don’t really know either.  There are a lot of different things going on today that people can choose from to express what you need to express and I guess the best advice I have heard is- You do you. These words from mentor, visionary, and one of my “sheros”- Betsy Mulligan-Dague of the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, do a spot on job of summing it up,

“On Thursday both harmony and conflict will co-exist in our town. Wherever you find yourself, and whatever your heart leads you to do, I hope you see it as an opportunity to be the change you want for the world. And may that opportunity lead to many more. Believing in the basic principles of our country means agreeing to the responsibility to take part in it however messy that is.”

For us at Soft Landing, we took a pause and recognized that the work we do every day IS the action that makes our souls feel forward moving in the face of the situation we find ourselves in.  That is how “we do us”. Last night, I had the extreme privilege to tag along with my incredible staff, a seriously awesome intern, and dedicated volunteers to introduce three teenage girls from Africa to an American college campus (UM) and two Montanan mayors, one from Africa (Thanks Wilmot!)! We all sat in awe of these smart and talented young ladies and watched the spark in their eyes for all of the possibilities that await them.


Tomorrow, we will host kiddos on a day off of school to carve pumpkins and partake in the sheer and untethered joy of this silly holiday that is Halloween. Our only goal is just to be a bunch of goofy kids together. Just last week, we participated in a dinner put on by Missoula Federal Credit Union as they hosted the North America Chapter of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values and highlighted their work to serve Missoula’s refugee families. This not only included an incredibly generous donation to Soft Landing and the International Rescue Committee Missoula, but also showcased the programing they have built in their own institution and their values of economic inclusion for all. 

So thats it. This is what I mean. “You do you” and our collective actions come together to move that needle. We can, and do, all play a part.

We wish everyone a safe and productive day.

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole

PS- YES!  We are announcing our October Supper Club today!  Run quick to the phone and good luck!

PPS- I recently had the joy of meeting with Eric Halverson and participating in his podcast, Insight on Impact- a podcast about folks working to make Missoula, Montana a better place. I had a lot of fun talking about Soft Landing with him and am honored to be among the incredible Missoula nonprofit leaders he has featured. Check out Episode 7 and all of the other great episodes online or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes 😉

October Supper Club

Returning to Masala this month, this will be our first dinner featuring a Congolese Chef! 

Where: Masala, 206 W Main St, Missoula, MT 59802

When: Sunday, October 28th.  Doors at 5:30pm and dinner at 6:00pm

How: Reservations required! Call Masala @ (406) 926-6444

More info and the menu available here!

Winter Clothing Drive

Help keep Missoula’s refugee families toasty this year!

We are accepting a wide array of new and lightly used winter items as the days get shorter and colder!  Find out how you can donate items here!


Important opportunity- 60 day comment period!

Proposed changes to broaden the definition of who is “likely to become a public charge,” could harm many children and families of non-resident, documented immigrants. While this, as of now, does not include refugees, we still feel strongly that this is a cruel and unnecessary obstacle placed in front of vulnerable families.  Find out how you can take action here.

Volunteer Opportunities with Partners


Have you ever thought that the setting of one-on one tutoring would be right for you?  These hands on opportunities are wonderful ways to get to know Missoula’s refugee and immigrant communities first hand. There are currently 3 partners looking for English tutors and there are options for both kiddos and adults.  Check out the opportunities here.

Holiday Food Options

Are you catering a party this holiday season and want to “spice it up”?  Would you like to bring a delicious and unique sweet treat to your next shared dinner or event?  Maybe you would even like to turn a cozy evening with close friends into an experience and take a cooking class?!  We have just the option for you this holiday season and beyond!  Check it out and feel free to for more info!