Welcome Maria!!!

We are so incredibly excited to introduce you to Soft Landing Missoula’s newest team member- Maria Netzloff! Maria has joined us as our Donor Engagement and Impact Director and she will not only be helping us keep the lights on and keep growing our client-driven programming, but will also be helping us to be more thoughtful about our growth and how to keep bringing all of you along with us to support this great work- as you have done for 4 years now!

Maria has been working in the field of fundraising since 2012 and holds a certificate in Nonprofit Administration as well as a BA in Spanish from the University of Montana. She served as an Americorps Vista in Austin, Texas and has recently spent her last 6 years in Missoula dedicated to other incredible nonprofit fundraising. She enjoys music (playing/listening to), appreciating or making art (but mostly its just pushing paint around), cooking, tending her garden, dancing, enjoying Montana and all it has to offer (hiking, swimming, camping, staying in fire lookout towers), cross country skiing, hosting a Spanish conversation group, reading books, playing with words/ pun-making, trying to solve crossword puzzles, planning adventures, and bringing people together. She will fit right in!

Maria has been a JOY to have in the office and many of you have had the chance to say hi already. Incase you haven’t met her yet, feel free to stop by and say hi! You are in for a treat 😉

How did we get so lucky?!?

How did we get so lucky?!?

A letter from the Soft Landing Missoula Board- We serve refugees AND immigrants.

In 2015, a 2-year-old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi drowned while trying to reach Greece, as did his mother Rehan and his older brother, Galip. Images of his body, which had washed ashore at the Turkish resort of Bodrum, circulated throughout the news and social media, sparking outrage, despair, and, in many corners of the world, including ours, action. After seeing the haunting image of Alan’s body lying alone on a beach and reflecting on the global refugee crisis that has only grown since 2015, a group of women in a Missoula book club sought to make a difference. Soft Landing Missoula was born. The small organization grew, held community meetings, got key stakeholders, such as Missoula County Public Schools, on board, and contacted refugee resettlement organizations throughout the U.S. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), which had resettled Hmong refugees in Missoula from the 1970s to the early 1990s, responded to their call. Starting in August of 2016, refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Iraq, and Eritrea began to call Missoula home. Almost three years later, over 300 refugees have relocated to Missoula through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program and the IRC, and also continue to receive support from Soft Landing Missoula. 

Now, another image haunts us, one reflective of the asylum crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico. This image, eerily familiar, has circulated through the media and social media worlds. A father and his 23-month-old daughter lay dead, having drowned in the Rio Grande River. Like Alan’s family trying to reach Greece while escaping the civil war in Syria, Oscar Alberto Martinez and his daughter, Valeria, died trying to seek asylum in the U.S. while Tania Avalos, Oscar’s wife and Valeria’s mother, watched helplessly from the shore. 

The parallels are striking. Between 1993 and 2018, over 34,000 asylum seekers died trying to cross the Mediterranean, with the majority of those deaths occurring between 2014 and 2018. They often crossed from Libya, Turkey and other countries, hoping to make it to a European Union country in order to seek asylum. Today, growing numbers of migrants from Central American countries such as El Salvador are seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border with Mexico, hoping to escape violence and poverty. Whereas the U.S. was, until 2018, the worldwide leader in third-country refugee resettlement, these asylum seekers are coming at a time when the U.S. is cutting the number of official refugees that it accepts while also reducing the number of asylum seekers entering the country. The administration’s increasingly restrictive policies are contributing to a growing humanitarian crisis at the southern U.S. border, and abroad. As a nation, we have successfully resettled over 3.5 million refugees since the formal resettlement program began in the late 1970’s. We can and should continue to be a global leader in this humanitarian effort.

Recently, Soft Landing Missoula, an organization created to assist refugees, has expanded its written mission to include other kinds of immigrants, including asylum seekers. While we have been serving all who come to us through our regular programming these last almost 4 years, including other immigrants and those seeking asylum, we feel at this time it is especially important to declare this out loud. Those seeking asylum in the U.S., including those at the U.S. border, are, in many instances, fleeing similar circumstances to those who have sought and obtained refugee status here. Their countries of origin, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Syria, and Eritrea, might be an ocean and continents away, but the circumstances of their departure are often very much alike.

Thus, SLM will begin to include a section in subsequent newsletters to highlight the plight of asylum seekers at the U.S. border and the people trying to do something about it.  We hope to humanize the crisis and spark the kind of commitment to action that created this organization in the first place and resulted in the resettlement of over 300 refugees in Missoula. We at Soft Landing Missoula believe that Oscar and his young daughter, Valeria, deserved a chance at a better life. They made a dangerous trek hoping for that chance and their lives ended as a result, just like that of Alan, his brother, and his mother. These children and their families remind us of what is at stake in the global refugee crisis with 70 million people and counting displaced from their homes worldwide – people like Oscar, Valeria, Alan, Rehan, and Galip. People like the seven children seeking asylum who have died after being taken into U.S. custody.  People whose lives should not end face down in a river or in a sea. This conviction is at the heart of Soft Landing Missoula’s mission and it is the belief that started the movement for the most recent chapter of refugee resettlement in Missoula.

Please join us in supporting and advocating for fair and humane treatment for asylum seekers at the southern U.S. border. To learn more and to contribute your time and resources, please see the following:

Call/Email/Visit our Members of Congress OFTEN! Tell them you oppose the separation of migrant children from family members and that holding asylum seekers in concentration camps is inhumane, unjust and a violation of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.  Demand inspection of detention centers and the release of children and families. Let them know that you would like to see an INCREASE in refugees and people seeking asylum being allowed legal entry to the US. The Congressional Switchboard is: 202-224-3121. 

Reach out to local groups working on immigrants’ rights like: Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance, National Lawyers Guild Chapters, Montanans for Immigrant Justice, Billings Sanctuary Rising, Montana ACLU, Montana Human Rights Network, and the International Rescue Committee.

Contribute to organizations on the front lines of assistance like: El Otro Lado, Together Rising, United We Dream, RAICES, Angry Tias y Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley, KIND – Kids in Need of Defense, The Florence Project, Make the Road, La Union del Pueblo Unido, Annunciation House, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and the Tucson monastery shelter, No More Deaths. Check out Miles for Migrants to donate frequent flier miles to reunite families.

Thank you for joining your voice with ours to protect and support families seeking safety and opportunity.

In love and gratitude,

Soft Landing Missoula Board of Directors,

Gillian Glaes, Alysha Goheen, Bria Morgan, Katie Klietz, Brian Fitzgerald, Clem Work, Rev. Daniel Disch, Kelsey Stamm Jimenez.

Lights for Liberty Photos and Follow-up

Thank you to the hundreds of people that joined us, our amazing partners- Missoula Rises, Montanans for Immigrant Justice, and the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center- and the incredible musicians- Jose Lobo, John Kratz, and Bernardo Paiva, to bring our voices together to ask for immediate solutions for families and children being detained in squalid, and life-threatening, conditions on our southern border.

We were part of an international movement that was over 700 cities strong, but the work does not stop with your attendance. If you couldn’t come, you still did not miss out on the most important part of this action. We must continue to be loud about this. Here are some step you can take and be sure to check out the amazing photos from photographer Tiffany Williams and remember the power of the vigil as you contact our representatives, and more!



1. EDUCATE. Keep educating on the FACTS

Six migrant children — five from Guatemala and one from El Salvador — have died in federal custody since September (LA Times, 5/24/2019). One more child died in May 2018, after time in federal custody, likely as a result of improper medical care while there. (ABCNews, 8/29/18)

The 1997 Flores Settlement case requires that unaccompanied, or separated, children detained the Dept. of Homeland Security are promptly transferred into the custody of the Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement and held in “safe and sanitary” conditions.

Transfer times and ORR conditions are crowded, unsanitary, unsafe, and have been called concentration camps. Many children are being held at Border Patrol Stations, in jail-like holding cells for as many as 27 days, far longer than the Flores 72-hour limit.

Although the ACLU won a case last year halting family separation, loopholes have allowed the separation of over 700 families between June 2018 and May 2019. (Slate.com, 6/24/19)

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 14). everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries. The 1951 UN Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol protects refugees from being returned to countries where they risk being persecuted and also protects their right to ask for asylum, regardless of how and where they arrive in a country. Refugees and asylum-seekers have the same rights as all other human beings.
The Trump administration is forcing many asylees to await court hearings in crowded, unsafe conditions in Mexico or releasing them to overcrowded, under-resourced shelters on the southern border.
There are 1.2 million refugees around the world. More than half of them are children. (Amnesty International)

2. ACT

????Call/Email/Visit our Members of Congress OFTEN! Tell them you oppose the separation of migrant children from family members and that holding asylum seekers in concentration camps is inhumane, unjust and a violation of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. Demand inspection of detention centers and the release of children and families. Tell them to vote no on any additional funding for ICE/CBP and deportation. The Congressional Switchboard is: 202-224-3121. *** Ask that all 3 of our representative visit the INSIDE of the camps together and get a true eye on what is happening!***

????Tell our local and congressional officials( Mayor, County Attorney, and Sheriff ) that you do not support local law enforcement cooperation with ICE raids and they must be stopped. Raids terrify and separate families, are conducted indiscriminately-without legal warrants, and decrease the likelihood that actual crimes will be reported. Holding people detained in raids in local county detention centers is a common practice and uses local resources. Sign the ACLU petition to end 287g agreements between ICE and local governments.

????Reach out to local groups working on immigrants’ rights like: Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance, National Lawyers Guild Chapters, Montanans for Immigrant Justice, Billings Sanctuary Rising, Montana ACLU and Montana Human Rights Network, and International Rescue Committee.

????Contribute to organizations on the front lines of assistance like: El Otro Lado, United We Dream, RAICES, Angry Tias y Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley, KIND – Kids in Need of Defense, The Florence Project, Make the Road, La Union del Pueblo Unido, Annunciation House, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and the Tuscon monastery shelter, No More Deaths. Check out www.miles4migrants.org to donate frequent flier miles to reunite families.

Back Country Hunters and Anglers- Conservation Collective

Join Back Country Hunters and Anglers (BHA) on Thursday June 20th from 4-7p at Montgomery Distillery to promote their new initiative to increase access to Montana’s beautiful open lands and waters for marginalized communities.

On this evening, they are asking people in the community to donate old fly rods and reels and come and learn about program. 

***Fun Fact! Soft Landing is partnering with them for the first event in this new program and on June 29th, refugee families will be getting the opportunity to be introduced to fly fishing and explore some of the beautiful waterways Montana has to offer! We are so excited!***

BHA went to introduce as many Montanan’s regardless of their backgrounds or economic status to all of the amazing things that the outdoors has to offer. The goals of this program are to:

  • set a precedence for Montana and for BHA chapters across the country to get involved with community organizations. 

  • work with marginalized communities is in efforts to make BHA more inclusive; often the hunting and fishing worlds may seem unapproachable to a new person, as well as unaffordable. 

    • In Montana, we live in a state where people thrive off the industry but may not be contributing back to the community 

    • Gear is expensive 

    • It is very hard to start without knowing the right people or the community. 

  • help get resources and education out to vulnerable communities. At each event BHA will be: 

    • talking about how to access public waters 

    • exploring river entomology

    • learning about different styles of fishing. 

Come help us launch this wonderful new initiative aimed at making the real “Montana Experience” accessible for all!


Lawrence & Argyle Partnership!

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About L&A:

“I’m Jenn, and Lawrence & Argyle is my labor of love. My parents are Vietnamese refugees. Despite limited English skills, little money and multiple barriers to success, they were dedicated to our family’s well-being. They did for me what most parents would do, and I wear their struggles as a badge of honor.

I’m a proud American. I created Lawrence & Argyle to honor my peers and their families who have been through similar circumstances, as well as the people who are still trying to find a home in our country. This is not a perfect place, but I believe that we can make room for any person seeking the best opportunities for themselves and their loved ones.”


Soft Landing Missoula has been chosen as Lawrence & Argyle’s partner for April-June of 2019!

Lawrence & Argyle is an apparel company based out of Chicago, IL that celebrates America’s immigrant heritage. 50% of their profit is donated to organizations that serve immigrants and refugees in the United States. They partner with a different non-profit organization every quarter 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! So take a peek around their store and support refugees and immigrants here under the big sky.

More about Lawrence & Argyle:

Website: lawrenceandargyle.com
Instagram: instagram.com/lawrenceandargyle

Dear Liz Colantuono- A love letter from Mary Poole


Dear Liz,

Where would I be without you? We have been on this journey together for a few years now and every time I got in over my head and needed a shoulder to lean on, a brain to bounce ideas off of, and a person to step up and help “do the work”- there you were. As a volunteer, you have taken a leadership role with many of our projects that wouldn’t have happened without your steady persistence and patience. You have built lasting relationships within the refugee community, as well as helped refugees build lasting businesses! For as many directions that Soft Landing’s United We Eat program has turned, you have been with me along the way to see it through- and well. Today, we announce our little passion project- United We Eat @home, and this joyous (and at times, incredibly time-consuming) adventure owes much of it’s birth to you and the hours you have put in with me since we first started even exploring the idea of sharing and celebrating food. My heart knows that you will be here with me as the adventure continues to take shape and possibly grow even more.

So, I guess I wanted to say thank you, but also, more than thank you. You make my dreams come true.

In love and gratitude,

Mary Poole- ED Soft Landing Missoula

IRC Support for Resettlement Petition

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! Thank you!

*Please note that this online petition will close on MARCH 4th, 2019.

Spotlight: Chase Gay, aka Mr. Cheese, Volunteer Super Star!

Chase hanging out with a refugee teen during after school tutoring

Chase hanging out with a refugee teen during after school tutoring

Chase is a native of Oklahoma and has an impressive philanthropic resume. He lived and volunteered in a refugee camp in the West Bank, volunteered at a wolf rescue organization in Durango, CO, spent over a year working with monkeys at the Jaguar Rescue Center in Costa Rica and then joined Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Last summer, Chase came to Missoula to work the Tester campaign and we hit the jackpot when he offered to volunteer with us as well. Chase wasn’t planning on staying in Missoula after the November election, but he fell in love with the city and the people and we are so glad he is staying.

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!

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.

The Soft Landing Missoula Supper Club aims to introduce the incredible culinary talent of Missoula’s newest neighbors and international residents, whose rich and flavorful cooking traditions provide a cultural bridge and enrich our shared community.

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!

Reserve your spot today! A heads-up: they go QUICKLY!


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

When: Sunday, March 10th. Doors at 5:30 pm and dinner at 6:00pm

CostEat: $40/person Give: $60/person Love: $80/person

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

When you pay after your meal, you will have the option to: 

Eat: $40 for a delicious family style dinner, where a portion of the cost covers ingredients and staff time, and the rest goes to the guest chef. 

Give: $60 gets you the same delicious dinner, but with an additional $20 going directly to the guest chef. 

Love: $80 gives an additional $40 directly to the guest chef to collectively make this an unforgettable evening!

All levels are welcome and appreciated!

Flying Squirrel Missoula Bouncing Bucks Fundraiser!

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!

See you there!