Things are really cookin' now! We have had a busy couple of weeks ;)
This past Tuesday, we put on the first in a series of lectures that take a more in-depth view at the regions in which refugees arriving in Missoula are coming from. This lecture was of course on the Congo and we PACKED the UC Theater (capacity is around 300) and unfortunately had to turn away close to 100 people due to capacity restrictions and fire regulations! Many thanks to our volunteers and sponsors for doing a great job at spreading the word! Our two speakers were amazing- Paul Robinson shared his lifetime of knowledge, experiences and relationships in the Congo and Molly Short Carr helped us visualize a day in the life of refugees that have been living in camps in East Africa. It was such an informative and thoughtful presentation- including some of the really great questions from the audience. There is nothing like presenting on a university campus to be in awe of an audience's depth of thinking- thank you for that! For anyone who wasn't able to get in or couldn't make it for other reasons- MCAT was there recording the whole thing and will have this video ready for us in the next month. We will be posting it on our website and FB page and I will let you know when it is up! Also, many new people signed up for our newsletter at this event- remember to visit our website and fill out our volunteer form if you want to get more involved!
I am going to try to keep this brief today but we spent a bit of time in the last couple of weeks trying to make our in-kind donation efforts a bit more streamlined and manageable ;) I am so so overjoyed at the generosity of Missoulians, but admittedly, in-kind donation organization has been a time consuming- but so necessary- thing. We are so grateful for the patience that the Bike Hangar has had with our use of the very graciously offered trailer temporary drop-off location and the Missoula Seventh Day Adventist Church for the new space provided (details below!). PS- if anyone out there has a knack for this sort of thing and the time to lead a team of a few folks to help and wants to step in to take the lead on this- by all means, please let me know! Here are a few things we have come up with:
1) We have made a list of "Kits" that are on the Take Action page of our website. These are ways that you can make an easily identified and stored kit that can be given to families in need. These kits range from Kitchen to Bathroom to Cleaning to Recreation. This is also a great way to get your church involved by having a Kit Drive! You can contact me (or the new amazing person that is going to step up to take the lead once they read this newsletter and get SUPER EXCITED to help!) for suggestions on specific kits we may be needing at certain times.
2)New drop of location and hours:
The Missoula Seventh Day Adventist Church at 800 South Ave W. has rented a storage container and will be holding drop-off hours Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from 5-7 each day. This will start this Sunday the 2nd. We are so so so thankful! Everyone who has been waiting for me to get back to you since my garage is full- this is it!
We will be accepting these specific items CLEAN AND IN GOOD SHAPE:
-Furniture- couches, dressers, tables, chairs, etc...
-Other household items such as lamps, clocks, etc...
-Winter Clothing- coats, hats, boots, gloves, scarves, new or like new long underwear, sweaters...
-We are still trying to work out clothing donations outside of specific "drives" (ie: winter or summer), but if it is clean and in a tidy lidded or stackable container, you may drop these things off as well.
We can't accept:
Anything that is broken or "over used" or not really that useful (we don't need half burned bacon scented candles...)
This location is going to be staffed to try and prevent a mess (huh, saw that one coming!). Please be thoughtful with your donations.
3) We have a really cool bike program happening with Free Cycles! In conjunction with our volunteers and translators, they have been able to help families pick out and fix up bikes as well give basic instruction on bike safety. Anyone who has a bike to donate to this program can drop it off at Free Cycles and let them know it is for Soft Landing Missoula and PLEASE follow up your donation with an email to Greta so we know it is there and can keep track (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Bike Donation). We are also looking for donated helmets, lights, and locks- specifically U-Locks, and these have been a little more difficult to track down so donations are much appreciated! Please don't drop these items off at Free Cycles, but email Greta to arrange....
4) Are we cool enough to raise a ton of money for our new Community Resource Center and continuing to make our vision of a welcoming Missoula a reality sustainable?!?! You bet we are!
This coming week, we will be launching a Crowdrise Campaign to do just that! Our amazing volunteers have been working thier butts off to make a super sweet video that I can't wait to share with you all! Thank you so so much LynnWood, Alex and Seth!
Please join in helping us reach our goal of raising $30,000 by the end of October, not only by donating what makes sense for you, but by sharing this campaign far and wide- we want to circle the globe! Also, save the date for October 15th for a "Mid-way" Party at Imagine Nation Brewing from 4-7! More info to follow!
Another event to keep in mind: The International Rescue Committee's Missoula Office is hosting an exhibition of photos that University of Montana Journalism Department students took when reporting on the integration of refugees in Berlin this summer. Curated by UM alum and documentarian Shane Macmillan, the show testifies to the common humanity and resilience our young photo journalists experienced during their trip. I'm delighted to share the invite with you and am very much looking forward to seeing you at the IRC's new office in the Solstice Building near Broadway and Russell on First Friday, Oct. 7.
OK! I am going to wrap this up with our VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH! It is getting harder and harder and harder to pick from all of the amazing volunteers that are making a soft landing for refugees a reality. For the month of October (a few days early), I picked two! Our amazing wife and husband duo, Tami and Jim, are rocking it on a family mentor team and working above and beyond to guide their family through the challenging process that is learning a new country, city and culture. Thank you so so so so much for the extended hours you have put in this week and your amazing love and commitment. We are so lucky to have you as volunteers!
I always try to wrap this thing up with a little story, and this has already been a long one, so I will be brief. One of the things that is so cool is to find activities that transcend cultural and language barriers and bring people together. Two things are emerging already here- soccer (of course!) and music (of course!). It has been our pleasure to watch many of the kids (and some of the adults!) begin to participate on existing soccer teams and to watch families find a place in Missoula's church choirs and music programs. We are already seeing communities grow to include new teammates, places of worship and friends. We have brought a few people together in our mentor teams to help guide folks on their journey here, but the greater Missoula community is continuing to open their hearts and lives, organically, to our new neighbors. We are growing together Missoula.