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,
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!