An online fundraiser launched Tuesday by Soft Landing Missoula features a video that gives a glimpse of some of Missoula’s recently arrived refugees.
Soft Landing, the volunteer organization that paved the way for the opening of Montana’s only refugee resettlement office this summer, aims to raise $30,000 by the end of the month.
Executive director Mary Poole said the money will help rent a space to start a community resource center and pay salaries for a full-time executive director and half-time program director.
A social media blast referred recipients to the Crowdrise.com fundraiser and racked up $4,000 in donations in the first hour. The total topped $7,500 by early Tuesday evening.
The 3 ½-minute video features children from newly arrived Congolese families and those from Missoula running and playing in Greenough Park, and being fitted for bikes and equipment at Free Cycles.
Poole and Soft Landing program director Molly Cottrell provide the voice-overs, explaining Soft Landing’s mission and its fundraising goals.
“We have a kind of grander vision to be able to open a community resource center that would serve as not only a home for Soft Landing Missoula, but also a place where we could really bring volunteers and refugee families together,” Poole says.
Poole said Tuesday the YouTube video “is really like a lot of the experiences we’ve already had with these new families, getting our kids together, sitting around talking, bringing people from the community who speak Swahili together with the families so they can talk in their native language.”
Virtually all the work Poole and the other Soft Landing volunteers have done to court, secure and support the International Rescue Committee resettlement office in Missoula has been donated. Hiring paid staff is a way of assuring the efforts will continue.
“It’s been amazing, and I’m so proud of Missoula for what we’ve been able to achieve in a year’s time,” Cottrell says in the video. “But we have reached a point where we need to really make this a sustaining effort and to make sure we can continue to do the work that we set out to do.”
Soft Landing has its eyes on a rental property in town that fits its needs.
“We were searching for a place that we could make into a nice welcoming feel, that had a place to gather but a classroom as well for the tutoring we’re going to be doing, and orientation and classes both for refugees and the Missoula community,” Poole said.
The center comes with a kitchen, office space and a small computer lab.
Poole said its main purpose will be to engage the community with the newcomers as they arrive from refugee camps around the world. The Missoula IRC office has contracted to resettle up to 150 refugees in the next year. Roughly 20 of them from four families, all originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, arrived in August and September.