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Local support organizations say Missoula’s response to their requests in the Missoulian’s “We Care” column has been overwhelming.

The We Care column runs weekly in the Missoulian during the course of the year and more frequently between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It gives local support organizations that can't fulfill all the needs of their clients a place to ask the community for help.

The holiday We Care columns featured more than 20 local aid agencies this year.

“It was immediate, people actually came by and handed us the checks in person,” said Barbara Cowan, the director of operations for Partnership for Children.

The organization put in a request to help a single mother and full-time student who has two kids with special needs. The woman was living in an unsafe neighborhood and had been threatened and attacked by her neighbors. She had saved enough money for rent in a new location, but because she didn’t have enough for the deposit she wasn't able to move and feared for the safety of her kids.

Cowan said Partnership for Children was able to fill the amount needed very quickly, and the donations continued to come in.

“We told them we had already reached what we had been looking for and they said to save the rest for someone else who could use it,” Cowan said.

The above-and-beyond donations allowed Partnership for Children to establish a small reserve fund it can use if families have emergency needs in the future.

“Missoula is an incredibly generous community,” Cowan said.

Partnership for Children is a nonprofit that provides care and support to children who experienced trauma at a young age.

One woman who donated to the organization said she adopted a child and had kept in touch with the birth mother over the years. She told Cowan that if there had been aid like that provided by Partnership for Children, the situation would have turned out far better.

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Full Circle Counseling Solutions works with families in Missoula and Ravalli counties whose children have autism, developmental disabilities or mental health problems. Mary-Glynn Cromwell, community outreach specialist with Full Circle, said options like We Care help families that otherwise get forgotten.

Cromwell said Full Circle tends to put requests in the column from families that are struggling financially. She said many people assume that means families with low income, but just as often they are on paper middle class.

“Because they are caring for a child with a disability, the costs of caring for them can be a great burden,” she said.

Cromwell said these “working poor” families can slip through the cracks because although their medical and care costs are high, their relatively higher income prevents them from benefitting from some federally funded aid programs.

Full Circle’s requests in We Care ranged from winter clothes to gas and grocery cards. With the help of the community, Full Circle was able to meet many of those needs.

“This was especially wonderful because there was a response not just from individuals but from families as well,” Cromwell said.

She said bigger organizations like Providence St. Patrick Hospital came through for Full Circle, with staff members giving time and money to help.

Laura Sherry, nurse case manager with Community Medical Center’s Home and Community Based Services, said that organization's experience with We Care shows there is seemingly no need that Missoulians can’t fulfill.

One client had lost her piano – a favorite possession – more than a year ago. Sherry said the woman has severe arthritis and keeping her hands and wrists moving while playing the instrument helped her feel better.

Sherry turned to We Care to find the woman a new piano.

“We had 20 calls come back from people saying they would donate theirs,” Sherry said.

After checking into potential donors, Sherry settled on a man who had his mother’s old piano and wanted to give it to someone who would make good use of it. Coincidentally, the man lived right behind the woman’s apartment, and Sherry said they soon were making plans for a moving company to haul the piano the short distance.

“Instead of waiting for weeks, he got some friends together and pushed it out of the door and into her apartment,” Sherry said.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.