Hello Neighbor Network Spotlight: Mary Poole

Meet Mary Poole: Hello Neighbor Partner and Founder of Soft Landing Missoula

April 8, 2020

Despite Montana not accepting refugees in 2016, Mary Poole had the foresight to create an organization that connected people in Missoula who wanted to help refugees fleeing war and violence. A year later, Soft Landing Missoula was able to step up when the first refugee family arrived in the state. Since then, Soft Landing Missoula has continued to grow, with more than 400 donors and 200 volunteers in 2018.

Soft Landing Missoula’s services range from mentorship, in-home English tutoring and afterschool academic tutoring, driver’s education, food and household item assistance, and entrepreneurial support for refugee families. The organization has a full calendar of special events including multiple activities during Welcome Week every September and a community soccer tournament and party to celebrate World Refuge Day in June. Their monthly supper club, United We Eat, connects a refugee family chef with a local restaurant to share delicious homemade food with the community.

Taking advantage of Montana’s natural scenery, Soft Landing Missoula has also partnered with outdoor education organizations to give refugee children access to the area’s incredible surroundings. Working with the National Wildlife Federation, Soft Landing Missoula took a group of refugee children to explore Glacier National Park. The organization also sponsored a fly fishing activity for the children with help from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Q&A

Your name:

Mary Poole

Your organization:

Soft Landing Missoula

Location:

Missoula, MT

What communities does your organization serve?

Primarily Congolese, Eritrean, Iraqi, and Syrian refugees, but also a handful of asylees and immigrants from other places as well.

What are you most excited for in 2020?

Continued exploration and work with teenagers and expanded food-based programming.

How has your organization benefited from the Hello Neighbor Network?

Living in a rural state in the only location where refugees are being resettled, as well as being a very new resettlement site, the Hello Neighbor Network has been a wonderful group to connect with, full of shared challenges and celebrations. While very similar in purpose and motivation, we all bring a unique spin on the needs of our communities and how we work to address them. Learning from others on the same journey really helps us thoughtfully reflect on our own programming, organizational procedures and goals as well as gain insight and skills to do our work with the highest impact.

I think one of the most important things that can come out of the Hello Neighbor Network is the joining of each of our voices in our own communities to bring awareness on a national level to the importance of a robust refugee resettlement program in the US. It is essential for our country to provide refuge to the most vulnerable, and to showcase the strength, beauty, and resilience refugees bring to our communities. This work can be hard on many levels and the ladies in this group bring me the love and light to keep pushing and to be better.

Read More

Hello Neighbor Network Spotlight: Miry Whitehill
Hello Neighbor Network Spotlight: Miry Whitehill

Meet Miry Whitehill, Hello Neighbor Partner and Founder of Miry's List... Read more ›

From Combat Buddies to Close Neighbors
From Combat Buddies to Close Neighbors

Honoring the American’s and Afghan’s who fought for our freedom... Read more ›

Hello Neighbor Network Spotlight: Jeri Stroade
Hello Neighbor Network Spotlight: Jeri Stroade

Meet Jeri Stroade, Hello Neighbor Partner and Founder of Dwell Mobile... Read more ›