Looking for an opportunity to help our community’s most vulnerable residents? Organizers are seeking about two dozen more volunteers for the 13th annual Project Community Connect, a one-day event this Friday, Feb. 1, that will provide essential services to those experiencing, or who are at risk of, homelessness.
The event, which connects participants to services and items including clothing, toiletries, food, haircuts, and medical and dental care, is slated for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Zootown Church, 3623 Brooks St. More than 100 community organizations and businesses will come together to provide critical services and hospitality to those experiencing a housing crisis.
Last year, the event served nearly 300 Missoulians, made possible with the help of 134 volunteers who offered up 604 hours of their time. Organizers have no doubt the event will once again fulfill this crucial community need this year.
“We’re grateful for the support we’ve received in the past for Project Community Connect, and we’re confident the Missoula community will step up again this year,” said Sindie Kennedy, grants administrator in Missoula County Community and Planning Services. “By sharing human connections while meeting basic needs and providing core services, we can all help participants move away from their housing crises toward self-sufficiency.”
Project Community Connect (formerly known as Project Homeless Connect) is part of a national movement and historically coincides with the Department of Housing and Urban Development Point in Time Survey, a homeless census that takes place every January. The event is facilitated by members of the Missoula At-Risk Housing Coalition, including Missoula County.
As it enters its second month, the government shutdown continues to impact hundreds of federal employees and contractors in Missoula County. With more missed paychecks on the horizon, Missoula County has compiled the following list of resources that are providing assistance to furloughed federal employees and contractors in our communities.
Several local banks are offering low or no-interest loans and other financial assistance to furloughed workers:
Missoula Federal Credit Union
Emergency loans for federal employees. The maximum loan size will be one month’s gross pay, up to $5,000, and there will be no payments required for the first 90 days. Full-time financial counselor on staff to help members free of charge.
Farmers State Bank Emergency Assistance Consumer Loans. Designed for those affected by the government shutdown, this consumer loan is meant to assist individuals with mortgage or car payments, groceries, medical bills, etc. Proof of furlough is needed or proof of working with payment being held during shutdown. Details online.
Wells Fargo Call the recently established customer assistance line at 800-219-9739 to be connected with a team member who can assist based on needs, or visit any Wells Fargo branch for assistance. Fees waived. Individual assistance offered based on needs.
Can assist with emergency hardship withdrawals from retirement plans for Missoula County staff who have family members impacted by the shutdown.
Can assist with emergency hardship withdrawals from retirement plans for Missoula County staff who have family members impacted by the shutdown.
Income-based cash assistance program providing temporary assistance for families in need.
Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer
Will offer temporary assistance for motor vehicle registration and property tax payments. Federal employees can fill out a form before renewing their registration at the courthouse, and the department will place a hold on cashing checks until the shutdown ends. Should the shutdown last through May, when the next property tax bills are due, property tax payments will be discussed.
Furloughed employees seeking temporary work can tap into the following resources:
The following programs can offer assistance with household utilities during the shutdown:
LIEAP Provides supplemental heating assistance for a household’s primary source of heat. To apply, call the Human Resource Council at 728-3710 or walk in from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located at 1801 S. Higgins Ave.
Helps households facing an immediate energy emergency when they have exhausted all other resources. Energy Share can help households who have used up their energy assistance benefit or do not qualify for LIEAP. To apply, call the Human Resource Council at 728-3710 or walk in during business hours.
Offers a monthly credit to LIEAP-eligible households. Complete a request form at the Human Resource Council, 1801 S. Higgins Ave.
Salvation Army Winter Shelter Program Helps with rent for individuals and families who are at risk of being evicted. Call 549-0710 to make an appointment.
Those needing assistance with grocery costs during the shutdown can access the following programs and services:
Missoula Food Bank
No criteria or questions. Those in need of food should go to 1720 Wyoming St.
Call 258-4740 and state that you are furloughed employee; month by month eligibility; based on family income.
Provides supplemental food assistance to individuals and families with qualifying incomes.
Partnership Health Center Provides integrated primary care health services to the public including medical and dental care, behavioral health counseling, pharmacy and a lab. Offers a sliding fee scale for those with and without insurance.
Though our operations can affect your day-to-day life, navigating county government can be confusing. After considering the input you provided through our online survey, we’ve made a few changes to our website that will help connect you to the information and services you need.
First, we streamlined our Help page to more clearly direct you to useful information. From here, you can search the site, browse frequently asked questions, locate a county building and find department contact info, among other things.
Second, we launched a customer service request form you can use when the other options come up empty. After completing a short questionnaire and providing any additional details, your request will be forwarded to the appropriate department and reviewed within three business days. Easy peasy!
On the otherwise sleepy Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, around 200 kiddos and their families laced up skates and took to the ice – slipping, falling and, eventually, gliding – during the grand opening of a new open-air rink in Seeley Lake.
The event served as the community’s introduction to the ice rink, which has been in the works for about a year. Located at the elementary school’s athletic fields, it’ll provide a new way for families and others to get out and about during long Montana winters.
“Kids here don’t have as much opportunity to be active during the winter months,” says Garry Swain, a board member of the Regional Outdoor Center for Kinetic Sports (ROCKS), which spearheaded the project. “This gives them another outlet to get down there and just have a ball, for free.”
The rink will be open during daylight hours, with a crew of volunteers committed to keeping the ice clear and flooding the rink to smooth it over whenever necessary. ROCKS also keeps about 40 pairs of skates in various sizes at the rink, free for anyone to borrow.
The organization, which provided $7,000 in seed money to kick-start the project, was able to put the finishing touches on the rink, including purchasing a snow blower to help clear the ice, thanks to a $10,000 matching grant awarded by the Missoula County Parks and Trails Advisory Board.
The Parks and Trails Matching Grants Program leverages partnerships with local nonprofits and community groups to maintain county parks and other public recreation areas. In these partnerships, the Parks and Trails Advisory Board provides planning assistance and funding, while the partner organization matches those funds through a combination of project expenses, in-kind donations and volunteer service hours.
Four other grants, which range from $1,500 to $12,000, will help fund critical capital and maintenance projects to improve parks, trails and recreation areas in 2019:
$1,500 to perform maintenance on the playground and double tennis courts located in Seeley Lake Community Park (Sponsoring organization: Seeley Lake Elementary School District No. 34)
$12,000 to install wayfinding markers, benches and/or tables, and finance placement of portalets along the Bitterroot Trail (Bitterroot Trail Preservation Alliance)
$4,500 to apply weed and feed lawn treatments and install an irrigation system for the play area east of the barn at Hellgate Lions Park in Bonner (Friends of 2 Rivers)
$8,800 for general maintenance of East Missoula Lions Park (East Missoula Lions Club)
“Awarding the matching grants is always an exciting time of year, because we get to see what types of recreation projects county residents are prioritizing,” said Parks and Trails Coordinator John Stegmaier. “It is truly remarkable what our community partners are able to achieve through the use of these matching funds.”
Is there a park or other public recreation site in your area in need of a little TLC? The Parks and Trails Matching Grant Program could help! Applications typically become available in late August, with a mid-October deadline. You can find more details on the ins and outs of applying on the Parks and Trails website. (A quick note: Only sites outside the City of Missoula are eligible for these grants.)
After a decades-long career with the county, including the last seven as chief planning officer, Pat O’Herren is hanging up his hat at the end of the year. During his tenure, O’Herren built partnerships with other agencies, nonprofits and private property owners, helping Missoula County evolve as a leader in protecting and enhancing our cultural, economic and conservation resources. He’ll leave some pretty big shoes to fill.
Stepping into those shoes will be Chet Crowser. Crowser comes to Missoula County from Fish, Wildlife and Parks, where he served as the regional parks manager for Montana State Parks in Missoula. He’s well-known for his leadership skills – just ask anyone who’s had him as a boss – and that’s exactly why county commissioners chose him to fill the role.
“As CAPS evolves to focus more on broad community issues and services, we are thrilled to bring on someone with Chet’s relationship-building skills and knowledge of the public engagement process,” Commissioner Nicole “Cola” Rowley says. “We’re confident Chet will provide the leadership necessary to successfully guide the department as it fulfills the many roles it plays in our communities.”
Those roles include land-use planning, zoning, parks and trails management, and grant administration, just to name a few. Engaging a leader who can manage such a diverse array of responsibilities is key.
Having worked in a variety of city, state and federal recreation programs throughout the West, including his experience overseeing 10 state parks while at Montana FWP, Chet has an extensive background in parks management. He’s also participated in many planning, visioning and policy-development efforts while with the agency, and he looks forward to bringing this experience to CAPS.
“I’m excited to join CAPS and take part in the great work that staff do every day to maintain and enhance the quality of life we all value so much in Missoula County,” Crowser says. “I look forward to working with the commissioners, county staff, partners and the public to address the important issues our communities face now and into the future.”
A new boss isn’t the only change in store for CAPS in 2019: The department will soon move from its current building on West Alder Street to a new location at 127 E. Main St., Suite 2. That transition is expected to take place in mid- to late January.
In a gesture that Commissioner Dave Strohmaier estimates came “about 150 years late,” Missoula County this week dedicated its public hearing room in the courthouse in honor of Sophie Moiese (1864-1960), one of the most highly respected Salish cultural leaders of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Moiese, or Č̓ɫx͏ʷm̓x͏ʷm̓šn̓á in Salish, was considered an expert in virtually every aspect of traditional tribal life, from song, dance and material culture to the Salish spiritual and material relationship with plants, according to a biography provided by the Séliš-Qlispé Culture Committee. She taught countless young Salish people about the gathering, preparation, storage and use of the tribe’s traditional food and medicines. For many years, she led the springtime bitterroot ceremony, when the Salish welcomed the return of the bitterroot flower, the first major food of the year in the old way of life.
As the Missoula Valley was perhaps the single most abundant bitterroot grounds throughout the tribe’s vast aboriginal territories, it’s fitting that
a room in the courthouse that now inhabits it be named for Moiese.
On Monday, members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council joined the Missoula Board of County Commissioners to do just that during a ceremony that featured a blessing and remarks from Tony Incashola, director of the Séliš-Qlispé Culture Committee, an honor song performed by tribal drum group Yamncut and a proclamation from the county commissioners.
In his remarks, Incashola emphasized the importance of honoring the people who inhabited – and cared for – the land that is now Missoula County.
“We need to try to understand what (the land) looked like, what it was like here, thousands of years ago, as our ancestors utilized, lived in the area” Incashola said. “And it was people like Sophie Moiese who took care of it, who utilized it, who respected it, so she could pass it down … to the next generation. And it’s people like her, and other Natives, who have made that possible for us to exist here today.”
In addition to her botanical expertise, Moiese also passed on to the younger generations her extensive knowledge of tribal history. She often carried a buckskin string with knots in it, known as a memory string (ɫsispiʔ nɫqʷlqʷelstn), which was the traditional way of ensuring the accurate transmission of oral history. She often recounted the painful story of the forced removal of the Salish from the Bitterroot Valley in 1891, when she was 27. She especially recalled the elder women weeping as soldiers pushed the people north to the Flathead Reservation.
The connection to Moiese, and to the history she helped keep alive, remains strong today. When Incashola asked those attendance how many were direct descendants of her, more than a dozen people raised their hands.
“This is a great day not only for her family, but for the tribes, the county, Native and non-Native people,” he said. “It’s a day that we’re attempting to bridge some of those gaps that have existed for hundreds of years.”
Want to cast your ballot without even leaving your car? Starting tomorrow, you can!
Absentee voters in Missoula County can take advantage of the drive-thru ballot drop-off at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, which opens Thursday, Nov. 1.
Hours for the drop-off are:
Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1-2: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 3: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 5: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 6 (Election Day): 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
To access the drop-off, use the west entrance on South Avenue, near the intersection with Oxford Street. (The east South Avenue entrance, which was used in previous years, is closed due to construction.) An additional drive-thru, which will be accessible through the entrance on Russell Street near the intersection with Fairview Avenue, will be open on Election Day only. Check out the map above detailing the routes.
In addition to convenience, voters who use the drive-thru ballot drop-off will receive a coveted “I Voted” sticker that many absentee voters often go without.
To better serve Missoula County voters, the Elections Center also will offer extended and weekend hours through Election Day. The office is now open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 3.
Do you still need to register to vote? Change your address? Request an absentee ballot? Don’t wait until Election Day — please let us help you with your election-related needs as soon as possible! Voters who wait until Election Day will likely experience long wait times. We know many people can’t make it to the center before Nov. 6 due to work and other obligations, so if you can, make it a priority!
In addition to voter registration, Elections Center staff can help with all voter services, including signing up for an absentee ballot, address changes, retrieving undeliverable ballots and issuing replacement ballots.