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The other day I was privileged to attend a meeting sponsored by the Montana Human Rights commission and St Paul Episcopal Church featuring Soft Landing Montana, a group which works with refugees living in Missoula. The purpose was not to bring refugees to the Bitterroot, as has been erroneously reported by word of mouth, but to show how passionate people can organize grass-root organizations to help those in need.

Sadly, there are many need to respond to in the Bitterroot Valley. We have many who cannot find work, afford housing, get the job training they need, or find transportation. We have people who have not finished their education, pregnant teenagers, a high incidence of suicidal ideation, and a significant problem with chemical addiction. Right now we do not need to meet the needs of refugees for there are none in the Bitterroot, but it is time that we stopped talking about these problems and start to do something about them.

It is hardly a new idea. In Hamilton have such organizations a SAFE, CASA, the Bitterroot Humane Society, Haven House and other have come into existence not because of our reliance on the Federal Government but because local people struggled to open and maintain them. There are others in formation. Here in the Bitterroot, there is one dealing on homelessness and lack of affordable housing that I belong to, and I am sure that there are others, but we have so many other needs. Veterans, children with reading disabilities, pregnant teenagers, high school drop outs, lack of jobs and hundreds of other issues face the Bitterroot, and we need to move beyond the expectation that Washington DC is going to fix these problems. The simple truth is that we need to continue to evolve into the sort of community where people actively and enthusiastically work to help others rather than be like so much of our society today that expects someone else to solve the problem.

As a Christian, my hope and belief is rooted in the dream that compassionate and caring people will continue to seek to help others in our community. I saw this last year when we served as the clothing drop off point for the Roaring Lion Fire, and I see it every day in the work of volunteers throughout the community. I thank everyone who has in any way reached out to those in need and will continue to do so,

– Richard Seaver Reynolds, Priest-in-Charge, The Bitterroot Episcopal Churches

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