President’s Article: May

I hope this finds you well & strong, and that you’re steadily riding out this unprecedented and historic set of circumstances we all find ourselves in. Since I personally believe in the overall community’s ability to rise up and take care of one another in times of crisis, one current factor stands above all in terms of proving this to me. As I write this, the Missoula area is most definitely flattening the curve as the number of new COVID-19 cases have slowed at a much greater rate than initially projected even a month ago due to us all keeping socially distant and staying at home as much as possible. With more and more masks being produced and worn by individuals in all areas of society and activity, there is a likely chance of keeping this trend going. The surge in care and kindness and flat-out heroism is at a groundswell. And this is impacting Missoula’s ability to rebound in a cautious yet hopeful manner, and much quicker than would have otherwise been possible without everyone pulling together. There will be a sense of an abnormal “new normal” going forward, and we have a long road ahead of us, but there are definite signs of making progress … together.

I wanted to get a feel for some of the small and large acts of true kindness taking place, so I reached to out to a few of the local small business owners whose very livelihoods are currently at stake, asking for them to share examples they’ve personally experienced.

Katie Ghen Simpson, owner of The Hip Strip’s Bathing Beauties Beads, shared this, “I am overcome with the support of the community. So many of my customers have reached out and asked how they could help, so many small business owners have reached out in lots of meaningful ways as well, whether it was a mention on their social media, a waive hello with air hug as they walked by the shop, or calling to ask how they can help. Each interaction extremely meaningful. I had a customer call me to tell me how much she loves the shop and that she will be sending me a lot of her earrings that she makes (and sells a lot of) for me to sell for the shop and donating the proceeds to the shop. And I was blown away.”

Also located on The Hip Strip, Betty’s Divine’s proprietor, Aimee McQuilken, mentioned, “We have been doing free and safe local delivery and one day I had two stops…at the first, there was a jar of jam awaiting me in the mailbox. At the second, there was a bundle of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies!!!”

Previous MDA President, Tom Snyder, has seen his Five on Black restaurants located on North Higgins Downtown, South Reserve and three other Montana communities be greatly impacted as have all eateries. He said this, “There have not been a lot of silver linings within this overwhelming moment in our history but there are a few. Those few are powerful. The connection of community and local business is something that has been incredible to witness. The support of our customers has been something that has been strengthened through a shared period of discomfort. Though the sales aren’t where they were, the intent behind the sales has been amplified. There is intention with every dollar spent and every customer who supports us. During the first week of the Pandemic we asked people who were willing to purchase meals at 50% off that we would donate out to different food banks, shelters, youth groups, hospitals, and those in need. Because of our customers and our communities, we have been able to donate 2,800 meals, built on the goodwill of others. I hope we come out of this with a shared sense of togetherness.”

And lastly, Paige Simpson, owner of One Eleven Boutique in the Florence Building on North Higgins has been so overwhelmed by support, this is what she shared, “I’ve really been pondering this….the thing is, my customers are so generous and kind and our community is so supportive all as a whole. I don’t have one thing that stands out.” I think she sums up quite nicely what so many people have experienced lately; kindness and care is rampant … and coming from everywhere.

As all of these folks elude to quite eloquently, intention with our interactions, actions, generosity, spending habits, and time are more impactful now more than ever. These are just a few examples of the groundswell, but I truly want to hear & share more. Do you have hidden gems of generous acts occurring in your world? I would love to hear from you! Contact me at [email protected].

Stay healthy and strong, Missoula!

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