Where to find it, and how to give back

It’s always scary moving to a new place—you don’t know your way around town, or have anyone to call when you blow a tire in the middle of the night on a deserted road. Since you’re likely a bit out of your comfort zone, we’ve compiled a list of Missoula’s most essential resources for when you find yourself in a pickle. But don’t forget that there are others out there who could also use a helping hand, and volunteering is a good way to contribute something positive to your new community. So here’s a helpful summary of who to call when you need help, and who to call when you’ve got help to offer.

Hopefully by now you’ve found a place to live, and hopefully you didn’t get stuck in a dilapidated former college frat house with mold growing under the carpet. If you think you’re being suckered into crappy living arrangements, the folks at the (549-4113) have got your back—they’re in charge of identifying all unsafe and unsanitary dwellings in town. If you are a student, however, the helpful folks at the Missoula Housing AuthorityASUM Off-Campus Renter Center (243-2017) are the folks to call for questions, concerns and advice about your housing rights.

If you happen to stumble upon the fact that your neighbors in that crappy apartment you’re renting are moving enough baggies of white stuff to make Pablo Escobar seem like that 15-year-old who hangs out by the high school, contacting the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office (258-4810) might be advisable. However, if it’s your dorm room neighbors doing the dirty dealing, UM Campus Police (243-6131) are the people you’ll want to inform. They are the providers of all your safety needs around campus, and can even put you in touch with someone who will walk you home from class after dark.

There’s nothing funny about assault and harassment—if you feel that a jilted (or obsessively hopeful) lover poses a threat to your safety, call the Crime Victims’ Advocates Office (258-4630). And if that threat is an immediate one, don’t hesitate to call the authorities at 9-1-1.

Now, if it’s a 110-pound mutt with a bloodthirsty look in its eye that’s posing a threat to your safety, Animal Control (541-7387) has all the right equipment to safely remove him. As enforcers of all of Missoula’s animal ordinances, they will tell you it’s best to call them regarding all wandering pets, even that miniature Dachshund puppy you think is so cute. And if you and your dog are new to town, be aware that Missoula requires you to register your pets, lest they turn up missing in one of our many fine shelters, and also so that they can keep track of how many times they bite the mailman.

Chances are, part of the reason you moved here was to enjoy the great outdoors. Well, some of what the great outdoors has to offer includes giant, clawed wild animals with a hankering for the leftovers in your garbage bins. Missoula’s office of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (552-5500) will take care of them—don’t worry, they do this sort of thing all the time. Perhaps you’ve seen their fine work on that famous bear-falling-out-of-a-tree-onto-a-trampoline video that was all over the news a while back. Yeah, bears are kind of a big deal.

There are ups and downs to becoming a Montana resident. You can’t beat the fact that there is no sales tax, but you might want to prepare yourself to pay more than $300 to register your vehicle. We know, it sucks, but you do get two really cool Montana license plates, and you don’t have to mess with those pesky emissions tests. Missoula’s Department of Motor Vehicles (258 4847) will supply you with all the paperwork and let you know exactly how much to make the check out for.

We’ve covered the basics, but for extra assistance with everything from daycare to food to support groups, the United Way of Missoula County (549-6104) and the Human Resource Council (728-3710) have everything you need to know. Don’t be scared to look stuff up yourself, either; Missoula’s official city website (, county website ( and the Montana website ( have all the information you ever needed and more about your new home.

And just in case you don’t have the time to surf the web, Missoula’s convenient First Call for Help (2-1-1) is an information service that can steer you toward whom you need to talk to and how to reach them.

Now that you’re comfortably settled in your new surroundings, it’s time to get out and practice the ethic of reciprocity. Missoula is home to nearly 400 non-profit organizations, and you therefore have approximately zero reasons not to find one to which you will enjoy donating some free time.

For starters, there’s Garden City Harvest, a network of community gardens around town where you can volunteer to harvest veggies this fall for those who need them most. Students also have the opportunity to apply for internship positions, and can receive credit for all their hard and worthwhile work. Even if you just stop by to help out once in a while, after contributing as little as four hours of labor to the cause you can take home some of those delicious, sustainably grown organic goods yourself. Visit www.gardencity for more information and to find a community garden conveniently located near you.

The fruits of your labor in those community gardens often make their way to the Missoula Food Bank, another great place to volunteer. Their ROOTS program—Recognizing Other Opportunities to Serve—is a service that delivers food to community members who are unable to leave their homes. Download a volunteer application at

If you’re more of a nature buff, spend some time outdoors and make a permanent mark on our fine city by helping Missoula Parks and Recreation build and maintain some of Missoula’s many trails. By volunteering in a stewardship program, you can help keep trails clean while simultaneously learning all about trail design and management. Call 721-PARK for upcoming opportunities to get out and get dirty.

Or follow in the footsteps of congresswoman, relentless activist and Missoula native Jeannette Rankin by volunteering your time to the pursuit of peace at the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center. Volunteer opportunities abound here, including organizing events, working in school programs, maintaining buildings and helping out at the Jeannette Rankin fair trade store. Call 543-3995 or visit and do your small part to promote world peace.

The Poverello Center has been a landmark in Missoula for more than 35 years, serving as Montana’s largest homeless shelter and soup kitchen. You can volunteer at the Pov to help the needy receive their three hot meals a day. And you won’t be lonely—19,000 people volunteered there in 2006. Visit or call 728-1809 for more information.

For those of you who would rather devote your free time to helping our four-legged friends, you can do so at one of Missoula’s animal shelters, such as the Humane Society. There you will find a variety of opportunities, from dog walking to fundraising to classroom education. So find one that fits your needs and call 549-3934 or visit

If you prefer to work with your hands, you might want to volunteer at the Missoula Habitat for Humanity. They are always looking for skilled people to help drive some nails, and even in the dead of winter there are many opportunities to help out with fundraising, events and grant writing, so apply online at

The Missoula Urban Demonstration Project (MUD), is also on the hunt for people with the skills to teach beginner workshops on a variety of subjects. Be it carpentry or car maintenance, your contribution to this organization will help them reach their ultimate goal of creating a sustainable community. Students can also apply for an internship and receive credits for volunteering, so visit for more information.

Don’t forget about the hundreds of other organizations around town that are always looking for people to help out, as well as the many one-time listings in the papers, such as river clean-ups and seed collecting. And thanks for spending
some of your free time giving something back—its part of what makes life in Missoula so special.
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