We’re all about partnerships

At Families First Children’s Museum we’ve created a number of partnerships with local organizations over the years that have enabled us to better serve children and families and improve our community. We’re very thankful for the partners who’ve stepped forward recently to offer assistance while we’ve dealt with the tobacco smoke issue in our facility.

Both the Missoula Food Bank and spectrUM have opened their classroom spaces to us so our Circle of Security and Shared Parenting classes could go on as scheduled in January and February. In addition, spectrUM is offering discounted admission for our museum members. Special thanks to Aaron Brock at the Food Bank and Holly Truitt at spectrUM for their generosity. These facilities, which both opened relatively recently, have wonderful spaces that served our needs very well. If you haven’t had a chance to see their new buildings, we encourage you to do so. You’ll be impressed!

News about our classes can serve as a reminder that while the museum is closed, our family education efforts continue. Classes offered in partnership with Missoula County Public Schools are scheduled through April and resume in the fall. And classes continue through the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.  Be sure to watch our website for details about future Circle of Security and Shared Parenting classes and know that we’re working to create new partnerships that will expand the reach of our education services in the months ahead.

Finally, we have one new partnership we want to announce right now. You’ll be hearing much more about it  in the coming year. Recently, we received word that we have been selected as a Park Side Partner for 2018! This program of Park Side Credit Union offers three non-profit organizations in Missoula (and three in the Flathead Valley) a generous monetary donation as well as employee volunteer groups, and cross-promotion and shared advertising to increase our exposure in the community. You may be hearing our radio ads already! We’re thrilled to be working with Park Side and grateful for their support for us and the communities they serve.

5 Ways to Help Us Thrive!

Without community support, Families First Children’s Museum would not exist! Here are five ways you can give and support our organization:

1. Contribute to our Annual Giving Campaign. As we look to add new exhibits, improve programming and strengthen our family education offerings, our end-of-the-year appeal provides critical funding. You can contribute to our success by mailing a donation, dropping it off on your next visit or donating online. Giving Tuesday (November 28) is the perfect time to give and make your donations go even further thanks to an exciting dollar-for-dollar match opportunity we’ll announce more about soon.

2. Shop at our Barnes & Noble Bookfair. Saturday, Dec. 9, Barnes and Noble (2640 N. Reserve St.) will be donating a percentage of all net sales to Families First Children’s Museum. We’ll have fun family activities in-store between 10 am and 4 pm, including a performance by the Big Sky High School choir at 2 pm, a visit from Santa at 3 pm, and a secret surprise you won’t want to miss in the early afternoon! Be sure to tell your cashier you’re supporting Families First with your purchase. If you can’t attend in person, you can shop online  between Dec. 9 and Dec. 14. Use code “12260063” when asked for bookfair ID at checkout.

3. Donate from our wish list. We use a variety of art tools, paper products, paints and other supplies to keep our museum programming engaging. You can donate new items from our wish list to make it happen! Better yet, you can organize a supply drive through your work place, community group or place of worship and make it a team effort. Our wish list is here to your right. For details about hosting a supply drive, contact Sarah, our museum manager by email or phone (406) 541-7529.

4. Shop Amazon. If you regularly shop Amazon.com, a portion of your eligible purchases can be donated to Families First. To get started, click on the Amazon Smile logo on our home page or simply begin shopping at smile.amazon.com.  This is a year-round program!

5. Volunteer. We’re working to build a vibrant volunteer program at the museum. Do you have an hour or two to spare—or know someone who would like to volunteer? If so, contact museum manager Sarah Osteen by email or phone (406) 541-7529. Currently, our most pressing need is for someone to do minor maintenance jobs, but other options exist. To learn more about volunteering and the benefits you may receive, click here.

Meet Your New Family Education Director

There are two things Claire Phinney is drawn to professionally: education and advocacy. So, when the family education director position at Families First Children’s Museum opened late this summer, it intrigued her. “It’s the kind of work I feel really passionate about,” she says.  After applying and getting the job, it’s proving to be a great fit. Helping people doing one of the toughest jobs there is—parenting—is especially rewarding for Claire because she loves making life easier for others. “It’s something that makes me happy,” she says.

Claire, a Seattle-area native with deep roots in Montana comes from “a family of helpers.” With an undergraduate degree in early childhood education and development (and later a master’s degree in human development with an emphasis on conflict transformation and nonprofit leadership), she started her career as a preschool teacher. Although she loved the job, she realized she could have even greater reach outside of a school. “I wanted to have an impact on more than just a classroom of kids,” she says.

That led her to nonprofit work, where she was first employed as the program development coordinator/tribal liaison for Washington Association of CASA/GAL Programs and then as the educational advocacy regional coordinator/curriculum development specialist by Treehouse for Kids, which is an organization dedicated to helping foster children. After moving to Missoula, where she’s lived for more than 9 years, she also served as executive director of WORD (Women’s Opportunity & Resource Development). These positions have prepared her well to take our parenting programs to the next level.

Many people are surprised to learn that assisting parents is at the core of Families First’s mission.  Our children’s museum first opened in 2002, eight years after our parenting programs started. Claire will be spearheading efforts to enliven these programs, which to this point, have included group classes, individual consultations and parenting plan mediations. She hopes to grow these services, make them as relevant as possible to today’s families and work to better get the word about them out to the community.

That will start by looking for ways to reach families visiting the museum—and making services available in ways that are comfortable for them, even before they have to ask for help. But it will also include evaluating our overall services to make sure we’re offering parents the help they need in the manner they’d like to receive it. The goal is to make parents feel supported and empowered—whether they’re looking for ways to strengthen their relationship and give their kids the best possible start in life, or unsure of how to deal with a specific problem they’re having with a child at home. “Parents want to make things as wonderful as possible for their kids, but it’s hard to ask for help when a problem feels very personal,” states Claire.  “I would love to have parents walk in here and feel as comfortable as if they had just walked into their own backyard.”

As the mother of two young boys who are “her world,” and who help drive her passion for ensuring children receive the best possible care from those who provide for and teach them, she knows that empowering parents is critical. “I understand the challenges that come with raising kids,” she says.  “Everything you do matters. I, like any other parent, have challenges that feel insurmountable.” But, she adds, empowerment changes everything—how you feel, how you absorb information and how you interact with others. And that makes all the difference.

Currently, mediations and consultations are temporarily on hold as we restructure these programs and determine how to make sure they best meet community needs. We hope to announce plans for their future very soon.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about how our parenting services may be able to help you, call Claire at (406) 721-7690.