MISSOULA — Amy Esp and Dwayne Parton are changing the way Missoula builds community by opening their homes to strangers for weekly gatherings. They host everything from potlucks to open mic nights, bringing people together through what they’re calling “Love Missoula.”
“We just moved to Missoula a few months ago, and one thing that really drew us to Missoula was this idea of being part of a community, and I mean like really part of a community,” said Chris Hyslop a new resident to Missoula.
Like many newcomers to the area, Chris and his wife Karie have found a sense of community in Love Missoula -- a network dedicated to bringing people together over potlucks, game nights, and good old-fashioned living room concerts.
Esp ,who is one of the hosts for Love Missoula, says in her 25 years living here, she’s never seen anything quite like this.
“I feel like this has resonated with people in a way that’s really unique that I haven’t seen before. And I think it’s created this community of people and this space that’s really different than a lot of other things going on in Missoula right now,” said Esp.
Each get-together welcomes a different entourage of people and in the comfort of someone’s living room, candid conversations mold strangers into friends.
“There’s a different sort of dynamic that happens when you walk into somebody’s home and you don’t feel like you can just sit there and not interact. So, people start asking questions like “how do you know the band? How’d you find out about this? Have you been to other ones?' And these conversations start to happen," Esp said.
Because of the laid-back nature of Love Missoula, turnout is usually up in the air, but organizers have seen as many as 40 people gathered in a home at one time. As Love Missoula continues to grow, president Dwayne Parton is looking ahead at the group’s long-term goals.
“We’d love to see a non-profit happen and making it more tangible for other people to have shows and for them to feel safe to open their homes to strangers, really, and how do we do that,” said Dwayne Parton, the President of Love Missoula
Until then, Parton just hopes to see people feeling more connected to their community. If you want to attend an event or get involved, you can visit the group's website at here.