Our Mission

The mission of the YWCA of Great Falls: Advance the quality of life for women of all ages, races, and faiths, and their families. In support of this mission, the YWCA provides services to meet critical needs, promote self-sufficiency, reduce violence, and achieve equal opportunities for all people.

Our Mission

The mission of the YWCA of Great Falls: Advance the quality of life for women of all ages, races, and faiths, and their families. In support of this mission, the YWCA provides services to meet critical needs, promote self-sufficiency, reduce violence, and achieve equal opportunities for all people.
About the YWCA Great Falls Sandi Filipowicz
Sandi works every day to fulfill the mission of the YWCA by taking the mission out into the community and overseeing the health of the staff and facilities. She is strong in crisis management and enjoys being a spokeswoman for such a wonderful organization. Sandi has been a self-described “feminist” since her teen years. She now has a much broader perspective on what that means, but says it is a simple definition. As with many other “groups” of classification, “Women’s rights are human rights.” In the first fiscal year of Sandi’s work at the YWCA Great Falls (2016-2017) all of the strategic plan items were achieved. Credit is due to staff, board and community supporters. The wage gap and preventing child abuse and neglect are two of Sandi’s priorities. Sandi is fluent in English and Finnish and enjoys gardening. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Oregon State University and has a long history of leading nonprofits.

Sandi Filipowicz

Executive Director

About the YWCA Great Falls Rebecca (Becky) Rate
Becky makes sure the community living situation at the Mercy Home runs like a well-oiled machine. Her eight years as an advocate in the shelter prepared her for this leadership role. Becky brings her compassion and knowledge to the program with empowerment as her philosophy. She wrote her first grant last year – and it was awarded! Becky is constantly working with the YWCA team to make the Mercy Home a safe and inviting place for those victimized by violence. She was awarded the Advocate of the Year Award 2017 by Attorney General Tim Fox. She is working toward a bachelor’s degree in business.

Rebecca (Becky) Rate

Mercy Home Shelter Coordinator

About the YWCA Great Falls Veronda Biggart
Veronda works with individuals, couples and families to help navigate their way through any difficulties or concerns they may be having. She has worked at the YWCA for five years to empower her clients in a confidential and nonjudgmental way. Specializing in helping clients recover from trauma, Veronda understands the importance of unconditional positive regard in the healing process. Veronda can help clients develop skills and self-understanding to navigate their journey in life.

Veronda Biggart

Licensed Clinical Practicing Counselor (LCPC)

About the YWCA Great Falls Stephanie Bullshoe
Stephanie is the first face and voice to greet you at the YWCA, and she has a smile for everyone. Her customer service skills are incomparable. Stephanie will give you the information you need or find someone else who can. She is the queen of Excel and keeps all of the agency’s statistics in order. Stephanie is also the best Indian taco maker in Great Falls!

Stephanie Bullshoe

Receptionist/Administrative Assistant

About the YWCA Great Falls Donna Butler-Plant
Donna has been part of the YWCA Great Falls since the turn of the century. In 2000, she started volunteering, in 2002 she became a staff member, and is now a vital part of the agency. You might see her keeping the donations sorted in Y’s Buys Thrift Store or setting up refreshments for the Card Club. Donna is a lovely person and a great part of the YWCA team.

Donna Butler-Plant

Y’s Buys Manager and Maintenance/Grounds Person

About the YWCA Great Falls Staff Photo

Board of Directors:

Diane Bodnar – President


Diane Bodnar is employed at First Interstate Bank as a Vice President/Business Development Officer. She has worked for the bank for 38 years in a variety of positions working her way up from the bookkeeping department. She plans to retire in June 2018 at which time she would like to travel a great deal. Diane has two daughters, one granddaughter, and one Maltese name Cheaka, all of which live in Great Falls.

Evie Hudson – Vice President


Evie Hudson is an attorney and owner of Hudson Law PLLC. In her practice, she assists clients with business formation, business transactions, estate planning, probate, guardianship/conservatorship, and real estate matters. She joined the YWCA Board because she personally benefited from the YWCA’s services during her childhood and wants to pay it forward to the Y and this great community. Evie enjoys spending time with her husband and three little ones. She is a self-proclaimed rehab addict who loves to refinish and repurpose furniture. When she’s not busy with the law or the YWCA, Evie is fishing or trail riding.

Jennifer Fritz – President Elect


Jennifer Fritz is the Client Services Director at The Wendt Agency, a full service advertising and public relations agency. She works with clients to create on-target public outreach and strategic marketing plans. Born and raised in Great Falls, she is passionate about giving back to the community and the YWCA offers her the chance to do just that. When not working, Jennifer enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling, and making memories with her husband and two beautiful children.

Heather Hoyer – Secretary


Heather Hoyer is the principal of Great Falls High School. She has been in education for 23 years, with 21 of them serving the students and families of Great Falls. Prior to being in administration, she taught science at the middle school and high school levels. Heather lives in Belt with her husband, Keith and has two daughters in college. “Working with students is my oxygen; it keeps you happy and healthy.”

Melissa Darko – Treasurer


Melissa Darko is the director of RDI Community Lending. She has extensive experience in banking, insurance, compliance work, grant writing, and retail sales. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Montana. Melissa has served as a community volunteer for multiple causes in both Great Falls and Belt, where she was raised. She is the mother of two awesome boys and two mischievous cats. 

Kristy Pontent-Stroop


Kristy is the Deputy Director at Alliance for Youth, Inc. in Great Falls, and has been a part of the AFY team since 2006. A native of Belt, Kristy fell in love with helping others and volunteering when she was a teenager. She joined the YWCA Board as a way to give back to her community. Kristy obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Community Leadership from MSU-Northern. When Kristy’s not working, volunteering or enjoying the great outdoors, you will find her spending time with her incredible husband and chasing her two sons to multiple sporting events.

Kristie Sotelo


Great Falls native, Kristie Sotelo, returned to our community after a 15 year career in the television industry in Los Angeles.  She has Production credits with A&E, USA, MTV, and VH1 Networks.  Kristie enjoys living a slower-paced life here with her son and husband, and works as the Style Consultant for Signature Montana Magazine.  She is also active in promoting children’s events around Great Falls, fostering a sense of community for parents of little ones.

Antoinette Collins

Ebony Godfrey

We are members of the following:

• YWCA USA
• Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
• Montana Nonprofit Association
• Sexual Assault Response Team (Great Falls)
• Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Coalition (Great Falls)
• National Network to End Domestic Violence

From July 2016 to June 2017, the YWCA has provided 212 women and children with more than 2,750 shelter nights and served more than 7,925 meals.

Some of the highlights from the 2016-17 year include:

• Drumming circle
• Yoga class
• Spring Fling Hoop Thing / Play 4 A Cause
• Speech Craft Classes – a program of Toastmasters
• Self-defense classes
• Boundaries and self-care
• Parent Café
• Assisting with wills, trusts, and other confusing stuff

We have provided 2,158 people services in our Y’s Buys store from July 2016 to June 2017.

The YWCA began as a movement; its name came later. The pulse of the movement was felt first in England in 1855 and in the United States in 1858.

In each country, a small group of caring and perceptive women began the task of making life better for other women. This group sensed the anxiety of young women who came from rural cities with supportive home bases to cities in search of work to become self-supporting. Factories were replacing at-home occupations such as weaving, sewing, and laundry.

 

First Associations

  • Boston was the first to use YWCA as the name for its association in 1859, even though it opened a year later than what is now the YWCA of the City of New York.
  • After Boston and New York, associations appeared in Hartford, Connecticut; Pittsburgh; Cleveland; and Cincinnati in 1867; St. Louis followed in 1868; and Dayton, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Buffalo, New York; and Philadelphia in 1870.
  • By 1875, there were 28 Young Women’s Christian Associations in U.S. cities.

 

The first student association began its work in 1873 at Illinois State Normal University (now known as Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois); e by 1890, there was a total of 106 student associations.

  • As the number of associations increased in the U.S., there was a need to centralize information and programs. As a result, in 1907, the National Board of the YWCA of the USA was incorporated in New York. The first president of the National Board was Grace Dodge, daughter of a wealthy New York financier. With a talent for drawing people together for a common cause, Ms. Dodge united more than 600 small groups into one national organization. J.P. Morgan paid tribute to her great organizational skill by declaring, “She had the finest business brain in the United States, not excepting that of any man.”
  • 1911, the national office was headquartered in New York City in a facility built as a result of the generosity and foresight of six YWCA women. The Victorian building provided for training, national offices, and a research center for girls and women.

 

In 1911 in Great Falls, Montana, a group of local church women met and formed a committee to establish a YWCA in Great Falls.

The group decided there was a need to help women and girls who were seeking work and those who came from rural areas to find a place to live.

  • During the first year, the group worked with more than 500 women through Traveler’s Aid, Vesper Services, Business Girls Club, public lounges, and high school girls clubs.
  • During the next two years, records show that the women met 2,229 trains, served 35,779 meals, and assisted more than 5,000 individuals.
  • They outgrew their building, and in 1918 moved to 1st Avenue North and 3rd Street, where they opened a dormitory for girls.
  • When the Great Depression hit, financing became a problem. The group was forced to close its doors for eight years.
  • However, the officers never disbanded, and when they received a gift of $25,000 from the James Long Estate, they bought the building at 315 1st Ave. North and continued their services.
  • In 1954, more than 2,000 people in the Great Falls community came together with money and/or time to build the current YWCA at 220 2nd St. North.

 

The YWCA Great Falls has a rich and colorful history. It has offered services that range from Techgirls to Card Club to the Great Falls community and surrounding areas.

  • In 1990, the Mercy Home shelter became a YWCA program. The Mercy Home was born in 1977 as a result of the community coming together, conducting a needs assessment of transient and abused women and children, and developing a systematic approach to create the first shelter for domestic violence victims and their children in Montana. It was one of only 30 shelters of its type in the United States of America.
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