Missoula YWCA salutes 11 women who turned their lives around
Missoula YWCA salutes 11 women who turned their lives around

Women stuck to decision, asked for help

Sally Mullen, executive director of the YWCA of Missoula, was struck by a couple of things the 11 women selected for the agency's 2000 Salute to Excellence honor have in common.

One is the amazing amount of concentration and ability they had to make a fundamental decision to change their lives and leave abusive relationships, she said.

The second is that, after making the decision, they "all reached out for help. And when they reached, hands were there," she said.

The 2000 awards honored women who have been through the mill - and the YWCA's programs, Mullen said.

The awards were presented Wednesday night during a recognition dinner at the Holiday Inn Parkside.

One recipient, Teresa Bergman (and her five children), said she "sneaked" away from her first husband.

"I ran away from a bad situation with my first husband," she said.

When she and her children first moved here, she began to take computer classes with money she had saved for about five months. She didn't know she could qualify for any kind of assistance for the classes. When told she could, she refused.

"I was so proud I was separated from my abusive family and my husband who was abusive. I was so proud that I had saved it (the money) so I wanted to pay my own way," she said.

With no previous traditional work experience, she volunteered at the YWCA for four years. That's where she met her current husband, Gary Bergman. He was hired as an administrative assistant to begin with and was promoted later to computer teacher, she said. Teresa Bergman was his assistant.

Her children made and sold "holly bugs" during the Christmas season and donated the money to the YWCA for two years, she said proudly.

She now is an administrative assistant at Land and Water Consulting.

Bergman received the award for "Way Cool Family."

Karla Harris, who will receive the "Golden Bootstraps" award, is a graduate of the YWCA's shelter program and now works at the Missoula Indian Center as a data coordinator for the chemical dependency department.

The YWCA helped her tremendously, she said. It steered her and gave her proper referrals, she said. New to the area, she was told by the agency about the Missoula Housing Authority and different places she could go to for assistance.

"I was very fortunate that I had people who selected me," she said.

She has computer skills and people skills "but as for how the chemical dependency department was run, that was all very new to me," she said.

Nine months into the job, she is learning the ropes on whom to speak to for court papers and various other procedures.

Betty St. John, honored as YWCA Employee, began at the organization's Secret Seconds store in 1985. She came to the YWCA as a client after reading about the New Horizons' program, which is similar to Women in Transition.

"I was going through some times in my life," she said.

The program, she said, "is for women like myself who were going through some of the same problems as I was. I think just knowing I was not alone was important. I still keep in touch with some of those women."

"The YWCA helped me learn so much and that I could make a life for myself. And I have," she added.

After completing the program, she was asked to manage the YWCA's store, a position she continues to hold.

Other recipients included Ronda Whitmire for Business, Brenda Velardes for Higher Education, Carol Ann Hovland for Human Rights, Penny Matheson for Long Term Employment, Sherry Ames for Nontraditional Employment, Marlyn Durall for Professional, Jenny Duddy for Self-Employment and Linda Cornelius for Giving Back to the YWCA.

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