Former state auditor Monica Lindeen will serve as the new executive director of YWCA Helena.
The YWCA in Helena was founded in 1911 and initially provided housing for women who were working or looking for employment during a time when women generally didn’t live alone. Now the organization has shifted to working on racial justice and civil rights, empowering women and their children and supporting the health and safety of women and girls.
“I’ve always tried to do things to advocate for people,” Lindeen said. “I’m incredibly honored they chose me.”
Lindeen co-founded and eventually sold Montana Communications Network. After serving four terms as a Democrat in the state House of Representatives representing a district that stretched from Billings to Miles City, Lindeen served two terms as state auditor starting in 2009. Lindeen lost a bid for Secretary of State in 2016. She said she took the last year to step back and consider what she wanted to do next.
“I was pretty exhausted,” she said. “It feels good to take a step back from that political world.”
But when Lindeen saw the YWCA job open up after former director Kellie Goodwin McBride took a job with Lewis and Clark County, it felt like the right time to jump back in. And while it’s not necessarily a job in politics, Lindeen will be working on issues she’s always been interested in. She will be responsible for working on policy issues with state and local governments, connecting with other organizations doing related work, and fundraising for YWCA.
“I’ve always felt strongly about people being treated equally,” she said. “That all transfers.”
Right now, 12 women and 10 babies live at the YWCA and come from a variety of backgrounds such as an unhealthy relationship, substance abuse, or from the criminal justice system. YWCA provides resources and programs such as parenting classes, help finding employment, and other training for skills to live independently.
“All the while we ensure women and children have a safe place,” Lindeen said.
Lindeen started on Jan. 8 and is already seeing how challenging the job can be. YWCA Helena often has a waiting list for women who want to enter the program, which means some women might be stuck in unsafe situations.
“We only have so many room and so much money,” Lindeen said. “It’s amazing how much we do with so little.”
After spending only a few days with the budget, Lindeen said it’s clear how important support from the community is. She said some grants -- like one for a program that facilitates supervised visits and transfers custody of children for parents who don’t see each other by choice or as part of a court order -- will expire next year. It’s unclear if the grant will be renewed or if YWCA will try to find a different way to fund the program. She said it could go away altogether, leaving people who rely on the program without support.
“I didn’t take it lightly when I took the job,” Lindeen said.