On Wednesday afternoon, Jen Gursky was still wearing the boots she put on when the boiler at Helena's YWCA building went out at 1 a.m. that morning.
As the organization's new executive director, she said, her morning involved "100-year-old boilers and fixing the radiators."
Gursky is now leading the century-old organization dedicated to serving women in the Helena area. The YWCA, which operates housing for women dealing with difficult situations, reaches out to a broad spectrum of the Helena community with events, candidate forums and other fundraising activities.
Gursky sees her new job at the YWCA as helping women tell their stories.
"We're dealing with people in the middle of their stories," Gursky said, returning from working with a woman at the YWCA. And the YWCA has always done that, Gursky said. "It hasn't needed to change in 100 years," she said.
"It's about restoring hope and promoting hope," Gursky said of her job. "The mission of this building has always been that."
"Everyone deserves the dignity they're born with," Gursky said.
Born and raised in Polson, Gursky has spent much of her life working to preserve the dignity of others. Before she attended the University of Montana in Missoula, she traveled to Cambodia on a mission trip to work with migrant women and issues involving sex trafficking.
Gursky has a policy background as well. She spent the 2013 legislative session in Helena as one of Missoula's representatives in the House of Representatives, working on the Judiciary and Health and Human Services Committees.
She met her husband during the session and made a "life decision.” She and her husband are now raising a 2-year-old in the capital city.
Last year, Gursky was in the running to fill a spot on the ballot vacated by House Minority Leader Jenny Eck.
"I'm drawn like a magnet into people," Gursky said.
For almost her entire adult life, Gursky has been working to support people and programs that provide service to others. "I've always been more of a support person," Gursky said. "I'm not a social worker, not a direct staff person, but I always ask, how can I support these people?"
During her six years in Helena, Gursky has worked as the development director for Helena Food Share and as the program director for the Montana Community Foundation, a statewide program working with extraordinarily rural communities throughout the state.
"It was fantastic," Gursky said. But she missed forming relationships and balancing the ability to give and the ability to take, something she calls "interdependency."
This job is just a bit different, but Gursky is excited to begin. "It's a completely different scale, with completely different opportunities," Gursky said.
Gursky is replacing former Executive Director Monica Lindeen, who stepped down after about a year with the YWCA to head the Montana Democratic Party.