2021 SALUTE TO WOMEN AWARDS WINNERS                                                                           Virtual event

Helena, MT, March 11, 2021:  The American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) Big Sky Chapter and Soroptimist International of Helena are excited to announce the annual “SALUTE TO WOMEN” Awards Luncheon.  This Awards Luncheon honors Helena women whose public actions and personal triumphs demonstrate a commitment to the ABWA, Soroptimist International of Helena, and YWCA missions.  Proceeds benefit the YWCA of Helena, and provides educational scholarships to women and girls in Helena.

ABWA’s Mission:  to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, networking support, and national recognition.

Soroptimists’ Mission:  To improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.

YWCA Mission:  The YWCA of Helena’s mission is to prevent homelessness, provide safe and supportive housing for women and children experiencing homelessness, and provide services that restore hope, self-sufficiency, and happy and healthy lives.   Together with YWCA USA and YWCAs across the country, we are dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

The Salute to Women Awards Luncheon is held every year in early March – on or near International Women’s Day: March 8.

This year’s awards and award winners include:

Susan Good-Giese, Lewis and Clark County Commissioner

Salute’s Woman of Achievement Award

Award Criteria:  The Woman of Achievement Award is presented to a woman whose involvement and commitment to the Helena community works to improve the lives of women and girls which leads to social and economic empowerment.

The 2021 recipient is Susan Good-Giese.

A recurring theme in Susan’s nomination is that she is a woman of conviction who is tenacious in her pursuit of causes that provide opportunity and dignity for all and promotes justice, freedom, and truth.  Susan has served as a positive mentor to friends and colleagues, encouraging them to meet challenges head on and to ask and answer the tough questions. Susan carried out these pursuits through a long and successful career as a public servant and teacher. It was also noted that Susan has never backed away from, and in fact relishes, community challenges.  As a leader in the community, she is known to say that she likes to “jump into something that’s struggling.”  Her impact on her community includes her commitment to her hometown of Augusta as well as Lewis and Clark County. Susan has a history of volunteerism, mentorship and work with the Jesuit community and underserved populations.

Drenda Niemann, Health Officer at Lewis and Clark Public Health

YWCA Woman of the Year

Award Criteria:  The YWCA Women of the Year Award is presented to a woman who’s professional and/or volunteer work supports, embodies and complements the YWCA Helena’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

The 2021 YWCA Woman of the Year is, Drenda Niemann.

“Drenda Niemann supports, embodies, and complements the YWCA mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. As the Health Officer at Lewis and Clark Public Health, she has led by example.  Drenda’s advocacy and leadership in the community has continually demonstrated her commitment to the health and well-being of Lewis and Clark County. Her commitment has been exemplified during this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her compassionate leadership is a true example of leading with a “strong back, soft front” (a phrase popularized by Brene Brown).”

At a workplace composed primarily of women, Drenda’s leadership is a positive example to her staff of how to lead with passion, knowledge, and vulnerability.

Michelle Bright

Soroptomist International of Helena Live Your Dream Award

Award Criteria:  This award is given to a woman who provides the primary financial support for her family and who is currently enrolled in a vocational program or an undergraduate degree program. This $3,000 scholarship is designed to help women further their education, leading to better career opportunities and economic empowerment.

This year’s recipient of the Soroptimist International of Helena’s Live Your Dream Award is Michelle Bright.  Michelle is a single mom. Michelle tells us after ending a bad relationship she realized she needed to get out of the hole she felt she was in, get a job and go back to school.  So that is what she did.  However, her first attempt in 2014 was not successful and she ended up dropping out.  Luckily, Michelle came to realize she needed to continue her education toward her dream of becoming a nurse.  She started college again in 2020 and made the Dean’s list Spring semester of 2020.  This has helped her realize she is on the right track.

Nikki MacMillan

ABWA Stephen Bufton $1,000 Memorial Scholarship

Award Criteria:  Each year, ABWA awards two educational scholarships through the Stephen Bufton Memorial Education Fund to two local female students attending school in Montana.  The Impact Scholarships are valued at $1,000 for a two-year school and $2,000 for a college or university offering a Bachelor’s degree.  The deadline for the Impact Scholarships is May 15th, so the 2021 recipients are not known just yet. Today, they honor the 2020 recipients.

The $1000 Impact Scholarship winner for 2020 is Nikki MacMillan. Nikki is a graduate of Capital High School and was honored as a Class Valedictorian. She was a cheerleader all four years, member of the National Honors Society and raised over $4000 for Intermountain Children’s Home by designing and decorating table-top trees for the Festival of Trees. Nikki also baked dog treats and gave the proceeds to Child Care Connections which helps to pay for childcare for essential workers during this pandemic.

Emma Niederstadt

ABWA Stephen Bufton $2,000 Memorial Scholarship

The $2000 Impact Scholarship Winner for 2020 is Emma Niederstadt. Emma is a graduate of Helena High School and participated in volleyball, basketball and track. She was also actively involved in Student Council, the National Honor Society and the Niceness is Priceless Club. Emma worked with youth groups as a climbing instructor at Stonetree Climbing Center. She has a love for giving back and her goal is to pay it forward in hopes it will catch on.


YWCA Woman of the Year

Drenda Niemann

Ms. Niemann is Lewis and Clark County’s Health Officer and has boldly led our community through the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis for the past year. From Drenda’s nomination by her colleagues: “There is a quote from Brendon Burchard that says: ‘You can spot a leader when you see someone wade into the unknown with willingness to struggle, to serve others, to direct the process of change with attentiveness, commitment, and grace.' Drenda has been the picture of leadership and grace as she has led Lewis & Clark Public Health through one of the most challenging public health emergencies of our lifetime.”


YWCA Woman of the Year

Sara Berg

Sara Berg is an attorney with Browning, Kaleczyk, Berry & Hoven.  She specializes in civil defense litigation and family law.  She has been an 18 year pro bono volunteer with Montana Legal Services Association.  The association provides free civil legal aid to low income individuals with several of her cases involving domestic violence. 


Salute Woman of Achievement

Laura Fix

This year’s winner has been a successful business woman within the Helena community since 1996 and is co-owner of Island Liquor and Gold Island Casino. She is a huge supporter of many causes in the community and freely gives of her time, energy and resources. 

Throughout her professional life and through her community support, she has exemplified a commitment to making a positive impact on others.  She is an individual who has demonstrated over the years a deep dedication to giving back to her community by hosting fundraising events at her store.  In addition, she donates raffle basket items and bottles of wine for those same fundraising events, which allows these organizations to keep their costs down so a greater percentage of net proceeds can be used to fund programs and scholarships.  These fundraising events have benefited many non-profits in Helena including: 

  • Westmont 
  • Good Samaritan 
  • Montana Joining Community Forces 
  • YWCA 
  • Soroptimist International of Helena 
  • Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies 
  • Pads 4 Paws 
  • The Friendship Center 
  • Florence Crittenton 

Furthermore, she donates to the many individual requests for auction items she receives.  As you can see, she is a small business owner with a big heart and does much for our community!  She freely shares her expertise on wines and spirits with her staff and customers on a daily basis and is an acknowledged leader in her industry. 

She is one of the most generous people I know and a constant inspiration to me. Please join me in welcoming this year’s Salute Women of Achievement award winner and a woman I’m honored to call my friend, Laura Fix. 


YWCA Woman of the Year

Mary Rutherford

Grace. Dignity. Strength. Compassion. Optimism.  


  • Hired women to build Montana’s philanthropic sector; 
  • Stewarded millions of dollars in new gifts to benefit Montana communities; 
  • Said “yes” to starting a Montana Disaster Relief fund when our state was scrambling to figure out wildfire response in 2017; 
  • Mentored women to be better bosses and leaders; 
  • Volunteered her time and donated generously to numerous causes;  
  • And the list goes on and on and on… 

Grace. Dignity. Strength. Compassion. Optimism.  

These words unmistakably describe this year’s Woman of the Year. It is my honor and distinct privilege to introduce to you Mary Rutherford, the YWCA's Woman of the Year!   

Let’s start with Grace. 

While I stand here today as the Executive Director of YWCA Helena, I invested the last three years as an employee of Mary’s. I married the love of my life just weeks before starting my employment at Montana Community Foundation. A year later I was expecting my first child. Ten weeks after my daughter was born, her grandfather, my dad, suddenly died.  

Mary quickly reinforced that family and my new responsibilities as “Mom” were the number one priority in my life. I’m a type A personality. It would have been an easy thing for me to prioritize the important work of the Montana Community Foundation. Not only did Mary brush aside a deadline of returning from maternity leave, but also ensured I was able to take necessary bereavement leave, ultimately meaning my work would have to wait. She ensured a community of colleagues were ready to gently welcome me back after my maternity leave did not go as expected. This experience deeply influenced me. Mary mentored me into grace as a  leader. She exemplified grace as a leader. And has an eternally grateful, and ultimately transformed leader because of her grace. 


Webster’s defines dignity as being worthy of honor or respect. Being composed or serious, or having a sense of pride in oneself.  

Mary not only is worthy of honor and respect, her presence and intelligence demand it. She demands it of her staff, of her organization, and of herself. And it has meant that an incredible list of accomplishments now follow her name. From building the Montana Community Foundation to over $100 million in assets, to recently being named to the Federal Reserve board of directors. Mary’s sheer ability inclusively lead produces results. 


Mary navigates the world like no one I’ve ever met. Her poise in the toughest of boardroom conversations allows her to earn and garner respect immediately. But her internal strength is matched by none.  It isn’t a secret to the community of friends and colleagues that Mary continues to work with speedbumps she’s had in her health this year. But what is maybe only seen by those who get to work closely with her is her authenticity and vulnerability. Her strength through moments of collaboration and teamwork mean that she doesn’t just talk the talk – she walks the walk. Her strength in her vulnerability and authenticity creates an opportunity for learning and overcoming. 


I got to personally experience Mary’s compassion in the story I shared about her grace. But her compassion extends far beyond. Mary has often talked about the welfare of children, and those without. Whether it is hungry children, women who need something to go right in their lives, or a daughter who is creating opportunities for her son… as a single mom. Mary’s heart is tender to bear the burdens WITH those who are experiencing loss or crisis. And while her compassion certainly includes her checkbook, it extends to thoughtful and meaningful work about how she invests her time and talents to make the world around her a better place for her neighbors.  

She deeply believes in, and champions, equity and justice in her work and with the organizations she supports. 

As Karen Armstrong, creator of the Charter for Compassion states, “Compassion means to endure something with another person, to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes, to feel her pain as though it were our own, and to enter generously into their point of view. Compassion can be defined, therefore, as an attitude of principled, consistent altruism.” 

This is Mary.   

Finally, Optimism.  

As the newly minted executive director for YWCA Helena, I might have saved the best for last. 

Optimism. Mary exudes optimism. Have a new project you want to launch? Mary probably thinks you can do it. Need to raise $1 million for your operating expenses? Mary believes you can do it – and she will help you get there. Think you need to get an advanced degree to accomplish your career goals? Mary knows you can do it.  

I wish we could all look through the beautiful eyeglasses of Mary Rutherford. Because, when you view the world as she does, the world looks brighter. Through Mary’s eyes, the world has the potential to hold equality, the potential for women to earn equal pay for equal work, the potential for a woman to holistically be supported through addiction recovery, the potential for a mom to provide her child security and love, the potential for our community to be resourced and react through a lens of compassion.  

And optimism, in its purest form, is hope. And that’s what the YWCA has been doing for over 100 years.  

Knowing Mary is knowing grace, dignity, strength, compassion and optimism. And that’s why YWCA Helena is proud to honor Mary today with the Woman of the Year award. Because the women of Helena not only look up to Mary, but need her Grace, dignity, strength, compassion and optimism.


Salute Woman of Achievement

Marcia Wall

It is my pleasure to announce this year’s Salute Woman of Achievement is Marcia Wall!    

Marcia’s nominators wrote in part… 

As a school counselor at Helena Middle School, Marcia would provide money for field trips, winter coats and shoes to students out of her own pocket.  Marcia Wall founded The Angel Fund in 1989 after seeing students  

lacking the basic needs of clothing and school supplies which are necessary for students to be able to focus on their education.  The Angel Fund supports over 800 students and involves more than 50 volunteers and Angel Coordinators in the Helena Public Schools. 

In 2018, The Angel Fund provided 14 $1,000 scholarships to qualifying graduates at PAL, Helena High and Capital High Schools.  It’s philosophy --”Pay It Forward” -- is important and scholarship applicants are asked to identify ways in which they intend to give back to their communities. 

Twelve years ago, Stuff the Bus was started by The Angel Fund and in 2018, nearly 1,300 students started the school year with a new backpack full of supplies. 

If that’s not enough, Marcia partnered with the Attorney General’s office and the Helena Police Department to provide running and athletic shoes to students to encourage an active lifestyle. 

Marcia Wall’s vision to help others has touched the lives of countless students and families in the greater Helena area.  Thank you Marcia for all you’ve done for our community! 



2018 Winners

Bonnie Bowler
YWCA Woman of the Year

The YWCA Women of the Year Award is presented to a woman whose professional and/or volunteer work supports, embodies and complements the YWCA Helena’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Bonnie Bowler supports, embodies and complements the YWCA mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Before she retired, Bonnie was a long-time Latin teacher at Helena and capital High Schools. She was a brilliant teacher who inspired many students. She was also a strong advocate for women’s sports.

In retirement, Bonnie has been a dedicated volunteer at the Montana Historical Society for 14 years and averages 200 hours per year.

Bonnie also provided nine years of leadership as a YWCA Executive Board member, serving as Chair of the Building Committee through a major renovation. She could always be counted on to volunteer for board events and to do whatever was needed to make them a success, including cleaning up.

What sets her apart from other dedicated board members is her hands-on volunteer work. Bonnie’s commitment to ensuring the YWCA is a safe, clean and inviting place for women and their children is boundless.

Bonnie spent hours cleaning out the building in preparation for renovation, and countless more moving furniture and bedding back in after the renovation was complete. She pitches in to do whatever needs done, including vacuuming, taking out the trash, raking leaves, pulling weeds, shoveling snow, cleaning the kitchen, etc.

Perhaps most important, Bonnie’s regular presence at the YWCA allowed her to become acquainted  with the residents and she serves as a role model and mentor to the women.

Bonnie’s extraordinary volunteer work has significantly contributed to the success of the YWCA and its mission. Congratulations Bonnie on being named as YWCA’s Woman of the Year!

Jena Sabatini
Salute’s Woman of Achievement Award

Award Criteria:  The Woman of Achievement Award is presented to a woman whose involvement and commitment to the Helena community works to improve the lives of women and girls which leads to social and economic empowerment.

Jena’s nominator wrote in part… 

Jena Sabatini earned a Hospitality and Tourism Management degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She worked in hospitality sales across the US before buying her first hotel in Wisconsin. Fortunately for Helena, Jena’s next purchase was a Hotel here, where she and her husband eventually moved when they acquired a third property.   Her passion for the outdoors and community made the move a natural fit.  Since coming to Helena, Jena has selflessly contributed and volunteered in our community. 

She has taken on and headed up many community service activities with countless organizations.  In fact, in 2008 Jena co-founded the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) with the goal of raising in excess of $300,000 annually to help grow Helena’s tourism economy. The TBID has grown to help revitalize Readers Alley and catapult Helena onto the national mountain biking scene. Most recently, Jena founded Fun Events which creates and promotes entertainment in Helena with the purpose of supporting charitable organizations. Fun Events currently has three annual events, Rally for the Cure Golf Tournament, Dueling Pianos and Bacon, Eggs and Kegs.  

Jena has the ability to give an event almost instant velocity.  For example, she started organizing the Rally for the Cure Golf Tournament three years ago and last year she successfully quadrupled the proceeds raised from the previous year and sold out the maximum number of participants allowed.  

She started Dueling Pianos six years ago with the event selling out each year and raising more money each year - the total raised to date is nearly $130,000.  

Jena has been awarded the 2007 Hospitality Hero for Helena Community and 2009 Helena Chamber of Commerce’s Volunteer of the Year.  

Because of these efforts, Jena has the respect and gratitude of her peers here in Helena. She not only goes above and beyond giving 110% in her devotion to support others, but Jena puts FUN in Fundraising. Helena is lucky to have her!  

2017 Winners

Anna Kazmierowski, A2Z Staffing Solutions
YWCA Woman of the Year

The YWCA Women of the Year Award is presented to a woman whose professional and/or volunteer work supports, embodies and complements the YWCA Helena’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Anna exemplifies the this award. One nominator wrote, “Anna Kazmierowski is a champion for women.”  She is heavily involved in her community, and state, sponsoring various nonprofit organizations that work to improve the lives of women.  Anna is a member of the ASTRA Women-Owned Business Alliance, a certification organization for women owned businesses. She collaborates with corporations and government agencies to improve workplace diversity, and has held meetings at the cabinet level to discuss and define women-diversity goals for the State of Montana.  She has received numerous recognitions for her work as a business entrepreneur and volunteer. 

Anna immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1993. She got her start at a temporary staffing firm in Chicago, Ill., igniting her passion for the staffing industry. In 2001, she began working at a staffing firm in Helena, and began pursuing her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.  In 2008, Anna became a minority owner of A2Z Personnel Helena and purchased the business in 2016.

Kimmy Skiftun, Executive Director, Treacy Foundation
Salute’s Woman of Achievement Award

Award Criteria:  The Woman of Achievement Award is presented to a woman whose involvement and commitment to the Helena community works to improve the lives of women and girls which leads to social and economic empowerment.

Through the Treacy Foundation, Kimmy has positively impacted many, many lives here in Helena.  She personifies the spirit of giving and supporting one’s community, people and history.  She is an unsung hero of sorts and shies away from the spot light. 

“You don’t need to look far to see something that Kimmy has assisted with either personally or professionally,” writes one nominator.

Kimmy has been at the helm of the foundation since 2010.  In that time, she has supported such organizations as West Mont, Florence Crittenton, YWCA, Healty Mother’s Healthy Babies, intermountain Children’s Home, Exploration Works, Big Brother’s Big Sisters, and many more.  Her involvement and impact go beyond her work at the foundation.  Kimmy is seen at most charitable fundraisers, Chamber events, Community events, and working silently behind the scenes anonymously helping on many community endeavors. 


We are so very excited to announce the recipients of our 2016 Salute to Women Awards.

YWCA Woman of the Year is - Laura Erickson, Grants Coordinator with Lewis & Clark County.

Woman of Achievement is - Aimee Grmoljez, head of government affairs with Crowley Fleck.

Congratulations to these two very extraordinary and deserving women!  Please join us on March 17 for our Salute to Women luncheon to honor them. 

KTVH was there to capture the moment!  Watch the video



We are so very excited to announce the recipients of our 2015 Salute to Women Awards.

Paula VanderJagt, owner of Van's Thriftway, is the recipient of the Salute to Women Woman of Achievement.

Ann Waickman of Helena Food Share is the YWCA Woman of the Year.

The SI Helena Live Your Dream award winner is Tara Fisher.

The ABWA Scholarship winner is Katelyn Opp.

Congratulations to these two very extraordinary and deserving women!  Please join us on March 12 for our Salute to Women luncheon to honor them. 

KTVH was there to capture the moment!  Watch the video