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.