What Montana girl shouldn’t know how to fix her own bicycle or how to survive overnight backpacking trips?

They can learn those skills, plus participate in some great community service projects and exploration, during the YWCA’s GUTS! program. The program also teaches young women leadership skills through the outdoor activities.

Here’s what YWCA’s Amanda Opitz shared about this summer’s programming:

Do you know a girl age 9-18 who could benefit from going on a GUTS! Summer Adventure? Led by qualified women instructors, GUTS! girls increase their self-confidence, hone individual strengths, and cultivate their appreciation for the natural world in an environment free from societal pressures. Our outdoor adventures are designed to develop leadership skills utilizing recreation and discovery as catalysts. Summer Outdoor Adventures are generally six-day trips that incorporate several outdoor skills such as backpacking, canoeing or rock-climbing, while introducing participants to the GUTS! leadership methods. 

To see the full schedule and learn more about trips, click here or call 543-6691. Or learn more about what else the YWCA provides to the community on their website.

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Only three days left to sign up for GUTS summer programs

Right off the bat, I’m going to admit that the headline on this post needs clarification. While the official deadline to sign up for the YWCA‘s Girls Using Their Strengths! (GUTS!) summer programs is May 28, the program will continue accepting applications until the trips are full.

But you don’t want to wait until the last minute.  I’m sure the slots will fill fast for this summer program, which includes outdoor adventures on local trails, farms and rivers.

Here’s how the YWCA describes its “five week-long outdoor wilderness adventures for girls ages 9 to 18.”

Summer trips incorporate multiple outdoor activities, such as backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, rafting and mountain biking. Adventurers are also introduced to “leave no trace” backcountry ethics and teamwork, as well as place-based learning. Trips include one day of service, which is usually spent working on an organic farm or helping with trail maintenance.

The application is available here. The suggested donation for the program is $350, but don’t let that number stand in the way of signing up; scholarships are available.

For more information, contact Roe at YWCA Missoula by calling 543-6691 or sending an email to

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Be a role model for a kid who has witnessed domestic violence

“Many people don’t realize how much kids are affected by the violence they see in their homes. However, domestic violence has a huge impact on children,” says YWCA Pathways Director Bridget Hanna. “These kids are in need of adult role models who can show them alternatives to violence in a safe and caring atmosphere.”

And where can these adult role models be found? Why, right here in Missoula. They are you, if you agree to volunteer and attend some training, courtesy of the local YWCA. The first orientation session will be held next Thursday, on Feb. 17 (5:30 p.m.-7 p.m.), followed by another orientation opportunity on Tuesday, Feb. 22 (4 p.m.-5:30 p.m.).

The orientation will give you an overview of what to expect if you decide to go ahead with volunteering to be an advocate for women, men and children who have experienced crisis. Then, there’s “a 45-minute training session starting March 9 to prepare them to take shifts at the shelter, advocate for survivors of violence, and/or answer the 24-hour crisis line,” according the YWCA, after which, “Volunteers join the YWCA’s team of staff advocates in providing crisis intervention and emotional support to women, men and child survivors of domestic and sexual violence.”

Why is this important? I’ll let the the YWCA’s call for volunteers explain:

Kathy never thought it would happen to her. Domestic violence was something she saw in old Lifetime movies, not in her own living room. That’s why it took her five years to gather up her 4-year-old daughter and finally leave her husband. When Kathy called the YWCA crisis line and spoke to an advocate, her shoulders relaxed as she let out a huge breath of air – for the first time in five years, she felt safe.

For more information, including applications, visit the YWCA website ( or send Pathways volunteer coordinator Bradley Seaman an e-mail at

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LUNAFEST to include ‘Mother of Many,’ a movie about midwives

When the annual LUNAFEST comes to Missoula this year, it will, as it always does, bring a slate of short films “by, for and about women.” And among these films, as usual, is one of particular interest to moms and anyone interested in the birthing industry, specifically midwives: “Mother of Many.”

The festival begins in mid-March and will hold its showings at the Wilma Theatre. The first film will start at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16.

Tickets cost $10 ($5 for students); buy them by calling 543-6691, and do so with the knowledge that ticket proceeds will help fund the YWCA‘s GUTS! (Girls Using Their Strengths) leadership program for girls ages 11 to 18, as well as the national Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Here’s the full list of films, provided by the Missoula YWCA:

  • “The Translator,”directed by Sonya Di Rienzo (Toronto, Canada). A foreign film translator finds her story on a subway line.
  • “Getting a Grip,”directed by Rosa Maria Ruvalcaba and Sarah Jun (San Fernando, Calif., and New York, NY). Meet Fannie Barnes, who became the first female cable car operator in January 1998–at age 52.
  • “Touch,” directed by Jen McGowan (Venica, Calif.). Two women make an unusual connection while waiting for a train.
  • “Tightly Knit,” directed by Jenni Nelson (Palo Alto, Calif.). A new generation of yarn bombers and social knitters discover that the ties that bind are sometimes made of wool.
  • “Top Spin,” directed by Sara Newans and Mina T. Son (New York, NY, and Los Angeles, Calif.). With hard work and family sacrifice, a young table tennis champion works toward becoming one of the top players in the world.
  • “Thembi’s Diary,” directed by Jisoo Kim (Valencia, Calif.). Nineteen year old Thembi records an auto diary of her struggle living with AIDS.
  • “Mother of Many,” directed by Emma Lazen (Bristol, UK). The most dangerous journey sometimes needs a helping hand – a midwife.
  • “Irene,” directed by Lindsay Goodall (Glasgow, UK). Ninety-two-year-old Irene suffers from Alzheimer’s, but struggles to keep her independence.
  • “Miracle Lady,” directed by Moran Somer and Michal Abulafia (Jerusalem, Israel). A tale of two old women who spend their days waiting.
  • “Love on the Line,” directed by G. Melissa Graziano (Los Angeles, Calif.). Follow the dots and dashes when star-crossed lovers curbed their raging hormones via the quickest form of communication available: the telegraph.

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It’s time to nominate a young lady to LEAD!

This coming Monday marks the deadline to turn in your nomination of a girl age 14 to 18 for the YWCA‘s Young Women LEAD Project.

“The YWCA Missoula is seeking school counselors, educators, parents, and community members to nominate fabulous young women to participate in a high-school girls’ leadership program. ”

Remember, there’s no cost – not to nominate, not to participate. All it takes is a willingness and interest on the part of the nominated girls to attend a series of two-hour seminars and get active in a community service project. Along the way, they’ll get to meet peers and role models right here in our community “while learning to find balance in life, self-care, goal-setting, and identifying their inner strengths and values,” according to the YWCA.

AND, they’ll have a change to go to the “Girls For A Change” conference in Bozeman this spring for free.

If you know a young lady who fits the bill, don’t wait any longer to nominate her! Forms are available on the YWCA’s website and at its Missoula Office, located at 1130 West Broadway. And if you need more information, call the YWCA’s GUTS! (Girls Using Their Strengths) director Jen Euell at 543-6691 or shoot her an e-mail at

– MM

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Nominate a teen girl to local leadership program

Do you know a young woman between the ages of 14-18 who might be interested in “learning to find balance in life, self-care, goal-setting, and identifying their inner strengths and values”?

If so, nominate her for the YWCA Missoula’s Young Women LEAD Project, which falls under the auspices of the organization’s Girls Using Their Strengths (GUTS!) program. Nomination will give a girl an opportunity to attend eight two-hour seminars, participate in a community service project, meet other community members (including women leaders) and even attend the upcoming “Girls for a Change” conference in Bozeman.

There’s no cost, and the deadline for nominations is Monday, Jan. 10. Get a nomination form online at the YWCA website, or contact GUTS! Director Jen Euell for more information at or 543-6691.

Need a little more encouragement? Here’s a testimonial from 17-year-old Hillary Martin, who participated in the LEAD program in 2009:

“The LEAD program is something that I can honestly say got me back on my feet. The simple fact that I was nominated to be a part of this made me feel like I had something special to offer.

“Throughout my experience in LEAD I have met and become friends with such a wide variety of incredible girls and women that I might not have otherwise known,” Hillary said. “I think that all young women should have this kind of opportunity to learn more about themselves through the experience of others.”

– MM

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YWCA weighs in on GALs and sharing stories of abuse

In response to Tyler Christensen’s recent post, “Let’s talk about guardians ad litem, not the details of your custody battle” and the subsequent responses by Cheryl Wolfe and Alice, we at YWCA Missoula would like to express both our support for Ms. Christensen and the serious need for reform of Montana’s GAL program.

Speaking out about the abuse we have suffered is an important part of the healing process and we commend the parents who want to have a voice for their children and themselves. And we know that all too often silence is the loudest enabler of violence and it frequently takes the voice of survivors, the anger and hurt of survivors, to bring these issues to the forefront.

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Missoula moms talk shop on the radio tonight

The YWCA‘s Jen Euell (a new mom), invited Mamalode founder and publisher (and mom extraordinaire) Elke Govertsen, and yours truly, to talk about motherhood and media for the In Other Words radio show on KUFM tonight.

So if you happen to find yourself conscious and near a radio at 10:30 p.m., tune in to Montana Public Radio and listen to three Missoula moms talk about community, connection and the bonds of parenting.

– MM

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GUTS! girls get big boost from Plum Creek Foundation

This week the YWCA‘s Girls Using Their Strengths program – GUTS! – accepted a $5,000 grant from the Plum Creek Foundation.

GUTS! will use the money to bring more young women into the program, which is aimed at helping girls ages 9 to 18 “discover their abilities through after-school groups and summer wilderness activities.”

After he handed over the check to GUTS! program director Jen Euell this past Wednesday, Plum Creek resource manager Jerry Wolcott said that “Plum Creek is proud to support GUTS!, which serves a multi-fold purpose. The program cultivates our future leaders while instilling in them a love and appreciation for our environment.”

Euell added: “In the face of a culture that places more value on external appearance, GUTS! helps young women recognize their inner strengths. This generous grant from Plum Creek shows the company’s commitment to their future.”

Congrats, GUTS!

– MM

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Got girls? Get GUTS!

YWCA Missoula runs this program called Girls Using Their Strengths, GUTS! for short. I don’t know why the exclamation mark is added in the acronym; personally, I find it irritating rather than enlivening – but the program  itself is great. It organizes dozens of volunteers to help more than 200 girls a year build confidence and leadership skills.

And that’s important, says GUTS! co-founder and director Jen Euell, because “our culture is more sexualized than ever, so we feel it’s important to reach girls at a young age so that they can learn to value their inner strengths and talents, not just their appearances.”

Right on, sister. To further that mission, this year the program is offering its first-ever day camp for 9- and 10-year-olds. The camp kicked off on Monday and wraps up on Friday. According to the YWCA, “Activities will include visiting Raptors of the Rockies and the Wild Bear Institute, swimming in a creek, helping build a community garden with Missoula’s Parks and Recreation Department, as well as spending one night at the Homestead Organics Farm.”

For more information about GUTS!, future day camps or volunteer opportunities, give Jen Euell a call on her cell phone at 360-5962.

– MM

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