Gratitude, compassion, and a sense of community drive Jenifer Gursky’s personal and professional life. Inspired by the work and dedication of YWCA Helena, Jenifer became its Executive Director in March of 2019.
A daughter of two middle school teachers, Jen always knew she’d be working with people – no matter where her career path took her. She’s been a nanny, missionary, outdoor program director, policy advocate, policy maker, and a professional fundraiser among others. She graduated from The University of Montana with a B.A. degree in Political Science and a minor in International Development.
Jen deeply believes YWCA Helena’s advocacy-based and results-driven mission and seeks to lead, learn and focus energy on serving the community of Helena with a keen eye to restoring hope, building self-sufficiency, and encouraging happy, healthy lives. She and her husband enjoy political banter, road trips on backroads of Montana, and being parents to a lively daughter.
KIMBERLY GARDNER, LCSW, LAC
Chief Clinical Director
Kimberly Gardner is a Licensed Clinical Social worker and a Licensed Addictions Counselor. She started her career after receiving a Bachelor in Social Work from Carrol College in 1987 and worked at an Adolescent Substance Use Treatment Center in Helena prior to working at a local Hospice.
In 1994, Kim received a Master’s in Social Work degree from the University of Denver which led to a position with an adolescent wilderness and residential treatment center. Kim has special training in psychodynamic-based psychotherapy, Integrated Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Treatment, Child-Parent Psychotherapy, attachment, and developmental psychotherapies focused on establishment and healing of healthy relationships, trauma-responsive psychotherapies, grief work, and Family Treatment Courts.
In Kim’s spare time, you’ll find her sewing or quilting all kinds of things along with her other hobbies of camping, gardening, traveling, and cooking for her family every weekend.
Caterpillars Program Director
Jessie joined the YWCA team after an almost 10 year stretch in the field of Early Intervention, supporting the families of children with developmental disabilities and delays. She graduated from Montana State University-Northern with Bachelor's degrees in Communication and Community Service. She then received her Early Childhood Education certification through the University of Cincinnati.
Parents are their child's first and best teacher. Jessie's ambition has always been to support parents as they achieve their full potential in the role of teacher and caregiver. The Caterpillars Program, which she directs, provides a safe fun place for parents and their children to spend time together, exchange per parenting agreements, and learn new parenting strategies through the Circle of Security Parenting Curriculum. Caterpillars services are available to the women served through the YWCA Helena and are also available at no cost to the general public.
Jessie was born and raised in Havre, but is happy to call Helena her home. She and her husband, Dick, have two beautiful children that keep them extremely busy. She loves watching baseball, playing with her dogs, swimming, reading, and sitting next to a good campfire with family and friends.
ERIN McMAHON, LAC
WINGS Program Supervisor
Erin originally began working with YWCA Helena as a volunteer in 2010. She was inspired by the positive opportunities and encouragement YWCA Helena was offering to women and children in the community and joined the staff as a case manager in January of 2011. She helped to pioneer the WINGS transitional housing program and provided support for the residents during the YWCA Helena building renovation.
In March 2016, she left YWCA Helena to pursue her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. She is thrilled to be a part of this amazing program once again!
RACHEL DEVERAUX, LAC
Licensed Addiction Counselor
Rachel Deveraux was born in Western Montana and spent her childhood in Montana and Alaska. She holds a Social Work degree from the University of Montana with a focus on Addiction Studies and became an LAC in 2020.
Working with mothers in recovery is Rachel’s passion and she believes that a sense of belonging to and support from one’s community are integral in the lives of people in recovery. She loves working at YWCA Helena, where others share her passions and bring their own vision to the work.
Rachel has a daughter who is her whole entire world and happens to be hilarious as well. She and her daughter have seven chickens, three dogs, one cat, one rabbit, and a rotating cast of crows, squirrels, etc., in their back yard.
MEL GRIFFIN, ACLC
Licensed Addiction Counselor - Candidate
Mel has two passions: making art and working with people. She has many years of experience working with adolescents in wilderness therapy and group home settings, and this work has complimented her career has a studio artist.
Mel arrived in Helena in 2012 as an Artist in Residence at the Archie Bray Foundation, and after falling in love with Montana, decided to stay. She is now pursuing her MSW at the University of Montana and has joined the YWCA as an ACLC. Mel is thrilled to be working with the women at the YWCA, and is grateful for the wisdom she gains from them daily. She loves dogs, her family, trail running, and her home and garden in the Scratchgravel Hills.
ELLEN VANDEKOP, PCLC, ACLC
Child and Family Therapist
Ellen has worked in children’s mental health, specializing in behavior, since 2017. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Montana State University and a Masters in Mental Health Counseling and Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling from MSU-Billings. Her education is rooted in human behavior, mental health, and rehabilitation, and her lifetime goal has been to work with children and their families and to support them in building and maintaining healthy relationships. Ellen will be providing individual, family, and group therapy, as well as PCIT (Parent-Child Interaction Therapy) to the children and women at YWCA Helena. Ellen is also a certified Circle of Security® facilitator.
Ellen is passionate about helping children advocate for themselves, building healthy relationships for families, equality, and inclusion. Her hobbies include anything outdoors including camping, flyfishing, hiking, gardening, and paddle-boarding. She has lived in Montana for 20 years and has one amazing son!
EMILY MUNN, PCLC
Emily graduated from UM-Western in 2010 with a degree in social sciences and got her master’s degree in education/school counseling from MSU-Billings. She has worked in the mental health field since the age of 14.
Emily loves the trails in Helena and discovering new waterfalls around Montana. She grew up in Helena and loves raising her children here. She loves being a part of the team at YWCA Helena where the unique approach to addiction and trauma recovery is filled with both compassion and joy.
KELSEY HARRIMAN, ACLC
Kelsey graduated in 2016 from Montana State University with her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is currently working on her MSW and will be graduating in December 2021.
Kelsey has always loved working with children and spent many years as a preschool teacher before transitioning into the mental health field. Kelsey is an addictions counselor licensure candidate as well as a foster parent.
When Kelsey is not at work, she loves spending time with her husband and son. She also enjoys riding her three horses and going to the gym. Kelsey and her husband have a small ranch outside of Helena that is home to numerous cows, chickens, lambs, horses, dogs, and their cat.
Childcare Lead Educator
Terri comes to YWCA Helena with a degree in psychology from Southern New Hampshire University and having worked in the Indian River (New York) and Helena School Districts since 2009. She loves working with kids, watching them grow, learning from them, and laughing with them.
Terri raised her children in upstate New York and moved to Montana in 2014. She enjoys adventures with her sons and her Newfoundland dog, Klaus, along with yoga, crochet, and fall. Terri lives in a state of gratitude and mindfulness.
Child & Family Advocate
Brent worked for Montana’s Child and Family Services Division for nearly 16 years before joining the team at YWCA Helena. He has a passion for working with children and families. Brent received a B.A. from Carroll College in 2003 and worked with children at Intermountain for two years before going to work for CPS.
When not working, Brent enjoys spending time with his sons, hiking, and exploring the wilderness.
STEPHANIE BALLENGER BROOKS
Stephanie Ballenger Brooks joined the team at YWCA Helena in 2020. She received her State license through the Montana Peer network while in Hardin, works closely with the Criminal Justice Coordination council, and is a member of the Citizens advisory committee to help make a difference. As someone who has struggled in similar ways to the women YWCA Helena serves, Stephanie is able to provide valuable insight and resources in her role as a Peer Support.
Stephanie is a mother of three beautiful children. Her passions include helping others, being involved in reform, and being a voice for those who may not be able to use theirs.
Jennifer Shurtliff was born and raised in Helena and has been in recovery since 2013. She is a certified Behavioral Health Peer Support Specialist and attended Beyond Incarceration, a justice system peer support program.
Jennifer loves her job and is proud to be a part of YWCA Helena. Jennifer believes she, “survived her journey to walk with others through theirs.”
Marci Williams is happy to be back at YWCA Helena. During her first stint at YWCA, she was proud to be a part of launching the WINGS program in 2011. She left YWCA Helena to finish her MPA at the University of Montana, and then moved with her family to Australia for a year.
Marci and her husband have three grown sons. She is also a longtime volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and loves hanging out with her "Little Sister." When not in the office Marci can be found hiking the local trails with her black lab, Jasmine. She also enjoys kayaking, skiing, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
Marci's favorite part of working at YWCA Helena is seeing the growth of the women and children. She is impressed with the changes and expansion of the facility and programs and is thrilled to be part of such an incredible team again.
Attention to detail, creativity, organizing, and serving people are the qualities that identify Hollie to family and friends, and the opportunity to serve the community through YWCA Helena fills a passion for caring for women.
Using the life skills she has acquired through being a business owner with her husband, and an employee of a previous nonprofit, Hollie brings the necessary experience to keep YWCA Helena's financials in order.
Hollie will be working remotely from Polson as well as from her very remote home in South Africa, where she has opportunity to serve with her sister, giving back to the indigenous peoples of South Africa. Being a grandma to four littles guarantees she will return to Polson regularly.
Data and Evaluation Coordinator
Julia joined YWCA Helena as the Programs Research VISTA and moved into the role of Data and Evaluation Coordinator in 2021, having transitioned to the social services from a career in chemical engineering. She is using her experience in data analysis and project management to support capacity building and improve outcomes at YWCA Helena.
Julia was raised in Virginia and spent a few years in Chicago, where she found her passion working with women while volunteering at a transitional housing shelter. She is now working remotely from St. Louis and her favorite things include hot yoga, pottery, and dogs.
Social & Racial Justice VISTA
From the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Sophia moved across the country to Helena when given the opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps member with YWCA Helena.
As the Social and Racial Justice VISTA, she uses her background in community organizing and historical study to bolster YWCA’s mission of “eliminating racism and empowering women” through building strong community bonds and expanding anti-racism resources.
Sophia earned her Bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she discovered her love for the mountains, yoga, and old bookstores.
CATHRYN ENGLISH-STRAUB, LCSW, LAC
Cathryn English-Straub is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Addiction Counselor. Cathryn began her career in 1991 by attending a year long chemical dependency counselor training program with Serenity Lane in Eugene, OR. In 1996 Cathryn graduated from Smith College with a MSW and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has had a private practice in Helena, MT for the last 16 years. Cathryn has specific training in Circle of Security, Attachment/Bonding, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, dealing with chronic illness and addictions.
She is excited to be a part of YWCA Helena, having a passion for working with women and children, specifically supporting women and children to find strength, resiliency and hope in their lives.
Cathryn enjoys spending time with family and friends. Beside helping others, Cathryn loves traveling, being in the outdoors, hiking, laughing, and her awesome three-legged dog Copper.
JOELLE JOHNSON, LCSW, LAC
Joelle Johnson, LCSW, LAC has eighteen years of experience treating adolescents and adults struggling with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues. During her employment at a youth correctional facility, Joelle discovered her passion for working with people who found themselves involved in the criminal justice system and enjoys supporting them on their path to freedom, health, and happiness.
Currently, she is the sole-proprietor of Holding Hope Counseling in Helena. Using a client-centered framework, Joelle aims to create an environment in which her clients receive support and gentle guidance to explore both past and present life experiences so they may understand and adjust harmful patterns while further developing patterns that serve them well. Her therapeutic perspective is grounded in human-attachment and development and incorporates mindfulness and somatic awareness into her work with clients. As a parent herself, she also thoroughly enjoys working with new mamas of all ages and stages, helping them to understand and repair cycles of generational hurt.
PAM PONICH-HUNTHAUSEN, LCPC
Bio coming soon!