Power in partnership
WIA’s donated space highlights new collaborations
Women have certainly been In Action this summer! Not only has WIA welcomed two interns to the Big Sky community, but they were able to expand into some generously donated space in order to provide more service and continuity to clients. Hannah McKinney and Ellie Jorgensen, WIA’s interns from the Montana State University counseling program, keep getting phone calls ranging from scheduling appointments to low-key, friendly conversations.
“The board of WIA, they all expressed a gratitude for having multiple interns and were happy they were able to help meet the need in the community,” McKinney mentioned after meeting the board at a WIA event.
Jean Behr, executive director of WIA, is continuously impressed with the amount of support she has found in the Big Sky community. Regarding space issues, office availability on Mondays was sparse, as it had to house an additional intern and was also rented out to the Alcohol and Drug Services of Gallatin County. She reached out to Heather Grenier, executive officer of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), after hearing HRDC was working on projects in Big Sky.
Help continued down the line and Laura Seyfang, program director for Big Sky Community Housing Trust, donated her office space above Horse of a Different Color for WIA to use. Jorgensen will be seeing clients in this new space twice a week. “Seemed like the neighborly thing to do!” Seyfang said.
The Housing Trust is operated under HRDC, and Seyfang came out of retirement for the second time to fill her current position. She knew the need for affordable and workplace housing, and tabled retirement for another time. “I feel like we’re making a lot of difference already with the help of lots of people. If you can be making a difference, then it’s a worthwhile way to spend my time,” Seyfang said, despite coming to Big Sky to retire as a ski bum.
Seyfang described Big Sky as a big family trying to take care of each other. “It really is a little village and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to retire here. I just love the spirit of community, and people just roll up their sleeves and get it done,” Seyfang expressed.
WIA uses partnerships like this to make mental health services attainable and feasible for all residents of Big Sky. Their partnership with HRDC makes the nonprofit stronger, allowing them to bridge resource gaps with nonprofit camaraderie and resourcefulness. “It’s very exciting because WIA really is nothing without our partnerships," Behr emphasized.
Jorgensen and McKinney had full plates this summer, but they are happy to say they are always accepting phone calls. Both women start their school program back up on Monday, and have the new office space to spruce up. “I see a lot of children so I need to transfer all the toys over there. A counseling office is a strange office in that it needs to be warm and welcoming and homey, and a lot of office spaces don’t have those extra touches because it’s not in their professional realm,” Jorgensen explained.
Beyond Jorgensen and McKinney, a graduate from the counseling program they are currently attending is looking to rent space from WIA to offer services for school-aged kids. Counseling services are currently provided four days per week due to the people that believe in fulfilling this need. Behr has also talked to Ciara Wolfe with the Big Sky Community Organization about what role mental health services will play in the new community center.
All the while, WIA is still working to fight the stigma against counseling services and make it an option for residents of Big Sky at any pay scale. Most of WIA’s clients are unable to take a half day off to drive to Bozeman for counseling. The prorated program based on income makes it affordable.
Behr mentioned seeing a 30% monetary increase in the summer camp scholarship WIA offers to children in the area, another perk of WIA’s summer. These are aid-based scholarships that work on allowing children from all economic backgrounds the same opportunities as children whose parents have a heartier paycheck.
Looking forward, WIA will continue to make use of the resources they have to benefit the most people.
“In my time I’ve just recognized in the community that folks are really starting to recognize behavioral health as a significant need. Big Sky Medical Center is starting to talk about integrating behavioral health. WIA keeps expanding our services. We’re talking with Big Sky Community Organization and I think we’ve sort of moved past the sense that Big Sky is perfect and understanding that some of our friends and neighbors have challenges, and that’s okay,” Behr summarized.