With International Women’s Day on March 8 and March being Women’s History Month, it’s a great time to celebrate the many women entrepreneurs and leaders in downtown Hamilton who are working to bring attention to and support to two local non-profit organizations.
The executive director of the Downtown Hamilton Association, Robin Pruitt, said women make the local business community prosper.
“We have some really amazing women in our community who work tirelessly so we can all enjoy unique local retail,” Pruitt said. “This is an opportunity to highlight the women leaders of our people, we have many great ones.”
Hamilton women-owned businesses include: The Closet – Tara Child, Montana Bliss Artworks – Barbara Liss, Bitter Root Water Forum – an all-female staff plus an AmeriCorps volunteer, Art Focus – Michelle Biggins with the photographer’s art exhibit Teysha Vinson this month, B&B Cabinetry: Wendy Bauder, Aspen Leaf Yoga: Val Aerni, Active Bitterroot Physical Therapy: Angela Saporita, Jessie’s Wine and Goods: Jessie Trauth, Chapter One Book Store: Katrina Mendry, Marisa Neyenhuis and Mara Luther, Mikesell’s Fine Jewelry – Cindy Mikesell, and many others.
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Pruitt said many of the local businesswomen see Women’s History Month as an opportunity to support women in the community by partnering with Linda Massa Youth Homes and SAFE in the Bitterroot.
“[They are] giving shoppers a way to give back to those organizations while supporting local women business owners,” said Pruitt.
Some of the local business owners have already decided on their approach to supporting nonprofits. Pruitt said more companies plan to join the effort throughout the month.
The Closet owner, Tara Child, partners with SAFE by offering 5% off any purchase if a customer donates a $5 gift card to SAFE, 10% off any purchase if a gift card is donated $10 or more to SAFE and 20% off a customer’s next purchase to anyone who donates a $50 gift card.
“I’ll also do something special for the SAFE residents who come,” Child said.
His hope is that the effort is just the beginning of Hamilton businesses’ deeper connections to SAFE for awareness and community action, beyond just making financial donations.
“I want to help this organization, but I want to do it in a way that gets the community involved,” Child said. “I think we can do more that way. When a woman feels good about herself, she somehow makes up for it. She feels good, they are more patient, happier, and it makes the world a little better.”
Child will have a grand opening for his business, The Cupboard, at the historic Hamilton Pharmacy building on March 16.
Montana Bliss Artworks and ARTspace owner Barbara Liss is donating proceeds from art sales to the two nonprofits. By March, customers can purchase a digitally reimagined image of one of her female sculptures and if you tell her you want to support SAFE or the Linda Massa Youth Home, she will donate 100% of the proceeds to the organization. She has 21 canvas images to choose from and they are 2 feet by 3 feet in size.
“Our community has been very supportive of women in business, and I would like to encourage young women to pursue entrepreneurship or a prominent role in their career,” Liss said. “This celebration brings awareness of the many possibilities. “
Susan Young of Westslope Distillery will donate $3 from every bottle sold in the tasting room in March to the Linda Massa Youth Home.
SAFE in the Bitterroot provides shelter and emergency services in Ravalli County for survivors of domestic and intimate partner abuse. SAFE has a 24-hour crisis hotline 406-363-4600, learn more at https://www.safeinthebitterroot.org/.
SAFE Executive Director Stacey Umhey said downtown businesses hosting a celebration on International Women’s Day are “really perfect.”
“SAFE was founded by the local chapter of Soroptimists International, which is a women’s civic organization,” she said. “They came together to create a path to safety for other women. So the choice to have events on International Women’s Day is beautiful and an honor for our organization.”
Umhey said SAFE is preparing to expand its emergency shelter this year.
“This year, more than ever, we are super grateful for the financial support from our community,” he said.
Linda Massa Youth Home is an eight-bed group home that is dual-licensed to provide short-term crisis intervention and long-term group care for youth ages 10-18. Learn more at https://youthhomesmt.org/group_homes/the-linda-massa-youth-home/.
LMYH Development Coordinator Mary Blankenbaker said awareness and donations are appreciated as the need is great.
“The Linda Massa Youth Home is the only emergency shelter for children in Ravalli County,” Blankenbaker said. “We are uniquely filling a need and we are absolutely full. That shows that we have a housing need for children who are experiencing a number of different things.”
She said that LMYH needs funds to “provide opportunity for childhood.”
“Our staff does an incredible job of supporting their emotional needs and helping them access any mental health care they may need,” he said. “But other things like taking them snowboarding, camping, taking them bowling and making sure they have clothes they’ll wear cost money. We need the help of our community to provide them with those opportunities.”
She said that her work is amazing, fun and endless.
“They’re teenagers and they’re hilarious,” Blankenbaker said. “When I’m working in my office, I hear them making teenage noises, laughing and doing homework. They are just children, and it is an honor to witness part of their childhood. It is special that we have this facility in Hamilton.”
HDA’s Pruitt said this effort is a start to introduce businesses and nonprofits in the city to the community.
“The people make our center so unique,” Pruitt said. “I really want to connect our community with the people who make our center run.”
Pruitt said that there are many more women business owners in Hamilton and that she would like to calculate the percentage. She will feature women-owned Hamilton businesses associated with SAFE and LMYH on the Hamilton Downtown Association’s social media channels throughout the month.