If there is one thing our dedicated staff can agree on, it’s that there is no such thing as a typical day at the Missoula Family YMCA. Whether we’re setting up the course for the Riverbank Run or cleaning up the Health & Wellness Center, we are committed to helping our members grow in spirit, mind and body. No matter the task, we do it committed to helping to build strong kids, strong families and strong communities.
Born and raised among the rolling hills, oak trees, cows and cheese of Wisconsin, Jon Lange is at home in the YMCA and at home in Missoula. Jon officially took the helm of the Missoula Family YMCA on June 1, 2011.
His first job, at age 16, was as a junior counselor at summer camp YMCA Camp Minikani (northeast of Milwaukee). His first job out of college was as aquatics director at the Y in Green Bay. “I always thought the Y would be a sideline until I figured out what I really wanted to do with my psychology degree,” Jon says. “I was kept challenged, though, and at some point in my early 30s I realized I was right where I was supposed to be.”
And we’re glad that now he’s supposed to be in Missoula.
A typical day at work means he’s usually supposed to be in a meeting on one topic or another, or making a phone call. In between, Jon likes to seek out members and staff to understand how we might serve them better. The common denominator underlying the CEO’s daily calendar, he says, is “facilitating groups toward excellence in our work.”
“I really enjoy the fact that we get to help people help themselves,” Jon continues. “The Y helps people grow and change themselves—whether learning a new skill, getting back to some level of health and well-being, or just keeping connected to others. The Y supports transformation. The Y provides that safe place for growth. … That’s good work to be part of.”
His lifelong career with the Y has taught him to, among other things, “intentionalize the atmosphere of unconditional love, of growing and of nurturing those we come into contact with each day,” he continues. Given all that, one shouldn’t be surprised that in addition to all things skiing, fly-fishing, sea kayaking and bow hunting, honestly sincere Jon likes “a good discussion about spiritual things.”
“I’ve got to say it’s a tossup between those warm spring weekend mornings when half the town is out at our soccer fields or one of the great community events we do. I like participating in our community-building events—from mini-triathlons to Healthy Kids® Days to open houses. I enjoy them because of the people I get to meet and connect with.”
Back in the day, circa 1979, Jon was Conrad Birdie the lead rocker in “Bye Bye Birdie” (think Elvis Presley with a nod to Conway Twitty, who was a rocker before he went country). If you want, ask him to dance.
“I am the associate executive director, which is just a fancy way of saying I oversee the day-to-day operations and support our many program directors—from childcare to Special Olympics, music to youth sports, and aquatics to membership,” says Jason Shearer, Missoula YMCA Associate Executive Director. But don’t let the humility fool you—Jason also leads one of the biggest Y events of each year, the Riverbank Run.
Besides being embroiled in the day-to-day operation of the Y, Jason, his wife and two daughters spend plenty of time recreating at the Y as well. One child joins Dad at work as she attends YMCA preschool, and the elder arrives for the after-school program. In addition, his oldest daughter loves Adventure Guides, soccer and camp. And, his wife is an active volunteer as an Adventure Guides circles leader, a Partners with Youth campaigner, a Childcare Parent Advisory Committee member and a member of the Women’s Retreat Planning Committee.
One piece supporting his passion for his career work, he says, is that the organization excels at building community. Because of the Y’s variety of programs and because no one is refused service for inability to pay, the Y is able to change lives and build long-lasting relationships. The diversity inherent in the Y fosters an ability to increase understanding and empathy, traits that then benefit the greater community. “Becoming a member of the Y is the easiest way to become part of the community. You know you are part of something big.”
The Partners with Youth Campaign plays a huge part of that success, by helping to ensure no one is turned away for an inability to pay. “Raising money to support youth is critical work,” he adds, “but it also connects volunteers in some of life’s most meaningful work. It allows community leaders to take action and make a real difference for kids and families right here in Missoula.”
Sailing with the family. “I have a great passion for the outdoors and sailing is a sport that is safe and challenging for young and old.”
The Riverbank Run—and no, not just because he’s the race director. “The Riverbank Run brings such a large number of Missoulians together for one incredible moment. It creates such a sense of community.”
The family dog and cat look terrific in princess dresses and fairy wings.
“Every day I am surrounded by people working hard, moving fast and grinning from ear to ear.” Aaron Brock is director of development of the Missoula YMCA. “This is my dream job,” he says, and he landed it in 2009. Working with the Board of Directors and staff leadership to determine financial needs Aaron then pursues grants and fund-raising opportunities with a passion to ensure the YMCA continues to provide superior programs and financial assistance.
Connections and community are two words Aaron speaks a lot. Really a lot. His job is to help find the funds that make the Missoula YMCA function and grow. Numbers and dollars. But key for Aaron, it’s not just numbers and dollar signs. The power, Aaron says, is the connections. The connecting with people—on all sides of the fundraising—the people who provide the funds to support the Y, the staff members working the Y programs, and the members who use the Y’s programs and facilities to pursue their own healthy lifestyles.
Outside of work, connecting and community continue as threads throughout his days, whether it’s volunteer work with Garden City Harvest, a game of folf, hiking or skiing with his wife and family, joining a basketball game. He’s also an avid fly-fisherman who ties his own flies, builds rods and likes to throw a line with friends as often as possible. (Although born in Michigan, Aaron grew up in Bozeman and considers himself “a Montanan through and through” —so the homemade fly rods just make sense.) “My wife and I are busy folks who love the community and vibrant culture of Missoula,” he concludes.
And while his self-described dream job connects him to community, Aaron says it also has helped him grow. He has learned from his “day job” how to be a positive influence for young people, and how to build community through energy and enthusiasm.
“It’s Greek to me” took on a whole new meaning when Aaron was in college. He spent a summer abroad where he started for the City of London University basketball team. Most of his teammates were from Greece so Greek was what they predominantly spoke on the court and during timeouts. “So, I just nodded, smiled and played hard.”
If you’ve had a chance to meet Aaron you’ve figured out that he’s a pretty social guy. His favorite thing to do is spend time with his wife, Melanie, family and friends.
The unique sense of community and belonging, and building relationships with those who deeply value the work done by the YMCA.
The YMCA/Southgate Mall 3 x 3 Classic (once as a serious player, now as staff).
Senior staffer Roger Miller today serves the Missoula YMCA as director of facility and property. His previous titles include aquatics director, youth sports director, childcare director, head of adaptive/Special Olympics programming and supervisor of the Seeley-Swan Outreach YMCA. Oh, and Roger’s the founding force behind both the annual YMCA/Southgate Mall 3v3 Classic Basketball Tournament and the Super Grizzly Dip.
No matter his current official job title, Roger Miller doesn’t just talk the Y talk, he walks the walk.
Listen to Roger for a while and you hear “mission driven” and “member of our family” and “helping people who desperately need help” and “a place to call home.” Montana born and bred, and a Bobcat with a track and field scholarship, Roger has been with the YMCA most of his life and with its mission longer than that.
And while he’s quite serious about all this—and about the fund raising required to ensure that the Y’s mission is available to all the people—he makes sure you’re having fun as you are spent from playing 3v3 hoops or getting out of an outdoor pool in the middle of a Missoula winter.
From an intern at the Billings YMCA to a senior staff member in Missoula, Roger’s learned “that you should never judge or underestimate anyone.” And, he adds, from his work he’s learned “to live every day to its fullest because you may never get another one.”
When not at the Y, you’ll find him outside. Preferably with his wife, Jeanne, and two teenagers—and most preferably hunting or fishing.
Before the YMCA, he worked in the woods where he earned the nickname “Ramjet.” Really, ask him about it.
The YMCA/Southgate Mall 3v3 Classic and the Super Grizzly Dip.
Family is a major deal in Kelli Hess’s life; the major deal actually. Whether she’s at home or at work, she always has family on her mind. “The YMCA is an extension of my family,” Kelli says. “Our Y is an incredible service organization and I’m proud to be part of it.”
As the Y’s senior director of membership, Kelli helps other members of the greater Missoula community find a home here, whether it’s for a 30-minute swim lesson, a cardio workout, all-day child care or continual support for making real changes in one’s lifestyle. Speaking for herself, Kelli adds that she has made many friends during her own workouts in the Health & Wellness Center.
As the one in charge of marketing, a central focus of her work is to talk to people about the Y, its mission and its role as a Missoula service organization. “Public speaking is one of my passions—especially if the topic is important to me,” she says.
A Y member herself, Kelli these days keeps strong and de-stressed in group exercise classes. “I particularly enjoy the spin classes and the new Y weight loss class.” Her three young kids are members of Y child care and with her husband, Erik, the whole family is often in the pool.
Kelli came to the Y in 2000 via an internship for the Riverbank Run. “I needed a few more credits to complete one of my degrees and the Riverbank Run project was a good fit,” she says. She never left. “My heart will always be connected to the Riverbank Run because that’s where I got my start.”
Her life and career continually proves her passion as a lifelong learner as she has since succeeded in leadership roles in just about every aspect of the Y, including youth development, youth sports, the business office and child care. And she’s been known to pick up a floor mop. Beyond her on-the-job learning, Kelli has racked up three degrees from The University of Montana: accounting, political science and business management (the one she worked Riverbank Run for).
“I have always known I wanted to work for the greater good of our community,” Kelli says. “If you are looking for a meaningful experience that can make a difference in our community, the Y is a great place to get involved.”
But her “perfect afternoon”? Kids on her lap reading a book, with a batch of cookies baking in the oven.
Kelli has 72 first cousins. And if you've ever met Kelli, one who looks you in the eye with a sincere smile, you bet she knows them all.
Spend time playing with her children.
Getting to know all the families that come to the Y.
It’s a toss up for Kelli between the Riverbank Run and the Father-Daughter Sweetheart Dance.
Born in the dry lands of eastern Nebraska but raised in Southern California, Rose Kahane spent her early childhood swimming and playing in the warm Pacific Ocean. Later childhood, high school and college years were spent swimming and playing in lakes and rivers around Missoula. Salt water to fresh water to the water of indoor pools, Rose is at home as director of aquatics for the Missoula Family YMCA.
Rose first joined the Y staff as a swim teacher in 2003; and in 2008 she moved over to teach in the Y preschool program. But about a year later she was back at the pool, full time, teaching and working toward being named department director in 2010. “Initially I was attracted to the chance to help children learn strong swimming skills and to gain experience as a teacher,” says Rose, who has her undergraduate degree in elementary education from The University of Montana. “I stayed on once I realized that our Y is committed to providing opportunities for youth in our community to develop a positive sense of self and well-being. … The results of teaching a person to swim can reach far beyond the immediate benefits of recreation and exercise.”
For herself, Rose adds, “I’ve found that the opportunities for both community involvement and professional growth I was seeking in education are available here in leadership roles at the YMCA.” Rose views each day as unique and she can be found doing any number of things from assisting swimmers to facilitating aquatic programs to balancing hot tub chemicals.
Rose balances out her lap swimming exercise with several group exercise classes in the Health & Wellness Center. “I like to participate in Y-Tri because it gives me a fitness goal and allows me to enjoy two of my favorite physical activities—as well as challenge myself in running,” she adds. Her husband also works out in the Health & Wellness Center when he’s not on an ice hockey rink. Mom and Dad still live in Missoula and both also use the Y; her mom especially is a fan of the water aerobics classes and her dad gets his kicks participating in the Riverbank Run each spring.
She’s long lived under the influence of Esther Williams. Rose discovered at a very young age the movies of Esther Williams and her synchronized swimming productions. “I loved watching them! Whenever I went swimming I would pretend I was her and I worked to master all those underwater gymnastics. Little did I know that I would grow up to be a Y swimming instructor and really learn how to do—and teach—synchronized swimming movements.”
The Special Olympics swim meet held each spring. “It really lifts my spirits to see friends and families come together for some physical fun and a good cause. People from all Y departments and walks of life get together to support the athletes swimming in this event.”
When not in water, Rose likes to bead, bird watch, work in her flower gardens and raft the local rivers with her husband.
“A typical day at the Y for me involves many things—from helping a child rock climbing to singing with the Meadowlarks Choir. I get to do so much fun and interesting stuff," says Katie Brasington, director of youth development & music. Katie oversees all youth programs from rock climbing classes to the Youth Center, from the middle school dances to the Youth & Government program, and all summer camps except for sports camps ... and Y Music. "There is never a dull moment!"
Katie first started working with the Missoula Family YMCA in 2001 as a summer camp counselor. She knew she wanted to work at a community-based organization and with kids, so Y child care was a perfect fit for her first Y job. “The YMCA is a truly great place to work,” she says. “Not only have I met some amazing people, I’ve made some lifelong friends.” Katie moved from child care over to youth development & music in 2010.
"My favorite aspect of my job is seeing children try new things" she continues. "Whether it's a child making it to the top of the rock wall for the first time or listening to someone play his first song on the guitar. It's amazing to see so much learning!"
“I now know high school kids who were kindergarteners when I started,” Katie says. And no, that doesn’t make her feel old—maybe it’s all the laughing going on around her. “The Y has been like family to so many people, including me.”
Originally from Great Falls, Katie lives in Missoula with her husband, new baby girl and three crazy border collies. She loves getting her hands dirty out in the garden, or just spending time with her family, canine or human.
Katie loves gossip magazines. Don’t worry Katie, nobody is judging.
“All the kids, family and staff I see every day."
Y Healthy Kids’ Day. “I especially like the characters who visit during the event,” says Katie, who harbors a special fondness for a certain big red dog.
Mary Voelz is one of those lucky people who discovered their calling at a young age. She knew she loved sports, the outdoors and working with people who have disabilities. Her passion comes from love for her cousin Grace, who was diagnosed with a disability at a young age. When Mary was 10, she taught Grace to ride her bike. “I remember that moment and marvel at the determination she had to go beyond her physical limitations to learn something she never thought she could do,” she says.
Mary was inspired so she got her college degree in Recreation Management and Adaptive Physical Activity at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. After college, she put her degree to work on the slopes of Colorado as an Adaptive Ski Pro for Challenge Aspen where she taught Grace to ski. Eventually Mary found her way to Missoula and to the YMCA where she serves as the director of adaptive and Special Olympics. “Our YMCA recognizes the local need for targeted programs for people with disabilities through a unique partnership with Special Olympics Montana,” Mary says. “That partnership is so strong that I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Typical day? What’s that? The season dictates what she’s doing, whether it’s coaching athletes or administrative work or training volunteers. Sometimes she can be found on a local ski hill coaching the ski team or in the gym teaching a new sport. And then there are the meetings and planning that go into running programs and events. “I work here because I believe in our mission and understand the importance that the Y plays in our community and the people that live here,” Mary says. “I have always enjoyed working with individuals from all different walks of life. Not only do we serve people from all incomes, ages and abilities, but we are also committed to promoting healthy lifestyles through our programs and services.”
Originally from Columbus, Indiana, Mary found Montana after she took a summer job at a ranch on Flathead Lake. She had to stay. “My dream was always to work year-round in a mountain town empowering people with disabilities and to be to able to enjoy the lifestyle that only mountains can bring,” Mary says. “Adults need playgrounds too!” Mary takes advantage of all Montana has to offer—trail running, snow sports, backpacking, rafting, fishing … the list goes on for a while.
The long and winding road—Mary has worked in five different states but plans on calling Montana her forever home.
The Area Special Olympics Spring Games (obviously)! More than 200 volunteers help make the Five Valleys Area Special Olympics possible for the more than 300 athletes. The Games wouldn’t exist without all the volunteers and all those athletes from the Five Valleys Area!
Rekka Van Maanen was raised in a large family in Ronan, loving kids and loving to read. She also is serious about her running, workouts and community involvement. Putting all that together, it seemed quite natural for her to join the Missoula Family YMCA staff in August 2006 as a preschool teacher. A graduate of The University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in education, in September of 2010 Rekka was named associate director of early childhood – Development Center.
In her new position Rekka is responsible for the daily operations of the infant and toddler programs offered in the little yellow building and the preschool programs next door in the Y’s main building. While the management and administrative tasks add growth and challenge, reading stories to the children continues to be her favorite part of any day. “Literacy is a passion of mine and I believe it is important for me to share that passion with children,” she says. “Fireman Small,” “Quick as a Cricket,” “The Kissing Hand” and “The Crayon Box that Talked” are some of her favorite children’s books.
When not teaching or working on Y infant-to-preschool programs, Rekka keeps busy working out in the Health & Wellness Center, reading to and chasing her young son, Trevor, playing softball and spending time with her husband, Tony. She also loves watching football, all weekend long.
“I love greeting the kids and parents each day at the preschool,” Rekka says. “And I love the hugs and stories.” Through her work at the Development Center and with the Y in general, “I have met some of the most amazing people,” she continues. “Many of these relationships have turned in to friendships that I cherish every day.”
It’s “strike 3, you’re out” on the softball field … But it’s “strike 8, strike 9” on the lanes for Rekka, who has bowled seriously since she was a young child.
The Riverbank Run. “Since my first year at the Y, I have volunteered on that day and now I share that fun with my little guy.”
Kevin considers the Y his second home & his fellow co-workers part of his family. Kevin started as a participant at the Y when he was a child. Kevin has been a participant in almost every Y program and worked his way through almost every program that involves children. Kevin is extremely dedicated to the success of our Youth Sports Department,
To contact Kevin email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the Y child care staff members agree: no two days are ever alike. And they are never boring, adds Nanette Melzer, associate director of early child care at the new Palmer Street YMCA Learning Center. She spends her days overseeing the daily aspects of the child care program, teaching the children and interacting with parents. Not one day passes without a new challenge, she says.
Nanette’s favorite part of her job is teaching. “I am constantly amazed at the children’s development,” she says, and she likes being involved with that. “Our program has such a great family feel,” she adds. “We lay the crucial core values that build the foundations for their futures. It’s an incredible feeling to be part of that.”
The YMCA’s commitment to serve the community is what impressed Nanette the most about the organization. “The Y—and I—strongly believe that every child deserves the highest quality early education,” she says. “And we strive to make that possible.” The Y meets the needs of the Missoula community and never turns anyone away, she adds. “The YMCA truly believes in its mission. I take pride in my work and I am excited about the opportunity to share my passion for child development and in return learn so much from members of the Y family.”
Nanette knew that when she moved to Missoula, she found her home away from home. Originally from around Frankfurt, Germany, Nanette has lived in Missoula since 1994 and is glad to be able to raise her son and daughter in Montana. They were Y members when the kids were little soccer players. Now, with a BA in early childhood education, a minor in social work obtained overseas, and more than 20 years of early childhood education experience, Nanette as of June 2009 is back at the Y as a program administrator, teacher and Y family member. This time around the kids are old enough to work out with her in the Health & Wellness Center. Her daughter also participated in climbing and babysitting camps and loved both of them. “The Y is such positive place,” Nanette says. “There is a wonderful variety of programs available to all ages and everyone is friendly and welcoming.”
Since joining the Y staff, “I have begun to review my lifestyle and re-dedicate myself to leading a healthy life and to pass that on to my children. I look forward to being a part of the YMCA as an organization, its culture, new experiences, and new friendships.”
Although she speaks English, Nanette often thinks and always counts in German.
Spend time with her children, hike the M, work out, learn about baseball, read and do Suduko puzzles (remember, she counts in German).
The Riverbank Run. The 2009 event was this runner’s first exposure to the annual event.
Amber Taylor didn’t know the depths of her passion for the Y until she made her way downstairs—literally—and into her position as the associate director of membership. She started as an intern in the second floor Health & Wellness Center, found she really had a drive for the Y’s programming and has stayed for more than 10 years.
A typical day for Amber starts with bringing coffee and muffins for her morning staff, then she’s off—supervising, meeting and greeting, touring, registering, supporting, managing membership financial paperwork and more. Oh, and “other duties as assigned” whenever they come her way. “Working at the Y isn’t just a job,” says Amber. “It’s a relationship and every day is a new day.”
Amber looks at and pays attention to relationships. She pays attention at the detailed level of an individual new Y member or a friend. She also takes in the larger views, paying attention to her relationship within the Y family, the Missoula community, the greater world community and beyond that her religious belief. She talks of relationships at all levels and of fostering growth. The Y is one big supportive community that provides a “safe environment for kids and families to grow together,” Amber says, as well as a safe place for those with financial difficulties. Just meeting new people every day expands her, Amber notes, but she continues that that part of her job description has opened numerous and important lifelong friendships. “I think the Y also grows staff into community leaders, and that’s very important.”
Amber’s always looking for a new face—member, volunteer or staff. “There really is something for everyone at the Y,” she says. “Whether you are a volunteer or a member, you will develop lifelong relationships and have opportunities for personal growth, as well as discover new interests.”
Amber’s taken what she’s learned at the Y global—all the way to Guinea, Africa, on a mission trip summer of 2007. “I didn’t go because of my job,” she says. “I went because I have been blessed and I wanted to thank my God.” She wanted to give back, with thanks, to that larger community. Returning home with memories and stories—and none of the clothes or other material items she left Missoula with—Amber says she also returned with deeper faith and a deeper sense of wanting to pay attention all the time. “After coming home, I realized that I truly didn’t see people before. …The trip did impact my job because I now have a deeper connection with people.”
If you’ve met Amber, you know that when you walk in through the YMCA doors you’ll be greeted with her ready smile and her honest support that makes you feel that, no matter how your life is going right then, that this day you might just add another set of weights or swim a little farther.
Hailing from Stanford, Mont., Amber made her way to Missoula where she got her degree in Health Promotion from The University of Montana. The child of a beekeeper and an artist, Amber loves to fish, hike and camp … and to play (often through injury) basketball, volleyball and softball.
Amber made up more than 10% of her graduating high school class (there were nine kids total).
Amber loves to spend time with her family and friends and be active. You’ll often find her swimming or in the Health & Wellness Center either biking or lifting weights.
Meeting new people. “Over the years I have met so many people that have become good friends and have invested in my life.”
“Hands down, the Riverbank Run!” Amber says citing the incredible work hours required, the volunteers, the 3,500 runners and the funds raised to ensure access to all the Y’s programs.
Who knew that when Daurine Spritzer was looking for a new job back in 1983, she would find the perfect career for her at the YMCA? But she did. And she’s been with the Y ever since. She likes the hours and the staff, and she likes that the work is focused on youth and community health. And, she adds, “working at the Y has provided me with the opportunity to meet and make friends with people from all walks of life.”
“I’ve learned that people are people, regardless of how much money they have or don’t have, what their physical capabilities are, they all have feelings and want to be recognized as individuals,” Daurine says. “Here at the Y, you can come into a friendly, welcoming facility where you can do a workout, meet new people and not have to be spandex-ready to do so.”
Though her job description centers on helping the CEO and management staff, she is also an invaluable part of running events. Daurine is one of the go-to volunteers. She has taken that spirit of service outside the Y to the Mount Jumbo West Little League. In fact, her two favorite hobbies are helping out with Little League and the Special Olympics.
Originally from Walkerville, Montana (a little city at the top of the richest hill on earth - Butte, America), Daurine has lived in Missoula since 1970. She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. That’s her immediate family. Every kid who ever played ball in the Mount Jumbo West Little League can be counted like an adopted niece or nephew, she knows every name (really, she does).
Daurine has a baseball field named after her at Hellgate Elementary School. And she thought there were no fun facts about herself.
Father-Daughter Sweetheart Dance. “It gives fathers an opportunity to spend a special evening with their daughters. The expressions on the little girls’ faces are priceless as they are so very proud just to be with their dad for an evening.”