Cindy Weese recalls getting ready for her first day of work as executive director of YWCA Missoula 21 years ago, on the morning of September 11th, 2001.

She may have had a rough start, but she has thrived in her position over the last two decades and has now decided to retire from her role at the YWCA at the end of the year.

YWCA Missoula is a non-profit organization that offers services and programs combating racism and domestic violence. The organization offers temporary housing for families in need, often housing around 40 families on any given night in its newly opened Meadowlark building.

It also operates a crisis hotline, where upwards of 1,000 callers are assisted every year.

Weese believes the timing of her departure is right for her as well as the organization. She said YWCA Missoula is in a position where it can withstand the departure of a longtime leader. The YWCA is free of debt, has established strong relationships with other organizations in town, and has a strong core of volunteers and staff.

“I'll be leaving at the end of this year knowing that the YWCA is in a really strong place, and the timing for transition of leadership really couldn't be better,” said Weese.

Over the past two decades that Weese has served as executive director of the YWCA, the staff has gone from around 14 to 72, and the organization’s budget has quadrupled.

YWCA Missoula is now accepting applicants for its next executive director, which will be chosen by the organization’s board of directors. Weese said she is not involved in the selection process, but expects the board of directors to make a decision by the end of the summer so she can aid in the transition.

Before she was executive director, Weese began her career at the YWCA as a volunteer 30 years ago. Over the years she worked on the phone line, trained new employees and worked night shift while studying financial management in college.

Weese said she was compelled to work at the YWCA after her mother passed away. Only after her mother’s passing did Weese learn from her father that she had been abused in a previous marriage.

“I was taken back by that because my mom was such a strong woman,” said Weese. “I never envisioned her being a survivor of domestic violence.”

Weese is passionate about the empowerment and safety of women and is grateful to have been able to work toward that goal during her time with the YWCA.

“It’s been a real privilege to work for such a well-established organization that really has an impact in the community,” said Weese. “I know, that my colleagues and I have made a difference in countless lives.”

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