Erin Lambert, BS Liberal Studies, 2006
Program Manager, Billings YWCA
A woman was bloodied and choked to unconsciousness by her domestic partner. But with support from Gateway House at the YWCA, the victim ended the abusive relationship, and with help from her case manager, she landed a new job and is now in a healthy relationship.
Gateway House, which provides assistance for women and children who are victims of domestic or sexual abuse, reports dozens of similar success stories every year. Erin Lambert, Gateway’s program manager, said it’s rewarding to work for an organization has had such a positive influence on the community.
“We have a lot of gals who have gone on to be very successful,” Lambert said. “There is just something about knowing that you can help somebody.”
Lambert started volunteering at Gateway House while attending Montana State University Billings. The former Lewistown resident, a dedicated bookworm, had planned to become a history teacher. But then she discovered her true calling.
Describe how you got where you are in your work today. In 2005 I was a junior at MSUB and saw a flier seeking volunteer victim advocates at the YWCA. I decided to get involved because I have always been interested in the criminal justice system, and I thought it would be an interesting way to give back to the community. I fell in love with the work and in 2007, after a year and a half of volunteering, I was hired as the Sexual Assault Services coordinator. By this time I had enrolled in a graduate study program at MSUB seeking a master’s in rehabilitation and mental health counseling. In 2008 I was promoted to program manager and in 2009, I earned my master’s degree.
What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? The toughest challenge I’ve faced is making decisions about who to help when we don’t have enough resources to help everyone who asks for it. Having to turn someone away from shelter because we are full or they aren’t eligible is incredibly difficult.
What did you learn from that challenge? I’ve learned to always trust my gut when making decisions. I’ve also learned that if I do what I know is right, I will always be a peace with my actions.
What’s the best business advice you have received? Fair does not always mean the same treatment, but means looking at all the circumstances in a situation and deciding what’s right for each individual and situation. Sometimes this is much harder than simply applying the same “rules” to everyone, but it makes for a more just society.
Who gave you that advice? Rhonda Myron, the former program manager at Gateway.
Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I hope my work will inspire others to take a stand against domestic and sexual violence and that I will have helped to shape a program that will help many women and children escape violence far into the future. I also hope to raise my son to be a good person who appreciates diversity and believes our community should be inclusive and safe for everyone.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Success is knowing that one person’s life has been saved or that someone feels safer in their home because of Gateway. It is so incredibly rewarding to impact the lives of women and children and help them escape violence in their home and then go on to live happy and successful lives.
Which living person do you most admire? Kelsen Young, executive director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She was the major champion behind getting Senate Bill 306 passed in 2013. This bill amended the partner family member assault statute to include same-sex couples in the definition of partners. It was a huge accomplishment!
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Becoming a mom. It is my opportunity to make a difference in the world that will carry on for generations.
I’m happiest when I’m… At home with my family.
Photo and article credit: Billings Gazette