Helping the Most Vulnerable

Priest River Ministries opens Sandpoint office.

By Patty Hutchens

Terrified, isolated, helpless. These are just a few of the emotions that sexual abuse and domestic violence victims experience on a daily basis. And it does not discriminate. It happens to people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and economic levels. It is a horrific experience from which many never recover. But thanks to an amazing group of people in North Idaho, that does not have to be the case for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in our area. There is help.

Priest River Ministries Advocates for Women first started in 2002 as a Bible study support group for women who were victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. They received their nonprofit status in 2006 and opened their first shelter, “Ruth’s House,” in 2009. Today, they have expanded to a total of three shelters – Ruth's House, Esther's House and Rebekah's Room.

“We can shelter four families at a time, around 20 women and children at one time,” explained Executive Director Rhonda Encinas. “Esther's is an extended stay shelter. Intact families in crisis and abused men are welcomed at Rebekah's Room when it is available.”

As a testimony to their mission of encouraging women, all the shelters are named after strong women in the Bible.

But don’t let the name Priest River Ministries mislead you; the group serves victims from Bonner, Boundary and the northern part of Kootenai Counties. “And truth be told, we have taken women from Washington, Montana, Southern Idaho, Florida and California,” said Encinas.

Because abuse happens anytime day or night, Priest River Ministries has a crisis line that victims can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also offer victim services, court advocacy, ongoing support groups, client transportation, education on domestic and sexual violence, paralegal assistance, emergency and extended stay shelters, mobile advocacy, a learning lab with computers and printers, biblical and secular counseling, child care, food and clothing at Lydia’s free clothing store, and household supplies.

In an effort to better serve those in North Idaho, Priest River Ministries recently expanded and opened an office in Sandpoint on May 16. Located in the Pioneer Building at 819 Highway 2, the Sandpoint office is open Mondays 9am to noon, Tuesday through Thursdays 1 to 4pm.  “Having an office makes it more convenient, confidential and because we have a childcare room, it is less stressful,” said Encinas.

And as funding and volunteers increase, the organization hopes to open additional offices.

“Priest River is our main office and is open five days per week 9am to 4pm in the winter and 9am to 5pm in the summer,” said Encinas. “Our mobile advocate drives to outreach locations each week where she has been meeting clients in Spirit Lake, Sandpoint, Blanchard, Sagle and beyond. Sometime she meets them in coffee shops and sometimes in their homes.”

Services such as clothing, supplies and diapers are always open to the public. And for those needing shelter, Encinas said the group primarily shelters women and children of domestic violence, sexual assault or trafficking. “But we have sheltered single men, men with children and intact families in crisis when we had availability,” she said. “We help families in need regardless of age, religion or ethnicity.”

Help is just a phone call away. Victims can access services any time day or night by contacting the office or crisis line. Paralegal help is available by appointment and Encinas will assist in scheduling counseling appointments.

Priest River Ministries does not receive any government funding. In order to help support the incredible work this group is doing, 7B Women, a committee of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, is holding a fundraiser on June 16 at the Bernd Barrel in downtown Sandpoint.

The Summer Clothes Swap is a chance to clean out your closet and donate your new and gently used items. Prior to the event, they can be dropped off at Washington Trust Bank, Selle Valley Construction in Ponderay, and Sandpoint Title Insurance. Then, on June 16, come do the Bernd Barrel at 5:30pm. For an entrance fee of $10 you will have the chance to enjoy a no-host bar and choose from an array of dresses, skirts, shorts, jackets, accessories and more! There is no charge for the items you choose!

“Priest River Ministries Advocates for Women has been assisting women in receiving the services they need locally for several years behind the scenes,” said 7B Women committee member and organizer of the event Alice Sloane of Washington Trust Bank. “7B Women chose to help fundraise for Priest River Ministries Advocates for Women’s new location because we believe in connecting women with the resources they need to be successful individuals in our community. Opening a new facility in Sandpoint will increase the variety of services offered and make them more readily available for local women and their families.“

Priest River Ministries is doing much to build relationships with women and encourage them on their journey of well being. If you or someone you know is in need of their services, contact them at the Crisis Hotline number 208.290.6529 or their office number of 208.448.2800.

If you cannot make the fundraiser but would like to donate, please contact Priest River Ministries. “Our biggest need is currently funding,” said Encinas. “We are financially stable for six months in Sandpoint minus a computer. A computer would be the next need.”


The Bonner County Daily Bee

November 02, 2016 at 11:29 am | By MARY MALONE Staff writer

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— Photo by MARY MALONE 7B Women presented a check to Community Cancer Services for $5,000 garnered by proceeds from October's Boobs 'N Beer event. Another check for $5,000 was presented to Celebrate Life. From top left, Gina Hall of Alliance Title and Escrow and 7B Women; Sherri Lies of Mary Kay and 7B Women; Jenn Markwardt of Sandpoint Title Insurance and 7B Women; Alice Sloane of Wildwood Grilling and 7B Women; Jesse Wurm of 7B Women; Kim Dierks of Columbia Bank and 7B Women; and Yarrow Frank of Alpenglow Business and Personal Services and 7B Women. From bottom left, Jennifer Cornett of CCS; Cindy Marx of CCS; and Andra Nelson of CCS.


    SANDPOINT — The efforts by 7B Women to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October with a combination of boobs and beer paid off Tuesday as the group presented $5,000 each to Community Cancer Services and Celebrate Life.

    The 7B Women, a committee of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, hosted the "Boobs 'N Beer" event on Oct. 2, which included a 5K fun run followed by an Oktoberfest celebration afterward at MickDuff's Beer Hall.

    About 275 men, women and children, many dressed in pink representing the signature color for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, hit the Sand Creek Trail at Sandpoint City Beach in support of the event's purpose. Along with all the individual support, the event garnered more than 20 community sponsors, as well as several corporate-level sponsors, including Selle Valley Construction, Idaho Forest Group, North Idaho Flood and Fire, Washington Trust, Ponderay Insurance and Sandpoint Title Insurance.

    In a statement released Tuesday, Jenn Markwardt of Sandpoint Title Insurance and 7B Women member who helped coordinate the event, said the committee could not have asked for a better response for the community and event sponsors.

    "The generous support of so many local businesses coupled with the enthusiasm of all of our runners made for an amazing day and an even more result for our two beneficiaries," she said in the statement. "Our initial goal was to raise $4,000 in the first year — to have raised over $10,000 really speaks to the extreme generosity of our community and to the amazing work both CCS and Celebrate Life do for those affected by cancer in our community."

    According to, one in eight women, or 12 percent of the population, will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. CCS and Celebrate Life are two local organizations that assist those diagnosed with cancer and their families by providing access to resources and assistance programs.

    "We are grateful for every dollar we get," Cindy Marx, vice president of the CCS board, said in the statement. "This money all goes to people of Bonner and Boundary County (who) have come to us seeking help. The only prerequisite for receiving help from us is that they have to prove a cancer diagnosis. No one plans or budgets for a cancer diagnosis."

    The mission of 7B Women includes supporting women in business and providing education and networking resources, as well as a philanthropic obligation to the community.

    Each year the committee hosts two signature events, and "Boobs 'N Beer" was this year's second event.

    The committee coordinates a monthly luncheon at Tango Cafe in the Columbia Bank building in Sandpoint, as well as an annual conference in November.

    The theme of this year's event scheduled for Nov. 15 is "A Day of Inspiration" and will feature speakers from North Idaho College on topics of balance and health in the professional and personal lives of women.

    Boobs ‘n Beer: An unlikely combo to fight cancer

    The Sandpoint Reader

    · SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

    By Cameron Barnes
    Reader Staff

    Boobs ‘n Beer: It sounds like something out of a National Lampoon college comedy, right?

    Well, this event will leave some people crying, but more likely from gratitude instead of laughter.

    The inaugural Boobs ‘n Beer Fest—an event hosted by 7B Women, a committee of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce—aims to help families in need by raising money for Community Cancer Services and Celebrate Life. These two essential local organizations provide families affected by cancer with the money and resources they need to keep hope alive.

    7B Women Committee members sport the new Boobs ‘N Beer event shirts. From left to right: Jesse Wurm, Alice Sloane, Sherri Lies, Gina Hall, Kim Diercks, and Jenn Markwardt. Photo by Cameron Barnes.

    “We not only wanted to give back, but do it in a fun way, and it’s proving to be great,” 7B Women Committee member Jenn Markwardt said. “We’ve had an amazing turnout for registration so far [140-plus] and an incredible group of sponsors … We’re really looking forward to a fantastic first annual event. Hopefully we can do this for many years to come and raise a lot of money.”

    As you might expect, there will be no shortage of beer on hand for thirsty attendees, but plenty of other attractions are planned, too. A 5K fun run will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, from Sandpoint City Beach and follows the Sand Creek Trail.

    Same-day registration is available as early as 8:30 a.m. at Sandpoint City Beach, and each participant will receive a T-shirt, beer, water bottle and a pretzel necklace.

    It’s estimated that even those who walk will arrive back to MickDuff’s Beer Hall by 12:30 p.m., just in time for the start of Oktoberfest. The reception is set to be quite the party with many specials.

    Still Tipsy and the Hangovers performs at 4 p.m. Food for the event will be hosted by Beat & Basil as well as the Old Tin Can, which will sport a grass-fed burger topped with bratwurst, sauerkraut and muenster cheese. Both vendors will be donating a portion of their sales to the cause.

    Boobs ‘n Beer arrives just in time for October, which is breast cancer awareness month. Intended to raise awareness of the horrible disease, the month of activism also encourages people to support local cancer services nonprofits.

    “This event is truly the brainchild of the 7B Women Committee,” said Markwardt. “… we want to raise awareness for both Celebrate Life and Community Cancer Services, which do so much for not only breast cancer victims, but also people with a myriad of different cancers in the community.”

    For some folks, beer is always welcome, but it’s even better when it’s serving amazing causes like Celebrate Life and Community Cancer Services. Given that one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime, their services are essential to the community.

    For more information, check out Chamber 7B Women on Facebook. Support the boobs, drink the beer!


    Bonner County Daily Bee

    June 25, 2016 at 5:00 am | By PATTY HUTCHENS Contributing writer


    —Courtesy photo Members of the 7B Women Committee pose for a picture at the recent summer clothing swap. Pictured are Alice Sloane of Washington Trust Bank, Jenn Markwardt of Sandpoint Title Insurance, Kim Diercks of Columbia Bank, Patty Hutchens of Sandpoint Living Local, Sherri Lies of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Gina Hall of Alliance Title and Escrow, and Jesse Wurm of Selle Valley Construction.


    SANDPOINT — Empowering women to succeed. That is the mission of 7B Women, a committee of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce. And with that goal in mind, the committee’s chair of community outreach, Alice Sloane of Washington Trust Bank, organized a summer clothes swap to benefit Priest River Ministries Advocates for Women.

    The end result was a huge success, much to the delight of the committee and Rhonda Encinas, director of Priest River Ministries Advocates for Women.

    “We chose this nonprofit because of the important work they do to help women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse,” said Sloane. “Although they have been around a long time, they just opened a Sandpoint office in May and are providing support to many in our community.”

    The summer clothes swap was held at the Bernd Barrel on June 16. Approximately 80 women attended. For a $10 entrance fee, attendees were allowed to peruse the collection of clothing and accessories and take that which they wanted at no charge. Donations of clothing were accepted prior to the event and Sloane and her committee members worked hard to press and present the clothing for a fun shopping experience for all who attended.

    The clothing and accessories that remained were donated to Priest River Ministries Advocates for Women. “We are so grateful to Denise Alveari for donating the space and hosting this event at the Bernd Barrel,” said Jenn Markwardt of Sandpoint Title, also a member of the committee. As the site of the former Coldwater Creek retail store and Wine Bar, the Bernd Barrel provided a perfect venue to sip a glass of wine while shopping.

    But like anything, it takes more than a committee to make something happen. It takes community support. Jesse Wurm of Selle Valley Construction shares that the donation of clothing racks by Schweitzer Alpine Racing School, cloth shopping bags by the Bonner County Daily Bee, hangers from Nu-Way Drycleaners and advertising by Blue Sky Broadcasting and Sandpoint Living Local all were instrumental in making the event a success.

    “In the end we raised nearly $1,100 to help support the mission of Priest River Ministries,” said Wurm. “It’s an incredible community in which we live.”