The Junior League of St. Joseph is expanding our educational component and bringing women together to raise their impact through discussions and community relations through a Women’s Forum. This event is intended to bring a wide variety of women from St. Joseph and surrounding areas together to better understand themselves and their relationship to the community and its needs.

March 2, 2024

Featuring Keynote Speaker, Jill Brown, presenting Mom was Right

Anyone feeling over appreciated? If one more good thing happens, do you feel your cup might literally overflow? Discover unique ways to find gratitude and joy in the most unlikely of places.

Jill Brown is a farm kid, marathon runner, lover of food on a stick, and director of corporate relations at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. She has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism and a master’s degree in higher education administration, both from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL). Prior to her current role in Missouri, she worked in various external relations roles at UNL. Jill has a speaking business, Collisions of Awesomeness, where she speaks about gratitude, networking, and a variety of other personal development topics. Jill and her husband live in Mound City, Missouri with their teenage daughter who runs her own business called “Peppers Pup Treats” which keeps their floors sticky and their life full of new dogs to meet and feed.

Cultivate: provide the time and space for women to meet

Connect: a wide range of women participate in order to provide networking and resources across interests and ages

Engage: take time to learn and set goals that will impact the St. Joseph community through the improvement of the lives of women

Event Details

Join women from all walks of life at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art on March 2, 2024 beginning at 10:00 AM. Lunch will be included with registration. Check back for more information as it becomes available.

We Speak – Featured Speakers

Rebecca Bledsoe – Chief Nursing Officer, Mosaic Life Care

Rebecca Bledsoe, RN, is the chief nursing officer (CNO) for Mosaic. Rebecca has worked with Mosaic for 24 years in various roles and most recently served as vice president of nursing services.

Rebecca has a proven track record of success in leading and managing nursing teams. She is passionate about providing high-quality care to patients and is committed to creating a positive work environment that gives nurses a voice. Her dedication and leadership to Mosaic, especially during the recent pandemic and through the Epic transition, make her an asset to the leadership team.

Rebecca has a master’s degree in business administration from Baker University and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Missouri Western State University.

Shelby BottigerStay at Home Mother and Community Builder

Shelby had her first baby. Moved to a new city. Left her career to be a stay at home mom. The world shut down. All within 2 months. This challenging time in Shelby Bottiger’s life led her to be passionate about serving and loving on women, particularly mothers, in the community! Shelby is a mother and farmer’s wife that lives here in St. Joseph. Shelby serves on leadership for a local women’s ministry called “Moms For Life” and also enjoys collaborating with other organizations in the community that exist to support mothers and their families. In 2023, she launched on social media platforms under the name “Empire Prairie Farm” to show her family’s farming lifestyle. Currently Shelby’s most watched video has over 3 million views.

Michelle Clark – Chief Financial Officer, Lifeline Foods

Michelle Clark joined LifeLine Foods in 2013 and is currently the CFO, serving as the financial compass for the organization. During her tenure as CFO, Michelle has been instrumental in the completion of $20MM in capital projects and expansions at LifeLine, resulting in a 20% increase in headcount. She is also a CPA and has a total of 17 years of experience in finance.

In addition to her professional role, Michelle is also a leader amongst the community and is committed to civic engagement by serving as a board member for various organizations such as United Way, the Mosaic Foundation and the YWCA. Her community service has led to recurring on-site programs at LifeLine Foods, including Stuff the Bus, the Second Harvest Food Drive and InterServ’s Adopt-A-Senior program. Michelle is a founding member of the Housing Improvement Initiative non-profit organization, HII. HII’s mission is to improve the appearance of neighborhoods through rehabilitation of abandoned and dilapidated houses as well as educating employees on financial planning and budgeting with an emphasis on homeownership in the St. Joseph area.

Dana Ekstrum – Owner, Manic Snail

Dana Ekstrum is a community volunteer and small-business owner. Shortly after moving to St. Joseph in 2013, she fell in love with Downtown St. Joseph and quickly sought opportunities to volunteer for events and activities in the Downtown community. This involvement ultimately led to her opening Manic Snail, a card and gift shop, in spring of 2018, and taking on a board role with Downtown First until its end in 2020. She has served as a founding member and President of Main Street Saint Joseph from 2021 to 2023, and still dedicates a large amount of her time to the Organization as an executive board member, focused on building a foundation of leadership, volunteerism, and economic development for a thriving and sustainable Downtown. She serves as Chair of the Downtown Promotions Committee, has been involved in the reopening of the historic Trail Theatre, and also coordinates a variety of annual, collaborative and educational events for Downtown merchants and visitors.

Tonya McCrea – Owner, East Hills Cleaners

Tonya McCrea of East Hills Cleaners is a single mother and entrepreneur who is passionate about giving back to others. In addition to running a flourishing business in a declining industry, she goes out of her way to promote other small businesses. Her business practices have been recognized by The Wall Street Journal and other industry publications. As an employer, she treats her staff like family and leads them by example. She employs Sisters of Solace survivors and rewards their hard work by recognizing years of service and Employee of the Month. Every Tuesday, she provides her staff with paid volunteer opportunities at the Freudendthal Center for Parkinson’s disease. In addition to empowering her employees, she contributes to the community by donating free services and clothing to various causes. Tonya is a member of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce Diplomats Club and multiple networking groups that contribute to her continued success.

Dr. Elizabeth Sawin – Retired Educator and Lifelong Advocate

Dr. Elizabeth Latosi-Sawin holds a BA in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an MA and PhD in English Literature from the University of Iowa. At Missouri Western State University, she was the Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum program, the Honors Program, and Outdoor Semester, an experiential, multidisciplinary, learning community during which students and faculty hiked and camped out West, rode horseback, white-water rafted, canoed the Upper Missouri River, following the Lewis and Clark expedition, and studied Native American cultures, observing powwows, meeting elders and participating in sweat lodges. She taught courses in composition, creative nonfiction, environmental literature, and Shakespeare, receiving the Missouri Governor’s Award for excellence in teaching. Since her retirement, she has served on the St. Joseph Library Board, the Sustainability Advisory Committee to the Mayor, PEO Chapter ED, the Runcie Club, and Persisterhood, leading others in the planting of over 60 trees on the Northwest Parkway. She is married, has two children, and three grandchildren.

Brenda Shields – State Representative

Representative Brenda Kay Shields, a Republican, represents part of Buchanan County (District 11) in the Missouri House of Representatives. She was elected to her first two-year term in November 2018.

Prior to serving in the legislature, Shields worked for Quaker Oats Company in St. Joseph for more than 17 years, culminating in the role of logistics specialist. After closure of the St. Joseph Quaker Oats facility, she followed her passion for service and entered Missouri’s Alternative Teacher Certification program teaching business education in the St. Joseph School District. In 2006, she was selected by the community board to serve as the president and CEO of the United Way of Greater St. Joseph.

Shields’ commitment to community and service shows through her service on several boards and commissions, including board chair for the United Cerebral Palsy, board member for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, board member for the Allied Arts Council and board member of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. She served as Mid-Buchanan PTA president, on the Commerce Bank CRA Advisory Board, Girl Scouts Leadership Circle and Boy Scouts Troop 216 committee. Her service to Missouri includes serving on the Governor’s Complete Counts Census Committee and Missouri’s Coordination Board for Early Childhood Education.

Shields is a graduate of the University of Missouri – Columbia and lives in rural Buchanan County with her husband, Charlie. They have two sons.

Check back for more featured speakers soon!