two women holding photo of another woman

Ellen Hamilton (left) and Judy Hamilton (right) sit together in Judy’s Sioux Falls home, holding a photo of Helen Jacobson (Hudson), Judy’s mother. All three Hamilton women have served on the EmBe (formerly the YWCA) Board of Directors.

A spirit of giving and community support is just one of the commonalities between Ellen, Judy and Helen. Another is their years of service on the EmBe board. And a third is that they are three generations of the same family.

Ellen Hamilton has been a board member since 2015. She remembers her mother, Judy Hamilton, as a board member and a committed business owner. “I am impressed with my mother’s ability to balance a busy real estate business and her dedication to giving,” said Ellen. “The two were equally important, and she continues to fill her schedule with volunteer work and social commitments in her retirement years.”

In turn, Judy recalls that her mother, Helen Jacobson (board member in 1962-63), instilled a commitment to Sioux Falls in her. “The city was changing and growing and EmBe was a big part in providing a place for youth to come together in a safe place,” Judy shared. “As a housewife, Helen still believed her role could-and should-help shape the community. She wanted something meaningful to do.”

Over the years, EmBe’s commitment to women and families stayed the same. One of the programs that impacted Judy’s life was the Spinster’s Ball. The formula has stayed much the same, bringing together students from across the city to plan and promote a dance that turns the tables by focusing on the girls inviting the boys.

Judy followed the tradition by inviting Jack to join her at the dance. It worked out well, since they celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary in June of 2018.

Judy also remembers Y “teen canteens” which provided space for the city’s youth to get off the streets and spend time together in a structured environment. Judy’s parents owned an ice cream store where KELO is now located, and they personally saw the importance of the YWCA (now EmBe) programs for youth and young women. Neva Peterson/Erikson was the Executive Director during the post-war years, years that Judy remembers as exciting and full of change in Sioux Falls and a wonderful time to grow up.

Judy’s service

Judy’s time on the board (1977-1978) was very different, reflecting transformation in the city and region in the 1970s. Judy’s real estate business was growing rapidly and she reflected the changing needs of the world. The pace of life had changed and EmBe’s programs shifted as well. She recalls aquatics and other more structured programs that served youth and busy mothers. “The board had to consider that many more women worked outside the home,” Judy said. “The city had doubled in size and the region was growing, too. We grew with it.”

This era also saw the beginning of Tribute to Women in 1974. Originally called the Leader Luncheon, this event reflected the perspective that women were leading in new and more ways in the Sioux Falls region. This program continues today, formally recognizing the people who contribute and lead in their work and in the community. Judy was recognized in 1990 when she won the Business category at Leader Luncheon.

Ellen’s service

Ellen’s board service is the most recent, beginning in 2015. “I had returned to live in Sioux Falls and it seemed like a natural fit to serve on the board that I remember hearing about from my mother and grandmother,” shared Ellen. “Most importantly, I believe in their mission to provide resources to women and families in our region. From teaching leadership skills through play and sports to preparing women for work, EmBe is making a profound difference in the area and I love being part of that.” In addition to serving on the board, Ellen is a mentor in EmBe’s Women’s Leadership Program.

The passion for service runs strongly in the Hamiltons, and it is representative of the giving spirit at EmBe, too. “We don’t turn people away, we find ways to be sure everyone has access to our services,” stated Ellen. “We are here for the entire community and it is exciting to change and grow as the community continues to evolve.”