About Emma’s House

At Emma’s House our primary concern is a child’s safety. We work together to ensure that children feel safe and comfortable. We strive to reduce trauma and promote healing for children and their families.

How Emma’s House helps :

  • Forensic interviews
  • Medical exams specific to child abuse allegations
  • Crisis intervention and counseling for children and their familes
  • Victim advocacy in the criminal justice system
  • Assistance in filing claims with the Montana Crime Victims Compensation Program
  • Community outreach and education
  • Referrals to community support and social services

Emma’s House is a community partnership

A multidisciplinary team of professionals provide assessment, treatment, education, and prevention. Emma’s House coordinates with nurse and mental health providers, social service professionals, advocates, law enforcement, and prosecutors to investigate and intervene.

Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC)

A children’s advocacy center is a safe place for children and families to talk to professionals about child abuse and neglect.


Val and Twyla

Valerie Widmer, Executive Director

Val has served as the Director of Emma’s House since its inception in 2006. Val brings more than 20 years experience in the field of child abuse and mental health. Val obtained a Masters Degree in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Montana and obtained clinical licensure in 2008 , with a focus on trauma treatment and violence against children. In her tenure, Val has conducted more than 1000 forensic interviews of children at Emma’s House. In 2016, Val was instrumental in obtaining a service dog for Emma’s House. In May of 2016, “Twyla”, a specially trained canine companion for kids, joined the staff of Emma’s House. Val enjoys spending time with family traveling, hiking, skiing, and watching lots of baseball.

Amy Rau, Counselor

Amy graduated from the University of Montana with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 2000 and received her Master’s degree in Social Work from Walla Walla College in 2003. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has worked in this field for 16 years. Amy has been providing counseling to kids and teens at Emma’s House since 2012. She enjoys living in Ravalli County because she can hike, float, ski, and mountain bike ride!

Joni Lubke photoJoni Lubke, Development Director

Joni was a board member for 2 years. After discovering a passion for the work that Emma’s House does, she was so excited for the opportunity to become the Development Director. She is looking forward to reaching out to the community and is motivated to raise money for such a great organization that helps kids through very difficult situations. Joni has lived in Montana all her life and loves raising her family in the Bitterroot Valley. She enjoys being creative, singing in the car, fun adventures, and sarcasm.

Sarah Lidstrom (1)
Sarah Lidstrom, Nurse

Born and raised in Montana, Sarah recievied her bachelor of science in nursing from Montana State University in 2014. She joined the Emma’s House team part-time as an RN medical examiner and spends the rest of her time working at a family practice clinic. Sarah has become very passionate about the work she does at Emma’s House and feels grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something so important. Outside of work, she enjoys all the beautiful hiking and running opportunities the Bitterroot Valley has to offer.


Kierstin photoKierstin Schmitt, Office Manager and Prevention Coordinator

Kierstin has worked for Emma’s House since 2012 after working at a local for-profit business, in the native plant restoration and forestry field and local advocacy. A passion for social, economic and environmental justice has led Kierstin to putting that drive towards helping to protect children and teenagers from abuse and neglect. She has developed the child abuse prevention program providing trainings, presentations and resources for the professionals and the public, along with maintaining the geeky administrative tasks or the “wheels on the bus”, as we call it. Kierstin is the proud mother of Josephine, a spirited college student and, in her free time, she enjoys traveling, knitting and most outdoor activities, gardening, hiking, biking, powder skiing and playing on the water.


April Weinberger photo April Weinberger, MD, Medical Director

Dr. Weinberger has been the Medical Director of Emma’s House since 2011.  She grew up in Florida and Southern Wisconsin and graduated with a degree in Piano Performance from the University of Wisconsin in 2002.  She attended Drexel School of Medicine in Philadelphia and completed her residency in Family Medicine in Asheville, NC in 2010.   Shortly after moving to the Bitterroot she was given the opportunity to join Emma’s house and is thrilled to be able to contribute to the community through the great work that they do.  In her spare time, she enjoys running, gardening, snowboarding, hiking and spending time with her husband Seth and two children Olive and Rye.



Julie Telfer photoJulie Telfer, Clinical Consultant

Julie Telfer, LCSW, provides clinical consultation for the mental health practitioners at Emma’s House. One of the participants in the original interagency agreement to establish the multidisciplinary team, she has been a member since the team’s inception. She served as one of the founding members of the Emma’s House Board of Directors. Julie is a licensed clinical social worker with postgraduate training in the treatment of trauma and in infant mental health and child-caregiver relationship assessment from Tulane University. She is a certified Circle of Security parenting instructor.  Julie has a private trauma-informed psychotherapy and consultation practice in Hamilton. She works with children, adolescents, and adults.


Twyla sleeping

Twyla, facility dog

Twyla joined our staff in the spring of 2016 and has made a tremendous impact since her arrival. She was trained at Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, CA and was selected specifically for our program. Twyla is 3 years old and can provide comfort to our clients in the waiting room, interview room and in counseling.




Board of Directors:

Willa Lande photo

Willa Lande, Vice President

Willa spent many summer and winter holidays in Missoula visiting her Grandparents.  She was born in California, ultimately doing her formative years in New Jersey.  She attended the University of Montana where she studied Forestry.  Willa and her family, husband Rich and daughters Arnica and Athena, moved to Hamilton in 2009 when Willa took over the Edward Jones Office.  They have enjoyed the Bitterroot Valley and all it has to offer.  Willa especially likes walking or riding her bike anywhere in town.  She was moved to join the board at Emma’s House because of their ability to provide a safe outlet for children whose lives have come across unfortunate circumstances.  Children become adults and are our future.  We must take care of our future.



Jessica Murphy photo


Jessica Murphy, Treasurer

Jessica Murphy (Treasurer) has been on the BOD since January of 2016.  Jessica is a wife to Steve, Mother to Madison and Austin, and a manager for Bitterroot Disposal. In her spare time she enjoys giving back to her community by fundraising and volunteering for Emma’s House. #istandforkids.




Christina Dunbar photoChristina Dunbar

Growing up part of a military family, Christina got to experience both east and west coast living before moving back to her family roots in 2001. She attended Hamilton High School and as a student she started volunteering for local organizations helping children along with her father. Upon graduating from the University of Montana she returned to Hamilton. She works at Ravalli Head Start with preschoolers and their families. Christina has continued her passion for volunteerism and is the President of the Bitterroot Valley Kiwanis Club and volunteers for a variety of other organizations. She became involved with Emma’s house due to a concern for children, wanting them to have a sfe place and caring group of people to help them feel secure and cared for during difficult times. It’s an honor to work with such a wonderful team of caring adults.


Nathan Stone photo

Nathan Stone, President

Nathan is an attorney for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, where hew works to protect wildlife habitat across elk country.  He originally got involved with Emma’s House when he had a small private practice in Hamilton.  He loves the outdoors, and is focused on making sure that kids in Ravalli County can enjoy the mountains and rivers trauma free.



Kristina bio picKristina Bessenyey, Secretary

Growing up, we spent our summers here in the Bitterroot, and after getting out of college, I decided this was where I wanted to settle down. I am so honored to serve on the Board of Emma’s House in order to be able to give back to this community that I have come to love.  It has meant so much to me to play a small role in this organization that does so much to protect and serve children.


Jeremy Kientz photoJeremy Kientz

My name is Jeremy T. Kientz and I am currently a financial advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors in Missoula MT. I served the Bitterroot Valley in Hamilton for 11 years of my 15 year career and miss the people of the valley immensely. I thoroughly enjoy staying in touch with the good people of Hamilton and the surrounding areas through my work with Emma’s House. I joined the board back in 2013 and look forward to helping Emma’s House transition through some big changes coming up for us over the next few years that will allow us to better serve the children that need us.

I have the two greatest kids in the world, Jacob (12) and Emily (9) who occupy most of my free time. Other than spending time with them I enjoy golf, skiing, reading exciting financial periodicals, playing with my new puppy and riding my Harley.

Russ at Glacier

Russ Lawrence

After owning Hamilton’s Chapter One Book Store for 23 years, Russ and his wife spent two years serving as volunteers in the U.S. Peace Corps in Peru, working on small business and community development. On his return in 2011, Russ worked for the Hamilton Downtown Association and also as a freelance journalist. His wife, Jean, passed away in 2015, and since then Russ has been semi-retired, although he guides periodic adventure travel tours to Peru, and continues his community development activities through volunteer service in Ravalli County. He has served on the Emma’s House board since 2012.



Angela Wetzsteon photo

Angela Wetzsteon

Angela Wetzsteon is originally from Moscow, Idaho, and moved to Hamilton in 2004 with her husband, Cory. She was hired as a Deputy Ravalli County Attorney in 2008 and currently prosecutes all felony violent crime, adult sexual assault and felony DUI cases. In her free time Angela chases around her two daughters, Abigail and Austyn. She and Cory enjoy fitness, the outdoors and taking part in the community events Ravalli County has to offer. Angela became involved with Emma’s House after she saw first-hand, through her work at the County Attorney’s Office, the critical impact Emma’s House has on local kids and families