top of page


Yankton Area Mental Wellness, Inc.  (YAMWI)





The overall theme of the original YAMWI conference, which was held in 1999, was "Caring for Self...Caring for Community".


The theme was penned by the original conference planning committee.  The conference theme was carried out all throughout the event and eventually became known as the organization’s mission statement. 





Beginning in 1999, a mental wellness conference was established in Yankton, South Dakota, as an annual event.


The conference began as the result of a suggestion by Matthew J. W. Michels, RN, JD, who at that time was affiliated with Bierle & Michels, and who served as Associate General Legal Counsel for Avera Health System and is Speaker Pro Tempore of the South Dakota State Representative.


Matt saw the need for training and networking in Yankton, a region that is both extremely concerned about serving those in need and also is rich in resources and professional expertise.  Matt, who then was also a member of the Advisory Board of United Way and Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton, planted the idea for the conference at a United Way Advisory Board meeting.  For this vision, Matt received the first Mental Wellness Leadership Professional Award.


The idea for the conference took root under the leadership of Pam Kettering, Executive Director of the United Way and Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton.  The United Way and Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton was proud to be the primary sponsor offering the Annual Yankton Regional Mental Wellness Conference.


The overall theme of the conference was "Caring for Self...Caring for Community".  The theme was penned by the original conference planning committee.   The conference theme was carried out all throughout the event and eventually became known as the organization’s mission statement.


The theme implies guidance for those who are serving (whether that service is within the family unit or in a professional capacity) to find the information and skills necessary to effectively carry out this most important and demanding role.


The conference also served to draw together individuals to increase awareness of the network of resources and support available to them.  The Mental Wellness Conference theme also implied the wealth of expertise within Yankton and the surrounding communities.


There has traditionally been an impressive list of highly qualified presenters for this conference.  Application for professional credit has been made each year.  This further supported caring for self through professional development without expensive travel and without excessive time away from the priority of caring for others.


The conference logo, designed by Yankton native and professional graphic artist, David Gannon, further depicts the conference goals. David is the son of Don and Mary Helen Gannon.  Mary Helen was employed as co-director of the Contact Center in Yankton and served on the conference planning committee.


The logo’s main design resembles the sunshine, the warmth gained by caring for others, and the vitality of good health.  The rays indicate how mental wellness adds brightness all around. The bold print reminds us that "wellness" is the core of this conference.  The word "conference" at the bottom of the logo denotes that this training provided a strong foundation for caregivers and professionals.  The spacing of the letters indicated that there is room for everyone to support this event and a need for everyone to care about mental wellness.


The conference truly became a united community effort in the aspects of both planning and participation.


More than 225 participants attended the first annual conference, which was held in 1999 at the South Dakota Human Services Center, Yankton, in 1999.  The 2000 conference grew into a two-day event, at the request of past participants to further meet their needs, and was relocated to Mount Marty College to accommodate the 180 participants.


Conference planners included a diverse group of administrators, clergy, educators, healthcare professionals, industrial leaders, lawyers, and lay representatives to ensure that the education and supportive needs of all prospective participants are met.


Incorporation was achieved in 2000. 







Chair Dr. Tom Stanage, Lewis & Clark Behavioral Health Services

Vice Chair Lori Lincoln, Mount Marty College

Secretary Brook Thurman, SD Human Services Center

Treasurer Jason Pearson, Pearson Tax & Accounting



Chair: Lois Halbur



Rebecca Altman, Unified Judicial System, Court Services

Brandi Gant, SD Human Services Center

Lois Halbur, SD Human Services Center

Shari Hussing, SD Human Services Center

Desiree Johnson, Rivercity Domestic Violence Center

Mary Beth Kafka, Lewis & Clark Behavioral Health Services

Dale Knode, American Psychiatric Nurses Association – SD 

Lavonne Lorenzen, Education

Sharon Oien, Ability Building Services

Joe Rehurek, SD Vocational Rehab

Amy Reyes, Yankton Public School 

Chauntel Wright, Anchoring to Hope


bottom of page