About The Angel Fund

About The Angel Fund

The Angel Fund is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Corporation which assists Helena School District children that qualify for free/reduced lunch with items including clothing, winter outerwear, school supplies, field trip fees, shoes, and other necessities. The fund is overseen by a 9-member board and has over 40 coordinators and volunteers who help students in their schools. Since its creation by Marcia Wall in 1989, the fund has been a catalyst for hope in the Helena school system. In the past year alone, the Angel Fund has served almost 900 children and awarded a total of 13 Montana post-secondary scholarships to deserving graduates. To learn more about The Angel Fund, please explore the following page using the links provided to the right. Thank you for your interest!
Marcia K Wall
Marcia K. Wall - Founder
The way we were...
The Way We Were... (Connie, Cynthia, and Marcia)

Over 55 years ago, while attending MSU-Billings and working 3 jobs on campus to fund her education, Marcia Wall’s younger sister Cynthia was starting her senior year in high school without new school clothes. Marcia used her department store charge account so Cynthia could have proper clothes and shoes to begin school. Maybe that’s when The Angel Fund really began . . .

Marcia Wall is the Founder of The Angel Fund. She was a school counselor at Helena Middle School; in 1989 realized there were students whose parents could not afford school supplies, back packs, shoes, warm coats or even fees for a field trip. What began as a personal commitment (digging into her own pocket) soon morphed into something more. From the beginning of one person trying to make a difference for one student, to envisioning more was possible and asking “how many kids can we help?” has become Marcia’s passion since Angel Fund began.

The Angel Fund expanded in 1998 helping ALL children in need. Mission: The Angel Fund is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Corporation helping Helena School District children with necessary school items including clothing, shoes, school supplies, backpacks, classroom materials, field trip fees and other related school items to families needing assistance. The Angel Fund also offers Montana post-secondary scholarships to deserving graduates at Access to Success, Capital High, Helena High, East Helena High and Pupils in Alternative Learning based on academic success, financial need and commitment to give back to their community. There are currently over 40 Angel Coordinators and volunteers in all 18 Helena Schools processing applications and ensuring children in need receive help. In 2002, Marcia retired from the School District to devote more time to The Angel Fund.

On June 20, 2014, Marcia's son Cleve A. Malmstrom drowned while fly fishing on the Missouri River. The Angel Fund dedicated its 25th Anniversary in honor of his memory. For more information on Cleve's life and legacy Please Click Here.

What started out with a few dollars to purchase school supplies, clothing, shoes and a backpack has turned into a successful nonprofit helping almost 900 students each school year in the Helena School District. The Angel Fund’s philosophy of “Pay it Forward” instills generosity and community so that one day the kindness of others will be passed forward. It gives us all hope that our good deeds will continue on and help change the world one child at a time.

The Angel Fund began helping students at Helena Middle School
The Fund qualified for nonprofit
501(c)(3) status through the Internal Revenue Service and State of Montana
The Angel Fund awarded its first scholarship of $500 to a Helena graduate
The first annual Running For Montana's Future Race was held in Helena
The Angel Fund awarded 10 graduates a post-secondary scholarship and helped over 800 students.
The Angel Fund went district-wide to help ALL children needing assistance in Helena's 17 schools
The Angel Fund became a partner-agency with United Way of the Lewis and Clark area
The Fund held its first Stuff the Bus school supply drive
Janet Riis became Executive Director.
The Angel Fund is overseen by a team of elected Officers from throughout the Helena Community. The 9-member Board of Directors meets quarterly to evaluate and review the Angel Fund's operations and success.
Name Office Phone Email Re-election
Janet Riis Executive
447-5423 (Work)
459-1889 (Cell)
theangelfundmt@gmail.com Staff
Marcia K. Wall Founder 439-1672 (Cell)
368-2406 (Home)
marciawall16@gmail.com Staff
Mary Anderson Chairman 461-6371 (Cell) mary.anderson2763@gmail.com 2024
Brian Kessler Vice Chairman 406-227-7700 (Work)
406-202-1150 (Cell)
bkessler@ehps.k12.mt.us 2024
Suzanne Severin Treasurer 431-0559 (Cell) suzannemarie.severin@gmail.com 2024
Susan Nimick Secretary 443-5980 (Home)
422-6695 (Cell)
snimick14@gmail.com 2026
Nick Radley Member &
324-1290 (Work)
431-0000 (Cell)
nvincentradley@gmail.com 2026
Steve Thennis Member &
324-2202 (Work)
459-9450 (Cell)
sthennis@helenaschools.org 2025
Sara Hayter Member 406-461-5293 (Cell) sarahayter@yahoo.com 2024
Janet Riis
Janet Riis - Executive Director

Janet Riis joined the Angel Fund Board in 2017 and became Executive Director July 1, 2019. She grew up in the Helena valley and was a Rossiter Royal, CRA Cub, Capital High Bruin and a Carroll College Saint. Janet has a passion for education. Her career began in 1993 in the financial aid industry, providing access and financial aid to students with dreams of pursuing higher education. Successful students need a level playing field which includes proper clothes to start the school year off right, running shoes to stay active and healthy, and school supplies to succeed in the classroom. Education begins in elementary and secondary schools and can continue on to post-secondary education where our students make their dreams come true and many times break the cycle of poverty. Education is the best investment any donor can make – donor generosity is building our leaders of the future!

Marcia Wall
Marcia K. Wall - Founder

Marcia grew up in Eastern Montana as the middle child of 3 girls with a single Mom trying to juggle motherhood and full-time employment. Education was important because she knew without a college degree, there was no support system or success story. As an ordinary girl from Miles City, Marcia began her college journey and decided to choose an extraordinary path in education and school counseling; making a difference for children. As a child of poverty with no financial and little emotional support, Marcia stated “I am eternally grateful to those who helped remove obstacles along my life journey to achieve my years in education and helping young people follow their dreams.” Angel Fund was founded in 1989 while she was a school counselor at Helena Middle School and her life has been forever changed. After raising their 3 children in Helena and retiring from Helena High, Marcia and her husband Mike live in the country, however remain committed to Angel Fund as the Founder and Development Coordinator. To be the Founder of Angel Fund is HER dream come true! Angel Fund is successful because of the generous and caring people of Helena and beyond! Your donation to help children in need has made this little nonprofit become a vital and successful program in Helena! Thank you!
B.S. Degree (Business & English Education); Master of Science Degree (Personnel & Guidance) MSU-Billings

Mary Anderson
Mary Anderson - Chairman

Mary Anderson was a school counselor with the Helena School District and has been involved with the Angel Fund for the past thirteen years. Her commitment to the Angel Fund stems from the fact that it provides a bridge between families and schools often ignored in traditional education. The Angel Fund tells families, "we believe in you. You deserve to go to school with the necessary school supplies and with clean warm clothes. We know that when these needs are fulfilled, you can concentrate on learning and doing your best." She is grateful to every donor who does not get to see the hope and the joy that their gift to Angel Fund provides for students, but who donates, regardless.

Brian Kessler
Brian Kessler - Vice Chairman

Brian Kessler is starting his 11th year in education. Brian has been lucky enough to serve students in four school districts around the state: Livingston, Helena, Havre, and now East Helena. During that time, he has taught Health and Physical Education, World History, and has been an Assistant Principal at Helena High, Assistant Principal/Activities Director at Havre High, and is currently the Principal of East Helena High School. A Helena native, Brian graduated from Helena High School and then Montana State University – Bozeman, where he earned his Master’s in Educational Leadership. Brian joined the Angel Fund Board in 2021.

Suzanne Severin
Suzanne Severin - Treasurer

Suzanne Severin has a bachelor’s degree in accounting, is a CPA and shareholder with Anderson ZurMuehlen & Co in the Helena office. Suzanne has over 35 year’s experience in accounting and currently works in the tax department as a consultant and business advisor. Areas of focus include nonprofits, small business, individuals and estates and trusts. Suzanne has served on several boards in the community and is currently serving as the treasurer for The Angel Fund and is on the board of directors for Montana Nonprofit Association.

Susan Nimick
Susan Nimick - Secretary

Susan Nimick has been an Angel Fund Board member since 2014. She currently serves as the Secretary. Before that she was a Resource teacher at Helena Middle School for 21 years. She has always felt a commitment to the underserved and students who struggled with learning issues. Seeing the excitement and appreciation of students when they received needed clothing and supplies through the Angel Fund inspired her to join the board following retirement.

Nick Radley
Nick Radley - Member

Nick Radley lives in Helena with his wife, Daylinda and two daughters Gabriella and Anna Malea. He is a Helena native who has served in public schools for 22 years. The last eleven years he has been a Principal at Bryant Elementary and Four Georgian’s Elementary in Helena. Nick became an Angel Fund Board member in 2017. He currently is our Board Chairman.

Steve Thennis
Steve Thennis - Member

Steve Thennis is a 33-year veteran educator. He has spent 28 years at Helena High School serving as a science teacher, football coach and administrator. He is currently the Principal at Helena High. A Helena native, Steve graduated from Capital High School and Carroll College before receiving his Masters in Educational Leadership from Montana State University. His wife Anna is a second grade teacher at Smith elementary. His son Jackson and daughter Maria are students at Montana State University and his youngest son Andrew, is a junior at Helena High School. He has been blessed to grow up in Montana and enjoys spending time with his family hiking, camping and fishing. This is Steve’s second year serving on the Angel Fund Board.

Sara Hayter
Sara Hayter - Member

Sara Hayter grew up in Helena and graduated from Helena High School. She is a graduate of MSU, with a BS in Education. “Go Cats” She has lived in Missouri and Wisconsin. Her family moved back to Helena in 2003. She is so grateful to have been able to move back to Helena, it is a wonderful place to raise a family. Sara has worked in the Helena School District for 16 years as a para profession, and a secretary.

Christian and Elizabeth Schmidt Marcia Wall
(Left) Five-year-old Christian Schmidt and his sister Elizabeth, 7, stack markers and crayons during the Angel Fund’s ‘Stuff the Bus’ sorting event at Bryant School Aug. 25.
(Right) Marcia Wall, a former Helena school counselor, started the fund in 1989 when she noticed children who were unable to afford small fees to attend class field trips and who didn’t have suitable clothing and supplies for school.
Counselor’s compassion grows into project that helps hundreds of students in need

By GREG LEMON Independent Record

Published October 20, 2013

You may not know they’re there. You may only hear about them when you see an article in the newspaper or get a fundraising envelope in the mail once a year. But there’s a network of angels working to support Helena’s neediest students.

The Angel Fund began rather simply in 1989 when Marcia Wall, then a counselor at Helena Middle School, realized there were kids not attending field trips because the few dollars it cost to go was too much for their families. She also noticed that some students would wear the same clothes every day or not participate in gym class because their shoes were held together by duct tape.

For Wall, these kids brought back painful memories of her own childhood growing up impoverished on Sunday Creek near Miles City.

“I came from extremely humble beginnings,” she said.

Wall was the middle child of three girls. She grew up wearing secondhand clothes and, being tall for her age, wore too-short, hand-me-down jeans to school.

She and her sisters were aware that they were different than most of the kids who got to buy school clothes each year and had enough money for new shoes when they outgrew their old ones.

When Wall got to college, she worked extra jobs to buy clothes for her sister, who was still in high school. She also remembers saving for months for a prom dress.

“I paid two or three dollars a week forever and I bought it,” she said with pride still strong in her voice.

Coming from the background she did, Wall understood better than most what kind of struggle low-income kids in her school were having. It wasn’t just about cold feet or low grades in gym class. It was about fitting in and feeling like a regular kid. Just having normal clothes and regular school supplies can mean everything.

“It just makes an enormous difference in your self esteem and who you are and how you perform,” she said.

In 1989, the tipping point came when six kids at HMS failed to make a field trip to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman because of the $6 cost.

“It just broke my heart,” Wall said.

Though $6 might be too much to ask for from the families of some of her students, it wasn’t too much for her.

“I just told all the teachers ‘If kids can’t afford the field trip, I’ll pay for it. If they can’t afford a pair of shoes and they’re getting marked down in gym, I’ll get them a pair of shoes. If a kid is freezing to death, then I’ll get them a coat,’” she said. “So that’s how it all got started and then it got kind of expensive.”

When she started focusing on the need within her own school, she began to see that it wasn’t just a couple of kids who needed help. It was more than she and her husband, Mike, could do.

So the following year, she talked to a few of their friends around town and raised a bit more money. But the need and the program developing to address it both continued to expand. The following year, she mailed letters to local business leaders. After that, it was the local service clubs. Then she started writing grants. The money for the program was kept in an account by the school district and kids from across the school district were benefitting.

In 1998, Wall transferred to Helena High School and decided it was time to create a nonprofit organization separate from the school district. She decided to name it the Angel Fund after her grandmother who had oftentimes been her angel when times were tough growing up.

“She was an angel to me and she was my important person in my life,” Wall said. “I just think we all need that special person who encourages us in life and she was mine.”

In 2002, Wall retired from the school district and focused her efforts on the Angel Fund, which continued to grow.

It started with $25 about 24 years ago, and this year the budget is $130,000. They give out a handful of $1,000 college scholarships each year and help 800 kids within the school district buy clothes, shoes, school supplies or pay for field trip or class project fees. They also partner with Running for Montana’s Future, which is sponsored by the Montana Attorney General’s office and the Helena Police Department, to buy nearly 150 pairs of shoes for low-income kids.

Each school has an angel coordinator, who works with Wall to help identify kids and families who may need a little extra help.

The process is confidential and simple. Any teacher may see that a student needs school clothes. The teacher lets the angel coordinator know, who then reaches out to the family. The family fills out a simple application and, when approved, takes their voucher to one of six participating stores in Helena. Elementary kids are eligible for $100 and middle and high school kids are eligible for $150.

The parents pick out what they need for the child and then put it on hold at the store, letting the clerk know it’s an Angel Fund purchase. Then Wall or one of five volunteers gets a call and go down to the store, approve the purchase and then pay for it. Then the family comes back to pick it up.

The various steps in the process help ensure that the items the Angel Fund volunteers purchase are going to the child in need, Wall said.

In addition to these programs, each year the Angel Fund coordinates a “Stuff the Bus” program that partners with local businesses and organizations to collect school supplies for area classrooms. The supplies are collected in a bus and then distributed on Saturday just prior to the beginning of school.

Wall still works diligently at managing the Angel Fund and nearly all the funds collected go directly to their programs. Her reward is in seeing the kids feel confident in a new pair of shoes or with a new backpack. And she knows that helping kids today, will give them the motivation to help others down the road.

“We need to make sure the generation we are helping now is going to help the next generation,” Wall said. “If someone would have showed me the kindness and generosity that Angel Fund shows these kids, it would have made a tremendous difference in my life.”

Cindy Utterback and Molly Casey Volunteers Kevin Hunt, Dawn Masse and Sandy Hunt
(Left) Cindy Utterback, left, and Molly Casey, with Anderson ZurMuehlen & Co. P.C., shop for school supplies as part of the Angel Fund’s ‘Stuff the Bus’ campaign in August 2011.
(Right) From left, ‘Stuff the Bus’ volunteers Kevin Hunt, Dawn Masse and Sandy Hunt stuff a full-size 62-passenger school bus with school supplies donated by community members for students in need of help in 2010.