WINTERSET, Iowa — All month long, WHO 13 is highlighting remarkable women in our communities. WHO 13’s Maria Lisignoli introduces us to Natalie Montross, a juvenile court school liaison from Winterset.
“She literally is the saint of Madison County,” substitute teacher Jennifer Seals said.
“She’s basically the superhero of Winterset,” Natalie’s son Brandon Montross said.
Natalie has been a juvenile court school liaison for 25 years
“I think there’s a high burnout rate in this field, but I don’t feel that there’s any accident that I’m in Winterset and Madison County,” Natalie said.
She has dedicated her life to making it a safe place for all people to live, especially children.
“When I started, we only had one therapy agency here in town. I was driving a lot of students to Des Moines for therapy, so I made a decision that we had to get therapists in town,” Natalie said.
Now, there are six therapy agencies in town. Natalie said this is prevention and something she strives to help with every day.
“I hope to prevent suicide, prevent violence within the home, substance abuse,” Natalie said.
Natalie’s coworkers and friends know they can always count on her for help.
“I was the alternative school director for ten years, so my kiddos were the kids that maybe made some bad choices along their journey and Natalie was there,” Seals said.
But she doesn’t do it alone.
“I used to work for the Winterset school district. Now I work for Natalie Montross,” said Natalie’s husband, Steve Montross.
With her husband and student volunteers, Natalie helps organize products for the Paw Pantry, a community resource anyone can use.
“We do the Paw Pantry where we deliver to about 30 families every other week,” Steve said. “I find two things amazing. It’s amazing what she does and it’s amazing that people all know that they can count on her to do what she does.”
And the helping doesn’t stop when she goes home for the night. Natalie and Steve raised three adult-aged children.
“She’s a perfect role model. Just the way she carries herself and lives out her life,” Brandon said.
They have also fostered 20 other children.
“We decided to do foster care because there was a need here. Foster care provides a home environment that will support the young people, but also my husband and I feel that it is really our job to connect to those parents and encourage them,” Natalie said.
Right now, they are fostering two children and are planning to adopt 12-year-old Samory Palmer in a couple months.
“When I was living with my mom, I didn’t really do that well in school, and now I almost got out of special [education] completely … They’ve helped a lot, like reading in the summer and just doing extra and working really hard,” Samory said.
He learns by watching Natalie work hard, even in her so-called “free time.”
“Enjoy my family when I get the opportunity. We have two boys that are living with us now, so they keep us busy with basketball. They have basketball four days a week, sometimes two games a night, so it’s been fun,” Natalie said.
But between the basketball court and the court room, Natalie said her biggest joy is being able to serve others.
“I really feel that we’re on this earth a short time, and I just really feel that my job is to help people live to their fullest and to see that there is good and that they are valuable and that they are capable of whatever they put their minds to,” Natalie said.