Photo of Linda Baechle
Linda Baechle

LINDA BAECHLE

“I think life made me a feminist.”

A native of Mishawaka, Linda grew up when the “options for girls were to be a teacher or be a nurse.” However, she didn’t accept these limitations and embraced moving around the country and enjoying a variety of experiences from which she observed that “I learned a lot about how people do things right in their life and still find themselves in desperate situations.”

One of her first professional jobs was working with the Congressman who was instrumental in drafting legislation for domestic violence shelters in Indiana. In 2001 she put this experience into practice by helping open St. Jude House, the first domestic violence shelter in Indiana to publish its address. In 2001 she brought this experience to South Bend to help the YWCA at a time when they were “losing over $250,000 per year and the building was decaying and a hazard to its occupants.” Despite these challenges, Linda reflected, “When I found out what the YWCA was doing for women and children here, I understood how critical their services were and that they would disappear if someone did not step in.” Linda helped complete the capital campaign for the building and began growing the programs and staff. She set solid goals for the YWCA, “we were going to build a new building. We were going to move into it. We were going to win an award for excellence.” Over the years she has helped lead the YWCA to achieving these goals and has expanded operations. In late 2014, the YWCA assumed responsibility for what was formerly the Elkhart County Women’s Shelter and provides shelter and services for women and children in Elkhart and for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

Under Linda’s guidance, the YWCA is now a leader in direct services for women and children, providing education and advocacy on issues of domestic abuse, and partnering with local agencies. Linda was instrumental in helping establish a county-wide Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team and incorporating usage of the Reality Assessment Tool for officers responding to reports of domestic violence.

Even though Linda has “moments when I think I it’s too hard,” she says that she is “still deeply engaged by the work. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to do work that makes such an impact on women and children.”

  • Honorary Dedication Award, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Citizen of the Year, Region 2 National Association of Social Workers
  • Woman of Hope, Hannah’s House & Bridge of Hope
  • Past President, United Way of St. Joseph County Agency Director’s Association
  • Board member, Affiliated Service Providers of Indiana Board
  • Appointee, St. Joseph County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team
  • Saint Mary’s College Coordinated Community Response Team
  • Indiana Supreme Court Judicial Education Advisory Committee
  • President and CEO, YWCA North Central Indiana

Information compiled from oral history collected by The Michiana Women Leaders Project

Linda was a 2016 CMWL honoree.