Terri Sorensen is the Chief Executive Officer of Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that is breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Friends of the Children pairs children facing the greatest obstacles with a salaried, professional mentor (called a Friend) who stays with each child from as early as age four through high school graduation – 12+ years, no matter what.
As the national CEO, Sorensen is responsible for carrying out the vision, mission and strategic direction for the national network. She works closely with the National Board of Directors, a diverse and well-respected group of 26 public, private and nonprofit leaders from around the country.
Over her 19-year tenure with the organization, Sorensen has led record-breaking fundraising efforts, bringing in over $150 million to the organization. Since becoming CEO in 2012, Sorensen has led an ambitious national expansion campaign, growing the organization from five to 26 locations in just ten years, and quadrupling the number of children served. She has also diversified funding streams, growing the network-wide operating budget from just $7.5 million in 2012 to $50 million in 2020.
In her role as national CEO, Sorensen sets the priorities for the network, ensures the organization is financially sustainable, and oversees Friends of the Children’s program implementation, research and evaluation, branding, fundraising and expansion efforts. She leads a national team of over 30 staff members and provides leadership for more than 485 staff across the country. Prior to being appointed national CEO in 2012, Sorensen served as the executive director of Friends of the Children – Portland, the founding chapter, for 12 years.
Under Sorensen’s leadership, Friends of the Children has become a national leader in evidence-based practice for its rigorous research and evaluation efforts. This includes participation in a Longitudinal Randomized- Controlled Trial, a Social Return on Investment study by the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon and a Social Innovation Fund Pay for Success feasibility study. Sorensen also oversees annual third-party evaluation of the network’s program data.
In 2019, Sorensen wrote an article for Stanford Social Innovation Review on the organization’s successful scaling efforts. Her work has led to national recognition for the organization in The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, CBS News, NPR, Governing Magazine, The Chronicle of Social Change and dozens of other national media outlets.
Sorensen was selected as one of the first leaders for the Business Journal’s Leadership Trust. She was also selected for Results for America’s Moneyball for Government Nonprofit All-Star Team and the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community. She has served on numerous boards of directors and received an Orchid Award for the 25 Most Influential Women in Business by the Portland Business Journal. In 2019, the organization was awarded the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.
Sorensen holds a B.S. in accountancy from the School of Business and Public Administration at the University of Missouri—Columbia and is a Certified Public Accountant. Previously, she was controller for the American Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter, held key managerial positions with Sprint Corporation and worked in public accounting for Ernst & Young in Kansas City, MO.
Carmi Brown has worked in the human services field for the past 18 years, with most of her work being in the area of child welfare. She has held various positions within the public and private sector including; Dependency Case Manager Supervisor, Comprehensive Behavioral Health Assessor, Therapist, and Training Supervisor. Carmi began her work with Friends of the Children in 2014 as the Program Director of our site in Tampa Bay, Florida. She joined the National team as Chief Program Officer in 2018. She holds a master’s degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from the University of South Florida.
A Florida native, Carmi lives in Tampa with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending time with her family and traveling. She is a member of several civic organizations where she has held a number of positions. She currently serves on the Hillsborough County Children’s Services Advisory Board and she is very active in her church.
Erinn Kelley-Siel joined Friends of the Children in January 2016. Erinn is leading the Friends of the Children national expansion and scaling efforts, with a plan to be in 25 cities by 2025. Driven by our $50M expansion goal, Erinn is working to build awareness of Friends’ innovation and impact, and also supporting leaders across the network to cultivate strategic partnerships with local, state and national policy thought leaders and public agencies.
Before joining Friends, Erinn’s career focused on human services and healthcare policy and administration. She served as Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services for four years and before that was the Assistant Director of Children and Family programs. In that time, she led several major reforms, including the safe and equitable reduction of children in foster care and the streamlining of program service delivery. Focusing on system innovation and shared accountability for results, Erinn has dedicated her career to helping individuals and communities reach their full potential through aligned partnerships with schools, employers, community leaders, Tribal nations, and faith-based organizations. Erinn’s past experience includes serving as Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski’s Health and Human Services Policy Advisor, working as an attorney at Stoel Rives, LLP, and clerking for the Oregon Supreme Court. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Texas A&M University, and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
Abby Weast joined Friends of the Children as the Chief Operations Officer in June 2018, after over twenty years of leadership experience in operations and finance. After graduating from Bucknell University with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, Abby spent four years as an Army Engineer serving in Germany. When she returned to the US, she spent 12 years working for Frito Lay across multiple functions in both operations and finance. While there, she earned her MBA from Cornell University. In 2012, she joined Nike – working as a financial reporting director. Abby has also served on the board for the Portland non-profit LifeWorksNW since 2015. The focus of her career has been building high performing teams to deliver value to key stakeholders. She is a new Southern California transplant from Oregon with her husband, Aaron, and their dog, Watson. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching soccer, reading, and traveling.
Originally from Houston, Texas, Tarece L. Johnson moved to Puerto Rico to attend La Universidad del Sagrado Corazon, where she earned her BA. She went on to achieve an MPA at Columbia University, an MBA at Emory University, and an EdD in Educational Leadership and Management at Capella University.
As a result of her doctoral studies, Tarece created The Global Purpose Approach, which is an educational resource designed to ensure that individuals acquire the knowledge, skills, and perspectives to become effective, compassionate, and empathetic global citizens. Her love for teaching and mentoring children led her to create Global Purpose Academy and co-create a school in Central America.
As a public figure, Tarece aims to make a difference in her community and the world through antiracism and anti-hate education. She believes that justice, love, and art can bring peace to our world. Tarece lives in the Atlanta metro area with her two children and their pets and is active in the Jewish community. Tarece loves to share quality time with her family, painting, dancing, and yoga. She speaks Spanish, French, and modern Hebrew.
Angela Groves joined the National Team as the Director of Strategic Impact and Grants. Given her previous success as Executive Director of the Klamath Basin chapter from 2013–2017, Angela’s work with National will focus on grants for new chapters. As the first Executive Director of the Klamath Basin chapter, Angela grew her position into a full-time role, increased revenues by 100%, led development of the first multi-year strategic plan for the chapter, expanded the number of youth served by over 70%, and raised capital funds to renovate the Kids’ Clubhouse, managing the project from conceptualization through completion. She also served on the executive committee of Klamath Promise, was Chair of the Community Police Advisory Team, and coordinated the Youth Development Network of over 100 Klamath Basin community members working in youth-service organizations. Prior to her role as Executive Director, Angela served as a Friends of the Children board member. She graduated from Portland State University, and is a Leadership Klamath and Ford Institute Leadership alumnus. Angela currently resides in La Pine, Oregon.
Eric Gabrielson grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended the University of Virginia where he studied History and English. After graduating from college, he was snatched up by Nike to work in their Sports Marketing Department. Eric had found his dream job and was even able to work with the community service project at Nike, P.L.A.Y. (Participate in the Lives of America’s Youth) where he helped start P.L.A.Y. CORPS, a peace corps for sports. After four years with Nike, Eric started working for Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Oregon in 2000. He worked on creative campaigns for Nike, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and ESPN. Wieden + Kennedy then asked Eric and his new wife to move to Amsterdam and head up Coca-Cola in their office abroad. After two years, they returned home to Portland and Eric continued to be affiliated with Nike and Wieden + Kennedy. Shortly thereafter, Eric met Duncan & Cindy Campbell and Doug Stamm and was introduced to Friends of the Children. His commitment to Friends can be seen through his time, money raised, and connections to the organization. Eric has served on the Board of Directors for Friends of Children–Portland for over ten years, a position he has held with great pride. In 2016, Eric accepted a position as the CEO of The Campbell Foundation to help carry on Duncan & Cindy Campbell's legacy. Now as named Chief Expansion Officer for Friends of the Children, Eric works with philanthropic and community leaders focused on bringing our model to communities across the country.
Shanna LaMar joined Friends of the Children as the Chief Development Officer in November, 2021. She has dedicated her career to serving students whether they were in her classroom or part of an organization she was leading. She aligns a passion for education with extensive nonprofit leadership, positively impacting youth through meaningful and purposeful actions.
Shanna’s professional career started in the classroom. For 12 years she taught Marketing, Work Based Learning, and Career Connected Learning Experiences while serving concurrently as the DECA Advisor at South Kitsap High School. She subsequently served for 10 years as the Executive Director for Washington State DECA, an association that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. DECA served over 11,000 students annually, hosting two annual, multi-day, highly interactive statewide conferences of 1,600 – 3,600 student participants. During her time with DECA, Shanna successfully addressed key organizational issues while simultaneously increasing student value.
Recently, she served as Executive Director for College Success Foundation – Tacoma where she led a mission-centric team in delivering a career and college readiness pathway of student support to over 2,100 first-generation, low-income, students of color. Annually, over 98% of the participating students graduated from high school.
She has a B.S. in Business Administration from Central Washington University and resides in Seattle, Washington with her husband Brent. In her spare time, she enjoys downhill skiing, traveling, anything outdoors, and spending time with family and friends.
Brittany Merritt is a champion for children, and as Chief Development Officer for Friends of the Children, she brings all of her passion, experience, and leadership in mission-driven work to bear for the organization and those we serve. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, her commitment to improving and elevating the whole-life well-being of today’s youth is evidenced by the work she has done throughout her career, as well as her involvement in the community.
A recipient of the Michigan Chronicle Women of Excellence Award in 2017, Brittany joined Friends of the Children after serving as the Founding Midwest Executive Director for Springboard Collaborative, where she secured funding and fostered strong partnerships with stakeholders to support children’s literacy initiatives. Prior to this role, Brittany held leadership positions at the American Heart Association (AHA), among them Director of Youth Market Fundraising for the Greater Southeast and Midwest regions, and Regional Vice President, Michigan Youth Market – roles in which she and her teams consistently ranked within the AHA’s Midwest Top 5 for their millions of dollars raised. And as the first Black woman to hold the position of Vice President, Metro Executive Director for the greater Detroit area of the AHA, she and her team secured the single largest gift donation in Detroit’s history – a milestone in her long list of fundraising accomplishments.
Brittany is also an ambassador for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. During her tenure at the AHA, she served on the CEO Diversity Advisory Cabinet, representing 400 people in the organization’s Midwest Affiliate.
In 2021 Brittany served as a member of the Michigan Student Academic Recovery subcommittee under Governor Gretchen Whitmer. She brought her demonstrated experience to the committee’s important charge in recommending policies for reopening schools in Michigan due to the pandemic.
A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Brittany, a Dean’s List student, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications Technology. She is the Vice President of Programs for the Michigan Renaissance chapter of the international non-profit organization The Links, Incorporated, and serves on the Health and Social Welfare Committees of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.
Sarah Beiderman joined Friends of the Children in 2012 to work with both the Portland chapter and National Office. In 2013 she helped establish the national endowment and played a lead role in creating the business plan that won the 2014 Social Impact Exchange’s national business plan competition. As Director of Innovation, Sarah manages large projects and facilitates connections across the network to leverage resources and support growth. Her work is focused on supporting our expansion and engaging key partners to support our youth. Prior to Friends, Sarah managed the SPACES World Artists Program, an international residency program for experimental, contemporary artists engaging with communities in Cleveland, Ohio. She served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Artists’ Organizations and Joyful Noise Neighborhood Music School, and on the advisory board of the National Performance Network’s Visual Artists Network. Sarah holds a B.A. in art history and religion from Oberlin College, and an M.B.A. in nonprofit management from the University of Portland.
Cheryl Jones is our Chief People Officer in Human Resources. She supports new chapters in hiring and developing strong and sustainable HR practices. Cheryl Jones joined Friends of the Children with more than 16 years of Human Resource experience with a global staffing firm. Her experience includes implementing creative solutions to streamline processes, and directly improving individual and group performance and productivity. She has a people first approach and is passionate about the employee advocate perspective in implementing tools, programs and strategies. She began her career as a social worker in Louisiana, and transitioned to staffing when she moved to Portland in 2000. The transition from social work into staffing enabled her to help people in Portland, and later nationwide, expand their skill sets and find work. Cheryl volunteers locally as a Court Appointed Advocate (CASA) for Clackamas County. As a CASA she helps local children in foster care by working with the child, parents, guardians, social workers, and therapists to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the court system. She also serves as Vice Chair of Bridging Voices, Portland’s only Queer/Straight Alliance youth chorus. She holds a B.A. in English from Louisiana State University.
Susan Walsh focuses on the long-range sustainability and policy development plans to advance the mission of Friends of the Children. She oversees data and evaluation, including the longitudinal RCT study of the Friends model. Susan is committed to ensuring that holistic, individualized K-12 support for high-needs children is an essential priority for public and private sector investment. She currently serves on the Board of The Children’s Institute. Prior to joining Friends, Susan served as Executive Vice President of The Campbell Foundation and as Executive Director of Committed Partners for Youth in Eugene, OR from 2001-2011. In addition to her non-profit work, Susan was an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon, teaching both undergraduate and graduate students about youth development. Susan holds a B.S. degree from Georgetown University, a law degree from Villanova University, and a doctorate in special education from the University of Oregon.
Erica Reid has a personal mission of “serving youth, supporting families, and strengthening communities.” For nearly 15 years, she has devoted her career to educating and empowering both youth and adult learners in a variety of settings including homes, preschool classrooms, and college lecture halls.
Erica recognizes the major impact communities play in individuals’ lives; therefore, she seeks opportunities that align with her values and serves a significant need. Erica has served as a preschool teacher, Parent Educator, Family Support Specialist, and Interim Director of Family Education Services. In 2018, Thompson became an affiliate of Friends of the Children, and Erica was selected as Friends-Charlotte’s first Program Director. Her extensive work with caregivers is critical in supporting the expansion of Friends of the Children’s 2Gen model in her role as National Director of Programs.
Erica is currently an Adjunct Instructor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. She is a member of numerous social and civic organizations and resides in Charlotte, NC.
Miles Allen has served youth and his community for the last ten years. As a former Friend and then manager at the Portland chapter he has seen the tremendous impact the program has had on the community. He is excited to be a part of Friends of the Children’s effort to create generational change. While working as a program manager, Miles was focused heavily on children in foster care and LGBTQ+ youth. He understands the impact the foster care system has on young people and their families. He also understands how children with multiple identities have experienced barriers and he strives to ensure youth are able to achieve their goals.
Miles has an M. Ed. and MBA from Portland State University and a bachelor’s degree from University of Oregon (Go Ducks!). Miles lives in Portland with his partner, Devlin, and their cats. He enjoys hiking, working in the garden, reading, and spending time with his family and friends.
Tasha R. Fridia (Pejuta Cangleska Win – Sacred Medicine Circle Woman), is an enrolled member of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and is Kiowa, Caddo, and Hunka Oglala Lakota. She is a lifelong resident of the ancestral homelands of her Kitikitish people and has a deep connection to the land that is now known as Oklahoma. Ms. Fridia holds a Juris Doctorate with a certificate in American Indian Law from Oklahoma City University School of Law, a master’s degree in Human Resources Development from Webster University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma.
Ms. Fridia has dedicated her career to serving youth through prevention and intervention using a cultural lens. Most recently, Tasha served as the Assistant Director of the Tribal Youth Resource Center where she collaborated with tribes across Indian Country to implement Tribal Youth Programs and Juvenile Healing to Wellness Courts. Ms. Fridia continues to work and volunteer with various entities whose focus range from education equity, to youth engagement, and tribal economic development. Her intent is to further affect positive change in all. Tasha views joining Friends of the Children in the role of National Director of Programs as an opportunity to broaden her impact on both children and families so they can reach their greatest potential.
Tasha is the legacy of many generations of activists and advocates dedicated to political, policy, and systems change. She interweaves her traditional Indigenous knowledge and western education throughout her work. Tasha strives to make her ancestors proud in everything she undertakes and is guided by the Indigenous value, “Children are sacred.” Her most important job and greatest legacy are her daughters, Isabella and Kennedy. Ms. Fridia serves as a mentor to many other young people and is dedicated to the strength and wellness of the future generations. With every opportunity and position Tasha seeks to find ways to share what she has learned for the betterment of her community and the world.
Graham joins Friends of the Children as the Director of Marketing and Communications with more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and local government. He will be working to strengthen the organization’s brand and communications strategy and to amplify the voices of the children, families, and communities we serve. Graham has focused his career on creating positive impact in communities by leveraging storytelling, research, and visibility through grassroots collaboration. Before joining Friends of the Children, he led marketing and communications at the nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts, where he began work in 2004 after serving for five years as a founding volunteer member of the organization’s Emerging Arts Leaders Council.
A resident of Jackson Heights in New York City, Graham volunteers with God’s Love We Deliver and has also given time to SAGE and Broadway Cares. He was a member of the Atlanta/Fulton County Ryan White HIV Planning Council and a graduate of the Diversity Leadership Academy of Atlanta. Graham writes both short stories and creative nonfiction and taught at The Writers Center in Bethesda, MD. He was a Larry Neal Fiction Award winner for the District of Columbia and an Anchorage Daily News creative writing winner.
Graham holds a B.A. in English and Art History from Emory University, and a M.F.A in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage where he also taught English Composition and worked with Alaska Native youth. He is a native Georgian, which always seems to find its way into his writing. Graham is a natural storyteller, a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, a dedicated movie buff across genres, a middle-of-the-road bowler in his gay bowling league, a cat dad and an enthusiastic uncle, and is always looking for a reason to travel, especially to Maine.
National Board Liaison/Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer
Heather Schefter joined Friends of the Children in 2015 as Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer and National Board Liaison. She works with the National Board of Directors and coordinates all national committees and taskforces. Previously Heather supported the lead of a $12.5M non-profit, administrated two non-profit ministries, and was a legal secretary for a personal injury attorney. Heather studied the paralegal field at Portland Community College and received an A.A. degree in theology from Portland Bible College. She and her husband have four children, ages 13-21.
Kelsey Riordan joined Friends of the Children in April 2019. As Program Operations Manager, she has the unique opportunity to support the National Program Team and Friends Network through project management, strategic planning, continuous quality improvement, and creating cross-functionality across departments for the benefit of program development.
Kelsey was raised in Monterey Bay, California, and attended University of California – Santa Barbara, where she graduated with a degree in Global Studies. Kelsey has spent most of her career working for nonprofit organizations in various roles, including customer service, event coordination, project-based work, development/fundraising, and administration services. Since moving to Portland, Oregon, in 2016, Kelsey has enjoyed exploring the great Pacific Northwest’s outdoors and food scene. She loves attending live events (whether music, sporting, or community events), traveling, playing Spades or Euchre with friends, and spending time on the coast.
Originally from the Midwest, Mary Geissler is a graduate of St. Norbert College and has spent 15+ years honing her writing and project management skills within various positions. In 2013, she turned her focus to the nonprofit sector and began working with a consulting firm that served various nonprofits across Minneapolis-St. Paul. Once fully immersed in the fundraising world, Mary discovered her passion for cultivating partnerships with foundations and corporations through grant writing. In 2015, she transitioned to a grants manager role at Neighborhood House, a multiservice agency in St. Paul, where she worked to alleviate food insecurity, help families access safe housing, support immigrants in earning their GED, and give children in underserved communities the education they need and deserve.
In August 2018, she and her partner fled old man winter’s icy grip and moved from Minneapolis to Claremont, California. Prior to joining Friends of the Children, Mary worked within Claremont McKenna College’s Office of Institutional Philanthropy. She’s incredibly excited to apply her passion and talent to Friends of the Children's lifechanging programs. In her free time, Mary enjoys hiking, live music, exploring new restaurants, going to the beach, and snuggling with her pups.
Catherine Gryniewicz has 30 plus years of business and leadership experience working in profit, nonprofit, service, and educational settings. Her focus has been in Human Resources with a focus on being of service. Along with Catherine’s collaborative communication, her critical thinking and problem-solving skills help bridge gaps to establish relationships while focusing on taking steps forward in mission, vision, and engagement.
Catherine is a continuous learner and believes in teaching people how to fish. Catherine has been an adjunct instructor for several public and private colleges, and the Diocese of Green Bay’s ministry program. She has achieved a Bachelor of Science in Food Science; Master of Business Administration; and an Associate of Veterinary Technology.
Catherine brings her passion to enhance the lives of humans through their dogs by providing dogs the opportunity to exercise their mind, body, and spirit. She loves teaching children about the joy of discovery by watching dogs use their nose, in scent work, to find something they love. She volunteered in the startup of an animal emergency clinic in Milwaukee for two years. Catherine seeks to make a positive difference in people’s lives, even if she is just standing in line at the grocery store. In her spare time, you will find Catherine camping in a yurt with her two German Shepherds.
Charlotte Narciso was born and raised in the Philippines. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Psychology and has 13 years of experience working in Human Resources. Working with and helping people are two of her passions.
In November 2016, she moved to the United States as an immigrant and her first job was as a hotel front desk clerk. She then joined Kroger as a Benefits Specialist for four years. With a drive to pursue her passion in HR and with some encouragement from her fiancé, Charlotte left Kroger and was hired by a temp agency which is how she found her way to Friends of the Children. Charlotte states that she “is excited to be part of this organization that helps children, and people like herself, achieve their dreams."
Rachel joins Friends of the Children as the National Content and Digital Marketing Manager with experience in youth mentoring, education, and family advocacy. She will be working to amplify the voices of the children, families, and communities we serve through Friends of the Children’s digital marketing strategies. Rachel has focused her career on using the power of communication to educate, inform, and inspire action to positively impact those living at the margins of our community.
Before joining Friends of the Children, she served as the Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications at Adopt A Class. In that time, Rachel led the print and digital marketing content strategies and brand alignment for the largest group mentoring organization in Greater Cincinnati. Her past experience includes dedicating two years of volunteer service to the AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) program as part of a statewide initiative to fight poverty and improve lives throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Rachel has a Bachelor’s of Arts in the Philosophy, Politics, and the Public Honors Program and a Master’s of Arts in Private Interests & Public Good from Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. Her educational background specializes in implementing long term, sustainable change for issues of social, economic, and racial justice. Rachel is a Greater Cincinnati native and now resides in Park Hills, Kentucky. She is a dog mom to her two English Cream Golden Retrievers, Maggie and Minnie.
Sydney is originally from Philadelphia but has lived in a variety of different cities across the country, recently landing in Salt Lake City, Utah. After earning her Master's Degree in Education from Teacher's College at Columbia University, she quickly realized that youth-serving nonprofits have the unique opportunity to support children's social-emotional development in ways the bureaucracy of public schools often cannot. She first fell in love with mentoring her first year out of college when she served as an AmeriCorps member with City Year Greater Philadelphia. After a brief stint as a classroom teacher, teaching 7th grade Humanities in New York City, she returned to her love of mentoring, first becoming a Program Director for a school-based mentoring program, and then continuing on to work with the Florida state affiliate of the National Mentoring Partnership at the United Way of Palm Beach County. Prior to joining Friends of the Children, Sydney was the Grants Manager for the large Denver-based non-profit, A Precious Child. Sydney is excited to merge her two professional passions, mentoring and writing, to improve outcomes for youth across the country. In her free time, Sydney enjoys snowboarding, hiking, camping and anything else that lets her enjoy the outdoors with her hound dog, Breck.
Robin Nielson-Cerquone lives in Missoula, Montana. Robin grew up in Havre, Montana, before leaving the state for her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in Minnesota and a master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. During her college summers, she happily pumped gas and changed oil at the gas stations in Yellowstone National Park. After her grease monkey career came to an end, Robin's work life has involved writing of all kinds, including stints as a technical writer, a provider of web content, and all-purpose writer of reports, surveys, and grants. Robin's most recent jobs include Accreditation Coordinator for the Missoula City-County Health Department, where she led cross-sector collaborations and wrote reports and grants for work on community issues, and the Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development at the University of Montana, where she currently works on policy and grants.
Eric Hanson was raised in rural Oregon and currently lives in Portland. Since 2006, he has served in grant fundraising and leadership positions for small- to medium-sized youth development organizations, including a summer camp for children living with Type 1 diabetes, a nationally recognized youth media arts organization, and an after-school music program that serves 900+ youth each week. Eric has spent 14+ years honing his skills in grant fundraising and cultivating effective, collaborative partnerships to realize the visions and missions of the organizations he has served.
Eric is delighted to direct his passion and experience to further the success of Friends of the Children and the youth, families and communities it impacts. A Cascadian through and through, Eric enjoys rainy outdoor adventures, carpentry, and painting in his free time.
Michelle Charbonneau joined Friends of the Children in August 2020 as the National Director of Technology Solutions. Michelle has over 20 years of hands-on experience in technology as a business process analyst, systems and database administrator, web developer, engineer, product owner and project manager. Michelle’s experience spans public and private institutions in healthcare, education and finance. She got her start in technology at Oregon Health and Science University and she was an Associate Director in Information Technology at Portland State University. Michelle was most recently an IT Operations Manager for a rapidly expanding global financial firm. Michelle attended Reed College before transferring to Portland State to complete her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and continue graduate studies in Engineering & Technology Management. Michelle enjoys international travel, camping in the Pacific NW, hosting exchange students and supporting Children's International Summer Villages with her family.
Database, Project Implementation and Grants Manager
Emily Nestor joined Friends of the Children in 2018 as Database Implementation and Project Manager. Emily grew up in Greensboro, NC, and attended NYU where she majored in English before attending Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA, for her JD/MBA. She has diverse experience interning at a variety of law firms, working in marketing for a green energy company, and running business development for an enterprise software startup in Santa Monica, CA. She is passionate about giving back and feels thrilled to be involved in helping Friends track and manage their expansion fund through Salesforce, helping the expansion team in their donor and prospect management, and supporting grant compliance and reporting.
Holly Huillet joined Friends of the Children in 2010, initially working with the Portland chapter and then working Nationally in 2013. Holly manages our ETO program database across the network, as well as managing data collection for all chapters participating in the longitudinal study. Prior to Friends, Holly was the Project Coordinator for the Walk of the Heroines project at Portland State University, and was also the Credit Manager at Davis Wright Tremaine. She received a BS in both Sociology and Women’s Studies from Portland State University. Holly lives in Milwaukie with her cat and dog, and her youngest daughter when she’s home from college at NC State. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with both her daughters and her two grandchildren.
Erin Wellington was born and raised in Fullerton, California, but moved up to Oregon to attend college at Oregon State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Biology. After college, Erin worked in education with the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry and the Vancouver School District. Erin first learned about Friends of the Children while working for The Campbell Foundation as Duncan Campbell's Executive Assistant. Erin transitioned to working for Friends of the Children as the Administrative Support Specialist. In March 2019, Erin became the National Database Specialist and assists the National Database Manager. Erin and her husband, Eric, are enjoying the many blessings of being parents to their newborn son, Emmett.
Susan Dearborn is the National Controller. Sue began her career working as an accountant for a small non-profit in Vermont. Her journey then took her to Honduras for two years as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, working with female micro-entrepreneurs. After Honduras, Sue worked with Jewish Vocational Services teaching refugees how to start businesses, after which she joined the audit team of Grant Thornton, performing audits of private and public companies with a concentration in non-profits. Sue moved to Portland in 2002 and has spent the past 15 years raising her three daughters while working part-time with small businesses. Sue is heavily involved in her North Portland neighborhood school’s P.T.A. and auction committees, and is Treasurer for the North Portland Soccer Club. Sue is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a B.A. in Accountancy from Saint Michael’s College.
Rachel Howell joined Friends of the Children in August 2018. After graduating from University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting Control Systems, Rachel spent a year teaching English in South Korea. She then moved back to Texas where she worked for Sally Beauty Holdings, Inc., as an internal auditor for five years. She moved to Portland in 2016 and worked for Isler Northwest, LLC as a staff accountant. Rachel lives in Southwest Washington with her husband and daughter.
Thalenta Ncube joined the National Team in January 2022 as a Senior Accountant. She has spent much of her professional life as an accountant, mostly in real estate accounting for property management companies. Thalenta received her CPA license in 2007 from the Indiana State Board of Accountancy, and was later licensed with the Texas State Board. She has worked in a few industries and dabbled in Information Technology – Business Intelligence.
Thalenta currently lives in the Dallas-Forth Worth area with her husband and sons, who keep her busy with sports and other activities. She is three states from claiming she has been to all the states in America. It is safe to say she loves to travel, as well as read and watch movies. Thalenta’s goal is to someday travel around the world in 80 days.
Hania joins Friends of the Children as a Senior Accountant with over 12 years of experience in the accounting and auditing fields. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Hania started her career path as an external auditor with KPMG and Ernst & Young. During this time, she studied for her CPA and earned her license in 2007 from the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy. Afterward, she moved to the field of financial accounting when she joined the team of Aspire Academy.
Hania believes that her practical experience along with the professional qualification she obtained has not only given her a thorough knowledge of auditing and accounting practices but has also taught her to communicate well with a diverse array of people, possess strong work ethics, and effectively interact with teams and management.
Hania lives in Lexington Kentucky with her husband and three kids. She loves spending time with family and friends and enjoys the beauty of nature.
Carly LaPorte-Fuselier has called Portland home for the last 16 years and in that time specialized in insurance and patient accounts for various dental offices in the city. Carly recently finished her bachelor’s degree in accounting and is now working for Friends of the Children as an accounts payable specialist. She loves supporting her community by volunteering at her kids’ schools and at the Oregon Food Bank. Carly and her family love to get outdoors, living room dance parties, board games, and cooking together.
Gabriel Casarez joined Friends of the Children as a Staff Accountant in 2021. Gabriel was born in Hillsboro and has lived in Oregon his entire life. He is the youngest in his family and the first in his family to attend college. Upon graduation from Portland State University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Gabriel worked at an art supplies company in Beaverton as an Accounting Assistant. In 2016, he joined a produce company as an Accounts Payable Specialist and was promoted to Staff Accountant in 2019. In addition, in 2017 he studied and earned his license to become a notary public. In his spare time, Gabriel enjoys spending quality time with his family, cooking, baking, listening to audiobooks, reading, watching television shows/movies, going to the beach, and traveling to Mexico to visit his family.
I was born and raised in Hawaii and moved to the PNW in March of 2018 to continue my education and explore. In 2018 I joined a produce company and learned the ropes of the accounting world. I have held an accounts payable specialist position for over three years and my passion for the field led me to wanting a bachelor’s degree in accounting. I am currently in my second year at Portland Community College and plan to transfer to a university after obtaining my associates degree. In my spare time, I enjoy chilling at the coast with my dogs, hanging out with my family and friends, exploring new places, and finding good coffee shops!
Hira Imran moved to Portland after living in Los Angeles for 25 years. She graduated from University of California – Los Angeles in 2020 with a degree in English Literature, then went on to work in the publishing industry before joining Friends of the Children as an Administrative Support Specialist in 2021. Her passions lie in empowering the voices of marginalized groups and making sure their voices are heard.
In her free time, Hira enjoys discovering local bookshops, reading the books she hoards from said bookshops, flying, and trying new things.
Ariane Le Chevallier (pronounced Air-ee-un Le-Che-vol-yay) has spent her 15-year career raising awareness to inspire action around some of our nation’s most pressing social issues. Her areas of expertise are in strategic communications, media relations, messaging, content marketing, social media, and thought leadership. Her career is rooted in Washington, D.C. where she spent more than a decade working for some of the nation’s largest foundations and nonprofits. Prior to joining Friends of the Children, Ariane was a media relations strategist at academic medical center Oregon Health & Science University where she was brought on to raise the national profile of the university. She generated media coverage in hundreds of national, state, and local media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, NBC, CBS News’s 60 Minutes, and NPR. Before relocating to Portland in 2013, Ariane managed state expansion communications for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign in Washington, D.C., generating more than $2.5 million in media coverage. Ariane also spent six years at issue communications firm GMMB where she worked extensively with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among other national organizations on dozens of communications initiatives. Ariane received her B.S. in Mass Communications at the University of Utah. She enjoys exploring Oregon with her husband, son, and their dog Max, and occasionally blogs about parenting and family life.
Andraé L. Brown, Ph.D., LMFT, professional career highlights include serving as a professor at several colleges and universities, director of community-based mental health, educational, and training facilities, a research fellow, and a member of several national boards. Dr. Brown’s industrious spirit enables him to bring a systemic, critical, empowerment, and liberatory framework to the fields of education, mental health, sports, entertainment, public policy, and philanthropy. Critical to his practice is a focus on resilience in street-life oriented families and communities, the psychosocial development of adolescents living in the urban context, contemporary family structures, liberation psychology, cultural equity in service provision, and empowering multigenerational system involved families and caregivers. Dr. Brown is a 2014 recipient of the Early Career Award from the American Family Therapy Academy. He currently resides in Washington, DC, where he is a Professor at Montgomery College and operates HERU Consulting -- an independent clinical, research, and consulting practice.
Dr. Brown demonstrates the unique ability to negotiate the intimate relationships of individuals and families, while addressing global issues such as violence, homelessness, poverty, education, mass incarceration, re-entry services, restorative practices, and health disparities by developing systemic interventions and informing policies impacting families' daily lives and communities in the US and internationally. This is exemplified in his roles as a Consultant and Violence Interruption Expert for the Office of the Attorney General, Washington, DC; Consultant to the Community, Family and Youth Resilience project, in St. Lucia, Guyana, and St. Kitts & Nevis; and Executive Consultant for Policy and Development in the Mayor's Office of Public Safety, Gang Reduction and Youth Development, Los Angeles, CA. In these capacities, he develops and implements community-based gang, violence prevention, and intervention services; employs effective proactive peace-making and responses to incidents of violence; and improves communication and collaboration across stakeholders. Furthermore, Dr. Brown utilizes his trauma expertise to support service providers, first responders, families, and community members to bolster resilience and develop effective strategies to manage the effects of post-traumatic stress, vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue.