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KEN SPARKS

President & CEO

As HopeChest President and CEO, Ken encourages staff, volunteers, sponsors, and donors in fulfilling the vision and mission of HopeChest: to seek to respond to the revelation about God’s heart in James 1:27. He is a graduate of Indiana University-Bloomington, where he majored in political science with a minor in business and a certificate from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Although Ken’s “official” workspace is the hayloft of The Barn in Palmer Lake, he works anywhere there is anyone willing to listen about what God is doing through HopeChest!

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WIL CROOKS

Vice President of Strategic Partnerships

As Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Wil builds relationships with HopeChest partners and potential partners. Wil started out as a pastor partnering with HopeChest, and now he shares the same vision that he caught with other potential partners. When he’s not in his office in Portage, Michigan, Wil can be found playing board games, eating nachos, and visiting the zoo with his family.

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RACHEL ANDREWS

Vice President of International Operations

As Vice President of International Operations, Rachel has strategic and operational responsibility for management, engagement, development, and implementation of HopeChest’s Community-to-Community model within the countries HopeChest partners with. Based in Palmer Lake, Rachel is frequently on Skype or phone calls with in-country staff, reviewing Management Team reports, budgets and proposals, development plan creation and assisting with facilitating training overseas. She also travels frequently to our overseas offices and CarePoints around the globe for ongoing relationship building and program evaluation. When she is not working, she is spending her time with her husband, three kids hiking at their family cabin or cheering for Denver Broncos. If she had one day completely free, she would happily spend it on a beach!

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DOUG BASSETT

Director of Community Partnerships

As Director of Community Partnerships, Doug supports the development and growth of kingdom-focused partnerships. He has a B.A. from Wheaton College, an MBA from the University of Navarra in Barcelona, Spain, and a Ph.D. in nonprofit management with research focused on transnational partnerships. He’s lived internationally for almost 20 years across eight countries and his favorite book about who we serve is Sandra Benitez’s, The Weight of All Things, and about how we serve is Henri Nouwen’s, The Wounded Healer. He loves all things with the outdoors, especially birding.

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TOM JENNINGS

International Program Director | Guatemala

Tom splits his time between HopeChest Headquarters in Palmer Lake and CarePoints in Guatemala. He works to improve programs and strengthen relationships with CarePoints, both through his course “Transformation that is Holistic, Integrated, and Sustainable (THIS),” as well as through frequent communication with and travel to CarePoints. He graduated from Upper Iowa University with a major in chemistry and a minor in biology. His favorite movie is “Shawshank Redemption.”

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TESFATSION (TESFA) TSEGAYE ABEBE

International Operations Director | Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Russia

In addition to extensive hands-on experience, Tesfa earned his Bachelor of Business Management as well as two master’s degrees in business administration and business economics. He works directly with our in-country staff and oversees the in-country implementation and management of our programs at our CarePoints. If he had one day completely free, he would spend the day with his wife, who he met at Children’s HopeChest, and his kiddos playing at home or taking them out to enjoy time outside together. His favorite book is “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren.

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DAVID EDSON

Strategic Partnership Director

As Strategic Partnership Director at Children’s HopeChest, David’s work includes telling people about how their communities can partner with the awesome children and CarePoints we serve. He started college in Prague at University of New York Prague. Then he shifted course and went to the National Outdoor Leadership School in the Patagonia region of Chile, where he completed an outdoor education/wilderness course and got certified as a Wilderness EMT/Search and Rescue Specialist from the Wilderness Medical Institute. After that he studied Business Management at Missouri State University. Now David works in the world of building partnerships, connecting with people who have a passion for alleviating global poverty. If David was stuck on a deserted island, he would bring the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but he would probably figure out how to be sought and rescued pretty quickly.

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WHITNEY SCHOLTENS

Partner Development Manager

As Partner Development Manager, Whitney advocates on behalf of the marginalized and impoverished of this world by seeking partners who want to participate in the transformation of these communities into thriving entities who would otherwise be vulnerable to oppression. She is a part of offering both trainings and opportunities for engagement to businesses, churches and networks who seek to engage. Having attended Hope College for her undergrad in Social Work, and achieving her Masters in Social Work from Michigan State University, Whitney’s heart for advocacy is ever-growing. If she could take any famous person to brunch it would be Harriet Tubman, because even as a child Whitney was inspired by her awareness and action toward righting injustices. On an off day you might catch Whitney watching one of her favorite movies (Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting, or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) with her family. She has four boys – “two adopted, two biological – all nuts!”

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ORION NETSANET

Partnership Development Representative

Orion considers it his mission and privilege to amplify and elevate the voice of the vulnerable. As HopeChest’s Partnership Development Representative, he does this through speaking with individuals who are also passionate about advocating for vulnerable children and families around the world. He attended Michigan State University, where he studied political science and pre-law. For Orion, a perfect day off of work would be spent on the beach or by the lake with his wife, Faith (HopeChest’s Community Partnership Manager for Ethiopia and Russia!), and four-legged kid, reading a good book (maybe his favorite, which is “Of Beetles and Angels” by Mawi Asgedom), kayaking, and exploring. If he could choose any superpower, it would be teleportation!

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BETHANY KERSTETTER

Director of Marketing

Bethany graduated from John Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, and also holds a Master of Business Administration from University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. She oversees HopeChest’s web presence, digital communication, and marketing campaigns. When Bethany is not working, she can be found spending time with her husband and two daughters, playing board games with friends, or trying a new recipe in her kitchen.

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LEONA STRAIT

Accounting Manager

Leona holds a Bachelor of Business Management from Arizona State University and an M.B.A. with a dual emphasis in finance and service management from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She serves HopeChest’s sponsors and donors by ensuring that funds are recorded and applied as intended. An avid hiker, one of her favorite books is “The Blue Bear” by Lynn Schooler.

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CHRIS NELSON

IT Manager

Chris supports every employee at HopeChest as a member of the IT Department through the management, interpretation, and distribution of information. Chris is a maker and a creative. He earned his bachelor’s degree in media education and a master’s degree in theology and film. Chris’s ideal day includes sleeping in, having a big breakfast, brewing a batch of beer, going hiking with my family, eating a nice dinner at home, and watching a movie with his wife before going to sleep. His favorite book of all time is the sci-fi classic, “Dune!”

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STEVE MARTIN

Operations Specialist

Steve facilitates numerous aspects of the sponsorship process at Children’s HopeChest. He earned a bachelors with a double major in intercultural studies and theology with a minor in anthropology at Lee University in Tennessee. (He also studied environmental biology, but the school system limited him to one minor!) He later earned a Master of Science in Administration with an international emphasis. For Steve, a perfect day away from the office would be spending time individually with his wife, two daughters, and parents doing something together that they would be able to connect over, such as board games, hunting, hiking, or watching the Star Wars or Harry Potter series.

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TERI ROBERTS

Special Projects Manager, Office of the President

Teri’s direction and exceptional project management skills contribute to HopeChest by helping our organization execute and complete projects that help us grow and expand our mission. She earned her bachelor’s degree in information systems and accounting at Emporia State University, and later graduated from Denver University with a master’s in telecommunications. Outside of work, a perfect day for Teri would be spent in nature, doing a long, hard hike in the mountains or kayaking on a mountain lake. After walking her two big dogs, she might unwind by watching her favorite movie, “Young Frankenstein.”

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ATKELT SIMON

Community Partnership Manager | Guatemala

As Community Partnership Manager, Atkelt is the bridge between North American partners and CarePoint communities in Guatemala. He received his Bachelor of Information Systems from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and MBA from Colorado State University. If he had a whole day free, he would would take his wife and son out — enjoying nature, eating out, and spending time with them. His two favorite texts are the Bible and Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love.” When he’s not working or spending time with his family, he enjoys playing soccer and runnin

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FAITH NETSANET

Community Partnership Manager | Ethiopia, Russia

Faith has been a HopeChest Partnership Leader over six years and with that experience brings tremendous insight to the Community Partnership Team as the Community Partnership Manager for Ethiopia and Russia. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a BA in journalism and is an excellent writer and communicator. An ideal day off of work would be spent hanging out with her husband, Orion (HopeChest’s Partnership Development Representative!). Faith loves visiting family, being outside, thrifting, trying out new, local food finds, and reading. She’s narrowed down her favorite book to “Say You’re One of Them” by Uwem Akpan.

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NINA WESTCOTT

Sponsorship and Travel Manager | Guatemala, Uganda

Nina’s role at HopeChest connects North American communities to their partnered communities overseas through planning and managing partner visits as well as supporting sponsorship needs. She graduated from Whitworth University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. If Nina was stranded on a desert island with one album to play on repeat, it would be “Staying at Tamara’s” by George Ezra. An ideal day off for Nina would be spent fishing, hiking, and reading in Eleven Mile Canyon with her family.

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SAMI ROBERTS

Sponsorship and Travel Manager | Russia, Ethiopia, Kenya

Sami plans and manages HopeChest partners’ visits to CarePoints for Russia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. She graduated from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida with a master’s and bachelor’s in Exceptional Student Education K-12. An ideal day off for Sami would include being curled up next to the fireplace with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book (maybe her favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”) while a blizzard swirls outside. If she had a superpower, it would be telekinesis which would allow her to stay cozy under a blanket on her perfect snow day instead of having to get up to turn off a light switch or grab more tea.

We are a passionate team of individuals who want to ignite hope and alleviate poverty around the globe. The Strategic Partnership Development team advocates on behalf of vulnerable individuals by seeking partners who want to participate in the transformation of communities.

Country Directors

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Carolina Cardona

Country Director, Guatemala

I grew up in a small village in the beautiful country of Guatemala. We only had running water for two hours a day. We didn’t have any restaurants, washing machines were considered a luxury, and bicycles were our main form of transportation. I clearly remember as I was growing up, that God was giving me big dreams. I was determined to study hard so I could help my parents have a better life. Although, I had big dreams that I wanted to achieve, I had never imagined that God was going to give me the honor of attending a Christian university in the U.S. for my college education. While I grew up with a lot of economical limitations, God took me to a country with a lot of people willing to help those who have limitations. I have no doubt that God allowed me to experience both ends to be a bridge between those who need help and those whom God wants to use to help. When I graduated, I knew that God had called me to serve others, and I returned to my beautiful country. There was no question of what my mission was to be. I had to serve the poor in my country. I am so blessed for the opportunity God has given me to join the Children’s HopeChest Guatemala Team. This is the place where He is moving to transform the lives of the children. It is an honor beyond definition to serve others every day here.

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Milkias (Mickey) Taye

Country Director, Ethiopia

When I look back on my life, I can see how God was leading me along the path of serving orphaned and vulnerable children. During my childhood I attended a church, which was located in Finland Mission Orphanage. The children living in that particular orphanage were my best friends, and we sang together in the church choir. This sparked my passion for the cause of orphaned children in Ethiopia. During June 2018 my family moved back to Addis Ababa, because I sensed closure for my job. God again counted me faithful, putting me into Children’s HopeChest’s ministry. I am looking forward to what God will do in my new responsibility as a Country Director. Being part of Children’s HopeChest Ethiopia will give me a great opportunity to impact the lives of orphaned children positively throughout the nation. Working with children, emphasizing on orphaned and vulnerable children, will provide a bright future for the supported children in particular and for the nation of Ethiopia at large. Forgetting these children will create unthinkable consequences for the future of the whole country. Finally, I want to thank you and to say may God bless you, for those who have devoted their lives to the cause of the disadvantaged children of Ethiopia.

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Katya Celenina

Country Director, Russia

God has blessed me with many opportunities while championing the cause of orphans for more than 20 years. My expertise is in older orphan care and social adaptation in Russia. As a founding member of Nadezhda Fund in Russia, I currently serve as chairman on the board of directors. After earning a master’s in education from Moscow State Linguistic University, I was invited by Buckner International Children’s Services to study foster care and take on a three-year internship in the Management and Administration of Family Settings for Orphans in the U.S. I translated, adjusted, and adapted the materials and experiences from my studies to Russian realities. My initial efforts grew into today’s programs for older orphans. I am honored to speak throughout Russia and Eastern Europe on family-based intervention programs for older orphans. I received my doctorate from St. Petersburg State University in post-institutional adaptation of Russian orphans. I am grateful to bring my extensive education and experiences to my position with Children’s HopeChest.

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Joseph Elotu

Country Director, Uganda

God has blessed me with a beautiful and wonderful wife, Anne Grace, and our marriage is blessed with six wonderful children. My work for God includes serving on the Leadership Team in my local church in Soroti, where I have participated in spearheading church development and coordinating both local and international missions. The region I come from was affected by insurgency that lasted for more than 20 years, during which time many people lost their lives, property, and were physically abused. It is also one of the poorest regions in Uganda, with many orphaned children and child-headed households who cannot afford education, food, medical, and other physical needs. I have always had a passion for the disadvantaged, especially children and youth. My wife and I regularly open our doors and commit resources to youth ministry and supporting vulnerable children. We believe that for the Uganda of tomorrow to become better, our country needs a new generation of leaders that fear God, love justice, and are committed to change. The arrival of Children’s HopeChest to the eastern region in Uganda was timely, and I consider my involvement a golden opportunity for me to fulfill my calling “to give hope to those in need, positively influence those around me and leave every situation better than I found it.” I want to thank everybody who has responded to the cause of the suffering children all over the world. Thank you for being a big part of what God is doing in the lives of people in Uganda!