Meet the Staff

Our mission is to empower military and Veteran families to thrive by connecting them with their civilian neighbors — both people and organizations — to create strong communities of mutual support.

Executive Team

Kathy Roth Douquet

Kathy Roth-Douquet
CEO and Board President

Kathy Roth Douquet

CEO and Board President
Marine Corps (ret.) Spouse

Kathy Roth-Douquet

CEO and Board President, Marine Corps (ret.) Spouse

Kathy Roth-Douquet is a non-profit executive, author, commentator, strategist, and attorney.

As Co-Founder and CEO of Blue Star Families, she is a national spokesperson for military-connected families. Kathy is a commentator on patriotism, civil-military affairs, the value of service, and the experience of military families. She has appeared on the Today Show, Fox and Friends, NPR, CNN, and other media outlets. Her work has appeared in magazines and newspapers across the country. She is a frequent speaker at universities, policy forums, military audiences, and civic groups. She is the co-author of two books, including AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service and How It Hurts Our Country, (HarperCollins, 2006), with Frank Schaeffer.

Kathy has served in the White House and in the Department of Defense. In the latter role, as Principal Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Acting), she received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service for her work on defense reform. She is also a recipient of President George H. W. Bush’s Daily Point of Light Award, and received the Chief of Staff of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award. She has served on a number of boards including Princeton University’s Board of Trustees, and was named the first nominee into the Ford Hall of Heroes at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

She currently holds appointments to three government boards or commissions - the Reserve Forces Policy Board at the Department of Defense reporting to the Secretary of Defense, the Commission to select the Under Secretary of Benefits for the Department of Veterans Affairs, reporting to the Secretary of the VA, and an advisory board to the Export-Import Bank of America, reporting to the Chair.

Kathy is also a military spouse of 24 years, four deployments, and 9 moves. She lives with her husband and two children in Northern Virginia.

Noeleen Tillman

Noeleen Tillman
Chief Operating Officer and Board Secretary

Noeleen Tillman

Chief Operating Officer and Board Secretary
Air Force (ret.) Spouse

Noeleen Tillman

Chief Operating Officer and Board Secretary, Air Force (ret.) Spouse

Noeleen Tillman is COO of Blue Star Families (BSF), a not for profit organization that supports and serves military families. Ms. Tillman leads and oversees BSF’s operations as the nation’s largest military family support organization. Prior to assuming the her role as Executive Director, Ms. Tillman served as Managing Director for Blue Star Families, where she led the organization’s fundraising and development efforts. Ms. Tillman also sits on the Defense Department’s top-level Family Readiness Council, formed by congressional mandate to address military family issues.

Ms. Tillman has been asked to present to Congress on issues impacting military families including suicide prevention, PTS, TBI and combat stress; and employment/transition issues. She has interviewed with CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, local news affiliates, and newspapers as the organization’s spokesperson and served as keynote speaker at a congressional event on suicide prevention in the military community.

Prior to joining BSF in 2010, Ms. Tillman was Executive Vice President of the Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF), a non-profit devoted to promoting sustainable approaches for government and businesses. While at GETF, Ms. Tillman managed a portfolio in excess of $60M and founded the International Institute for Sustainable Seaports (I2S2), a non-profit that provides technical support to the global maritime industry. Early in her career, Ms. Tillman served as Chief of Environmental Compliance for the 21st Space Wing; US Space Command where she managed civilian and military personnel responsible for environmental activities at 32 geographically separated units located around the world. Ms. Tillman has a degree in Environmental Engineering, magna cum laude from Temple University. She is married to Lt. Col. Antonio W. Tillman, USAF (ret.) and has two children.

Brian Whiting

Brian Whiting
Chief Transformation Officer

Brian Whiting

Chief Transformation Officer

Brian Whiting

Chief Transformation Officer

Brian Whiting joins Blue Star Families as the Chief Transformation Officer. He was previously the Chief Executive Officer of the Mediflix Veterans Channel, an online platform designed to be the single source for trusted information to address an expanding array of Veterans health and wellness issues.

Brian served by the side of our military and their families for 16 years, as Chief Executive Officer of the USO of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (USO). Prior to USO, he has held leadership positions in the U.S. and abroad with PricewaterhouseCoopers and a national trade association.

Brian is a passionate supporter of our military and their families, and he continues his service by volunteering with several military support organizations including serving on the board of Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Plaza. Brian was recognized with the US Coast Guard Public Service Commendation and is a recipient of the U.S. Army Freedom Salute Commendation. Brian has been a highly visible spokesperson for important military and Veterans issues, appearing in forums ranging from NBC’s Today, CBS’s This Morning, and Fox & Friends.

EXECUTIVE ADMINISTRATION

Jenny Akin photo

Jennifer Akin, MPA
Chief of Staff

Jenny Akin photo

Chief of Staff
Army spouse

Jennifer Akin, MPA

Chief of Staff, Army spouse

Jennifer Akin is Blue Star Families’ first Chief of Staff, serving as a trusted advisor and brainstorming partner to the CEO and executive team as they lead Blue Star Families through a critical high-growth period. In her former role as Senior Director of Policy and Social Impact Research, Jenny was responsible for overseeing Blue Star Families’ policy, social impact, member research, and program evaluation efforts. She is a national thought leader on military life issues and led groundbreaking, first of their kind research studies to understand the unique experiences of military and Veteran families of color, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on military and Veteran families, perceptions of the COVID-19 vaccine, and barriers to seeking financial assistance, among other things.

Prior to joining Blue Star Families in 2018, Jenny acquired nearly a decade of experience in the private sector and academia, supporting national security-related programs at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, serving as a military policy fellow for the University of North Carolina system, and working in business development for a small defense contractor.

Britany Thomas

Britany Thomas
Executive Administrative Assistant

Britany Thomas

Executive Administrative Assistant

Britany Thomas

Executive Administrative Assistant

Britany Thomas is a senior level Executive Administrative Assistant, with a strong foundation in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims before the Board of Appeals. Britany has been working in the field of Veteran's law and advocacy for nearly a decade. She spent over five years assisting veteran's and/or their dependents in applying for available federal benefits from the United States Department of Veterans by initiating and reopening claims.

In addition to her advocacy for Veterans and their families, Britany attained an immense amount of administration and editorial experience gained through interning, volunteering, and working for education and community enrichment organizations such as, Associates in Renewal for Education and The Children's Defense Fund. She wrote an article highlighting her role and some progressive changes that was featured in the February 2019 issue of Purple Heart Magazine.

Britany, is a mother of one and caregiver to her father, who is a proud Marine and Vietnam Veteran. She is located in Washington, D.C.

Operations & Human Resources

Amanda Yeram

Amanda Yeram
Senior Director of Operations

Amanda Yeram

Senior Director of Operations
Marine Corps Spouse

Amanda Yeram

Senior Director of Operations, Marine Corps Spouse

Amanda Yeram is the wife of SSgt Yeram and the mother to two amazing children, Logan and Emma. Amanda began her military life as a child, growing up with a father who served in the Marine Corps. You could say she followed in her father’s footprints when she joined the Marine Corps, and served 4 years at Camp Lejeune, NC. Once out of the Marines, Amanda served as a civilian contractor for the Department of the Navy, and went on to receive a dual Bachelors degree in Human Resources and Healthcare Management. Amanda has spent much of her time volunteering for the Disabled American Veterans, TAPS (Tragedy Assistant Program for Survival Spouses), Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and many other great organizations.

Amanda and her family are currently stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. Amanda currently works for Blue Star Families as the Director of Operations, but has also served as a Fellow, and Chapter Director, working closely with Hunt Housing aboard Camp Pendleton. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys running, cooking, and bonding with her family.

Brittany Salter photo

Brittany Salter
Operations Generalist

Brittany Salter photo

Operations Generalist
Marine Corps

Brittany Salter

Operations Generalist, Marine Corps

Brittany Salter is an active-duty Marine Corps wife of 15 years, supporting her husband through 8 combat deployments and countless training maneuvers. She holds an associate's degree in Medical Business Administration from Coastal Alabama.

Her family is currently stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. In her spare time, you can find Brittany in the outdoors. She loves riding dirt bikes, camping, long road trips, and spending time with her family.

Ashley Molina

Ashley Molina
Human Resources Business Partner

Ashley Molina

Human Resources Business Partner
Marine Corps Spouse

Ashley Molina

Human Resources Business Partner, Marine Corps Spouse

Ashley joined Blue Star Families in May 2016. Ashley has spent the majority of her career assisting military families with children with special needs as an Exceptional Family Member Case Worker for the Marine Corps. Ashley has over 10 years experience volunteering with different military initiatives on base to include Marine Corps Family Team Building and various Marine Corps units as a Family Readiness Advisor.

Ashley graduated from National University with a Masters in Human Behavior. Ashley has been with her Marine Corps spouse for over 11 years. They reside with their two sons and two dogs in Pullman, WA.

maria-tedford

Maria Tedford
Director of Human Resources

maria-tedford

Director of Human Resources

Maria Tedford

Director of Human Resources

Maria Tedford joined Blue Star Families as the Director of Human Resources. Maria is a human resources professional with diverse experience, and works to support organizational leadership with the unique perspective that that human capital is every organization’s greatest asset. Prior to joining Blue Star Families, Maria was the Director of Human Resources at a 950 employee healthcare system in New York State.

Maria holds a Master of Arts in Economics, and a Juris Doctor from Syracuse University. She also holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute, and is a licensed attorney in the state of New York. Maria is a military spouse, whose husband served on active duty and now serves in the Marine Corps Reserve. She resides in the Adirondack Region of upstate New York with her husband and two children.

Finance & Technology

Michael Kang

Michael Kang
Vice President of Finance & Technology

Michael Kang

Vice President of Finance & Technology

Michael Kang

Vice President of Finance & Technology

Michael Kang is the Vice President of Finance & Technology at Blue Star Families. Prior to BSF, Michael worked in the corporate sector for almost two decades in various roles such as technology implementations, project management, finance, process improvement, strategy, and analytics. Some of the companies he has worked for include IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Reuters, and Live Nation.

Michael received his bachelor’s degree in Economics with a Minor in Computer Science from UC Irvine and an MBA in Finance from the University of Southern California (USC). Michael lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son.

John Barr photo

John Barr
Senior Director of Accounting & Finance

John Barr photo

Senior Director of Accounting & Finance

John Barr

Senior Director of Accounting & Finance

Assisting organizations’ expansion in their Accounting & Operational functions John utilizes his past experiences in professional services to implement processes improvements, controls and financial data sharing systems.

John currently provides consulting services to Non-Profits and Government Contractors with areas of proficiency in Accounting System design-procedures & workflows, Applications integration (Accounting ERP, Payroll-T&A, purchasing, banking, etc.), Operations and HR tie-ins, financial analysis-reporting, budgeting & proposals, grants and Government contracting, Net Assets, compliance and Tax & Audit management.

John has collaborated with all levels of organizational staff in strengthening Finance & Accounting operations during his career, from the C-Suite and Board to the Summer Intern.

Valerie Nicholas

Valerie Nicholas
Marketing Technology Manager

Valerie Nicholas

Marketing Technology Manager
Air Force Spouse

Valerie Nicholas

Marketing Technology Manager, Air Force Spouse

Air Force spouse, Valerie Nicholas, received a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s of Education. Her previous work experience includes teaching reading, writing, and social studies in elementary school, tutoring at-risk students, and event planning for a museum. Valerie has volunteered with her base’s Officer’s Spouses’ Club, previously serving on its board.

Shortly after her last PCS, Valerie began working with Blue Star Families. Initially beginning as a Membership Fellow as the Membership Engagement Manager, she has now transitioned into the Technology and Engagement Management team as the Technology Fellow. She has been with Blue Star Families since July 2014.

As an avid supporter and daily user of Salesforce, Valerie’s favorite program Blue Star Families has to offer is SpouseForce, as she feels it is a powerful tool for military spouses.

Faith Janes

Faith Janes
Digital Transformation Senior Project Manager

Faith Janes

Digital Transformation Senior Project Manager

Faith Janes

Digital Transformation Senior Project Manager

Faith Janes is the Digital Transformation Senior Project Manager at Blue Star Families. She is responsible for creating transformative digital experiences for our members and partners through our websites and online member platform. Faith has been building the websites of businesses and non-profits for over 20 years. She loves combining creativity with efficiency to deliver an organization’s mission to the world. Having many family members in the military inspired Faith to pursue a career with Blue Star Families.

Faith holds a Bachelor of Science from Point University in Counseling & Human Relations. Her family enjoys spending time together pretty much anywhere, but their true happy place is relaxing at the beach. They currently reside in Georgia.

Sam Gleason Headshot

Samantha Gleason
Digital Media & Analytics Manager

Sam Gleason Headshot

Digital Media & Analytics Manager
Army

Samantha Gleason

Digital Media & Analytics Manager, Army

Sam Gleason is the Digital Media & Analytics Manager with Blue Star Families. She has a rich background in federal and local government as well as working with national brands like NASCAR and PBS which gives her a unique perspective that helps her to create original and creative marketing campaigns. Sam graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Mass Communications and Media. She earned her Master’s degree in Communication Management from the University of Denver.

Sam is an Army Spouse, currently stationed at Ft. Stewart, Georgia with her husband, two dogs, and a cat. She has a gypsy soul that guides her to new adventures that lead to exciting stories. She is an outdoor enthusiast who loves mountains and is not shy about her love for public lands and beautiful landscapes.

Carly Ippolito headshot

Carly Ippolito
Salesforce Administrator

Carly Ippolito headshot

Salesforce Administrator

Carly Ippolito

Salesforce Administrator

Carly attended college at SUNY Cortland where she completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a minor in psychology. Following college, she pursued her passion for working in the non-profit sector and started her career as a volunteer coordinator at an organization that served local community members in crisis across eight service programs. She then worked at a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity supporting the organization’s fundraising and marketing efforts before joining Blue Star Families.

Her previous work experience includes managing a volunteer program, coordinating special events, donor engagement, fundraising, email marketing, and donor database development and management.

Carly joined Blue Star Families as the Data & Technology Specialist providing technology support, maintenance and training across the organization.

Melinda-Zilch

Melinda Zilch
Controller

Melinda-Zilch

Controller

Melinda Zilch

Controller

Melinda is the Controller at Blue Star Families. Prior to BSF, Melinda worked in the corporate sector for 25 years in various accounting roles.

Melinda received her Bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Hollsopple, PA with her husband and two sons.

Mary Anne McInerney

Mary Anne McInerney
Salesforce Administrator

Mary Anne McInerney

Salesforce Administrator

Mary Anne McInerney

Salesforce Administrator

Mary Anne joined Blue Star Families as a Salesforce Administrator, where she focuses on increasing the capacity and functionality of Salesforce and other technologies to help the organization. Prior to joining Blue Star Families, she spent over two decades in the Travel and Tourism industry as an IT professional. During this phase of her career, Mary Anne led business analyses, IT integrations, and project designs across multifunctional teams. She is passionate about helping improve organizational capacity and individual skills through Salesforce and IT tools.

Mary Anne holds an Associates Degree in Business Administration and is a Salesforce Certified Admin. In her spare time, Mary Anne volunteers as affiliate president for her local NAMI chapter, which advocates and educates family members who have loved ones with mental health challenges. She also enjoys spending time with her family, knitting, spinning, and reading.

Social Impact

Laura Torres

Laura Torres
Senior Manager of Workforce Partnerships and Diverse Talent Sourcing

Laura Torres

Senior Manager of Workforce Partnerships and Diverse Talent Sourcing
Marine Corps Spouse

Laura Torres

Senior Manager of Workforce Partnerships and Diverse Talent Sourcing, Marine Corps Spouse

Laura Torres joined BSF in the Fall of 2016 and currently supports our mission as the Senior Manager of Workforce Partnerships and Diverse Talent Sourcing. She supports local Southern California Military Spouse career initiatives and program growth. Additionally, Laura facilitates training and development for new career manager consultants and ensures the careers program is reaching its full potential in all areas Blue Star Families has reach.

Laura has a strong background in recruiting, business development, workforce training and development, program outreach, and networking. She obtained her BA in liberal studies with a concentration in Early Childhood Education from EOU. Currently, she is pursuing her MBA with a concentration in Human Resource Management.

Laura’s career challenges have not been much different from the community she supports; Military Spouses. That’s why Laura’s community involvement and passion to support other spouses as a career manager is a great fit for her. After relocating to California in 2009 and unable to find satisfying work, Laura had to re-trained in a new career in order to advance.

As a Military Caregiver, she now enjoys life in SoCal with her Retired Veteran husband who served in the Marine Corps for 21 years. She has 4 beautiful grown children, enjoys San Diego life. When time allows it, she volunteers for other SVOs and supports local civilian organizations.

Liz Jones

Liz Jones
Senior Operations Manager for Social Impact & Chapters

Liz Jones

Senior Operations Manager for Social Impact & Chapters
Army Spouse

Liz Jones

Senior Operations Manager for Social Impact & Chapters, Army Spouse

Liz Jones is an Active Duty Army spouse located outside of Scott AFB in Southern Illinois. She started with Blue Star Families as the Program Administration Fellow sponsored by the McCormick Foundation.

During that time she worked with the Blue Star Arts Suite. In October 2016 she came on board full time with Blue Star Families working as a Careers Coordinator primarily focusing on Spouseforce, Networks Live! and the new Networks Live! On Demand Programs.

Liz has a vast understanding of the military lifestyle having been active duty, a reservist, a key volunteer with the Illinois National Guard supporting their deployment in 2009 and now a spouse to an active duty military member.

APPLIED RESEARCH

Jessica Strong Photo

Jessica Strong
Senior Director of Applied Research

Jessica Strong Photo

Senior Director of Applied Research
Army spouse

Jessica Strong

Senior Director of Applied Research, Army spouse

Jessica Strong joined Blue Star Families as a Volunteer Chapter Director in 2017, then as a Consultant shortly thereafter, and joined the BSF Staff as an Applied Research Analyst in 2019. Her work with Applied Research focuses on the annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey, as well as developing, executing, and analyzing other research projects that support Blue Star Families mission and enhance the national conversation about military families.

She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Fayetteville State University and a PhD in Social Work from Rutgers University, which she uses to advance the research available on understanding military family issues and how helping professionals can support military families.

She has previously researched military families as an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, publishing her research in the professional literature and focusing on teaching military-affiliated students at the extension site aboard Camp LeJeune. Jessica is an active duty Army spouse with three children, currently stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY.

Karly Howell

Karly Howell
Senior Research Manager

Karly Howell

Senior Research Manager
Navy

Karly Howell

Senior Research Manager, Navy

Karly Howell joined Blue Star Families as a Consultant in 2020 and then joined as staff Senior Research Manager in 2021. Her work focuses primarily on the annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey while supporting other applied research projects.

Karly has been active in the non-profit sector for nearly two decades. During which time she has managed a diverse set of programs designed to help both individuals and families thrive. This background gives her unique insight into the experiences of those on both sides of the military-civilian divide.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Arts in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Karly resides with her husband, an active-duty Navy service member, and her two children in Chesapeake, VA.

Esmeralda Gloria

Esmeralda Gloria
P55 Policy & Outreach Fellow

Esmeralda Gloria

P55 Policy & Outreach Fellow

Esmeralda Gloria

P55 Policy & Outreach Fellow

Esmeralda is a Policy & Outreach Fellow, having joined in 2022 through the Project 55 Fellowship Program. She graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and plans to pursue a career in law in the future. She has long since cultivated an interest in promoting equity, racial justice, and prison reform.

Esmeralda hails from Riverdale, California where she was raised alongside her two sisters but is currently located in the DC area. With two cousins that have served in the military, Esmeralda is passionate about supporting military members and veterans on the path of transition back into civilian life. She is excited to work with Blue Star Families and to learn more about how we can help military members and their families.

SOCIAL IMPACT & POLICY

Ashley Scott

Ashley Scott
Policy & Innovation Coordinator

Ashley Scott

Policy & Innovation Coordinator

Ashley Scott

Policy & Innovation Coordinator

Ashley joined Blue Star Families as Policy & Innovation Coordinator. She will focus her efforts supporting the Racial, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative. Ashley graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public and International Affairs and a certificate in French. Ashley is passionate about voting rights, politics, and criminal justice. Her senior thesis evaluated the effect of disenfranchisement on recidivism among felons in the United States.

Ashley grew up in Norfolk, Virginia with her two younger siblings. With a grandfather in the Air Force and many friends whose parents were in the armed forces, Ashley developed an awareness of the challenges faced by military families and how civilians can support this unique population. She is eager to work on behalf of military families and continue to strengthen ties between them and civilians.

PROGRAMS

Leah Love

Leah Love
Associate Director of Community Outreach

Leah Love

Associate Director of Community Outreach
Navy Spouse

Leah Love

Associate Director of Community Outreach, Navy Spouse

Leah originally joined Blue Star Families as a volunteer in 2014. A year later, she joined the Blue Star Families staff as the Volunteer Training Fellow and now serves as the Associate Director of Community Outreach. Leah’s career, as with many military spouses, has been varied. She has worked in administrative positions in the legal, staffing and real estate industries, was a high school history teacher, and now is a volunteer recruiter, trainer and manager.

Throughout all of her positions, Leah has always most enjoyed her time directly working with people to help them learn and grow in their own lives, a direct extension of her formal education as a teacher. Leah has a Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of Michigan, focusing on Secondary History and Political Science Education. She is a proud Navy spouse and mother of two young sons. Leah and her family currently reside in California.

Vicky Perkins

Vicky Perkins
Associate Director of Welcome Programs

Vicky Perkins

Associate Director of Welcome Programs
Navy Spouse

Vicky Perkins

Associate Director of Welcome Programs, Navy Spouse

Vicky began volunteering with Blue Star Families in 2014 when her husband, Lieutenant Commander, J. Christopher “Chris” Perkins was stationed in Quantico, Virginia. The following year, she moved to Florida and became the Jacksonville Regional Director supporting military families in the surrounding community. One move and one promotion later, Vicky continues her work with BSF in Norfolk, Virginia. Currently, she serves an integral part of the team implementing a three-year NEH funded grant Serving, Thriving, And Reading Together (START). In addition, Vicky continues her outreach in the community providing support and solutions to the challenges facing military families.

Vicky holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree for Education from Notre Dame of Maryland University. She taught third grade for two years at William Tyler Page Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland. In 2003, Vicky married Chris following his graduation from Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida, beginning their journey as a Naval Aviator family. Vicky and Chris have 3 children.

Vicky’s favorite Blue Star Families Program is Blue Star Books. The opportunity to visit military-impacted schools and encourage literacy among students, whether it be talking with them, reading together, completing a craft, or giving them new books to start a home library, is so rewarding! Attending events and creating smiling faces on military children when they pick a book for free fuel Vicky’s passion for the program!

Nicole Rawlinson Headshot

Nicole Rawlinson
Manager of Welcome Programs

Nicole Rawlinson Headshot

Manager of Welcome Programs

Nicole Rawlinson

Manager of Welcome Programs

Nicole joins Blue Star Families as the Manager of Welcome Programs. With a background in community-focused services to youth and families, Nicole leads with her passion for creating relationships and connecting communities. She has spent her career developing and supporting programs that drive equity through community voice, inspiring young people, and building up resilient future leaders. She has focused on supporting youth and community through community-empowered approaches to programming, services, and professional development within the museum and library services field. As the Manager of Welcome Programs, she is excited to continue serving families and communities by engaging the military family community through outdoor interpretation, education, and recreation opportunities.

Nicole holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cleveland State University and a Master of Library and Information Science from Kent State University, both in her home state of Ohio. She currently resides in the greater Washington, D.C. area with her husband, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Rawlinson, their two children, and their adopted pets.

Campaign for Inclusion

Carlandra "CT" Moss photo

Carlandra “CT” Moss
Director of Racial Equity & Inclusion Initiative

Carlandra "CT" Moss photo

Director of Racial Equity & Inclusion Initiative
Army

Carlandra “CT” Moss

Director of Racial Equity & Inclusion Initiative, Army

Carlandra “CT” Moss is an (Army Retired) First Sergeant with 24 years of experience in leadership, training, and community relations. She is a certified life coach, motivational speaker, and fitness influencer. CT Moss is the Director of Racial Equity & Inclusion (REI) Initiative for Blue Star Families, a not-for-profit organization that supports and serves military families. As the REI Director, she leads the multi-dimensional, cross-sector, collective-action effort to improve the service experiences of military families of color.

CT Moss received her Bachelor Professional Studies in Business & Administration and her Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Social Media Management from Excelsior College. She is a native of Florida and enjoys volunteering in the community. She has a son currently serving in the Army and a daughter serving in the Air Force.

Anicia Myers

Anicia Myers
REI Coordinator

Anicia Myers

REI Coordinator
Navy

Anicia Myers

REI Coordinator, Navy

Anicia Myers joins Blue Star Families as the REI Coordinator. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Communication and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. Anicia is South African and a former teacher. She has taught in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

She is passionate about helping people and has a passion for ethnic and racial diversity and hopes to make a positive impact in the military community. She enjoys traveling, baking, reading and spending time with family. Anicia and her husband GM2 Myers are currently stationed in the Great Lakes Region, Illinois.

Zanade Mann

Zanade Mann
Craig Newmark NY Tri-State DEPLOY Fellow

Zanade Mann

Craig Newmark NY Tri-State DEPLOY Fellow

Zanade Mann

Craig Newmark NY Tri-State DEPLOY Fellow

Recently named, Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 100 Women of Impact, Zanade is a builder of strong communities. She has over fifteen years of industry experience in marketing and communications with a strong background in creative writing and strategic campaigns.

Zanade holds a degree in Accounting, Political Science and a Master’s Degree in Education. A former New York City educator and mentor for new teachers, she has spent years serving students with disabilities while inspiring career changers to enter the urban classroom.

It is her wish to help underserved people tap into their abilities and purpose through their health, wealth, and mindset so that they can live their best life. Her motto is, "Think big, listen carefully, and get to work!"

Marla Bautista

Marla Bautista
Lockheed Martin Food Insecurity/Welcome Programs DEPLOY Fellow

Marla Bautista

Lockheed Martin Food Insecurity/Welcome Programs DEPLOY Fellow

Marla Bautista

Lockheed Martin Food Insecurity/Welcome Programs DEPLOY Fellow

Marla Bautista is an Army wife and the mother of three creative children. Her spouse, SFC Ulisses Bautista, is currently stationed at MacDill AFB in Tampa, FL. She is the author of "My Thoughts Abandoned" and co-author of "Brave Women, Strong Faith." Marla completed her first TEDx speech in December 2021. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Maryland University College.

Marla also works on the Military Spouse Advisory Council for Caliber Home Loans; she educates, collaborates, and leads initiatives to prevent and eliminate Veteran homelessness. Her passion is helping people in need. She does so as the Co-founder and CEO of the Bautista Project Inc, a nonprofit organization providing for homeless community members in Tampa, FL.

Andrea Unzueta

Andrea Unzueta
USAA San Diego DEPLOY Fellow

Andrea Unzueta

USAA San Diego DEPLOY Fellow

Andrea Unzueta

USAA San Diego DEPLOY Fellow

Andrea R. Unzueta joins Blue Star Families as the USAA San Diego Chapter Delpoy Fellow. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, with a concentration in Relational and Organizational Communication from California State University San Bernardino.

Andrea has previous law enforcement experience from volunteering as a Police Cadet to working as a Community Service Officer. She has always and continues to have a passion for helping others. For her community involvement, she was awarded the Good Citizenship Awards from Riverside County Bar Association in April 2017.

Andrea is an active-duty Navy spouse. She currently resides in beautiful San Diego, California with her husband. In her free time, she enjoys exploring her community from trying out a new restaurant to learning how to kayak.

Laura Abubekr

Laura Abubekr
Lockheed Martin NCR DEPLOY Fellow

Laura Abubekr

Lockheed Martin NCR DEPLOY Fellow

Laura Abubekr

Lockheed Martin NCR DEPLOY Fellow

Laura has been a military spouse for 12 years. Her husband is active-duty Army, currently living in Washington D.C. Her family of six includes a college student and a fur baby. As a result of experiencing five PCS (permanent change of station) moves, four of her husband's deployments including activations for Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Dorian, and many training exercises, Laura has learned the deep meaning of resiliency and shares a sacred space in her heart for military families and spouses.

With an understanding of some of the challenges military families experience, Laura has volunteered as a Family Readiness Group Leader where she was honored with a Presidential Volunteer Award. In continuing her support for families and the community, she completed a Bachelor's in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and is currently pursuing a Master's in Public Health with a specialization in Health Policy and Management.

Jerilyn Leonard

Jerilyn Lim-Leonard
McCormick Foundation Chicagoland DEPLOY Fellow

Jerilyn Leonard

McCormick Foundation Chicagoland DEPLOY Fellow

Jerilyn Lim-Leonard

McCormick Foundation Chicagoland DEPLOY Fellow

With a passion to help create resources and contribute to creating safe spaces for families of color within the military community, Jerilyn joins Blue Star Families' Campaign for Inclusion Fellowship program as the Robert R. McCormick Chicagoland DEPLOY Fellow. Serving on Advisory Councils and alongside District Equity Teams who work toward actively cultivating inclusive spaces through improvement goals around Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Jerilyn has seen the positive impact these programs can have on a community and hopes to mimic those results for our military families.

As a military spouse of 17 years, Jerilyn has experienced first-hand the difficulties military families face. As an advocate of transformative change, she hopes to connect and empower our military members with the tools they need to thrive. She attended National University San Diego and currently resides in the greater Chicagoland area with her husband HM1 Kenneth Leonard Jr., their four children, and three-year-old porkie, Rhaja. Jerilyn enjoys traveling, loves street fairs, serves as a head football coach for her local Jr. Football League, and remains an active volunteer in her local community as well as with military organizations.

Kimberly Gold

Kimberly Gold
Wells Fargo Housing Insecurity DEPLOY Fellow

Kimberly Gold

Wells Fargo Housing Insecurity DEPLOY Fellow

Kimberly Gold

Wells Fargo Housing Insecurity DEPLOY Fellow

Born to a native Korean woman who would become the first Korean female Chief Warrant Officer Five in the United States Army, Kimberly prides herself on learning directly from her mother, her shero, who taught her firsthand how to turn obstacles into opportunities. Kimberly is fresh off the flying boat arriving in Colorado Springs from Korea in the Summer of 2021. She goes way outside the boxes people try to put her in by sharing her unique experiences growing up Black and Korean. Add in being married to a foreign-born spouse who currently serves in the United States Army and being the proud parent to a queer teenager, her world is all mixed in.

Kimberly is a survivor of childhood trauma, sexual assault, and domestic violence. She shares that story as a motivational speaker and coach. Kimberly is an avid traveler, visiting 30 countries, and performs stand-up comedy whenever the opportunity presents itself. Though she holds a Master of Arts in Management with a concentration in Organizational Leadership, she lives by the Socratic wisdom, “the more I know, the more I realize I know nothing.” Learning and self-improvement should never stop, and Kimberly believes in applying the kaizen method to all parts of her life.

Kimberly strongly believes that community changes everything and as a transient global citizen, she believes that it is our purpose to make communities and the people who live in them better even if we will only be a part of that community for a season. This attitude has allowed Kimberly to thrive in countries from Korea to Kuwait and drives her to be a better version of herself to serve her now home of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Kimberly is involved in the following community organizations: PolkaDot Powerhouse, Mountain Post Spouses Club, Leadership Pikes Peak, Elevating Leadership Development, United Way Pikes Peak, and Golden Lotus Foundation. In the words of Kimberly, "Make good choices!"

Angela Alford

Angela Alford
Salesforce Technology DEPLOY Fellow

Angela Alford

Salesforce Technology DEPLOY Fellow

Angela Alford

Salesforce Technology DEPLOY Fellow

Angela attended college at Fontbonne University where she completed a Master's Degree in Supply Chain. She is a Salesforce Professional with a passion for building efficient and accessible systems to solve organizational problems. With over 10 years of experience in training and project management, Angela has unique expertise in researching and analytical skills to make informed business decisions and support others in process implementation.

Outside of her passion for Salesforce, Angela enjoys spending time with her husband Army (Retired) Captain Anthony Alford, sailing, camping, and giving back to her community.

Mickia Freeman

Mickia Freeman
USAA Tampa DEPLOY Fellow

Mickia Freeman

USAA Tampa DEPLOY Fellow

Mickia Freeman

USAA Tampa DEPLOY Fellow

Mickia has a degree in behavioral health sciences and experience working in both corporate and nonprofit sectors delivering family-centered services for the past twenty years. As the spouse of a retired Marine, Mickia understands the need for military family resources and support. During her husband’s active-duty service, she was honored to assist her military family as a Key Wife, LINKS Trainer, and Red Cross Station Chairman.

Mickia's husband is currently self-employed as a firearms instructor. Together, they have a grown daughter and son. In her free time, she loves to travel. Mickia also volunteers as a Guardian ad Litem, where she aids in protecting the best interests of children involved in the court system.

Lydiah Owiti

Lydiah Owiti
JPMC Financial Wellness DEPLOY Fellow

Lydiah Owiti

JPMC Financial Wellness DEPLOY Fellow

Lydiah Owiti

JPMC Financial Wellness DEPLOY Fellow

Lydiah is an attorney, international development practitioner, and project manager. She has been a military spouse for 11 years, raising a family while her husband served in different states, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. She has also continued pursuing her education and career interests in the corporate, government, and non-profit sectors.

A Kenyan native, Lydiah pursued a law degree to help her protect the rights of children and advocate for the rights of women and minority populations. Because of the strides she made and her contributions to human rights advocacy, she was awarded a full scholarship to study international development management in London where she plans to expand her passion for serving humanity. The constant relocation with her husband's military career prompted her to pursue project management at Saint Mary’s University, which would enable her to continue working remotely.

An avid humanitarian at heart, she embodies her favorite quote by Martin Luther King Jr. - Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?

Storytelling, Experience, Chapters & Revenue

Storytelling & Experience

Sheila Stevens

Sheila Stevens
Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives

Sheila Stevens

Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives
Navy Spouse & Parent

Sheila Stevens

Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, Navy Spouse & Parent

Sheila Stevens joined the Blue Star Families (BSF) team in 2010 as a chapter director and volunteer in Jacksonville, Fla. She now serves as the director of communication operations. She oversees operations and implementation and manages and executes all logistical aspects of our applied research team, the communications team, and the national events team. Sheila guides and oversees all of our local and national events and serves as senior BSF representative at selected meetings and events. She is an experienced executive in military family affairs.

Sheila grew up in a military family; her father is a retired U.S. Navy officer. Years of deployments and moves helped her transition from Navy daughter to Navy spouse and now Navy mom. She is a strong leader with a history of successful planning and executing military family events. She continues to work with nonprofit organizations developing and managing programs for military members and their families, as is evident in her volunteer role as vice president of family matters for the Maritime Patrol Association, for which she developed and oversees the scholarship program for military dependents. She is passionate about military family readiness during times of war, constant deployments, and defense budget cuts. She has volunteered as an ombudsman and has supported several other VSOs and MSOs. She and her husband, U.S. Navy Captain Mark Stevens, live in the DC Metropolitan area. She is the mother of naval aviator Madeline Stevens stationed in Jacksonville, FL, and University of Arizona junior Zachary Stevens.

Jessica Gilera

Jessica Gilera
Associate Director, Brand Experience & Engagement

Jessica Gilera

Associate Director, Brand Experience & Engagement

Jessica Gilera

Associate Director, Brand Experience & Engagement

Jessica Gilera is the Associate Director, Brand Experience & Engagement for Blue Star Families. With over 15 years of professional experience in marketing and brand management, Jessica brings a strategic viewpoint to the team, leading the overall communication strategies for Blue Star Families including the digital user experience and public relations strategy. Jessica provides a unique perspective gained through working in both advertising agency and corporate environments in various industries. While working for J. Walter Thompson Jessica experienced her first foray into the military space while leading the United States Marine Corps marketing efforts on the west coast, with a heavy focus on brand management and recruiting.

Based in San Diego, CA, Jessica enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and two children. You will likely find her on the beach, practicing yoga, exploring new restaurants, or watching her children at various sporting events.

Erin Lukowiak photo

Erin Lukowiak
Strategic Communications Manager

Erin Lukowiak photo

Strategic Communications Manager
Coast Guard Spouse

Erin Lukowiak

Strategic Communications Manager, Coast Guard Spouse

Erin is a Digital Marketing Manager with over six years of business and marketing strategy experience. Erin’s career, as with many military spouses, has somewhat varied. While she has stayed within the realm of marketing, she has found herself working in different industries (everything from paint to health & wellness to socks) in both the corporate and agency sides of the business. Erin has a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing Management, and a minor in Packaging Sciences from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Erin is a proud Coast Guard spouse and served as an Ombudsman for the Coast Guard in Charleston, South Carolina over the course of three deployments.

Erin’s favorite Blue Star Families resource has been all things career-related. She has really enjoyed all the opportunities to develop her career as well as getting connected with others that are more experienced than her through mentorship. In her free time, Erin enjoys cooking, exploring things to do (and restaurants to eat at) in whatever city she and her spouse currently are living in, spending time with family, and traveling. Erin and her family currently reside in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

Maria Mahoney

Maria Mahoney
National Events Coordinator

Maria Mahoney photo

National Events Coordinator
Army Spouse

Maria Mahoney

National Events Coordinator, Army Spouse

Maria Mahoney has been a part of Blue Star Families in various capacities since 2011. Starting as a special projects volunteer, to Chapter Director, to her current role of National Events Coordinator.

Maria graduated from Boston University with a BA in Political Science in 2006, and earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of Kansas in 2009. She has worked in the areas of mental health, domestic violence and sexual assault (direct services and prevention), parent education through her work with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) and volunteer work through Blue Star Families, various Family Readiness Groups, and Junior League.

A former Army spouse, Maria has two elementary school age boys and lives in Northern Virginia.

Meghan Wieten-Scott

Meghan Wieten-Scott
Associate Director for Outreach & Strategic Initiatives

Meghan Wieten-Scott

Associate Director for Outreach & Strategic Initiatives
Army Spouse

Meghan Wieten-Scott

Associate Director for Outreach & Strategic Initiatives, Army Spouse

Meghan Wieten-Scott has been a part of Blue Star Families since 2009, starting as the Operation Appreciation program manager and also working as the Event Planning Manager. Meghan now manages Blue Star Families’ relationship with The Walt Disney Company by coordinating book shipments and planning Disney partnership events. Meghan also assists with numerous national level events throughout the year and provides program consultation and historical background of the organization.

Meghan is married to MAJ Andrew Scott, US Army, and they are currently stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ where they live with their son and dog. Growing up in Michigan, Meghan graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration with an emphasis on Women and Gender Studies. The Wieten-Scotts have PCSed eight times and endured two deployments. During that time, Meghan has served as a Family Readiness Group Leader at three different units, volunteered with the USO, and been an active member of the Junior League.

Meghan’s favorite resource is the Blue Star Books because it puts so many books into the hands of our military children!

Tess Peterson

Tess Peterson
Marketing Manager, Memberships

Tess Peterson

Marketing Manager, Memberships
Army

Tess Peterson

Marketing Manager, Memberships, Army

Tess Peterson is the Marketing Manager, Memberships at Blue Star Families. Tess is a proud Army spouse of over 15 years. She has volunteered to serve in various SFRG roles including Senior Advisor, Treasurer, Key Caller, and Leader. Through her military life and volunteer service, she has developed a deep understanding and empathy for the military community.

Prior to joining Blue Star Families, Tess worked at a national nonprofit as a Digital Marketing Manager where she was able to make connections through storytelling between those who serve and their civilian neighbors. Early in her career, Tess held positions with in FMWR Marketing where she was able to utilize her communication skills to uplift and engage her military community through events and services.

A lifelong Zag, Tess holds a B.A. in Public Relations (’05) and a M.A. in Communication & Leadership with a concentration in Digital Media Strategies (’20) from Gonzaga University. Currently residing in Columbus, Georgia, Tess enjoys spending her free time with her Active Duty husband and their three school-aged kids. You’re most likely to find Tess sipping coffee and scrolling through social media keeping up on the latest trends.

Marisa Donovan

Marisa Donovan
National Events & Outreach Manager

Marisa Donovan

National Events & Outreach Manager
USMC

Marisa Donovan

National Events & Outreach Manager, USMC

Marisa Donovan joins the Blue Star Families team as the National Events and Outreach Manager. She has a background in event logistics and sales/development, having worked in both the non-profit and private sector. Marisa graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA with a degree in English and Concentration in Peace & Conflict Studies. Prior to joining the team, Marisa spent the past two years at home raising her young daughters and enduring two PCS moves in support of her Marine husband. She is so appreciative of the opportunity to work for an organization that understands and is working for the military family.

Marisa is married to Captain Rob Donovan, USMC, and they live in Monterey, CA with their two daughters and dog Tank. Marisa and her husband are avid outdoors people, recently summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro and they look forward to their next adventure with their girls!

Tom Hausman

Tom Hausman
National Events & Production Manager

Tom Hausman

National Events & Production Manager

Tom Hausman

National Events & Production Manager

Tom Hausman (he/him/his) joins the Blue Star Families team as the National Events & Production Manager, with a background in experiential event logistics and multimedia production. After graduating from the University of Maryland College Park with a degree in multiplatform journalism, Tom worked with a D.C. based events company, producing large-scale experiences for clients like R.E.I. and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Growing up an Army Brat, Tom is deeply familiar with the needs of military families, and is thrilled at the opportunity to join Blue Star Families to support and celebrate families like his.

Tom lives in Washington, D.C. with his partner, Louis, their dog, Chef Girlardee, their Western Hognose snake, Linda, and too many houseplants to count.

Kimberly Bacso

Kimberly Bacso
Senior Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Kimberly Bacso

Senior Marketing Manager, Campaigns
Army

Kimberly Bacso

Senior Marketing Manager, Campaigns, Army

Kimberly Bacso is the Senior Marketing Manager, Campaigns for Blue Star Families. For over 20 years, she has paired attention to detail with creativity to drive organizational success by leading educational and wellness initiatives. Highly skilled in creating strategic digital content strategies, she’s grown online and in-person communities with a word-of-mouth, grassroots approach.

A proud U.S. Army spouse, Kimberly seeks ways to use her strong leadership skills to uplift the military community. She co-founded InDependent, a non-profit on a mission to make wellness accessible to all military spouses, where she served as the operations/content director and the board treasurer. She especially loved providing wellness strategies at the individual and small-group level to help spouses connect and successfully navigate military life. She has also worked as the managing editor of Legacy Magazine and as a Parent to Parent team lead for the Military Child Education Coalition where she learned the profound impact of storytelling on the lives of military families. She volunteers as a writer for the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, covering wellness, entrepreneurship, and business topics.

Early in her career, Kimberly worked as a staff accountant at a public accounting firm and as a senior accountant at a Fortune 100 company where she learned to deliver better-than-expected work product and lead a team of professionals. During that time, she fell in love with the health benefits of yoga and later became a registered yoga teacher. She holds a degree in business with a concentration in accounting, magna cum laude, from Walla Walla University and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Colorado at Denver.

When she’s not working, you can find Kimberly trying new plant-based recipes, practicing yoga, or traveling off the beaten path with her husband and teenage daughter.

Adriene Engstrom

Adriene Engstrom
Content Manager

Adriene Engstrom

Content Manager
Army

Adriene Engstrom

Content Manager, Army

Adriene Engstrom joins Blue Star Families as the Content Manager. As an active-duty Army spouse and former Air Force dependent, she hopes to integrate BSF survey findings and REI initiatives to better assist military families of color in her area. Further, she works to build bridges between existing community services and those families.

Adriene Engstrom earned her Bachelor of Arts in Speech; Communications from Kansas Wesleyan University and her Masters of Science in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University. She has served on several corporate boards including Employee Engagement and Inclusion and LGBT Business Resource Groups. Likewise, she has enjoyed volunteering for the military community since her youth. She is active in the West Point Spouses Club and is the mother of two girls.

Veronica Vidal Praeger Headshot

Veronica Praeger
Graphic Design Manager

Veronica Vidal Praeger Headshot

Graphic Design Manager
Marine Spouse

Veronica Vidal Praeger

Graphic Design Manager, Marine Spouse

Veronica Vidal Praeger is a graphic designer with experience on both the client and agency side of the business. After working in various industries like corporate consulting, word-of-mouth marketing, and traditional advertising, she found herself working in publishing for a small-but-quickly-growing nonprofit organization. It was through this work that she found a distinct sense of purpose. Since then, she has sought out cause-driven work to try and make a contribution to the greater good.

Veronica is also a wife — her husband is a former Marine — and a mom to a very energetic 3-year-old. She enjoys long-distance running, yoga, photography, mid-century architecture, and generally anything that involves being active outdoors.

Anna Yu-Rank Headshot

Anna Yu-Rank
Cause Marketing Manager

Anna Yu-Rank Headshot

Cause Marketing Manager
Navy

Anna Yu-Rank

Cause Marketing Manager, Navy

Anna Yu-Rank joined the Blue Star Families team at the start of 2021. She has a decade of experience in marketing and event management within various industries, including Veterans Affairs, non-profits, tech, healthcare, and media. Her career has provided her with unique opportunities to tell stories and inspire others through different mediums, including the written word, brand campaigns, and events.

Most recently, Anna spearheaded a “brand overhaul” where she refined voice and messaging, developed audience specific messaging, and created easy-to-use brand tactics that would encourage brand advocacy and enthusiasm. When it comes to content, Anna is always finding unique ways to tell a story that will capture an audience and create a lasting relationship. As an active-duty Navy spouse, she is passionate about supporting other military families and connecting with others through their shared experiences.

She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism, and a specialization in Event Management. She’s married to LCDR Alex Yu-Rank, a mom to daughter Nora (4 months), and a goldendoodle named Bodhi (also referred to as ‘the first-born’). Anna is a middle child, baker, voracious reader, Sound of Music enthusiast, an old soul, and kid-at-heart.

Lauren Hoy

Lauren Hoy
Social Media Specialist

Lauren Hoy

Social Media Specialist
Air Force

Lauren Hoy

Social Media Specialist, Air Force

Lauren Hoy joins Blue Star Families as the Social Media Specialist. Her passion for all things social media includes creating engaging content, developing brand awareness, and staying up-to-date with the latest digital trends.

Prior to joining Blue Star Families, Lauren worked as a Social Media Manager supporting the digital communications efforts for numerous Electric Cooperative Organizations across the United States. She holds a Bachelor's of Science in Mass Communications from Towson University.

A proud Air Force Spouse of 16 years, Lauren and her family are currently stationed in Springfield Virginia. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding with her husband and three sons, traveling, and exploring new restaurants.

CHAPTERS

Andie Coakley

Andie Coakley
New York Tri-State Chapter Director

Andie Coakley

New York Tri-State Chapter Director
Coast Guard

Andie Coakley

New York Tri-State Chapter Director, Coast Guard

Andie Coakley is the New York Tri-State Chapter Director. For 16 years, Andie has supported and served alongside her husband in the United States Coast Guard. Their family is currently stationed at Coast Guard Sector New York on Staten Island. Andie is a prior reservist in the Coast Guard in which she served as a Marine Science Technician. Her professional experience includes work in event management, marketing, product launches, fundraising, development and event operations.

Andie is an avid runner and volunteered for numerous years with the Stroller Warriors Running Club, training and guiding hundreds of military spouses as they completed their first 5K’s, 10K’s, half-marathons, marathons and ultras.

Andie holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology with a minor in Sport Management from the University of Minnesota. She is excited to explore the New York region with her husband and four children, Emily, Megan, Jake and Abbey.

Yolanda Rayford

Yolanda Rayford
Baltimore Chapter Director

Yolanda Rayford

Baltimore Chapter Director
Air Force

Yolanda Rayford

Baltimore Chapter Director, Air Force

Yolanda Rayford has a proven record of achievement throughout her career that includes 20+ years of proficiency in establishing, organizing, and managing projects within diverse regional and global military communities. Her key skill areas include community outreach, program management, human resources, employee engagement, and volunteer management. The spouse of an Air Force retiree, Yolanda has been a global community volunteer for Girl Scouts USA, Red Cross, and Military Family Centers assisting and supporting the relocation, job search, transition, life skills training, resource connections, and financial management assistance.

As a program manager, Yolanda is adaptable and dependable, able to drive change and collaborate with internal and external stakeholders to achieve quantifiable results. Her interpersonal skills and professionalism provide her with the knack for developing rapport and building relationships while aspiring to help people in a variety of settings – providing empowerment and engagement!

Originally from Maryland, she is delighted to join the team of Blue Star Families as the Chapter Director – Baltimore.

Suzy Malloy

Suzy Malloy
Tampa Chapter Director

Suzy Malloy

Tampa Chapter Director
Navy

Suzy Malloy

Tampa Chapter Director, Navy

Suzy Malloy joined Blue Star Families is 2021 as the Tampa Chapter Director. Suzy has moved twelve times with her Active Duty husband. Suzy has a passion for volunteering and at every new duty station has made life long connections through volunteering. Suzy graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematic from Monmouth University. She has a love of math and really enjoys tutoring.

Besides being an Active Duty Spouse, Suzy is also an Active Duty Mother and Mother-In-Law. She is a proud mother of three amazing Navy Brats.

Karissa Poe photo

Karissa Poe
Tennessee Chapter Director

Karissa Poe photo

Tennessee Chapter Director

Karissa Poe

Tennessee Chapter Director

Karissa joined Blue Star Families in 2019 as the Tennessee Chapter Director. She has 15 years of experience as a Military Spouse and has volunteered and worked for many organizations that service Military Service members and their Families throughout the years. Karissa has a keen interest and desire to serve Soldiers and their Family Members.

Karissa’s life experiences have led her to pursue many diverse educational opportunities. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science from Bethune-Cookman University in 2003; went on to pursue a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration in 2008 and a Master of Business Administration from University of Maryland University College in 2010. Karissa is a lifelong learner who enjoys research and planning.

Prior to joining Blue Star Families, she has held positions such as Installation Special Events Coordinator and Recreation Delivery Program Manager where she had the opportunity to plan and deliver events based on the needs of the community she lived and served in. Karissa also held the position of Community Services Coordinator for a Privatized Military Housing provider where her role consisted of planning and organizing community events through partnering with stakeholders and sponsors. She has also worked in the Financial and Insurance industry where she served as a solutions specialist for military service members and their families. Karissa has over 15 years of event and program management experience. She has planned, organized, and executed events that formed partnerships that benefitted service members, their families, and the civilian community at large.

Karissa volunteers, plan events, and enjoy spending time with her daughter in her spare time. She enjoys helping others and provides consultation on program planning for several organizations in her local community. Karissa’s favorite Blue Star Resource is Blue Star Books because she is an advocate for literacy as it is the gateway to learning and understanding.

Tai_Kimes

Tosombra "Tai" Kimes
Missouri Chapter Director

Tai Kimes headshot photo

Missouri Chapter Director
Army

Tosombra “Tai” Kimes

Missouri Chapter Director, Army

Tosombra “Tai” Kimes displays the true marks of a military brat flower, the dandelion. She blooms wherever she is planted. She earned her Children’s Etiquette Certification while stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, with her husband, SSG (ret.) Casey Kimes. There, she implemented etiquette classes for and volunteered with several non profit youth organizations and even developed a preschool program. Shortly after moving to Fort Leonard Wood, MO, in 2011, she began volunteering with the local schools, local non profits, and Blue Star Families.

Tai earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from American InterContinental University. As a servant leader within the community, she earned a Presidential Award. She continues to work with youth through dance programs and etiquette classes.

Tai is passionate about advocating for our youth and our military. Her favorite Blue Star Families programs are Books on Bases and Caregivers Empowering Caregivers. Tai’s father served over 30 years in the Army, she served 6 years, and her husband served 15 1⁄2 years, which included one tour to Iraq and two tours to Afghanistan. His last tour resulted in severe injuries that in turn led to an early retirement in 2015. Tai and her husband made Missouri their home with children, Xianne and Xzjuan.

Emily Harrison photo

Emily Harrison
Utah Chapter Director

Emily Harrison photo

Utah Chapter Director
Army Spouse (ret.)

Emily Harrison

Utah Chapter Director, Army Spouse (ret.)

While seeing the great need for relevant and reliable information and resources for military families as a volunteer in her husband’s unit Family Readiness Group (FRG); Emily turned her passion for family readiness into a career supporting military families for the last 17 years.

After volunteering for several years in FRGs, Army Family Action Plan, and Army Community Service, Emily went on to serve as a Family Readiness Liaison and then Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA) for the active duty Army at various levels of command from company all the way up to division level from 2005 to 2014. She then migrated careers to Healthcare Administration but did not find the work as rewarding as working with Soldiers and families. In 2017 she returned to family readiness as a FRSA once again for the Army Reserve. In her time as a FRSA, she was lucky to be able to serve over 10,000 Soldiers and over 20,000 family members. Her professional experience also includes work as a journalist, photojournalist, editor-in-chief, graphic and layout designer, and social media marketer. Emily has certifications in Digital Photography and Social Media Marketing.

Emily has been married for 17 years to her husband James, who is now retired from the Army after 22 years of service. They have settled down in the greater Salt Lake City area to be close to family for the first time in their marriage. They have three children, Connor, Delaney, and Declan. In her free time Emily likes to throw heavy things for fun and fitness, competing in Scottish Heavy Athletics, otherwise known as traditional Scottish Highland Games. Emily’s favorite Blue Star Families Program is Blue Star Parks because it allows families to get out and experience nature cost-free.

Wendy Layton photo

Wendy Layton
Jacksonville Chapter Director

Wendy Layton photo

Jacksonville Chapter Director
Air National Guard

Wendy Layton

Jacksonville Chapter Director, Air National Guard

Wendy Layton officially joined the Blue Star Family team in February of 2019. She resides in Jacksonville, FL which is host to numerous military installations with the largest being Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport and Navy Submarine Base Kings Bay.

Wendy’s extensive career assisting military families began as a military spouse and Ombudsman for the now infamous USS Stark. She then accepted a position as Center Director for the Mayport USO Center, where she provided support and services to over 15,000 military members and an estimated 32,000 family members. She developed and marketed 20 Quality of Life Programs, as well as, additional seasonal programs that resulted in the growth of a typical program from under 100 participants to over 2500 participants. Wendy was lauded by leadership in her role as the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Specialist serving the Florida Air National Guard across the state. Her passion to build and institute a highly effective, informative and efficient Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program within the Florida Air National Guard ensured her Airmen and their families were well prepared for upcoming deployments, and upon their return, helped them transition back in to civilian life. Wendy worked with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families to help launch the Onward to Opportunity program in Jacksonville. In her latest role she worked as a hybrid Outreach Specialist for CASY and the National Guard Employment Network.

Two years ago, she also had the opportunity to return to school to finish the degree she started over 20 years ago. She will both complete her undergraduate degree and begin her master’s coursework in March of 2019, Wendy has been awarded the Florida Commendation Medal from former Governor Rick Scott for her Yellow Ribbon role with the Army National Guard’s 53D Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Maggie Mesa photo

Maggie Meza
San Diego Chapter Director

Maggie Mesa photo

San Diego Chapter Director
Marine Spouse

Maggie Meza

San Diego Chapter Director, Marine Spouse

Maggie Meza is the Chapter Director-San Diego for Blue Star Families (BSF), an organization that supports and serves military families. Maggie has over twenty five years of experience volunteering, advising, holding numerous executive board member positions, and fundraising for numerous organizations that advocate for military families.

Prior to joining BSF, Maggie served for two years as President of the Military Spouse Association of Camp Pendleton which is the first spouse club in the Marine Corps that hosts all ranks, all military branches, and retired spouses. Maggie also has served as an Advisor for the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society Camp Pendleton and the Exceptional Family Member Program for Marine Corps Community Services.

Maggie is the proud wife of a Marine who has served for thirty years, as well as the mother of three accomplished children. Through her husband’s career, Maggie has been exposed to multiple deployments and many permanent change of stations. Due to these experiences, she understands what many other military families go through, which is why she was driven to join Blue Star Families.

Benjamin Gould

Benjamin Gould
Chicago Chapter Director

Benjamin Gould

Chicago Chapter Director

Benjamin Gould

Chicago Chapter Director

Ben has worked on political campaigns, for advocacy organizations, and in state and federal government offices. Ben completed constituent casework for military veterans in then Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s government office and worked on and helped pass Illinois’ sexual harassment protection bill for unpaid interns while running the office of a member of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Ben serves as Advocacy Director of the United Nations Association of Greater Chicago and is on the Israel Policy Forum’s Chicago Young Professionals Steering Committee. He earned his M.A. in International Affairs and Diplomacy from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and holds a B.A. in History and Secondary Education from Northeastern Illinois University.

Jeffrey Chin

Jeffrey Chin
Executive Director, New England Chapter

Jeffrey Chin

New England Chapter Executive Director
Navy

Jeffrey Chin

New England Chapter Executive Director, Navy

Jeffrey Chin, MSW, LCSW, is a senior executive and nonprofit administrator with over 27 years of leadership experience in nonprofit organizational management, social services, mentorship, higher education, social work, and community counseling. He has held numerous teaching, professional training, and certified instructor positions. Prior to joining the team at Blue Star Families, Mr. Chin served as the Chief Executive Officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass. & Metrowest for nearly nine years, and additionally served as Executive Director of Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, Inc. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the United Way of Central Massachusetts, the Board of Directors for Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, the Board of Corporators for the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, the Communications Committee for the United Way of Central Massachusetts, and on the Steering Committee for the United Service Executives group of Central Massachusetts.

Mr. Chin is a 1994 graduate of Wheaton College (Norton, MA) with a degree in psychology, as well as a Master’s in Clinical Social Work from the Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) at Boston College. Mr. Chin received his honorary doctorate (LLD) from his alma mater, Wheaton College, on May 18, 2019.

Mr. Chin is also an active Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Navy Reserve, with the current rank of Lieutenant Commander. He has served in multiple tours across the globe, including a nearly nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2018. During his 2018 tour at RSHQ, then Lieutenant Chin served with distinction as Media Operations Director under General John Nicholson and later, General Austin Scott Miller, both of whom served as Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Julie Riggs

Julie Riggs
National Capital Region Chapter Director

Julie Riggs

National Capital Region Chapter Director

Julie Riggs

National Capital Region Chapter Director

Julie Riggs is the DC Chapter Director for Blue Star Families. She brings to the position over 12 years of experience working with military, veterans, and families in the nonprofit sector. Julie has a long history of working for organizations that advocate for military-connected families including, the USO, the National Military Family Association, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and ServingTogether.

Julie has a proven track record of capacity building in communities through partnerships and collaborations. She is passionate about the work she does and is dedicated to identifying solutions that will impact the important issues facing our military and veterans. Julie serves on numerous boards and is dedicated to straightening our nation’s military-connected communities.

Julie has Navy in her blood. She is the daughter of a retired Naval Senior Chief Petty Officer and the wife of an active duty Naval Chief Petty Officer. Although she was born and raised in CA, Julie has fallen in love with the DC Area and plans to make it her home for the foreseeable future. Julie and her husband Kurt have amazing twelve-year-old twin girls and a curmudgeonly bulldog named Hank. Julie holds a BA in English from San Jose State University in California.

Geri Maples

Geri Maples
Dayton Chapter Director

Geri Maples

Dayton Chapter Director
Army Spouse

Geri Maples

Dayton Chapter Director, Army Spouse

Geri Maples is a Military Spouse & Caregiver to her husband Robert, who served in the United States Army & the Ohio National Guard for over 20 years. They have two children, Shane and Emily, and both are working on their Graduate Degrees! Since her spouse’s return home from Operation Iraqi Freedom, she has dedicated her career to assisting others in understanding the uniqueness associated with the military way of life both during and after service.

She served as Military and Veterans Family Program Director with Union Institute & University and helped develop the university’s inaugural Military & Veteran Program. In 2019, Geri defended her Doctoral Dissertation, which is dedicated to raising awareness to the educational needs of Military Spouses, Caregivers, and dependent children. Today, her dissertation is published as a book with Barnes & Noble!

Revenue

Cris Smith

Cris Smith
Director of Individual Giving

Cris Smith

Director of Individual Giving

Cris Smith

Director of Individual Giving

Cris Smith has a wide range of non-profit experience. His passion for supporting organizations through philanthropy began right after college when he served as an event coordinator and performing arts instructor for developmentally disabled adults. Those men and women taught him that generosity is the response of gratitude.

Cris continued to blend philanthropy and the arts in his roles as Executive Director of First Night Mobile and as Events Coordinator for the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce in Fairhope, Alabama.

Cris had the opportunity to focus more on fundraising when he joined the development team at his alma mater, the University of South Alabama. There he worked as a major gift officer and established channels of annual giving as the Associate Director of Annual Giving. For the last five years, Cris has worked to establish and direct the Office of Annual Giving at Spring Hill College.

When not working, Cris enjoys being involved in community theater, directing worship arts, hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail, and keeping up with his border collie, Rudy (aka: The Flying Rudinsky).

Penny Bolden

Penny Bolden
Senior Director of Cause Partnerships

Penny Bolden

Senior Director of Cause Partnerships
Marine Corps Spouse

Penny Bolden

Senior Director of Cause Partnerships, Marine Corps Spouse

Combining a career in business development, strategic marketing and entrepreneurship, Penny is currently Blue Star Families Senior Director of Cause Partnerships. An experienced and adaptive leader she brings an entrepreneurial flair to her role in soliciting support for military families from the private sector.

A graduate of the University of New South Wales, Australia, Penny managed strategic marketing efforts for Otis Elevator in Australia/New Zealand and later for their regional headquarters in Singapore. Her proven business acumen led her to a partnership with Sunchi Capital Corporation, an international consulting firm assisting US international expansion.

After marrying a US Marine she settled into a more “domestic” role stateside, as director of economic development for a non-profit organization, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. Later she accepted a business development director position with PRA International, a clinical research organization, where she closed more than $30 million in new business.

While stationed with her family in Madrid, Spain, Penny established a new business venture in leadership consulting and motivational speaking. She also founded and managed an international distribution business in the sporting goods industry.

An 18-year Marine Corps spouse, Penny seeks unique opportunities to contribute to her community. She has served on committees for the San Diego World Trade Center, the MIT Enterprise Forum, and the Marine Corps Key Volunteer program. She was a founding board member of non-profit GetGear.org, and is currently the Yearbook Committee Chair at Haycock Elementary School. As an officer’s spouse she has served alongside her husband in his command roles and is a member of the Marine Aviation Spouses Club, Washington DC.

Penny resides in McLean, VA with her husband, Col Ché Bolden (USMC) and their three daughters.

Elan Enriquez

Elan Enriquez
Associate Development Director for Chapters

Elan Enriquez

Associate Development Director for Chapters
Marine Spouse

Elan Enriquez

Associate Development Director for Chapters, Marine Spouse

Elan Enriquez is the Associate Development Director for Chapters at Blue Star Families, responsible for facilitating resource development to sustain chapter growth and program delivery. Elan has a strong history in fundraising and development for nonprofit organizations, especially those serving the military and military families.

Elan grew up as part of a military family in San Diego and is currently an active duty Marine spouse. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles, a certificate in Marketing from the University of California, San Diego Extension Program, and an Executive Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability from Thunderbird School of Business. She is also pursuing a PMP certification through the Institute for Veteran and Military Families (IVMF) through Syracuse University, which she was referred to through the Blue Star Families Spouseforce Program.

Elan is a strong advocate for Blue Star Families’ mission of strengthening America’s military families through communities and enjoys building relationships and making connections with like-minded supporters. She’s an active family readiness volunteer and enjoys referring military family members to the abundance of resources available to address challenges and lift morale.

Ross Cohen

Ross Cohen
Senior Director of Development

Ross Cohen

Senior Director of Development
Army

Ross Cohen

Senior Director of Development, Army

Ross Cohen is the Senior Director of Development with Blue Star Families. After college at Brown University, his first jobs were in journalism, working as an editorial assistant at The International Herald Tribune and as the English-language editor at the UB Post in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Following 9/11, he enlisted into the U.S. Army as an infantry paratrooper, serving one deployment in Afghanistan.

After graduating with a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, he worked on Presidential and Congressional campaigns. He then served in multiple positions empowering veterans and military families, including several years in executive director roles with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and JPMorgan Chase.

Ross lives in Seattle, WA, and has been designated a Point of Light by the Points of Light Institute.

Rachel Wissinger photo

Rachel Wissinger
Senior Manager of Development Operations

Rachel Wissinger photo

Senior Manager of Development Operations

Rachel Wissinger

Senior Manager of Development Operations

Rachel Wissinger currently serves as the Senior Manager of Development Operations at Blue Star Families. Prior to joining Blue Star Families, Rachel worked as a Development Manager in the non-profit sector for four years. She has driven fundraising in the Northeast to support families affected by food allergies (Food Allergy Research and Education) and families affected by arthritis (Arthritis Foundation).

Rachel holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from George Mason University. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.

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