2023 Steering Committee

Conference Co-Chairs

A lifelong advocate, with 14 years of experience in grant writing and strategic communication, Tiffany helps organizations find their voice, create their message, and take their story to new heights. Tiffany works for Region 9 Economic Development District of SW Colorado as their Community Grant Writer and is also the owner of her own grant writing business Mountaintop Messaging. She has assisted organizations in raising over $6 million from private foundations to local, state, and federal agencies. Tiffany serves on the board of the Colorado Healthcare Coalition. In her free time she enjoys spending time in nature with her husband and her dog.

Beth joined SJDA in March of 2021 with goal of supporting different community programs and increasing support to small businesses. Raised in upstate New York, Beth went to Villanova University and obtained a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Since joining the workforce, she has had roles in project management, supply chain, operations management and HR. A resident of Durango, CO for 5 years, her and her husband moved to Silverton in 2020 where they are excited about being part of the community.

Advisory Committee

Nellie Stagg is the Senior Program Director at Community Resource Center, working with hundreds of rural nonprofit leaders across the state to strengthen their organizations and communities. Nellie has a background in rural programmatic management, nonprofit capacity building, and data informed decision making. A proud AmeriCorps NCCC alumni, Nellie understands the value of national service and the impact it can have on individuals, organizations, and communities. As a former Program Officer with Serve Colorado – the Governor’s Commission on Community Service, Nellie brings the unique perspective of having been a grant maker overseeing a portfolio of rural and developing programs across the state. When not driving across Colorado, she can be found at the library, in a makerspace, or in the garden.

Natalie joined Community Resource Center as the Rural Action Network™ Program Coordinator after finishing a year of service as the Regional Engagement Associate VISTA with CRC. Natalie is originally from Ohio where she graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in Economic, Education, Development, and Sustainability with a focus on international and community development. She is excited to bring her experience with community development and rural communities to the CRC team. When not at work, Natalie can be found cooking, roller blading, or going to concerts.

Program Subcommittee

A passionate and progressive educator with over fifteen years of curriculum and program design experience, Ashley seeks to help youth develop a strong sense of self worth and belonging through mentorship, outdoor adventure, connection to wild places, and authentic leadership opportunities.

Ashley received her B.A. in English and Education from Dartmouth College, after which point she worked for the International Rescue Committee, coached soccer and alpine ski racing, and started a project-based learning school-within-a-school in Basalt, Colorado. After earning her Master’s in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at Stanford University in 2011, Ashley moved to Durango to teach at Animas High School. She has since developed a deep sense of place and community rooted in the jagged ridgelines and steep scree fields of the San Juan Mountains, the silt-laden waters of the San Juan River, the yawning labyrinth of canyons of the Colorado Plateau, the intrepid urban deer, skittish alpine coyotes, and big-hearted Durangotang bipeds. Ashley’s work as an educator, community leader and mentor has been enriched by her connection to the human and natural worlds in and around the San Juan Mountains. She aims to share her respect for these communities with her students, while also helping them to develop a sense of place and belonging that encourages environmental stewardship and community resilience.

Bruce LeClaire is a enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Bruce moved to Durango in 1982. He and his wife, Mary raised 4 children in Durango. He is the Chief Executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

Chris S. Lopez joined the Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) as their Community Relationship Manager for the Southwest region in November 2020. His professional background includes community and economic development, affordable housing, land use planning and entitlement work, and natural resources management. Born and raised in Santa Fe, NM, Chris earned a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico. His professional career started out with Siete del Norte Community Development Corporation (Siete), administering one of first AmeriCorps programs based throughout the rural villages and pueblos of northern New Mexico. This work evolved into managing a housing rehabilitation program and assisting in the development of three successful LIHTC projects in Taos, Las Vegas and Farmington, NM. After Siete, Chris worked for the Regional Development Corporation developing and implementing a variety of economic development initiatives and programs supporting small businesses throughout the State of New Mexico. After moving to Durango, Colorado with his family, he worked for La Plata County as a land use and natural resources planner, helped develop and implement a new VISTA program initiative throughout the United States with the Southwest Conservation Corps, and worked in the private sector as a Landman, regulatory specialist and project manager for three different oil and gas exploration and production companies. Chris brings an extensive background in program development and project management in a variety of sectors, the ability to identify and create community and business partnerships, and an understanding of the diversity of cultures and challenges that rural communities face.

Christine is the founder and owner of Roam Life LLC. After 15 years in corporate leadership and advocating for radical care in the workplace, she knew that her passion for building communities and space for people to thrive was needed across diverse platforms. Christine’s coaching and workshops focus on how to build care into the workplace without burning employees out, optimizing collaboration and team strategies for success, and building systems and processes into a businesses. Christine has a Master’s in transformational leadership/change management and is a strengths-based transformational coach. Christine is a professional presenter and public speaker at national conferences and enjoys facilitating workshops and professional development trainings for organizations. She is currently working on her PhD in Organizational Leadership, specializing in “the human factor” – the connection between personal/interpersonal needs and joy at work.

Cynthia Aspen is a self-employed Finance Manager and works exclusively with local nonprofit organizations, including Adaptive Sports Association, Compañeros: Four Corners Immigrant Resource Center, La Plata Youth Services, and Sexual Assault Services Organization. They are passionate about working for nonprofits and sharing their expertise in service of their missions to improve our community and world.

Gabi Morey is the Director of the Montezuma Inspire Coalition, a group of organizations in Montezuma County that all work to reduce barriers to getting youth outside. She has been in the field of conservation education for over 20 years, working all over the country for both non-profits and government organizations. Prior to becoming the MIC Director, she was the Director of the Montana Audubon Center in Billings, MT, and she was the Education Outreach Director for San Juan Mountains Association for 13 years. She enjoys hiking, skiing, rafting, mountain biking, and being outside as much as possible with her family.

Heidi Steltzer is a mountain scientist, speaker, writer, and professor. She is a lead author on High Mountains for an IPCC Report in 2019 and is working on her first book, stories of mountain science and discovery about the wild, beautiful and love of cold in her and of our world. She is the founder of the Heidi Mountains Cooperative and proprietor of the Haven, a Colorado leadership center and field station in Cortez, a local science center for planetary action.

Jeff Susor has served as Executive Director of The Powerhouse since January 2020, following two terms as a member of the Board of Directors. Prior to his staff role at The Powerhouse, Jeff was a consultant assisting nonprofits with fundraising planning and support, capacity building, and capital campaign management.

Jessica joined the Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative as the founding Executive Director in June of 2021. With a background in career and college preparation and a focus on equitable education, Jessica brings over twenty years of educational experience to the designing and building of this new collaboration. Prior to this role, Jessica has been an AmeriCorps NCCC volunteer, taught philosophy in Honduras, led prevention programs for youth with Full Circle of Lake County, was an Academic Advisor for TRiO Talent Search, and held the Director of Career and College Counseling role at Animas High School. She is excited to draw on her experience, relationships, and community involvement to bring career and college opportunities to all students who live in the Southwest region of Colorado.

Jessica graduated from Bloomsburg University in 2004 with a B.S. in Secondary Education, and in 2015 from Fort Lewis College with an M.A. in Education, Teacher Leadership. She is an alumna of Semester at Sea, Class of 2003, and is a Leadership La Plata graduate with the Class of 2019.

When Jessica is not working to help build a strong community focused on career and college education, she can be found traveling to new places, skiing, backpacking, canning, gardening, and hiking with her husband, Casey, and their dog Olive.

With an International MBA, process improvement, strategic planning and healthcare admin as a backdrop to working alongside marginalized communities creating conditions that offset trauma and nurture resilience …. Katie does what many refer to as program management.

More importantly…

Katie firmly believes that every individual has what it takes to thrive; and that systems (government, healthcare, education, transportation, housing, food, etc) – with reflection and related adaptation – can make it dramatically easier for more people (and the planet!) to thrive.

Katie thrives when working across contexts and power structures to understand, surface, and amplify opportunities for deep – sometimes painful and uncomfortable – systems reflection. Working between corporate requirements, political realities and human potential… well, this is where it gets fun.

Katie currently works with Mancos United to ensure a socially and emotionally healthy, safe, and united Mancos community.

Katy Pepinsky (she/her/ella), Director of GrantCorps, works to build the capacity of Colorado nonprofits to access and manage public and private grant funds. Katy started with CRC in June 2022. Prior to her current position, Katy worked as the Executive Director of a youth services organization in La Plata County. For over twenty years, she has worked with a diverse array of non-profit and service organizations to help build more resilient communities including La Plata Youth Services, Cooking Matters Colorado, Growing Partners of SW Colorado, Mercy Hospital, Peace Corps, and Colorado State University Extension. A native of Bloomington, Indiana, Katy holds a master’s degree in Extension Education from Colorado State University and a Professional Non-Profit Management Certificate, from Fort Lewis College. Katy lives in Durango and enjoys reading, gardening, practicing yoga, and exploring the rural rivers and trails of the Southwest with her two kids, husband, and dog. Ella habla español.

Kelsey Schumacher, has been working with non-profits in Durango since I was a student at Fort Lewis College in 2012. They are  currently the Site Service Coordinator for Housing Solutions new permanent supportive housing building Espero Apartments, and prior to that they were the Senior Manager of the Volunteers of America Durango Community Shelter and Veteran Transitional Housing Program. Kelsey is passionate about addressing the disparities and inequities in our community. Their hope is that through innovative and creative solutions we can build a stronger community committed to ensuring the health and well-being of the land we inhabit and the people living in the Four Corners region.

Leah Ballard has been the Homeowner Services Coordinator at Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County since the spring of 2022. After working her way through homebuyer education firsthand, Leah decided to pursue a career demystifying credit history and personal finance for the average Joe. Luckily a winding path led her to join the team at Habitat Archuleta. Now her days are filled not only with the puzzle of mortgage loan packaging, but also the dynamic tasks of heralding volunteer construction workers, huge-hearted subcontractors, and the most vibrant board members and beneficiaries a gal could ask for.

Lisa Branner is Vice President of Marketing and Development for Community Connections, a regional non-profit serving children and adults with disabilities in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan Counties. She holds an M.A. in English Literature, is co-founder of Silverton-based craft manufacturer Venture Snowboards, and has a wealth of experience in marketing, communications, and fundraising in the public, private and non-profit spheres. Branner has dedicated most of her career to serving the community through non-profit organizations including Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Durango Nature Studies, and Mountain Studies Institute. She is currently Vice Chair of the Silverton Creative District and coordinates their Silverton Summer Sounds Music Series. Branner is also passionate about outdoor recreation and economic development. She spearheaded the Silverton Area Trails Plan, volunteers with Silverton Singletrack Society, is an advisor to the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry and is part of the leadership team of the Southwest Colorado Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Alliance.

Matthew Romanyk (he/him/his), AmeriCorps Grant Writing Specialist VISTA, is helping build capacity, facilitate connections, and provide support for rural non-profits across underserved Colorado communities through grant development and organizational maintenance. Matthew started his service with AmeriCorps and CRC in October 2022. A central New York native, Matthew found his home in southwest Colorado last year, and brought with him a love for expansive nature, music and solitude. In his free time, Matthew can be found participating in local open mics, reading, writing, hiking with his boxer-mix Martha, and thinking about what fundamental improvements could be made to the world around us. Matthew plans on using his research and education background to foster understanding and equity throughout Colorado.

As a lifetime Colorado resident, Natalie Howard enjoys the outdoors, learning, and exploring her world for knowledge. She graduated from Ignacio High School in 1999, attended Fort Lewis College earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and continued her studies in a distance education program at CU Greeley earning a Masters in Education in Administration and Educational Leadership.

Natalie, her husband and their children have a great appreciation for nature, embarking on family adventures, and learning new things each day.

Natalie has worked with school choice families since 2005. Her outgoing and bubbly personality create a social environment for students that exemplifies group interaction and allows for ample opportunities for students to engage in educational experiences.

Natalie quotes, “I love learning and I love inspiring others to learn. Each person is unique and is skilled in numerous qualities, the key is celebrating each persin’s special gifts and exploring education with that at the forefront. Let your heart lead your education”

Natalie’s motto to teaching is organized chaos standing on the box!!!!

Neil Umali is an Air Force vet and calls Pagosa Springs, Colorado his home. He has the privilege of serving his community through Salvation Army. In his free time, he enjoys hiking in Southwest Colorado.

Nicci prides herself on being a connector of people and ideas—a trait that’s central to her work as the LOR Foundation’s community officer in Cortez, Colorado. Nicci’s understanding of community and nonprofit expertise come from her many years of diverse involvements in Cortez. She’s immersed herself in community work ever since finding her permanent home in Cortez in 2006—most recently as the deputy director for Onward! A Legacy Foundation but also in her work with the Four Corners Child Advocacy Center, Tri-City Soccer, Montezuma-Cortez High School advisory committee, and her church council. When she’s not working, Nicci can be found with her husband, Chris, watching their two children, Gabriel and Amita, compete in the sports and activities they love.

Rose Jergens is the Executive Director of Four Corners Child Advocacy Center. She has been the director for 14 years. Her PhD work was in Organizational Communication (2007), from University of Missouri-Columbia; dissertation: Toward an ideal model of collaboration for Child Advocacy Multi-Disciplinary Teams. She is a certified facilitator for Nurturing Healthy Sexual Development, and has spent a considerable amount of time studying Body Safety Education. She holds a certificate in Gallup Strengths Coaching. Past experiences include: consulting with the Missouri Network of Child Advocacy Centers; researched and designed training models for multi-disciplinary teams throughout Missouri, 6 years as Adjunct Faculty for the Department of Communication at Truman State University, and University of Missouri and Pittsburg State University as a graduate instructor and 7 years with the Juvenile Court in Jasper County Missouri as a Juvenile Officer with the specific responsibility as the Juvenile Court Program Director.

Tara Kiene started at Community Connections in 2001, shortly after moving to Durango to live in her great-grandmother’s home. She served in the case management department and as the Director of Case Management before becoming the President/CEO in 2016. In the meantime, she got evicted from her home (or her parents retired into the ancestral home, depending on your perspective), joined a belly dance troupe, learned to play the ukulele (sort of) and became a leadership training addict. She has a background in early childhood education and a Master of Theological Studies because…why not? Her goals in life are to publish a truly awful novel that no one reads during her lifetime but becomes a posthumous cult classic and to create a world where people with disabilities fully belong, contribute, and thrive.

Tara serves in multiple leadership roles with Alliance Colorado, a professional organization for intellectual disability service providers. She’s been involved with the Leadership La Plata program since 2007 and is currently serving on the Diversity Committee for LLP. She also serves on the board of directors for the Early Childhood Council of La Plata County and recently joined the board of United Way of Southwest Colorado.

Teresa DiTore (she/her) is the Youth Programs Manager at the Southwest Conservation Corps, which provides paid conservation opportunities to high school students from the Southwest Region. She focuses on program and project development, grant writing and implementation, and works with an awesome team of staff and leaders that have big impacts on local youth. Coming from New Jersey, she is constantly in awe of the Southwest Region of Colorado and feels grateful to call Durango home.

Tirzah Camacho is a community organizer for justice initiatives and systemic change. They have worked in the philanthropic, non-profit, and civic sectors, as well as created grass-roots organizations with a hyper focus on racial justice in the Southwest for over 22 years. They’re also a parent, a visual artist, a dancer, and a justice coach.

Tracy Pope is the Deputy Director of the Community Foundation serving SW Colorado, spearheading efforts in programmatic grant management, nonprofit support, and marketing. Tracy has lived in Durango for more than 25 years and has been actively involved in many nonprofits in our area. She holds bachelor’s degrees in journalism and economics, with a background in communications and management. Tracy enjoys the opportunity to serve the nonprofit sector of Southwest Colorado in this role, expanding the culture of giving to meet the needs of our community.
She and her husband, Matt, have raised three children in Durango and are grateful for the many blessings Southwest Colorado has offered their family.

Vanessa is currently the Executive Program Director with Onward! A Legacy Foundation, prior to that she was the Administrative Assistant for the Montezuma County/CSU Extension office & previously spent 20 years in management positions at City Market. Vanessa has served as the Administration Director for the K-9 Search & Rescue Team since 2013. She is working on her Bachelor of Science in Business Management with an HR Emphasis at Northern Arizona University and is looking forward to graduating in 2023. Vanessa is the proud mother of one child who is currently attending Fort Lewis College.

Vangi McCoy serves as the Coordinator for the Montelores Early Childhood Council, serving Montezuma and Cortez.counties. She also serves on the board of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, the School Community Youth Collaborative and is a member of the Alumni Leadership Council for the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Network.In her spare time, Vangi enjoys being outdoors, cooking, and assorted creative endeavors while spending time with her husband and granddaughter.

Vaugh has 20+ years of non-profit management/development experience in 3 states and he has served in multiple volunteer roles in both the public & private sector.

Pronouns: he/him/his, they/them/theirs

Xander is transmasculine, queer, and Dine’/Navajo. Xander graduated in the Winter of 2020 from Fort Lewis College with Bachelor’s degrees in Sociolgy and Gender and Sexuality Studies. Xander’s passions lie in social change, anti-oppression work, advocacy, and education. Xander started as a college intern in 2019 at the Rainbow Youth Center, stayed on as a volunteer, was on the Board of Directors, and is now full-time staff as of 2022. He is a long term facilitator for the Tea Time programming at RYC, Co-facilitator of the Youth of Culture programming, and does all other programming. He also has a cat named Bubbles and enjoys watching anime on time off.

Hospitality  Subcommittee

Kristi Smith has been an Event Coordinator for non-profit organizations since 2010. She moved to Colorado from Nebraska, where she served as the Conference Planner for the National Collegiate Honors Council at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She started her work with CRC in 2013 as an Event Coordinator for its 2014 Soutwest Rural Philanthropy Days conference in Pagosa Springs, came back for the 2015-2016 Colorado Health Foundation’s Statewide Listening Tour, and most recently for its 2018 Southwest Rural Philanthropy Days in Cortez. Kristi lives in Pagosa Springs with her husband. She always tries to find time to support new restaurants, meander through museums, read recommended books, and play with her three spirited grandchildren.

Cheryl is an active board member with La Plata County Historical Society and volunteers regularly at the Animas Museum.

Cindi Galabota, the Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library Foundation’s first Executive Director, has been with the Library Foundation since 2018. She considers herself a humanitarian and environmentalist who is
passionate about improving life on earth for all living things, one step at a time. Ms. Galabota also embraces the belief that anything is possible with a little creativity, dedication and elbow grease. She has spent most of her career in non-profits, working with people of all ages and backgrounds. Prior to her employment with the Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library Foundation, Ms. Galabota was the first executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County. She also spent a short time as the executive director of the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and as a commercial lender with First Southwest Bank. Before settling in the Southwest, she worked at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in
the education department and at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. Through her professional experiences, Ms. Galabota has gained insight into the best practices of fundraising, community relations,
volunteer coordination, and general administrative management in nonprofits. When Ms. Galabota is not working she is with her husband, Scott; her children Donovan and Corinna; and her dog, Hadley. She enjoys hiking, playing Frisbee, and beading.

Jenn Bartlett is the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado, recently starting her role in April 2022. She comes most recently from Conservation Legacy as the Director Human Resources & Staff Development. Jenn has also served on the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters in past years (two terms) and is most importantly a Big Sister herself to a 16yr old little, since she was 9. She has worked within the local Boys & Girls Clubs, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and has sat on various other boards and committees in the community supporting youth, since grounding herself in Durango in 2004. Finding a passion for her own and others’ leadership development, she volunteers her time with the local Chamber of Commerce Leadership La Plata program. She received the Barbara Conrad Leadership Award through the Chamber in 2018 for her continued commitment to the community’s leadership development efforts. Additionally, she works alongside the Horse Empower’s equine-assisted therapeutic programs and continues to play a role in Purgatory Ski Resort’s marketing. While stepping away from community non-profit and leadership work, she enjoys snowboarding in the winter and camping, biking, paddling and trail running in the summers; as well as international travelling and self-care in the gym-time as much as possible. Coming from the shores of San Diego, she’s found home in the southern Rocky Mountains.

Jenna Gannon has been a non-profit Executive Director for the last two years. Prior to that she was a teacher/leader for 11 years. Her core values center on creating community and creating belonging. Her focus is on bringing support to our local community through youth development programming as well as family services programming. Jenna moved to Pagosa Springs in 2017 with her family. She is very active in the education system and creating opportunities for youth outside of school.

Masters of Art
Montessori Certification
Colorado Director Qualification
Children Defense Funds Fellow
Approximately 40 years experience in the Early Childhood field

A graduate of DePaul University Chicago, Kathrene has been part of Durango’s non-profit community for 20+ years. Working with individuals and business leaders “with a heart for kids,” Kathrene sees development as the opportunity to assist people in dong what is “imprinted on their hearts…making a difference in the lives of others.” In addition to hiking and water fun, Kathrene’s newest hobby is knitting, creating warm and cozy items using hand-dyed wool fibers.

Lana has worked for the last 5 years in a program that helps the elderly, blind and disabled connect with services in our area. Her family has lived in rural Colorado for the last 12 years.

Participating in an Outward Bound course in the summer after her first year at Brown University convinced Libby that her future path would be in the field of education, finding ways to strengthen teaching and learning through relevant, experiential activities that bring curriculum to life. She graduated from Brown in 1990 with a degree in English and American Literature and her 7-12th grade teaching license, and completed her Ed.M. at Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1994, where she interned with the Harvard Outward Bound Project and co-founded the Service-Learning and Experiential Educators’ Collaboration (SEEC).

Libby has been at AHS since 2012, when she was the LINK Internship Coordinator. She stepped into the Assistant Head of School position in 2013 and became Dean of Enrollment and Community Outreach in 2022.

Before moving to Durango in 2005, Libby spent 9 years at the Athenian School, a progressive independent school for grades 6-12 in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she taught literature classes, coordinated the service-learning program, traveled with students to India, Mexico and Canada, and served as the Dean of Faculty at the Upper School. Libby has also developed and delivered hands-on curriculum through her work with Educators for Social Responsibility, the Close Up Foundation and Longacre Expeditions. As the Community Relations Manager for Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Libby worked with local authors, coordinated events, honed her marketing and PR skills, and relished being surrounded by books and the people who love them. Libby’s sons Finn and Charlie both have attended Animas High School.

Joseph Kuzma is responsible for the planning, development, and implementation of the Community Foundation’s marketing strategies and public relations activities, both external and internal. In addition to planning the Foundation’s events, which include Durango Wine Experience, Making a Difference Speaker Series, concert series, nonprofit professional development, and more. He reports to the Deputy Director and other staff in charting the direction of the Foundation’s marketing/communications/public relations function and ensuring its effective operation. He is currently on the boards for Annie’s Orphans in Durango and Vice President for the Durango Young Professionals (YPOD’s) under the Durango Chamber.