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Staff

Cecilia Chesney

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Cecilia Chesney

Executive Director

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A 20+ year resident of Traverse City, Cecilia joined BBBS in late August 2010. Cecilia’s background includes ten years of experience in Communications and Public Relations with the Traverse City Area Public Schools, and most recently in the private sector in Sales and Marketing. “Cecilia’s excellent leadership, strong interpersonal and communication skills, coupled with her past experience makes her a great fit for our organization”, said Tony Anderson, Board President. “I am confident that she will make major contributions to our organization with her ability to build solid, collaborative relationships and respond to changing business and social environments. We’re excited to have her on board”, he said.Since joining the agency, Cecilia has been working with the board and staff in implementing our fund development and marketing plan which was developed in May of 2010. “Greater community awareness of our mission and the work our staff and volunteers do is critical to the success of our program. In order to re-energize our mission, we must work through our fund development and marketing efforts and create the awareness that is necessary for people to see that there is a huge need for mentors and financial support for our programs.” “I am truly honored to be a part of this organization. As the leading agency in our community providing vital one-on-one youth mentoring services, BIGS is uniquely positioned to not only continue providing these services, but to analyze how collaboration with like-minded organizations might benefit our youth and energize our existing program,” said Chesney.

Gary Swaney

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Gary Swaney

Program Director

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Gary joined the staff of Big Brothers Big Sisters in 1995; first as a case manager where he helped develop some of our school-based programs in the region, as well as worked with many volunteers and families in our community-based programs, and then in 2000 he became the Program Director until 2006 when he stepped down to return to school.In 2007, Gary returned to the role of Program Director where he continues to oversee program policies and procedures, trains staff, assists with program audits and reviews, writes grants. “Over the years I have found this job to be very rewarding,” says Swaney. “My work encompasses many facets of our operations, and while I no longer do direct case management work, I have a great amount of respect for our program staff and for our volunteers who are directly impacting the lives of so many children.”

Christie Ward-Strahan

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Christie Ward-Strahan

Case Manager

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Christie joined the program staff as case manager in 2006. She oversees volunteer recruitment, screening, child enrollment, matching mentors with children, and match support for mentors and families in Grand Traverse, Emmet, and Charlevoix counties.“We have a wonderful mix of mentors and families that are doing great things in the area and I want to be able to give them the support they need to flourish.” Christie says that “having been a Big Sister for 6 years prior to finishing my degree and being hired by the agency as a case manager I know what it takes to be a mentor and I what kind of support they need. I keep this in mind each and every day as I do my work.

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Sara-Jo Vidor

Case Manager

Sara-Jo Vidor

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Sara-Jo joined the agency as an employee in June 2014; however, she has been a Big Sister since 2004. She oversees volunteer recruitment, school-based matches in Grand Traverse County, and match support. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and a major in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. Sara-Jo’s career focus has been on building and strengthening families through positive mentoring relationships, education, and resources. She sits on the Board as a Parent Representative for the Great Start Collaborative, and is an active member of the Great Start Initiative for Grand Traverse County. Sara-Jo is an outdoors enthusiast who enjoys Michigan in all of its seasons. Sara-Jo says, “I’m very grateful to be in a position where I can draw upon my passion and experience to support and strengthen families, and also our amazing mentors.”

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Kris Hoxie

Office Manager

Kris Hoxie

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Kris, a native to Northern Michigan, has been a staff member at heart since she began working with Bigs in 2011 assisting in event design and planning. Kris officially became a full time staff member in February 2014. She comes from a background in Sales & Marketing Coordination and as an owner of a local boutique event design and décor business.Kris was drawn to the program from the first moment she met Executive Director, Cecilia Chesney, heard the mission and the stories of the children who have been positively impacted by the program. It has been a lifelong dream of Kris’s to work for a nonprofit and utilize her skills to help grow the vision. She is also a Big Sister in the program and is so blessed to be able to see the difference the program makes from all angles.She says, “I feel so fortunate to work in an environment alongside compassionate and dedicated individuals. Every day we work together to change the lives of children – it the most rewarding, fulfilling and inspirational journey.”

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Denise Rusinowski

Program Administrator

Denise Rusinowski

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Denise moved to Traverse City from the Metro Detroit area after getting married to Phil in 1991. She has been a stay-at-home mom for over 20 years, raising 4 boys on the west side of Traverse. She spends her days cooking, cleaning and volunteering. (Denise has a passion for cooking but not so much for the cleaning) She started volunteering at the Traverse City Co-operative Preschool and has volunteered at all levels of her kid’s schools and with a number of their sports teams. Denise mostly enjoys spending time with her family at their cottage in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her family is currently hosting an exchange student from Dalian, China. Denise joined our staff in the fall of 2014. She is beyond excited at the opportunity to learn, work and grow with our agency, and would one day like to be a Big Sister.

Steve Andrews

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Steve Andrews

Case Manager

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Steve joins us with previous experience working for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marquette and Alger counties, where he was a case manager as well as a Big Brother for two years. Steve earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Central Michigan University. Steve is overseeing volunteer recruitment and match support for our community and school based matches in Grand Traverse and Antrim Counties. "I have always had a passion for youth development. Helping ensure that at-risk kids in our community have access to the support structure they need to thrive and excel is why I come to work each day." When Steve isn’t at work he enjoys playing rugby for the local Men’s club team, the Blues and enjoying Michigan’s great outdoors with his wife and son.

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