Growing Hope Board of Directors
Christopher Michalak, President. Christopher Michalak is an owner of Capstone Tax & Financial, based in Saline. He received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University in Flint. After working for General Motors, he left the engineering world to join his father at Capstone. Since then, he has settled into the area and become involved in organizations that keep him very busy. He is now a full service financial advisor and Enrolled Agent with the IRS, and spends his free time competing in triathlons and running races. Christopher is excited about being involved with Growing Hope and helping to improve the conditions for families in Washtenaw County. While food is a passion for him, he realizes that his best efforts are better spent helping others fulfill their goals and dreams in the growing community and otherwise.
Michael Edison, Treasurer. Michael Edison is a business development associate with DTE Energy Resources, an Ann Arbor based subsidiary of DTE Energy. Michael received an undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of Michigan and then spent five years working as an environmental consultant in Chicago, IL and Columbus, OH. Michael returned to Ann Arbor in 2005 and entered the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, a dual master's degree program at the Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources and Environment. While focusing his studies on sustainable energy systems and finance, the Erb Institute afforded Michael the opportunity to be exposed to the full breadth of challenges and opportunities we face in establishing a sustainable global society, locally grown food supplies not being the least among them. Michael was immediately drawn to the mission, purpose and energy of Growing Hope and is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it (and hopes to materially improve his personal gardening skills along the way).
Peter Schermerhorn, Secretary. Pete has been past Co-President of People’s Food Co-op Board of Directors in Ann Arbor, where he served as Director for 4 years. He has also served as Volunteer Coordinator for Legacy Land Conservancy, and has been involved in progressive politics for more than a decade. An avid gardener and home food-raiser, he wants to see more and more people taking food security into their own hands.
Joe Bellanca, Director. Currently employed with CBS Broadcasting as a Senior Account Manager for WWJ Newsradio 950. Previous work experience - Vice President of Purchasing for Frank’s Nursery & Crafts, a 250 store garden center located in 5 states. Joe was responsible for procurement of all live goods for the company, which included all indoor and outdoor plants, trees and shrubs, as well as tropical plants, holidays plants etc. After Frank’s, Joe was a National Sales Manager for a wholesale plant distributor and trained employeesfrom several supermarket chains around the country in plant identification. He later moved to themedia segment of sales as a General Sales Manager for Comcast for several years. He later moved to his current company, where he has been employed for the past 14 years in several managerial positions. His current position is as a Senior Account Manager for the #1 radio station in the Metro Detroit Market.Joe’s hopes to use his past retail experience to help guide Growing Hope as is expands its current retail operation into a larger and more profitable entity for the organization.
Jan BenDor, Director. Jan joined the GH Board in December, 2011. She has been an environmental activist and local food/agricultural preservationist since 1978, when as a Township Trustee, she published the Superior Township Agricultural Lands Committee Preservation Plan. Currently a Michigan-accredited election administrator and election worker trainer, with experience as a Deputy Township Clerk, she volunteers as the State Coordinator of the Michigan Election Reform Alliance.org, which she co-founded in 2005 in response to the debacle of the Ohio Presidential election. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization advocates for voter protection, audits of the vote count, and election security. Jan has a Certificate in Digital Video Production from Washtenaw Community College and is producer at QED Video, where she makes documentaries, educational programs, web PSAs and fundraising appeals. Jan holds a Master’s Social Worker License, and was a practitioner and university administrator for many years. While an adjunct instructor in the EMU School of Social Work, she has taught courses in Public Policy, Group Dynamics, Community Organizing, and Issues in Social Services for Women. Jan was elected to the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1991 for her achievements in preventing violence against women.
Amanda Maria Edmonds, Executive Director, Ex-officio, Non-voting. With a background in environmental justice, environmental education, and social activism, Amanda Edmonds wears many hats as as community organizer, educator, mentor, and leader. She is the founder and executive director of Growing Hope. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, she has lived in Michigan for 13 years, and is an active member of the Ypsilanti community. Amanda travels extensively to visit other garden organizations and to swing dance, and has a part-time creative endeavor of making and selling her photography, buttons, & jewelry called AMEPIX. She currently sits on the City of Ypsilanti Parks & Recreation Commission. She also served for six years on the board of directors of the American Community Gardening Association, was a founding leadership team member of Slow Food Huron Valley, and was formerly chair of the MSU-Extension Advisory Council in Washtenaw County.
Gary Fischer, Director. Gary recently finished an MS in Sustainable Systems from The University of Michigan and did his masters project in the City of Ypsilanti working with the Corner Brewery to reduce their environmental impact. While working on his degree he was employed in the research department of United Solar Ovonic to improve the efficiencies of their product and increase throughput. Many years ago he grew up on a farm in Canton Township and recently has been making efforts to bring some life back into it while incorporating sustainable practices. One of his great joys is to watch his children wander through their garden to get a little snack while playing and see them connect the dots about where real food comes from.
Caitlin Klein, Director. Having spent eight years as an ICU nurse at the University of Michigan Hospital, Caitlin saw clearly the impact that poor nutrition and lack of access to healthy food had on her patients. She earned bachelors degrees from the University of Michigan in Women's Studies and Nursing. Currently, Caitlin cares for her three young children and particularly enjoys helping them cultivate healthy eating haits and an appreciation for food. As an active member of Allen Creek Preschool's Parent Council and the Ann Arbor Social Captial Fund, Caitlin has been sharpening her fundraising skills and is looking forward to contribuing meaningfully to Growing Hope's mission.
Calisa Reid, Director. Was born and raised on a farm in Washtenaw County; as a child her family farmed the land where they lived. When she went away to school to study at Cambridge Business School for Computerized Bookkeeping; what she liked most about her schooling was what she learned in her Public Relations class. At that point in her life she had lost her husband due to a diabetic coma and had to raise their three sons on her own. While things looked bad for her, she did not give up, and had to stop her schooling and started working to take care of her family. She started working for The American Red Cross of MI. Home on the farm where she lived was away in her heart, so she moved back home to the farm where she grow up. Calisa never forgot the importance of good healthy foods she learned as a young child. One of her great joys was watch her children learn what she had learned from her father about gardening and healthy foods. She would farm the land, but in 1991 a vary bad auto accident caused another setback for her and she was no longer able to work or farm the land. Calisa pulled herself back together with some hard work and began volunteering. She longed for good healthy foods because she was not able to find good, tasty, healthy, and affordable foods in the grocery stores. She would crawl on the ground to grow food because she wanted the good taste of healthy food that she could grow herself. As a volunteer Gateway Community Health Advocate (CHA), helping people gain access to healthy foods, health education, and health plan enrollments, she learned about Growing Hope's Raised Bed Gardening Program. That was a dream come true for her, and now she is able to grow her own good, tasty, and healthy foods once again. At that point, she knew that she wanted to be a part of the Growing Hope family, so she became a board membe
Phillisha Smith, Director. Phillisha works as a Reporter at the Community Television Network of Ann Arbor and recently graduated with an Associate in Communications from Washtenaw Community college. Phillisha is currently working to finish her Bachelor’s degree in Electronic Media and Political Science from Eastern Michigan University and will go on to Graduate school. Phillisha serves as a volunteer and board member of the Martin Charitable Foundation, a non-profit (based in the Martin Family reunion) to provide all underprivileged, African American youth with scholarship opportunities. Phillisha was born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in Ypsilanti where she currently lives. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, cooking, collecting music and art and most of all being involved in her community.