Our Team

Growing Hope’s strength is in our team.

Whether it’s our volunteers, seasonal employees, interns, or our full-time staff, we depend on people. Learn more about the people making Growing Hope happen.

Board of Directors

Kerry Kafafian, Board President

Kerry is a third generation realtor in the Ypsilanti Area. She has almost 30 experience with real estate and now works with Keller Williams Realty. She is an experienced organic gardener who likes to share share her bounty with friends and neighborhoods. She is working to create a residential community for adults with special needs where gardening and farm work is available, Bunny Hill Community.

Jeffrey McKelvey, Treasurer

Jeffrey McKelvey comes from a family of bankers. He came to Bank of Ann Arbor from JPMorgan Chase, where he spent nine years in the small business and later commercial lending market in Detroit. He has participated as a leader in the redevelopment of the downtown Detroit market where he worked with fortune 500 CEOs and business / community leaders. He is Chair of the Executive Leadership Team for the March of Dimes, Vice Chair of the board for Services to Enhance Potential, board member of Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, and a member of the Detroit Athletic Club.

Jeffrey has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship and Management from Eastern Michigan University, a Graduate Certificate in Finance, also from Eastern Michigan University, and is currently completing a Master of Business Administration in Finance at Eastern Michigan University. He is a proud supporter of the university, the City of Ypsilanti, and its local community.

Jeffrey is also a professional trumpet player and has studied with George Benson, Joe Magnarelli of the Harry Connick Jr. Big Band, and Patrick Hession, lead player of the late Maynard Ferguson’s big band. He is an avid supporter of the arts, healthy living, and education around both.

Charles Waterhouse, Director

Charlie is a Partner and Senior Financial Advisor at Arbor Trust Wealth Advisors in Ann Arbor. He chairs the Firm’s Investment Committee and works with clients to help them achieve their retirement goals. He and his wife, Diane, have lived in Ann Arbor for more than twenty years. Prior to joining Growing Hope, Charlie served six years as a Director of the Neutral Zone, the last three as Board President.

The couple have a small summer garden at home, which augments their annual CSA share from a local farm. While Charlie can till the soil, make no mistake that Diane is the gardener in this family. Their two grown children both live in Ypsilanti.

Sarah Work, Secretary

Sarah is the Grants Coordinator at the Corner Health Center in Ypsilanti. She has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and is currently in the MBA program at Eastern Michigan University with a specialization in Nonprofit Management. Coming to Growing Hope through a board fellowship program with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance at EMU, Sarah continues to serve on the board because of her passion for supporting youth health and education in Ypsilanti and her desire to improve the strength of the nonprofit sector. In May 2018, Sarah was elected Secretary.

Aimee Jones, Director

Aimee has earned Master’s Degrees in Social Work and Public Administration from the University of Michigan.  She came to Growing Hope through UM’s Nonprofit and Public Management Center and her interest in nonprofit operations.  She has since developed a deep appreciation for the importance of healthy food access and healthy communities and has been a full, voting board member since May, 2013.  Aimee currently cares for her toddler and endeavors to raise him with healthy habits in a healthy community.

Lucy Binns, Director

Lucy is an HR Consultant with Amy Cell Talent, assisting businesses, organizations and individuals throughout SE Michigan with employment services. A former student of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Tulane University and proud Ypsilanti resident, she is eager to help with Growing Hope’s mission in the creation of sustainable, local food systems.

Bob Field, Director

Bio coming soon!

Caroline Sanders, Director

Bio coming soon!

Our Staff

Growing Hope depends on individuals to help make it a success. Whether it’s our volunteers or our full-time staff, we depend on people. Learn more about the people making Growing Hope happen on this page and find out how you can get involved yourself here.

Cynthia VanRenterghem, Executive Director

As Executive Director of Growing Hope, Cynthia has the opportunity to combine her love of gardening and growing things with her professional management, operations, and leadership abilities. She comes to Growing Hope after having launched and profitably scaled her own garden products company, through which she gained a tremendous amount of experience successfully managing financials, people, and operations. It’s a dream come true to be able to use her skills and experience leading a team of smart and passionate individuals that are working to empower people of all socio-economic backgrounds in the food system. Cynthia has had a passion for gardening since working as a child on her family’s acre-large vegetable garden in Flint, MI. While she still enjoys vegetable gardening, she is happiest tending her large perennial flower garden when not chasing after four kids and her wonderful husband of 25 years.

Erica Bloom, Assistant Director

As Program Director, Erica oversees grants and the strategic direction of Growing Hope’s youth, farm/garden, farmers markets and economic development programs. Prior to Growing Hope, Erica was the Policy Manager for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters where she managed the organization’s environmental legislative priority setting process and advocated for protection of Michigan’s air, land and water. While her roots are firmly in Michigan, Erica has ties to the American West where she received her M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. There she studied environmental health and environmental non-fiction writing and has been published in Camas: The Nature of the West and Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Erica is also a Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Network. She loves discovering new places to go hiking and camping in Michigan, but returns to the Sleeping Bear sand dunes as much as possible.

Bee Ayer, Program Director/ Farm & Garden Manager

Elizabeth Bee Ayer is an organic farmer, floral designer, teacher and consultant. Bee started her career in the food system at Growing Hope in 2006, and is delighted to be back! She specializes in small farm and garden-based education program planning and design. She has a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. Bee has started and managed various school/community gardens, urban and rural farms in New York and Michigan. In 2009 She founded The Youth Farm, a one-acre production and education farm in Crown Heights Brooklyn, as well as providing urban chicken keeping training through Fort Hen, as well as the city’s first egg CSA. As an educator she has developed curriculum and taught pre-school students through adults on topics ranging from worm composting dances to planning long-term farm budgets. In addition to her horticulture work, she owns Get Down Farm in Dexter MI. When not farming or teaching she rides her bike, shares meals with her friends and family, and travels the world visiting organic farms and intentional communities

Carolyn Gehrke, Finance Manager

Carolyn loves figuring out how things work and thinking about how they might work better. She is currently using her skills to help manage Growing Hope’s finances. She has previous experience with retail bookkeeping, inventory management, photography, layout design, and spent a few years teaching physics, design, and photography. She has a degree in Physics from Lawrence University and an MFA from University of Arizona. Carolyn has lived in Ypsilanti since 2001 with her husband and now has two children.

Dayna Popkey, Farmers Market &Nutrition Manager

Dayna grew up in Ypsilanti just a few blocks from the current location of the Ypsilanti Farmers MarketPlace. She spent many Saturdays of her childhood running around the farmers market at the Freighthouse. Through working at the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative, she became a market vendor and was involved in facilitating food assistance programs at the markets. Food access and nutrition became a passion, leading to a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Eastern Michigan University. Dayna is a Registered Dietitian and is completing a graduate degree in Human Nutrition at EMU.

Elisa Marroquin, MarketPlace Manager

Bio coming soon!

Jeff Martin, Youth and Schools Manager

Jeff comes to Growing Hope from the FoodCorps National Service Program where he managed several service members across Michigan who helped connect children to healthy food in schools. As the Youth and Schools Manager at Growing Hope, he oversees and manages the youth programs. He is a Michigan native, going to college at the University of Michigan – Flint where he received his B.S. in Environmental Science and Planning. There he studied alternative land uses for blighted land in urban settings. Jeff loves exploring the outdoors in Michigan and can always be found on his bike or on the trail to his next adventure.

Sarah Campbell Jones, Marketing Manager

As Marketing Manager, Sarah gets the word out to the community about Growing Hope’s events, programs, and projects! She comes to us with a unique background as an Environmental Studies and English major from Western Michigan University and as a local dance teacher and performer who is regularly involved in creative projects in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area. When she’s not working, she’s usually traveling for dance events and competitions around the country or spending time with her husband, Matt. She loves to ride her bike, hopes to find more time to garden, and enjoys learning more about the community she lives in!

Elizabeth Warren, Manager of Events & Engagement

Elizabeth has been an Ypsilanti resident since 2005 and is constantly looking for more ways to get involved in the community. Elizabeth’s dad owned and operated a restaurant while she was growing up, sparking her love of food. Her passion for food and helping people lead healthier lives through nutritious food is what lead her to Growing Hope. As a mother of three, Elizabeth is no stranger to organizing and coordinating. She has over 19 years of experience in the events industry and is so excited to be using her talents to benefit the community she has grown to love!

Alex Thomas, Farmers Market Outreach Coordinator

Alex grew up in Ypsilanti Township’s largest neighborhood, West Willow.  He studied Business Administration at Northeast Louisiana University and began an eclectic career in customer service, acting, purchasing and finance in 1992. While working in Financial Aid at the University of Michigan’s Medical School he took a course in Teaching English to Speaker’s of Other Languages, (TESOL).  Soon after receiving his teaching certificate in 2008, he taught English as Second Language in Shanghai, China for eight years.

Returning to Ypsilanti in 2016, the conditions of his old neighborhood spurred a commitment to community advocacy.  A stint on the board of his neighborhood association led to his present work on Avalon Housing’s Community Building team and Board of Trustees.  He also participates in Community Outreach efforts with the Washtenaw County Health Department and continues to support his neighborhood association as a member.  He’s thrilled with the opportunity to join Growing Hope’s team as Farmer’s Market Outreach Coordinator and helping to cultivate a healthy life and economy in the Ypsilanti area.

Christopher Hallett, Farm Assistant

Christopher was born in New Brunswick, Canada but spent the majority of his childhood in Jacksonville, Florida. After high school he moved back to his native country to attend a technology school. Two intensive years later and one 3D animation degree in hand he moved to Montreal to further his career in animation. After a year of living off nothing but caffeine and noodles with blood shot eyes and carpal tunnel he thought to himself there must be more to life than this, there must be a more nourishing way. His heart was pulled to work the land as his grandfather had before him, and so his journey of learning how to grow food in a sustainable way began. For the past four years he has been feeding and loving the people around him. He has an affinity for the intricacies of nature, sounds and the little things in life. You will mostly see him with dirt under his nails and hope in his eyes.

Penny Beamer, Garden Assistant

Penny loves playing in the dirt and working outdoors! She grew up on a fruit and vegetable farm and spent her childhood learning about what it takes to grow food. She moved to Ypsilanti to study at Eastern Michigan University where she earned a B.S. in biology with a minor in chemistry. She is passionate about many things including healthy and sustainable living, growing food, community engagement, plant identification, wetland ecology, dancing, yoga/meditation, and connecting to the natural world.  She maintains a personal garden, spent a season volunteering with the WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), and occasionally helps with her friend’s local gardening business.  Before coming to Growing Hope, she worked at Wayne State University, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and Natural Area Preservation conducting biological assessments and ecological habitat restoration. She also worked at ASTI Environmental doing environmental consulting in Southeast Michigan.

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