About Us

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 on this page and find out how you can get involved yourself here. (Get Involved)

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.

Pete Schermerhorn, Secretary & Immediate Past President

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.

Aimee Jones, Treasurer

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!

Jeffrey McKelvey, Director

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.

Caroline Sanders, Director

Bio coming soon!

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, Director

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.

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, Director of Grants and Programs

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.

Kristen Teasdale, Director of Development

Kristen joined the Growing Hope team as Development Director in 2017 bringing extensive expertise in board and management consulting, fundraising, cultivation events, and content development in the areas of nonprofit finances, board structure and development, and organizational transformation. She returns to Michigan after 10 years in Chicago working for the Arts & Business Council and serving on the boards of several small arts and food-related nonprofits. She enjoys building robust and creative partnerships and connecting individuals with causes that they love. Kristen has a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Northwestern University, a BBA in Finance from Eastern Michigan University, and has also completed the CNAP (Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional) program. She is committed to advancing equity and dignity in the area of food access and for 5 years led a team of 15 volunteers each month to cook for a group of 100+ community guests at Ravenswood Community Services. Kristen is an avid cook, passionate gardener and former instrumentalist on clarinet and french horn, with perpetual love for the arts and the outdoors.

Michael Anthony, MarketPlace Manager

Michael is a Washtenaw County native, and has proudly called Ypsilanti his home community for the past 8 years. He completed his B.A. at Eastern Michigan University, and has continued his studies at EMU in the Social Foundations of Education Master’s program. As an undergraduate, Michael was an AmeriCorps Michigan Service Scholar, dedicating over 300 hours of service in one calendar year to the local community, but Michael’s passion for community engagement began long before then. Michael has been an active volunteer for most of his life, but credits his higher education, time with AmeriCorps, and working with his campus volunteer center for his deep understanding of, and passion for, volunteerism done in alignment with both organization and community needs and values. Paired with a personal passion for food and the outdoors, Michael loves working with volunteers at Growing Hope. When he’s not working, Michael enjoys glitter beards, spending time with his family of animals, and being outside during all four beautiful Michigan seasons.

Bee Ayer, 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. She co-founded and taught Small Farm Planning for Farm School NYC. 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.

Find out more about Farmer Bee.

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.

Laura Gillis, Ypsilanti Farmers MarketPlace Development Manager

Laura Green Gillis is Redevelopment Manager for the Ypsilanti Farmers MarketPlace (YFMP), a permanent, indoor-outdoor farmers market/event space and retail garden shop in Ypsilanti’s downtown historic district.  She brings 30 years of nonprofit management experience to the role, from starting at a nonprofit art exhibit in Cleveland, to leading an arts service organization in New York, and directing programs at placemaking, community development and environmental organizations in Washington, D.C.  In 2008 she graduated from the Culinary Studies Institute at Oakland Community College, which was the start of a career- and life-changing journey through the food system.  Laura has cooked professionally, had her own dessert catering business, planned events for Zingerman’s Catering and interned at Tantre Farm and the Michigan Farmers Market Association.  In 2013 she was the Assistant Manager at two of Growing Hope’s farmers markets and in 2014 researched and was primary author of the organization’s business plan for YFMP.  An advocate for farmers markets and their role in healthy, livable communities, Laura travels with her husband to markets around the world to learn about and taste local foods and support vendors….especially bakers.

Dayna Sprentall, Farmers Market 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.

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 Coordinator, 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, Event Coordinator

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!

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.

Christopher Hallett, Farm Assistant

Christopher Hallett 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.

Amanda Maria Edmonds, Retired Founder

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 of Growing Hope, and served as Executive Director for 15 years.  Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, she has lived in Michigan since the mid 1990s, and is an active member of the Ypsilanti community.  A twice alum of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment, she brings a grounding in social and environmental issues to her professional world that intersects most commonly with public health, food justice, and community-based social change.  She currently serves as  Mayor of Ypsilanti, is an appointee to the Michigan Food Policy Council where she chairs the Healthy Food Access Task Force, and is a vice-chair of the Washtenaw Food Policy Council.  She also served for six years on the Ypsilanti Parks and Recreation Commission, 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.  She speaks and trains nationally in the areas of community change through gardens, farmers markets, food access, and many other topics.

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