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. He receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.
Amy Barnes, Vice President. Amy directs cross-channel strategy at Team Detroit, Ford's advertising agency of record. Amy received her MFA in poetry at the University of Montana in 1998 and then joined the Internet boom in order to pay off her student loans. After many years of building brands online and gardening when and where she could, she found herself living in Ypsilanti on 2 acres of land with a lot of overgrown beds. Through her own "food journey," Amy became aware of the nutritional injustice and inequity in the mainstream food system and jumped at the chance to volunteer at Growing Hope. Being on the board is the natural convergence of all these interests and she looks forward to helping Growing Hope expand its mission to provide access to healthy food for all. She receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.
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). Michael lives in Scio Township, MI with his wife and three kids. He receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.
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. He receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.
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. She receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.
Susan Barnes, Director. Susan was food editor for The Ann Arbor News from 2001 until its closing. She is particularly interested in sustainable food systems, sharing the joys of vegetables with kids, eliminating food “deserts,” and the spirituality of the table. She traces these interests back to her days as a co-op member at Oberlin College, where minor details on food sourcing could turn into emotional, four-hour meetings. These days Susan works at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, freelances, and negotiates with the deer over her tomato crop. Along with husband Rob Reinhart, she watches with humble amusement as their two sons turn out just fine. She receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.
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. He receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.
Anne Williams, Director. For the past 10 years, Anne has served as CEO for ExcellenceQuest, LLC, and leads performance excellence initiatives implementing processes and systems to increase capacity and effectiveness of organizations within the business, education, and the nonprofit sectors throughout the United States. Prior to that, Anne spent over 20 years in various executive/management positions in the automotive industry. Anne also has over 25 years’ experience within administration and as adjunct faculty at numerous colleges and universities. She received her BS in Biochemistry and MS in Industrial Technology from Eastern Michigan University, and a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Lawrence Technological University. Anne is currently a doctoral candidate, Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD). In her spare time, Anne volunteers her time and expertise to various boards and currently serves as a trustee of Washtenaw Community College. She receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.
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 member. She receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.
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. She receives no annual compensation from Growing Hope.