Growing Hope’s strength is in our team.
Whether it’s our volunteers, seasonal employees, interns, board members, or our full-time staff, we depend on people to grow our food, maintain our facilities, share our work with the larger community and run our programs. Learn more about the people making Growing Hope happen.
Board of Directors
Sarah Wixson, President
Sarah L. Wixson is a partner at Varnum LLP. She is a member of the Health Care Practice Team, with a focus on transactional and real estate law and complex commercial litigation and her unique practice in health care law includes working with physicians, physician groups, hospitals and health care entities. Ms. Wixson serves as counsel for business clients and represents businesses and individuals in residential and commercial real estate matters.
Jordan Valentine, Secretary
Jordan Valentine is an Associate at Varnum LLP. She is a member of the Litigation Practice Team, with a focus on complex commercial litigation. She also has experience in various practice groups, including the corporate, labor and employment, and privacy and mobility teams. She serves as counsel for business clients and represents businesses and individuals in various residential and commercial matters. Jordan was born and raised in Southeast Michigan and graduated as an undergrad from Eastern Michigan University.
Jessica Krueger-Koupal, Director
Wayne Millette, Director
Wayne Millette is a native of Grenada and earned his doctorate in Educational Administration and Leadership from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Master’s
degree in Sociology from Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta and bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. Wayne most recently served as Director, Office of Faculty and Resident Life in the Department of Surgery at the University of Michigan. Prior to this position, he served as partner and CFO of Sensei Change Associates, LLC a strategic management consulting firm. Wayne has served in multiple leadership roles in educational and non-profit organizations as well as providing coaching to organizational leaders. Prior to becoming a partner at Sensei Change, he was the Principal of Ann Arbor Learning Community, and served as Principal at New Beginnings Academy, a K-5 charter school in Ypsilanti, MI. Wayne was one of two members who founded New Beginnings Academy in 1998.
When Wayne is not busy at work, he loves spending quality time with his family. He is married to Diana Wong, an Associate Professor in Strategy at Eastern Michigan
University. He is most proud of his two children, Quentin and Maya. He is the family cook and prefers to use the best and freshest ingredients for all his dishes. In addition to growing and building things, Wayne enjoys traveling, soccer, downhill skiing, cricket, and tennis.
Robbin Pott J.D., M.P.P, Director
Robbin Pott, J.D., M.P.P. is the creator and co-founder of Pott Farms L3C, a regenerative hemp company in Willis, Michigan. What does it mean to be regenerative? It means that our systems are designed to restore and sustain rather than deplete and harm our resources, and that they are rooted in justice. For the past four years, Robbin has been practicing regenerative farming and learning about living soil while cultivating hemp naturally. She comes from a 20-year academic career as a child advocate and has designed the farm to also provide job opportunities for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Germaine Smith, Director
Germaine currently serves as the Assistant Director for the Dispute Resolution Center. In her role at the DRC, she leads the organization’s development priorities, donor cultivation, and marketing and communications strategies. Prior to joining the DRC team, Germaine was already deeply involved in non-profit mission driven work originating at Growing Hope in program development. In that time, she also developed her skills in policy advocacy and campaign development work in sustainable agriculture and pollinator initiatives. She transferred these skills to another local non-profit, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, helping to build and strengthen capacity for the organization. There she gained a lot of experience in organizational development and trained in non-violent communication practices, as well as helping develop the Bystander Intervention Training Program. Germaine currently serves as the Chair for the Community Advisory Board for Law Enforcement (CABLE)
of the Washtenaw County Sheriff”s Office and the 21st Century Policing Commission – Policy and Oversight Committee. She is an alumni of Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University and in her spare time enjoys playing the cello, loves all dogs, hiking, beekeeping, growing food, cooking, and feeding people.
Stefanie Stauffer PhD, Director
Loren Townes Jr., Director
career, he served as a Higher Education practitioner on both sides of the institution; academics and workforce community development. His expertise is informed by years of cross-channel marketing, strategic outreach, program development, event management, and building community relations.
Currently, Loren leads the Business+Impact collaborative design studio for social impact creators and innovators, known as the +Impact Studio, at the University of Michigan, Ross
School of Business. He oversees studio programming and provides management of the studio community, co-curricular programs, events, and space. Loren engages with students, faculty, and studio mentors and experts in residence, including partnering across Michigan Ross and the university and with alumni and external stakeholders to advance the studio’s strategic goals to bring impactful ideas to life that build a world that is sustainable and just for all.
Erinn Williamson, Director
Erinn Williamson is a Ypsilanti Native, currently employed as a school social worker at a local academy. She is a mother of fraternal twins and an avid reader and researcher. She has a passion for finding innovative ways that children and their families can become self-sustaining and flourish within their community. Erinn is District Director for Senator Jeff Irwin.
Esha Biswas, Youth Programs Manager
Julius Buzzard, Executive Director
Whether it was gardening with his grandparents, participating in community gardens, teaching students how to grow and harvest, or tending his own garden; Julius has lived a life with his hands in the dirt. These experiences shape the way he enters into the work of Growing Hope, leaving him three basic principles: relationships matter, food is for everyone and the land will be our liberator.
Julius has a deep spirit of curiosity, hopes to listen and learn daily, and believes in the art of storytelling. Julius recharges by spending time with his wife and daughter, running, bicycling, writing and volunteering within the community.
Carolyn Gehrke, Finance Manager
Christopher Hallett, Farm Manager
Bee Mayhew, Incubator Kitchen Manager
Sara Mayo, Development Manager
Vivi Nguyen, Farmers Market Manager
Vivi is a native Michigander with a deep perspective on the culture at large. As a daughter of war refugees and a first generation American, she is always processing the meaning of goodness, connection, and metamorphosis. Her interest in these pulse-points led her to the food sovereignty movement and ecological-cultural systems-thinking. Vivi is a passionate student of agroecology, permaculture, and the human condition. At Growing Hope, she is working with the farmers markets to create a vibrant community space for food-earth-people lovers. In her free time, she is reading, thinking, writing, cooking, playing instruments, and loving people. Her favorite experiences are wild and numinous ones. To connect, email [email protected].
Dayna Popkey, Program Director
Cristi Rodriguez-Alfaro, Garden Manager
Juniper Wolfenbarger, Teen & School Manager
Juniper also has a lifelong passion for gardening. They’ve had their hands in the dirt from age 10, growing tomatoes, zucchini, green beans and numerous other vegetables with their mother in a small backyard plot.
When they’re not in the studio, Juniper spends their time taking nature hikes with friends, knitting giant scarves, doing yoga, reading Sci-fi novels, watching anime and teaching tricks to their cat, Merry.