CHI Staff 2009

Date: 2009-05-12
Source: CHIweb

The People Behind Children’s Hope International

Our dedicated staff works hard to fulfill our mission of, “Homes, Health and Hope for Children in Need.” Starting with answering your request for information all the way to meeting you at the airport when you return with your child, we are available to you every step of the way.

We’d like to give you the opportunity to learn more about the people who make up Children’s Hope International. Feel free to browse the staff bios below.

Dwyatt Gantt
Executive Director

Nothing I have ever done has been more fulfilling than to see a child that needs a home find a home that needs a child. And we see it happen many hundreds of times each year. God has wonderfully blessed us and allowed us to be in the very forefront of international adoption. Annually we assist about 800 families all over the United States and other countries as well to adopt that wonderful child that seems so especially made for them. It is to us a position of trust and responsibility - a sacred trust to us which prescribes the way we must carry on this work. With integrity and service. There is a saying emphasizing the necessity of walking on two feet. Our two feet are giving homes to children who can be adopted and health and hope to those who cannot. We are happy to be partners with you in either of these.

Melody Zhang
Associate Director

Melody was born in China, raised in Beijing and had been involved with China adoptions before the beginning of Children's Hope International / China's Children Division in 1992. Since 1993 she has given vigorous and compassionate leadership to Children's Hope as Associate Director in St. Louis while traveling frequently to China as well as Russia, Thailand, Guatemala and Colombia. Because of her fervent compassion for children that are older or with special medical needs, literally hundreds of such children have been adopted and found loving homes. She is equally well known for the love and attention she gives to "our" adoptive families. Even while working full-time at Children's Hope, Melody completed her MSW at George Warren Brown School of Social Work in Washington University in St. Louis. Melody is fully and passionately involved in every aspect of the work - including foster care and Helping Hands projects in China and everywhere there is an opportunity. She and her husband Kevin are parents of three adopted teenagers and two biological daughters. Melody and Kevin and their children are living in Beijing for a period of time to oversee the growing work of adoption and aid in China.

Cory Barron

Cory Barron
Foundation Director

Born and raised in Kansas, Cory was a television-journalist for over 20 years, working as a feature reporter and weather anchor for stations in Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas. Cory joined Children’s Hope International in April 2003 and has worked joyfully and effectively in many positions within the agency – but most often in connection with communication and public relations. In his leadership of the Foundation, Cory brings his magnetic personality, strong ethics and a passionate heart for orphans.

Cory and his wife Marlene adopted through Children’s Hope International in 1999, becoming proud parents to twin girls from China.

Gloria Akers

Gloria Akers
Director of Intake

Gloria is one of our senior staff members who has been with Children's Hope since 1995. She is devoted to her work and everyone involved with it and with every single aspect of your adoption from the first call to application and with seeing that you get the information, the resource, or the person you need. She will be there when you need her.

Tina Qualls

Tina Qualls
China Program Director

Tina started as a volunteer in August of 1996 while waiting to adopt Tori from China. She became a permanent employee in September of 1997 as Children's Hope accountant, having 20 years of experience in the field. Beginning in the year 2000, she became an integral part of the China team, coordinating and promoting the adoption of older children and children with special needs, assisting families in preparing their paperwork, preparing referrals, answering inquiries and assisting with travel preparations. In 2002, Larry and Tina adopted Eli from the China waiting children’s program. Tina says, I feel that working for Children’s Hope is my mission field. Seeing children find a home is one of God’s greatest gifts to me.

Julie Eagleson

Julie Eagleson
Latin American Program Director

Julie Eagleson is our Colombia Program Director in the Oregon office for all of CHI. Julie has traveled extensively in Latin America and has tremendous respect for its people and culture. Since graduating from Linfield College with degrees in Spanish and Psychology, Julie has worked in adoption for more than 20 years, coordinating a Latin American Program and the placement of several hundred children. She admits to having a soft spot for the older children, after having seen so many in orphanages.

Julie's office and her life are filled with the impact of foreign travels and the relationships established with adopted children, adoptive families and foreign friends. Julie's greatest desire is to place children in homes where they will receive the love and support they need to grow up to be healthy individuals, happy with themselves and contributing to the lives of others.

Sharon Turner

Sharon Turner
Ethiopia Program Director

Sharon has been involved in adoption since she was a teenager as an adoption advocate. Later she served as a speaker for various adoption workshops and support groups. She felt the call of God on her life to adopt when she was only 12 years old.

In July 2005, Sharon began volunteering with Children’s Hope, lending that passion, and was hired first as a receptionist, then with the China and Vietnam Programs, and now as the Director of the Ethiopia program. She attended college in Baltimore, Maryland where she was born and raised. Later she saw firsthand the plight of homeless children and impoverished families through 21 years of travel as a flight attendant.

Sharon is the loving mother of one biological daughter and two adoptive children from Bombay and New Delhi, India.

Jeff Morris

Jeff Morris
Kazakhstan Program Director/Social Worker

Jeff joined Children’s Hope in November of 2006. He earned his Master in Social Work degree from Saint Louis University and his Bachelor in Social Work from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Jeff has extensive experience working with children through church volunteer work, various youth mentoring programs, and most recently he served as a child welfare specialist for the state of Missouri. Jeff is the proud father of a girl adopted from Children’s Hope Russia Program. Through his personal experiences, Jeff has developed a strong interest and passion for international adoption.

Andrei Skurtu

Andrei Skurtu
Russia Program Director

Andrei was born in Kishinev, Moldova, which is currently a country of about 4 million people and formerly one of the fifteen republics comprising the Soviet Union. His family moved to the United States in 1992, and St. Louis has been his home ever since. Andrei’s educational background includes a degree from Washington University where he double-majored in International Relations and History.

Nicky Losse

Nicky Losse
Vietnam Program Director/Ethiopia Adoption Consultant

Nicky received her master's degree in Social Work in 1997 from St. Louis University. Nicky and her husband Mike were married in 1996. She says about herself: "I was originally drawn to work in adoption because I myself am adopted. I think adoption is a wonderful gift to a child and I know there are many children out there that are waiting for families." Nicky has worked at Children's Hope since 1997 and she is the director of the Vietnam program. Other duties include completing home studies and post placement visits and aiding families adopting with the Ethiopia Program. Nicky has traveled to Vietnam many times for her work at Children's Hope. She has fallen in love with the children and country of Vietnam. Nicky and her husband Mike have two biological children, Taylor and Jack.

Nichole Nymoen Deal

Nichole Nymoen Deal
Social Services Director

Nichole joined the Children’s Hope Russian Team in February 2001 as a Program Coordinator and later served as Director of the Russia Program. Since 2005, she took leadership instead as the Social Services Director. In addition she is now the main contact and social worker in the St. Louis office serving Colombia families and completes home studies for the Vietnam and Russia programs per diem.

Nichole came to us with many years of professional experience working both in domestic adoptions and with children and families, including at-risk, abused and neglected children. She has a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Missouri – Columbia. Nichole also has a lot of personal experience in adoption as well, as she was adopted domestically at the age of 2 months. Nichole’s parents were always very open with her about her adoption and therefore adoption has been a positive part of her life. Nichole loves working in a field that is so near and dear to her heart! She is very happy to be a part of such a wonderful organization helping to create forever families, just like her own!

Nichole is married and has two children.

Nichole Nymoen Deal

Jessica Hill
Orphan Sponsorship Director

In spring 2006 Jessica came to Children’s Hope International with two years of experience in Children’s Ministry from First Christian Church in Washington, a BS in Christian Education and an AS in Intercultural and Urban Missions from St. Louis Christian College. Jessica served two years at Children’s Hope International as the Executive Assistant before taking her current position as the Orphan Sponsorship Director. She is very involved with her local church and community. Jessica has been on mission trips to Mexico, Europe and Haiti and looks forward to future mission opportunities. As the director of Orphan Sponsorship she is determined to make a difference in the lives of children by meeting their most basic needs.

Jessica and her husband, Ryan, were blessed on April, 2008 with their first daughter, Katelyn.

Karolyn Tucker

Karolyn Tucker
Travel Coordinator for China/Russia

Karolyn is married to Michael and the mother of Michele and Mia, both adopted from China. Shortly after adopting Michele in 1995, Karolyn began working for Children's Hope and is a senior Children's Hope staff member. Karolyn has experience in dossier preparation, the waiting process and post-adoption paperwork such as adoption legalization and citizenship. At this time, Karolyn is concentrating her efforts on working with families in the travel stage.

Anna Rister

Anna Rister
Russia/Kazakhstan Liaison

Anna is a native of Saint-Petersburg, Russia where she worked as an interpreter and supervisor for a non-profit organization that worked with children in orphanages and the elderly.

“I have seen how kids live in orphanages and I know how much they appreciate even a little bit of attention,” Rister said. “I am proud to work with Children's Hope to help the little ones find loving homes.” Rister is married and has lived in the United States since September, 2003. She has received her bachelors in Database Processing and Management, from Saint Petersburg College and then went on to work on her Masters Degree in International Economic Relationship at Saint Petersburg University.

Christina Ortwein

Christina Ortwein
Social Worker

Christina is from the St. Louis area and joined Children’s Hope International in November of 2004. She is a Social Worker for the China program and completes home studies and post adoption reports for families in Missouri, in addition to many other tasks that need to be completed for adoptive parents in the process. She completed her Bachelors of Social Work from University of Missouri - St. Louis and attained her Masters Degree in Social Work from Saint Louis University in December of 2002. Christina has been working in the field of social work since 1999. Prior to working in the field of international adoption, she worked with “at risk” youth, impoverished families, and children in the foster care system.

Christina was thrilled to work in the field of international adoption, fulfilling a long time dream. She thoroughly enjoys working with adoptive families and is committed to Children’s Hope's mission of “Homes, Health and Hope for Children in Need.”

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis
Social Worker

Rebecca joined the Children’s Hope team in May of 2004. She was born and raised in East Prairie, Missouri, and moved to the St. Louis area in October of 2001 to pursue her graduate degree in Social Work. Rebecca graduated with her Bachelor of Social Work degree in December of 1998 from Southeast Missouri State University and earned her Master of Social Work degree from Saint Louis University in December of 2004. Rebecca has eight years of experience in the social work field and has worked in a variety of practice settings. Prior to joining the Children's Hope team, she worked with children and families through the Department of Mental Health and served as a Disability Counselor. Rebecca is currently a Social Worker in China Program and responsible for assisting families in the pre and post adoption phase of their adoption. This includes assisting families through the home study process and following up with families in the post adoption phase.

Rebecca says she is blessed to be part of the wonderful Children’s Hope mission of providing homes to children at risk through out the world. She looks forward to her future with Children’s Hope and is committed to bringing families together.

Erin Tilly

Erin Siegel
Social Worker

Erin Tilley was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She attended Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She moved back to St. Louis to attend the School of Social Work at Saint Louis University, graduating in August 2006 with a Master of Social Work degree. She is currently helping to create forever families through her work in the Vietnam and Ethiopia programs, as well as assisting Children’s Hope International on the Social Services team.

Ashley Bennett
Social Worker

Ashley earned her Master of Social Work from Saint Louis University in 2008. As part of her social work program, she interned at three adoption agencies in the St. Louis area, including Children’s Hope. “As an intern, I was able to see firsthand the commitment and care Children’s Hope International has for orphans all over the world. I feel very blessed to be a part of Children’s Hope and am excited about working in the Colombia program. I look forward to helping families through the process!”

Leslie Broome

Leslie Broome
Adoption Consultant

Leslie joined Children’s Hope in June 2004. She worked in the China Program for three years, first as an administrative assistant, and then as an adoption consultant, assisting families with their adoption of waiting or special needs children. She is currently a coordinator for the Russia Program, working with families in several regions of that country. She says, “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t praise God for placing me with a group of people who have such a heart for children so desperately in need of help.”

Leslie and her husband Gary live in St. Louis and have two children.

Toni Lynch

Toni Lynch
Adoption Consultant

Toni Lynch joined Children's Hope in November 2005 as a receptionist, but quickly worked her way up through the China department and now on to become the Adoption Consultant for the Ethiopia Program as of 2008. Toni earned her current position by volunteering for an extended mission trip to Ethiopia and working with the poorest of the poor as well as lepers and HIV+ victims in Addis Ababa in the summer of 2007. Prior to 2005, Toni was a fulltime mother, a private caretaker for the elderly and was a huge advocate for the homeless in the 5 states she lived in. “I have always had a heart for kids and had been praying for an opportunity to join God in His work helping children. I wanted to focus the remainder of my life on something of much greater value and importance: creating hope and a future for an orphan. I truly believe He led me to CHI as a result of that prayer. CHI has become a huge part of my life. It is not just a job for me…it is family, my passion, my heart and I truly believe in the work we do here everyday!” Off campus Toni is a single mother of three teenagers and is actively involved in their sporting aspirations.

Pam Bischoff

Pam Bischoff
Adoption Consultant

Pam has been with Children’s Hope International since 1999 and has been fortunate to work at several different jobs since then. When she applied for a job in the China Program, she was actually hired as the PR and Web Coordinator since this was her background for 20+ years. After this project for one year, there was a need for additional staff in the Russia program working with adopting families. For 4 years she enjoyed working with the families to prepare their dossier, assisting in travel and working with the Operation Hope Program and Waiting Children.

In December 2004 Pam joined the China Team and the Waiting Children Program. Gaining expansive experience in international adoption programs, Pam has helped families adopting from Vietnam and now aids families adopting from Russia.

Two beautiful daughters adopted from China in 1996 and 1998 are the light of her life. Pam is well aware of all the obstacles that families have to go through for successful international adoption.

Karla Griffin

Karla Griffin
Receptionist

Karla joined Children’s Hope International in December 2007, assisting families traveling to China. Throughout 2008, she also aided families in the Russia Program as an Adoption Consultant. In addition to her work with China and Russia travel, Karla is the friendly voice when you call into Children’s Hope, directing you to the appropriate staff to help you with your needs. Karla says, I have a heart for children in need and have been blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of an agency which is making a difference in the lives of orphans every day!

Denise Moss

Denise Moss
Accountant

Originally an Arkansas native, Denise joined St. Louis and then Children’s Hope in early spring 2006, bringing with her twenty years of accounting experience. Denise is a proud mother of two adult daughters, Lindsey and Jennie, and one wonderful little Yorkie, A.J.

“I am extremely blessed to have a place in an organization whose purpose is making a better life for orphans, whether it is through adoption or through humanitarian aid efforts. The Children’s Hope staff is a tremendous collection of Christian love and talent, all working together for these children.”

Galina Kharitonova

Galina Kharitonova
Finance Coordinator and Shared Services Coordinator

Galina was born in Kazakhstan and moved to the US in 1995 with her family. She worked in a variety of job fields before joining Children's Hope International in July 2005 as Administrative Assistant. She quickly gained more responsibility by joining the finance team as a Finance Coordinator and now also as a Shared Services Coordinator. Galina recently graduated from St. Louis Community College with an AAS Degree in Accounting. Galina says, I really enjoy working for Children's Hope because we're like one big family.

Michelle Howdeshell

Michelle Howdeshell
Community and Church Relations

Michelle Wehde Howdeshell started working for Children's Hope International in 1997 as the Guatemala Program Director. She has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Missouri. Michelle has always had a love for children, being one of seven children herself, and now with twenty-five grandchildren in her family. Her love for international work started after a mission trip to Haiti where she worked in orphanages and homes for dying children. Michelle states, "I remember holding that first baby, on my first day in the orphanage; I immediately knew how deep my love for orphans really was!"

In 2003, Michelle turned her attention to Children's Hope's humanitarian aid, and is now working to coordinate Church and Community Relations. Michelle is the person who answers any of your questions regarding sponsorship and who calls you to become a "Sponsorship Volunteer"!

Michelle states, "Children's Hope International has become a huge part of my life. It is not just a job to me. It is my family, my passion, my heart. I truly believe in our mission and our work and I thank God everyday for giving me such a gift—the gift of being a part of His work!"

Jennifer Newcomb

Jennifer Newcomb
Communications Coordinator

Jennifer joined the staff of Children’s Hope in winter 2006 to write for the Children’s Hope Newsletter, e-news, and social media. She has most recently joined the Foundation to assist in communications and donor relations. She came to St. Louis from Illinois to complete a BS in Communications and a Writing Certificate at Missouri Baptist University, where she later served in the Office of Public Relations. After pursuing a desire to travel with Doctors without Borders, Jennifer has found within Children’s Hope an avenue to write about both the struggles and the victories of orphaned children worldwide

Peter Podlesnyy

Peter Podlesnyy
IT Manager

0

Primary links

Pound Pup Legacy