Staff

Meet the team at North Kent Connect

Get to know the people who work for you and your neighbors right here in northern Kent County.

Staff Directory (Last Name A-Z)
  • Aimee Baskovic

    Director of Communications

    With a background in advertising and public relations, Aimee is usually creating a publication about North Kent Connect, or posting news about NKC on social media. She would much rather share information about NKC or the wonderful people she works with than update her own profile.

    Fun Facts About Aimee

    1. What is your favorite quote?
      “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi
    2. What is your dream vacation spot? 
      I’d like to visit the observatory at the Aurora Borealis observatory in Senja, Norway.
  • Val Bickle

    Store Director

    Val manages the NKC Store, ensuring that the best items go out on the floor, giving all shoppers a great and memorable thrifting experience! She originally claimed expertise in this space by starting and operating her very own thrift store, “Katie’s Closet,” for 9 years in Traverse City, MI.

    Born in Ravenna, MI, Val has always had a passion to help senior citizens beginning with her time working in a nursing home and practicing as an EMT. “I love helping seniors because as they grow older, it becomes difficult for them to do certain things. When you can help them in a way that still gives them their dignity, it makes such a positive impact in their lives.” Val loves her job at the NKC Store because it is challenging and keeps her on her toes.

    Fun Facts About Val

    1. What is your favorite quote?
      “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmond Burke
    2. What is the best adventure you’ve ever been on?
      Trip to Africa.
    3. If you could hang out with one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
      Nelson Mandela. What he stood for was just so powerful and he helped make a difference in many lives, and will never be forgotten.
  • Beverly Bouma

    Food Programs Manager

    Beverly brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to North Kent Connect. Managing both the NKC Pantry and Farm Stand, Beverly has a vision to bridge the gap between farmers, artisans and consumers.

    A mother of five, Beverly knows all too well how hard it is to provide nutritious food for the family. Beverly’s passion for farming grew while running a food cooperative in Dallas Texas and later cultivating her own homestead here in Rockford, MI. She has a strong work ethic, tireless compassion and a deep guiding faith. From natural childbirth, nutrition and wellness, to faithfully serving in her community, her goal has always been the same—to empower individuals to live their best life. Beverly continues to develop her knowledge and skills in order to bless others.

    Fun Fact about Bev

    • Favorite Quote
      “One day you will look back and realize all along you were blooming.” – Morgan Harper Nichols
  • Dawn Ellis

    Volunteer Coordinator

    Dawn makes sure all of our wonderful volunteers are trained, busy, and happy! “I love working with the volunteers of our organization! They are the heart of NKC and are valuable partners in achieving the mission of NKC. Their life experiences, opinions and suggestions have not only benefited this organization but have helped me to grow in my role as Volunteer Coordinator. I am truly blessed to be working with such a wonderful group of people!”

    Dawn is from Michigan and is passionate about her family and her faith. Her hobbies include gardening, knitting, and arts and crafts.

    Fun Facts About Dawn

    1. What is your favorite quote?
      “God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.” – Mother Teresa
    2. What is the best adventure you’ve ever been on?
      Marriage and parenthood!
    3. If you could hang out with any person for a day (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
      Jesus, because He met people where they were at. He accepted them with all their attributes as well as their flaws and inspired them to want to be more than who they were.
  • Kristen Gravelle

    Administrative Specialist

    The first person you will likely see when entering the building or calling the store is Kristen Gravelle, our Administrative Specialist. Kristen was born and raised in the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area and moved to the Grand Rapids area in 2000 to attend Grand Valley State University. She loved the area so much that she decided to stay permanently and now resides in Rockford. She is married and has a 9-year-old son, a cat and a Mini Rex bunny – and family life means the world to her! Kristen loves photography and being outdoors, and loves combining the two – her favorite photo subjects are birds, flowers, the moon, and occasionally people. She also has a love for jewelry and does direct sales when she’s not at NKC. Kristen also enjoys coloring and reading in her spare time.

    Fun Facts about Kristen

    1. What is your favorite quote?
      “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda
    2. What is your dream vacation spot?
      Alaska – would LOVE to take a cruise around Alaska and see all of the nature and possibly the Northern Lights!
    3. If you could hang out with any person for a day (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
      My Uncle Andy, who passed away over a decade ago. He was the most amazing man alive, who suffered from a disease that turned muscle to bone. He was my role model, my hero, my best friend, and I’d love the chance to see him or hear his voice again!
  • Claire Guisfredi

    Executive Director

    Claire is a powerhouse, keeping the train on the track and going 100 MPH! As executive director of NKC, Claire is passionate about creating a vision for the future and motivating the community to achieve that vision. She strives each day to help people make a better life for themselves. Claire has worked in the nonprofit sector for all of her career, including enjoyable jobs at the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and faith-based schools.

    From Cleveland, Ohio, Claire is a lover of the outdoors. She enjoys hiking, cross-country skiing, cycling, traveling, reading, and playing pickleball and board games. Claire and her husband, Michael, are proud parents of three daughters. Claire absolutely loves coming to work each day and is thrilled to see the growth of NKC these past five years. She is thankful for a dedicated staff, compassionate volunteers, generous donors, and an astute Board of Directors who help keep it all together!

    Fun Facts About Claire

    1. What is your personal Mantra?
      “Live life with no regrets.”
    2. What is the best adventure you’ve ever been on?
      I love to travel in the U.S. and internationally, and since I’m old (!), I’ve had a lot of adventures in my life. The best ones involve spontaneity, something going wrong, lots of laughing, serendipitous meetings with strangers, and getting muddy.
    3. If I had the power to change one world problem, it would involve the art of compromise. So many world problems could be avoided or solved if people would just learn to understand an issue from the other person’s perspective and respect each other’s stance–then work to find a compromise.
  • Grant Harden

    Director of Donor Engagement

    Grant has a background in church ministry and non-profit fundraising, most recently holding the position of Chief Development Officer at West Michigan Youth for Christ.

    Originally from the Indianapolis area and a graduate of Anderson University, Grant started his career as a full-time youth pastor in Vincennes, Indiana. In 2013, Grant moved his family to Rockford, where he led an after-school ministry and fundraising for West Michigan Youth for Christ. Grant said that one of the things he has learned about this community is that there is an abundance of generosity. He considers it a privilege to be able to invite people into the mission of North Kent Connect so that everyone can experience the joy and fulfillment that comes from helping their neighbors.

    Fun Facts About Grant

    1. What is your favorite quote?
      “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39 New Living Translation (NLT)
    2. What is the best adventure you’ve ever been on?
      Marriage and parenting are both amazing adventures that I wouldn’t trade for the world! My wife, Erin, and our two boys bring new adventures each day.
    3. If you could hang out with any person for a day (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
      I’m going to go with Peyton Manning on this one. I’m a huge Indianapolis Colts fan and I would love to just hang out, play a round of golf and of course, throw the football a bit.
  • Dave Karamol

    Facilities Director

    You can usually spot Dave operating the hi-lo in the warehouse or getting his hands dirty! As the facilities director, there is no project too challenging for Dave, or a problem that he will let go unsolved. Dave has always wanted a job where he could give back to others and his role at NKC gives him the perfect opportunity to do so.

    Although born in St. Petersburg, Florida, Dave was raised in Wyoming, MI. He loves outdoor adventures including fishing, hunting, hiking, and golfing. He and his wife have four children, and he is blessed to have a career that can provide for his family.

    Fun Facts About Dave

    1. What is the best adventure you’ve ever been on?
      Vacationing to Alaska.
    2. If you could solve one world problem what would it be and why?
      War. It affects so many innocent people.
    3. If you could hang out with any person for a day (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
      Any of those from my family who have gone before me. I miss them.
  • Catherine Landers

    Director of Client Services

    Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Catherine attended Michigan State University for her bachelor’s, then later earned a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University outside of Washington, D.C. She was the program manager for the last year focused offering meaningful educational opportunities for North Kent Connect clients. Catherine also collaborates with our market manager to expand access to fresh local produce to clients.

    She looks forward to growing with North Kent Connect to better support families throughout northern Kent County.

    Fun Facts about Catherine

    1. What is your favorite quote?
      “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” – The Talmud
    2. What can’t you live without?
      Plants – both to eat and to grow.
    3. What do you do in your spare time?
      I enjoy gardening, cooking, and reading.
  • Maeko McQueer

    Sales Associate

    Who is the friendly sales associate at the NKC Store you ask? That is Maeko! Maeko assists customers as they shop, rings up purchases, and helps to keep the store clean, organized and fully stocked. She enjoys meeting customers and being a part of their shopping journey. Customer service has always come natural to her, and her knowledge about the store is top-notch!

    Maeko enjoys baking from scratch (she makes a mean batch of s’mores cookies), reading, and playing video games. Born in Mayfield, MI and having had her fair share of travels, Maeko appreciates the simple things in life and is happy to be a part of the NKC family.

    Fun Facts About Maeko

    1. What is your dream vacation spot?
      Japan. I always thought it’d be a beautiful place to visit.
    2. If you could hang out with any person for a day (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
      I would actually like to hang out with my mom more. We are close, but we don’t get to hang out as much as we both would like.
  • Virginia Souders

    Assistant Store Director

    One moment Virginia can be in the warehouse sorting through new items and in the next, she’s either restocking the floor or helping a customer check out. She keeps the store running smoothly with her ability to achieve so much in a short amount of time.

    Virginia has a background in small business administration. She has always wanted to put it to use in a way where she could help and interact with others. She loves her role at NKC because it gives her the best of those two worlds. Virginia looks forward to coming to work and bonding with her colleagues each day.

    In her free time, she enjoys camping and summer water activities including kayaking, boating and jet skiing with her family.

    Fun Facts About Virginia

    1. What is the best adventure you’ve ever been on?
      Whitewater rafting in Tennessee.
    2. What is your dream vacation spot?
      Jamaica!
    3. If you could hang out with any person for a day (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
      Cary Grant because he was always such an intriguing actor and I really enjoy watching his movies.
  • Maddie Strom

    Case Manager, Client Services

    Maddie graduated from Cornerstone University and comes to NKC from D.A. Blodgett St. Johns. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Social Work from Grand Valley State University. Maddie wants nothing more than to support the community, and encourage growth. She is currently leading our Step2 empowerment program. If you have questions about our services or need a listening ear, Maddie is a great person to call.

    Maddie spends most of her time running around outside with her puppy called Hubble, or visiting the many coffee shops throughout West Michigan.

    Fun Facts about Maddie:

    1. What is your favorite quote?
      “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” -Vincent Van Gogh
    2. What is your dream vacation?
      I would love to travel to Ireland or Japan.
    3. What is something that you could not live without?
      Coffee. You will find me with a coffee cup all day.
  • Taylor Vander Laan

    Case Manager, Client Services

    Taylor graduated from Ferris State University with his bachelor’s in social work. He joins NKC from the Grand Rapids Pride Center with experience working in child welfare. A proud former collegiate rugby player, Taylor continues his love of rugby by playing for men’s leagues in the fall. Taylor is excited to bring his love for helping people and his background in diversity, equity, and inclusion to the NKC community.

    Fun Facts about Taylor:

    1. What is your favorite quote?
      “Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both.” – Brene Brown
    2. What is your dream vacation?
      My dream vacation would be spending a week out west visiting national parks like Zion, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, and Joshua Tree. The places where I can see the stars the best.
    3. What is something you could not live without?
      Chocolate. All of my good days involve chocolate.
  • Patty Vanderwall

    Director of Finance and Operations

    A long-time accountant and Sparta resident, Patty has held jobs ranging at a hardwood broker to travelogues to a retirement nursing home. In her spare time, Patty helps coordinate the costumes for Sparta’s Middle, High School and community plays. She loves working with the kids and helping their characters come to life with the array of costumes that Sparta has gathered over the years. Her mother, a seasoned seamstress and 80 years young, lends a hand with the costumes.

    Ask Patty about her favorite Bible verse and she’ll tell you, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13. Patty says that love is the best thing that can be given, whether it’s with a smile, a hug or a word of encouragement. It’s also important to have joy, especially when life throws unexpected curve balls.

    Fun Facts about Patty

    1. What is the best adventure you’ve ever been on?
      There are so many with my family: zoo birthday parties, trampoline birthday parties, home birthday parties, sporting events that my kids and grandkids are in, or driving with my best friend to South Dakota for a Pampered Chef party. For me, it’s not about the destination, it’s about with whom the adventure happened.
    2. What is your dream vacation spot?
      Train trip across the continental U.S.
  • Rosemary Wilson

    Sales Associate

    Rosemary started as a volunteer at North Kent Connect, and was asked to join the NKC team as a Sales Associate. She enjoys staging the display counters, dressing the mannequin, being a personal shopper, and helping people find the perfect outfit for any occasion. One Client even returned to say that Rosemary’s shopping skills helped her ace her interview and get the job!

    When she’s not helping shoppers, Rosemary does a lot of store cleaning and organizing.

    Fun Facts about Rosemary

    1. What is your dream vacation spot?
      Italy.
    2. What do you like to do?
      Read, shop, and hang out with family and friends.

     

     

     

Looking to join our team? Check our Jobs page for any open positions.