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.

Dawn Ellis, Bookkeeper

It takes a patient and dedicated person to crunch numbers and keep track of the books at NKC. Dawn works with account receivables, vendor payables, budgets and audits. “I love being in a position where I can support my colleagues in the mission of NKC.” Dawn has had many experiences in her career and is grateful they led her to her role at NKC.

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.

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 you could solve one problem in the world what would it be and why?
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.

David Karamol, Facilities Manager

DaveYou 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.

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.

Helen Moyles, Donation Attendant

Helen oversees the donation area and assists with sorting intake. Once a registered nurse, Helen has always cared for and nurtured others. She continues to exemplify her caring nature as she tends to donations that NKC strongly depends on.

Helen enjoys quilting and reading.

Fun Facts About Helen

1. What is best adventure you’ve ever been on?
A cruise.

2. What is your dream vacation spot?
I just want to travel and see the whole world.

Erin Niece, Administrative Specialist

Erin is one of the first faces clients and visitors see when they walk into NKC, or the voice they hear over the phone. As the Administrative Specialist, Erin serves clients, manages small projects and is the glue that holds us all together! She enjoys that her role involves so much variety and that she’s able to support multiple staff and programming. “This is a dream job for me. I love that we are faith-based and it’s a privilege being involved in changing lives.”

Erin is passionate about her faith and making meaningful connections with people. An Aquinas alumna, Erin has a communications background and enjoys using Spanish to make a difference in others people's lives, allowing them to take advantage of and understand the services at NKC. Erin loves to sing, and she and her husband are proud parents of Chewie, a Pomeranian-poodle!

Fun Facts About Erin:

1. What is the best adventure you’ve ever been on?
Funded my own trip to Spain with my Spanish class in high school.

2. What is your dream vacation spot?

3. If you could solve one world problem what would it be and why?
World peace. Even though it sounds cheesy and idealistic, just imagine in all seriousness what we could accomplish. It would be a profoundly different world.

Amee Paparella, Director of Client Services

Offering client services is core to the mission at North Kent Connect. As the director of client services, Amee provides one-on-one case management to clients, supports case managers, and coordinates empowerment classes.

Amee upholds an MSW of Clinical Social Work from Michigan State University, a Master of Divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and a Limited License to practice Clinical Social Work in the State of Michigan. She has an extensive background in pastoral care as well as community outreach. “Everyday is an adventure. I enjoy the variety of my work and being able to connect and advocate for residents in northern Kent County.”

Amee loves dogs, gardening, snow, and running. Her latest passions include learning how to draw lettering and training the Spartan Trifecta races.

Fun Facts About Amee

1. What is your favorite quote?
“It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” David Steindl-Rast

2. What is your dream vacation spot?
I’d like to stay at a snow hotel at some point in my life. The SnowCastle of Kemi would probably be my first choice.

3. If you could solve one world problem what would it be and why?
Racism. If we as human beings could understand the construction of race and how it has been used (interpersonally and systemically) to value certain people over others, I think we could begin to change, grow, and heal. A world without racism would not only be more just, it would be beautiful!

If I were stranded on a desert island and could choose just one food to have with me, it would be Sour Patch Kids. My spouse actually proposed to me with a box of Sour Patch!

Nicole Rodriguez, Case Manager

NicoleAs a Case Manager, Nicole connects community members to vital resources and empowers clients to have independence and stability in their lives. She loves her job because of the relationships she is able to build and maintain with community members, and the values that NKC upholds. Nicole graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Social Work. Her own hardships motivated her to get into the field, so she could be there for others experiencing tough times.

Nicole is from New York City but was raised in Grand Rapids. She is passionate about mental health, her faith, and animals. She loves to travel, read, do hot yoga, and spend time with family and friends.

Fun Facts About Nicole:

1. What is your motto or personal mantra?
Great things never came from comfort zones!

2. What is your dream vacation spot?
My dream vacation would be to travel to Hawaii and volunteer in the conservation of sea turtles!

3. If you could solve one world problem what would it be and why?
If I could solve one world problem, it would be inequality. I believe inequality is the primary cause of lack of employment and opportunity.

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?

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 enjoyed watching his movies.

Quick Links:
How May We Help?

North Kent Connect

10075 Northland Drive NE
Rockford, MI 49341 Map
Phone: 616-866-3478

Client Services Hours:
Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday
8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

North Kent Connect Store Client-Only Hours:
8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

North Kent Connect Store Public Hours:
Tuesday through Friday
9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

West Michigan Works! Hours:
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Closed 12:00-1:00 p.m. for lunch

Hablamos español:
Para servicios en español por favor contacte
Nicole Rodriguez, Administrada de Casos
616-866-3478 ext. 343 o Erin Niece,
Especialista Administrativo 616-866-3478 ext. 346