Kevin and his family have been active in the refugee community since 2016, sponsoring Syrian and Congolese refugee families. In addition, his philanthropic focus has been centered on Access to Justice, Refugees/Asylees, Sustainability, and Startups. He is an entrepreneur, investor, advisor, consultant, business executive, and an attorney.
Liz is a nonprofit Organization Development Consultant with Avenir Consulting Partners. With a passion to help nonprofits maximize their time and resources, she has spent more than 20 years in nonprofit operations and project management. Liz has been active in the refugee community since 2016, when she joined a church team that helped a Syrian family resettle in the East Valley. A proud foster/adoptive parent, she and her husband have 4 teenage daughters. They enjoy hiking, playing games, and volunteering together.
Wendell Hollinshead is a business operations and finance professional with over 30 years experience managing accounting and finance functions. Wendell has held leadership roles at technology based public and private companies. Wendell has acted as a board member and been involved as a volunteer for several valley organizations. In his spare time Wendell enjoys outdoor activities with his family. Wendell’s greatest personal accomplishment to date is completing an Ironman triathlon.
Scott has worked in the business/real estate field in sales, account management and meeting facilitating. He has been volunteering with WTAP for a few years helping with Saturday welcomes. He became interested in WTAP after traveling internationally over the past dozen years and seeing the plight of people in other countries. Scott became hooked on WTAP after seeing the spirit of the refugees and the generosity of the volunteers and WTAP staff. When not volunteering, Scott enjoys traveling anywhere with his wife Claire.
Jim has been a committed WTAP volunteer in various capacities for many years, participating in Saturday welcomes, filling in as the truck driver, and picking up furniture donations from his business clients. Jim is passionate about the mission and essential services WTAP provides refugees settling in Phoenix. He likes that the organization not only provides for those in great need but also fosters hope, goodwill, empathy, and understanding in the entire community. WTAP has also become a family affair as both of Jim’s sons have been active volunteers for the organization. Professionally, Jim is an industry award winning and multi-million dollar producing Realtor with over 25 years of experience in residential real estate and mortgage banking. Prior to becoming a Realtor, he was a Vice President and senior manager of a national mortgage banking company. Jim, an Ahwatukee resident, is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Business Administration/Finance.
Shelly is an elementary and special education teacher, currently working as a private educational instructor. She is the founder of Phantom Cyclists, an organization that provides bicycles to refugees in Arizona. Shelly is also an avid mountain biker, hiker, and she is passionate about horses.
Pam is a Professor and Senior Global Futures Scholar at Arizona State University. With a 20-year career in international development and humanitarian response, she worked in the areas of population and development, environmental change, migration, and women and development, including reproductive health. As head of United Nations Population Fund’s humanitarian programs, she worked to bring attention to the needs of women and adolescents in emergency situations by leading a number of UN efforts to expand and improve basic standards for humanitarian response. Pam works closely with ASU’s Education for Humanity initiative, which seeks to expand access to higher education to camp-based and urban refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.
Yaseen is an IT Architect in a technology consulting firm and is a volunteer for all seasons supporting a variety of causes. Starting in the 90s he taught himself how to use computers. His knowledge and dedication to helping others learn led him to active involvement with PCs for Refugees. Yaseen believes in guiding refugee communities toward self-sufficiency, and setting them up for success in today’s technology-driven world.
Pamela is a Retired University Counselor, with her Masters in Business Management/Human Resource. She is a Certified Financial Planner and loves Interior Design. Pamela became a volunteer with WTAP in 2012 with her Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Inc., Tempe Alumnae Chapter of which she is Chair of International Awareness and Involvement Committee. She is committed to welcoming refugees to Arizona, and to helping refugees build a good life for their families.
Joan Lowell has held leadership positions in the non profit sector for over 25 years. She served as Executive Director of Hospice of the Valley from 1983 to 1994, followed by two years in the Peace Corps, Kazakhstan, where she served as counselor in business and NGO development. She has continued this work to date in Arizona, Russia, Ukraine, Thailand,
Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Upon her return from Peace Corps, Joan served as Senior Advancement Officer for Donor Services for the Arizona Community Foundation until 2007. She currently is a board
member of three family foundations and three non profit organizations and consults to non profit organizations in Arizona. She serves as an Academic Advisor at ASU.
Joan holds a BA from Queens College, N.Y., an M.S. from Adelphi University, N.Y. and an M.P.A from ASU.
Matt is a business and transaction attorney with over 35 years experience and is a member of the law firm of Berens Blonstein PLC. He has been a volunteer and board member at WTAP since 2011 when he was made aware of the needs of refugee families through assisting in WTAP deliveries. He enjoys keeping up with his five grown children and two grandchildren, as well as coaching football and hiking with his spouse.
Kate Thoene is the first CEO at The Welcome To America Project, tirelessly leading the organization and developing the strategies and resources necessary to accommodate the tremendous growth WTAP is experiencing. Kate is a results-oriented nonprofit professional with over 20 years of non-profit leadership, program management and social enterprise experience here in The Valley. She serves on the Board of Directors of The Alliance of AZ Nonprofits and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She lives in Central Phoenix with her husband, teenage son, exchange student and several rescue animals.
Mike is familiar to many refugees, volunteers, and WTAP personnel. He helped at his first WTAP welcome/delivery in 2008 and became a lead volunteer in early 2016. Mike was hired as the Director of Programs and Community Engagement in 2017 and then promoted to Agency Director in January 2019. He cast a vision for WTAP to leverage our strengths in first impressions, to make second, third and more impressions as a means of accelerating refugee self-sufficiency. In 2022, as Community Ambassador, Mike is doing what he loves best: making community connections and ensuring the voices of our local refugee community are lifted up. Mike is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, with a B.A. in Economics. Prior to his WTAP work, Mike had a successful career in biotechnology, helping the medical community in their treatment of chronic illnesses.
Molly Pino serves as the Development Director with WTAP, helping to raise vital support and build sustainability for the agency. Prior to joining WTAP, Molly worked with the ASU Foundation and St. Joseph the Worker. While Molly’s 16 years of nonprofit experience has focused on serving in administrative capacities, her heart remains rooted in the mission and work as she understands the life-changing miracles that are possible with the right resources. Molly is honored to serve at WTAP and be a part of its impactful mission. Molly holds a BA in journalism from Arizona State University and a Master’s in professional counseling from Grand Canyon University. Molly enjoys spending time out on Arizona’s beautiful hiking trails, spoiling her boxer-rescue and golden doodle, and zipping around the Southwest with her husband in their teardrop trailer. GO DEVILS!
Kelly started as a volunteer and was happy to begin her part-time position in June 2018. She leads the volunteers in keeping the warehouse organized and packing for upcoming welcomes. Kelly has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from California State University Fullerton. She has volunteered with many non-profit organizations over her 24 years in the Phoenix area. She appreciates the opportunity to serve the refugee community, enjoys learning about the families we welcome and loves working with our wonderful volunteers. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and spending time with her family.
Gavriil (Lello) Kyriakakis is an urban planner, cultural mediator, and translator with international experience in Africa, Europe and the United States.
He joined WTAP in April 2021, first as a VISTA Refugee Education Program Coordinator and, currently, he is serving as Refugee Career Placement Specialist. Before joining WTAP, he worked with refugees and re-settled migrant communities in Italy, Greece, and the United Kingdom as a liaison with host communities and educational institutions. In Rome, Italy, he co-founded the Archive of Migrant Memories and has worked in research and documentation of written and oral testimonies of refugees. At the University of Sassari in Italy, he organized educational workshops and
participated in organizing training sessions and panels on effective dialoguing and enhancing cultural competence for host communities and incoming refugees and producing videos that highlighted the experiences of refugees and host communities. Lello’s vision of education is that it is a life-long journey where everyone’s stories are part
of a larger human narrative in a shared planet.
Originally from Burundi, Athanase runs the WTAP warehouse and oversees our in-kind donations. Fluent in seven languages, he lived in five African countries before coming to the US in 2014 on an immigrant visa. Athanase earned an associate’s degree in computer repair and networking and worked as a network specialist back home for two years. Once here, he was able to complete his college degree and worked as a medical assistant, then as a case manager at a local resettlement agency prior to working at WTAP.
With a passion for helping others, Athanase’s positive attitude and deep understanding of the refugee community are a wonderful asset to our team. On a given day he can be found facilitating home visits, communicating with donors and partners, driving our truck to pick up donations, and keeping our inventory stocked and organized. He loves traveling, playing soccer and handball, and spending time with his wife Lyse, whom he married in November 2021.
Karissa Pletta serves as the Director of Programs & Volunteers at WTAP, helping to create, maintain, and improve vital programming with the help of a robust volunteer network. Karissa is passionate about the newcomer community and participating in creating a welcoming community. Prior to joining the WTAP team, Karissa worked at World Relief, a refugee resettlement and immigrant integration organization. There she started as a caseworker and soon became Integration Director, where she led a large team of caseworkers providing welcoming service, economic empower support, extended case management, and youth programming. Karissa prioritizes community listening, empowerment, trauma-informed care, and continuous excellence. She loves spending time outdoors in any capacity, and she lives in Downtown Phoenix with her husband and the most amazing dog, Tarzan.