Paula Land, Executive Director
Paula Land joined Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) early in 2011 as Executive Director. Paula is a graduate of Mount Mercy University and most recently held the position of Vice President of Operations and Organizational Effectiveness for Trees Forever. Paula has three children and four grandchildren. In her spare time, Paula enjoys singing and volunteering in the community. She considers herself a lifelong learner. Passionate about nonprofits, Paula’s excited to be back in the education and human services fields.
Kristen DeCarlo, Director of Finance
Kristen graduated from Mt. Mercy University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting. Prior to joining CMC, she worked in both the college and non-profit finance fields. She is looking forward to utilizing her knowledge and experience to assist CMC in reaching their goals and supporting their mission. In her spare time, she enjoys music, traveling, trying new foods, and spending time with her family.
Haley Flenker, Resource Development Manager
Before joining the CMC team, Haley spent four years managing and doing sales for the brewery she and her husband founded. Prior to opening their business, she worked in fundraising for the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Haley volunteered as a tutor at CMC before the Covid-19 pandemic and is thrilled to be able to support the organization’s mission in a different capacity. She lives in Cedar Rapids, where she and her husband own a comedy club. In her limited free time, she enjoys reading, baking, and cooking.
Mitch Geers, Supplemental Services Manager
Mitch was born and raised in Cedar Rapids. He graduated from Linn-Mar High School and then from Coe College with a Psychology and Neuroscience degree. Service has been a key part of Mitch’s life since he started in Boy Scouts in 6th grade. He would go on to get his Eagle and then pursue volunteering in his free time, and eventually dedicate two years to service across the country in AmeriCorps NCCC. Purpose driven service is critical to having an entire community thrive, and he is very happy to help continue and spread that value through the many programs at CMC.
Marissa Haas, Grant Specialist
Marissa earned a B.A. in Sociology & Anthropology from Carleton College and a M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University. She started as a volunteer at CMC in 2013, and joined the staff in 2014. In 2019, Marissa stepped down from her role on the Grants Team in order to spend more time at home with her three children. She was thrilled to rejoin the staff in 2021 on a part-time basis and use her love of writing to support the CMC mission. In her free time, Marissa enjoys cooking, traveling, hiking, and reading mountains of books with her children.
Shawn Hammond, Advocacy and Strategic Partnership Specialist
Salt Lake City native Shawn Hammond moved to Cedar Rapids in 2010 to become editorial director at a media outlet focused on music. He began volunteering as a tutor at CMC in 2014, and after several years working with lovely people from around the globe, in late 2022 he inquired about joining the staff full-time. He has a degree in journalism and has worked for magazines, newspapers, IT consultancies, retail manufacturers, and Fortune 500 tech firms. In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar and fronting an original rock band almost as much as he loves hanging out with this wife, three adult sons, and their 160 pound Great Dane, Duke.
Amanda Hazelett, Operations Coordinator
Amanda has a B.A. in Business Administration from Mt. Mercy University. She is most proud of making Dean’s List all four years in college and graduating magna cum laude, all while working full time and raising a family. She is married with a daughter who is her Mini-Me. She plays the viola in the Cedar Rapids Community Orchestra. In her spare time she enjoys cooking and reading.
Dana Howell, Administrative Coordinator
Dana participated in undergraduate studies at the University of Northern Iowa. She has had the privilege to work in administrative support roles in a variety of organizations in the Cedar Rapids area. Recently, she determined the corporate world was no longer for her-CMC was exactly the sort of human service based organization she wanted to share her skills with. In her free time, Dana loves to be around water, family, friends, and especially her children. She whole-heartedly believes that every day can be magic.
Madison Moller, Communications Manager
Madison graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in Spanish Language & Literature and International Studies with a focus on human rights. After her studies, Madison went on to become a teacher at a dual-language elementary school where she taught third grade and language literacy groups for three years. As an educator, she developed a passion for building empowerment in underserved areas. Madison is grateful for the opportunity to serve her community and support CMC’s mission.
Morgan Nielsen, Development & Compliance Coordinator
Morgan graduated from Coe College with a degree in Communication Studies and Public Relations. She is excited to bring her skills and experience to CMC and help support this amazing organization and it’s mission. In her free time she enjoys antiquing and thrifting, reading, traveling, and spending time with her husband and rescue dog, Calliope.
Laurie is looking forward to being part of the team at Catherine McAuley Center. She is a widow who was married for 29 years. She has 3 cats, Sophie, Max, and Lily. She enjoys reading poetry, drawing, working in her yard, decorating, and going out to eat. Laurie worked at Kirkwood Community College for 14 years before retiring. She knows she will enjoy working here and appreciates everything the Catherine McAuley Center does.
Peggy Rubero, Director of Community Partnerships & Organizational Development
Peggy’s undergraduate studies centered on psychology and education, as she was very interested in human behavior and aspired to be an inspirational teacher. During student teaching, she discovered this wasn’t the right fit for her. At all. That didn’t make her any less interested in either subject, and in many ways it influenced her professional life, including her MBA studies. The majority of her career was spent at GE, which took her to Cedar Rapids, as well as Missouri and Michigan, but she always knew she wanted to return to Eastern Iowa. After many years, Peggy decided to leave the corporate world to buy and run a coffee shop in downtown Cedar Rapids. Managing the coffee shop reinforced her love for the community, but the flood of 2008 brought an end to that business. Following that chapter, Peggy spent 11 years at Pearson, a global company with a mission centered on improving lives through education. She is excited and blessed to be joining the Catherine McAuley Center, where she has an opportunity to carry out that mission and more with a local focus!
Katie Shaffer, Government Grants Coordinator
Katie graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in English and a Masters in Library Science. She began tutoring at CMC shortly after moving to Cedar Rapids and has volunteered in various capacities since then. In her role as Government Grants Coordinator, Katie is so happy to help grow the important programs offered by CMC. When not working, Katie loves spending time with her husband and two young children, reading, running, and visiting family and friends on the East Coast.
Katie Splean, Volunteer & Outreach Manager
Ever since Katie got her first taste of international travel in high school, she has been very passionate about encountering and learning about all cultures and lifestyles. She majored in Business Management and German at Luther College, but took a detour to teach English in South Korea for two years. After returning, Katie joined CMC as a RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps member, having benefited from a helping hand overseas and wanting to pay it forward to new arrivals in our community. Following her AmeriCorps term, she has joined the administrative staff and is excited to be continuing to support CMC’s mission.
Kelsey Steines, Director of Development & Communications
Kelsey graduated from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL, with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a concentration in Not-for-Profit Management. She joined CMC in March 2015 after volunteering as a tutor since October 2014 and is excited to use her degree to support CMC’s mission. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys finding adventure through running, reading, and travel.
Garrett Turner, Welcome Assistant
Garrett has been an adult literacy program volunteer and English tutor for CMC for the past two years. It was through this that he became acquainted with CMC’s humanitarian vision. In his free time, he is an artist and musician, and enjoys working with a variety of art mediums and instruments. He also enjoys cooking, sewing, and spending quality time with his friends.
Sandy Weger, Director of Facilities & Technology
Sandy joined our staff in January 2015 as our Systems and Facilities Manager. She was a computer programmer for 16 years before resigning to stay at home with their three sons. At that time, she volunteered at church, school, and with their youth baseball program. She is thrilled to be able to serve the staff and community at the Catherine McAuley Center!
Education Services Staff
Anne Dugger, Director of Education and Refugee and Immigrant Services
Anne holds a B.A. in English from Coe College and an M.Ed. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Mt. Mercy University. She worked in the healthcare industry for many years and taught in Barbados for two years. She is passionate about helping students and tutors create community through quality language learning and new educational opportunities. Anne believes all learners are teachers and all teachers are learners, and to that end, is inspired daily by the interactions she sees at CMC. In her spare time, Anne spends time with her close family, loves to write funny and slightly dramatic letters to all and sundry, and going out for great meals with friends.
Stephen McTier, Refugee ESL Coordinator
Stephen’s passion for teaching language led him to teach ESL in Mexico, Russia, Turkey, and the exotic land of Minnesota. Through his church, he learned about volunteering at CMC then came on staff as Tutor Student Liaison because “CMC gives people the means to a stable, good life. Who wouldn’t support that?” He has made friends in five countries he had never been to before and has written an unpublished novel. In his free time, he reads, walks, goes birding, watches old and new movies, and cooks.
Angie Miller, Education Coordinator
Angie has a TEFL/TESOL Certificate and a B.A. in English Language Learners Studies. She started volunteering as a tutor at CMC and loved it so much that she applied for a job! Her favorite part about CMC is meeting people from all over the world and with many different backgrounds. In her free time, she likes to care for her animals and volunteer in her church. She also goes on mission trips to Guatemala every year and plans to teach there someday.
Achissa Mushimiyimana, Education Coordinator
Achissa received her B.A. in accounting at AUCA (Adventist University of Central Africa) in Rwanda in 2000. She came to CMC in March 2015 as a student. She is delighted to be part of the education staff as an Education Coordinator because it gives women and men the opportunity to expand confidence and empowers them to be who they want to be regardless of where they are from. Achissa enjoys swimming, cooking, and spending time with her family in her free time.
Jelani Ragins, Education Coordinator
Jelani is a student at Coe College. He heard about the Catherine McAuley Center from one of his professors and began tutoring students before being asked if he was interested in being hired for the summer. Jelani is passionate about helping others and that’s why he supports CMC. He is proud to be attending college and advocates for human rights. In his free time he likes to cook, shop, and hang with his friends and watch tv.
Katie Rosenberger, Education Program Manager
While studying for a B.A. in music at the University of Iowa, Katie accepted an Honors Fellowship in the Writing Center, where she discovered a love for tutoring. That led to teaching English Language Acquisition at Kirkwood Community College. Katie joined CMC in January 2016 and is excited to be part of an organization that empowers students by building their knowledge and skills. In her free time, Katie plays bass guitar, sings, and volunteers as a sound tech at Legion Arts’ CSPS Hall.
Jenny Rowe, Curriculum Developer
Jenny grew up in rural central Ohio and received a BA in English Language Arts Education from Ohio Northern University in 2009 and a Masters in TESOL from Wright State University in 2011. In 2012, she moved to Iowa City for an ESL lecturer position at the University of Iowa and immediately fell in love with the area. Though she left in 2018 to be a high school English teacher at Tsinghua International School in Beijing, by mid-2020 she was back in eastern Iowa and had the opportunity to teach adult ESL students through Kirkwood Community College. Jenny is now honored to serve the CMC as a curriculum developer, which she found through her Kirkwood colleagues. She firmly believes that everyone has a valuable life story, and she enjoys any work that empowers students to share their stories at any point in their learning journey. She will be expanding her own story in the University of Montana’s graduate creative nonfiction writing program, which starts in August 2022.
Andrew Fernicola, Children’s Learning Center AmeriCorps VISTA
Andrew “Fern” Fernicola graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 2018. There he learned the Jesuit values of service as an exchange and developed a passion to educate the whole person. He began volunteering as an ESL instructor in the fall of 2019. He is very excited for the opportunity to work at the Catherine McAuley Center as he feels the other staff appreciate similar values as himself. In his free time he enjoys hiking, reading, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.
Marimer Stadtmueller, RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Distance Learning Coach
Marimer became a U.S. citizen in 2019 and she wants to serve her new home by building a stronger country. She believes in working little by little to make an impact in the lives of others in the community. Marimer started out as a student at CMC and after passing the citizenship exam, she became a tutor! Now, she is joining the Education team and she loves the environment and people at the CMC.
Ben Turner, RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps Distance Learning Coach
Ben has volunteered as an English tutor for CMC for over 2 years. He is excited to be a part of the Catherine McAuley team, where he will help teach, and prepare students and tutors for learning and teaching online. In his free time, Ben loves to draw, play the violin, read, practice archery, and cook recipes from all over the world. As a nature lover, he also likes to garden and take hikes. Most of all, Ben is passionate about learning about people’s stories and experiences, and giving everyone space to live as their best selves.
Refugee & Immigrant Services Staff
Masood Akbari, Employment Services Case Manager
Masood has an Associate’s degree in Business from Kateb University in Kabul, Afghanistan. He worked with the US Army in Afghanistan for 15 years and came to the US in 2021 and was resettled by the Catherine McAuley Center. He heard about a job opening from one of the staff and started working at CMC as an Employment Case Manage. He describes himself as a business person and hopes to build business relationships here in his community.
Benedicte Chubaka, Resettlement Program Manager
Benedicte attended Allegheny College and got her bachelors degree in Global Health Studies and Community and Justice Studies. She supports CMC’s mission because she knows what it is like to be in need of something and having that support and opportunity available. During her free time, she is either hanging out with friends doing activities like brunch or traveling, or watching movies.
Jamie Forster, LIFE Program Coordinator
Jamie has over a decade of experience working with families and youth ages birth-21, both in the classroom and home settings. Her experience, education, and training emphasize service coordination and development, severe Autism, developmental delays, behavioral disorders, child protection, domestic violence, and substance abuse. She enjoys development and program coordination. Designing individual and/or group strengths-based programming that promotes growth in any aspect of an individual’s development, from academic to self-sufficient like skills, is a passion. When not working, she loves time with her adult children and husband of over 30 years, music, personal study and devotion, art, game night with family, camping, crochet, and of course-anything that involves great food.
Abby Freese, Resource Navigator
Abby holds bachelors and masters degrees in Social Work and has worked in social work since 2006. After completing an internship at a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago in 2006, Abby had a goal of working with refugees and immigrants in her career again. After working in homeless shelters for 10 years and working with adults with intellectual disabilities, Abby returned to working with refugees & immigrants in 2016 when she started her position at CMC. Abby loves her job at CMC advocating for refugees & immigrants and connecting them with resources and services in the community. Abby enjoys learning about other cultures and working with her co-workers at CMC to serve refugees and immigrants from the multiple cultures found in our community. When she’s not working, Abby can usually be found spending time with her husband and their 2 adorable sons.
In February 2018, Caleb came to CMC to work with and advocate for refugees and immigrants. Caleb began working with refugees in 2011 and previously worked with refugees under Catholic Charities here in Cedar Rapids and in Louisville, KY. Caleb graduated from Faith Baptist Bible College with a B.A. in Biblical Studies/Spanish and from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with his Masters of Divinity. Caleb studied abroad in Peru, Ecuador, and Japan. He enjoys time with his wife and keeping up with his 4 children. Caleb’s interests are eclectic – ranging from languages and cultures, history, politics, literature, science, ethics, and philosophy. He applauds CMC’s mission to welcome and empower our society’s most vulnerable. At CMC, Caleb works with new refugee families, gives refugees and immigrants a platform to speak, and brings people of disparate backgrounds together. Caleb is currently learning French and Swahili to better serve our clients!
Chanel Godonu, Refugee Childcare Business Development Case Manager
Chanel graduated form Kutztown University in Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Psychology. Prior to joining CMC, she worked in various sectors in the Social Services field and other non-profit organizations. She was raised to always keep love alive, by doing so she enjoys to give back to her community. Chanel is originally from Philadelphia before moving to Cedar Rapids in 2015. She loves watching her favorite NFL football team, the Eagles, and hanging out with her husband Patrick, daughter Belle, and son Ave.
Jon Harper, Refugee Social Services Program Manager
Jon is an Army veteran who initially focused on getting two degrees in IT work. During a work shortage in IT work, he transitioned into working as a Direct Support Professional for disabled adults. After a few years as a DSP, he transitioned into property management. He led several large scale reconstruction and remodeling projects with various properties. While working with placing tenants from other countries into apartments, he learned about CMC. He supports CMC’s mission because he believes that everyone deserves a chance at a safe, peaceful life. He is very proud of his professional development and being able to still be a father. He spends his time reading, playing video games and parenting his 6 year old son.
Ayoub Idriss, Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator
Ayoub is originally from Sudan and moved to the United States in 2016 via a diversity visa. He has a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Khartoum in Sudan. He is also enrolled at Kirkwood Community College to continue his education. He is married and has 3 kids, a boy and 2 girls. He loves to spend his free time with his family and take his kids out when the weather is nice. He worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sudan, helping people affected by the armed conflict. He knows how a person can feel when they provide humanitarian help to people in need and is thrilled to join the team at CMC and contribute to helping people in need.
Bio coming soon!
Bonnie Lunsford, Healthcare Navigator
Bonnie obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing at Coe College in 2006 and has worked as a Registered Nurse for the past 13 years at Unity Point, St. Luke’s Emergency Department. Prior to that, she volunteered in Lakeside Montana for twelve years with Youth With a Mission, a non-denominational, international missions organization holding such positions such as a Ministry Team Member, Preschool Manager, and coordinator of travel and booking for various performing artists. Valuable interaction with multicultural individuals began to form the foundation for her present work at CMC. Bonnie spent the Fall of 2018 at CMC as an intern for her masters in Community and Public Health Nursing. She is excited to use both of her previous job experiences to advocate for the health disparities of the vulnerable refugee and immigrant population, working to assist with their navigation of our complicated healthcare system.
Rex Mwamba, Employment Services Case Manager
Rex is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He arrived in the U.S. in 2013. He has a bachelor’s degree in Network & Systems Administration from DRC and an associate’s degree in IT from Kirkwood Community College. He is also a Member Manager of his own company called World Development, LLC. He has 3 kids, 1 boy and 2 girls. In his free time, he likes to spend quality time with his wife, go swimming with his kids and walk his dog. Rex is thrilled to join the team at CMC and help people find the resources they need.
Renae Popelar, Careers & Employment Program Manager
Renae graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Iowa. Renae has focused her career on helping those with various barriers gain employment and advocate for themselves. For the past 8 years, she has been employed at IowaWORKS. While there, she was part of the Linn County Refugee Alliance, Immigrant Concerns Committee and partnered with CMC on a project assisting Afghans secure employment and explore Career Pathways. It was through these opportunities that Renae came to work at CMC in March of 2022. When not working, Renae enjoys volunteering at her children’s activities (theater, dance, and show choir), family camping trips, and time on the Wapsipinicon River (the Wapsi.) She also has a love of words. Words can be powerful when used with kindness.
Aaron Tarchinski, Volunteer Engagement Specialist
Aaron has a B.A. in Psychology and Studio Art from Coe College and a B.A. in Art History and a Certification in Museum Studies from the University of Iowa. He has worked as a volunteer coordinator for non-profits for 5 years before starting at CMC. He has lived in Cedar Rapids for almost 10 years after moving from the Quad Cities. He fell in love with the city and all its amazing organizations. He supports the CMC mission because he believes every person should have the resources and education to better their lives, no matter what their past. In his free time, Aaron likes to garden and paint. He got married in 2021 and enjoys his weekends with his spouse and their 2 cats.
Hilaire Tshombe, Resource Navigator
Hilaire came to the U.S. via South Africa, but he is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. When he arrived here, life was not easy. He had to adapt from speaking French to English, and overcome financial obstacles to education. He did not give up because he had a dream to fulfill. He started at Kirkwood Community College in the spring of 2015. He struggled through the first few weeks, needing help, but having no idea where to turn. He never lost hope. Hilaire earned his bachelor’s degree from Mount Mercy University and his master’s degree from St. Ambrose University and his goal is to help people dream of success and become self-reliant. He is always working hard so that one day he can say he has fulfilled his dreams. He believes that in the United States, we can all succeed, no matter where we come from. He is looking forward to being a part of the Catherine McAuley Center team.
Zia Ud Din Zakhail, Afghan Parolee Assistance Program Case Manager
Zia Ud Din has completed his bachelors and masters degrees in Finance from the Institute of Management Sciences. Besides his degrees, he has diplomas in accounting, IT, and the English language. He was a volunteer interpreter with CMC for the Afghan refugees. When he arrived in Iowa, he loved it so much that he applied to work for CMC. He likes working with CMC because he can interact with people from all over the world. He has a wife and one year old daughter living in Kabul because it was impossible for him to evacuate them.
Women’s Services Staff
Kristin Bratton, Director of Women’s Services
Kristin graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies and Spanish. She began working for the Transitional Housing program after volunteering in the Education program since 2015. She is excited to support CMC’s mission by empowering women with education and resources. In her free time, she enjoys supporting her bonus children, being outdoors, and playing with her two cats.
Bella Burns, Women’s Services Case Manager
Bella got her degree in Social Work from Loras College, during which she worked as a community trainer providing direct community and home-based support to people with intellectual disabilities. She finished her degree by interning with Friends of the Family in assisting survivors with fleeing domestic violence and locate housing. After she graduated she worked as an IHH case manager through the Abbe Center and was promoted to the PATH homeless outreach position, during which she worked with many women with, not only the trauma of homelessness, but with several incidents of sexual assault, domestic violence, and substance use. She decided that she would hone her skills of advocacy and connections to resources towards the Catherine McAuley Center, so she could continue to serve the women within her community to support them on their journey.
Rozana Garrison, Women’s Services Support Assistant
Rozana obtained her associates degree from North Arkansas College. She joined Catherine McAuley in October of 2021. She is proud to be a part of CMC and stands by the importance of its mission. She believes this not only empowers her but the community she serves. She comes from a background in addiction and mental health. Today she uses her knowledge and experience to be of service to the women seeking support and safety from CMC. She is available to answer any questions or concerns the residents share with her. She is a great team player and provides various support to the other staff members she collaborates with on the Women’s Services team. Rozana simply enjoys being helpful and seeing hope being restored, with a renewed sense of purpose, in the women’s lives she serves.
Julie Herny, Women’s Services Case Manager
Julie has been in social work and case management for over five years. In 2019, she went back to school at Mt. Mercy University for her Bachelor’s in Social Work. In the fall of 2021, she had the honor of completing a 12 hour per week internship with the Catherine McAuley Center’s Women’s Services. While here, she developed a connection with the clients they served and the wonderful team providing much needed services. Seeing the positive change accomplished through the mission of CMC propels her passion for helping people. Julie is a mother to 2 children, ages 12 and 15. They keep her busy and active at all times and they love going on family outings as much as possible, including biking!
Cassandra Malecek, Women’s Services Coordinator
Cassandra obtained her degree in Social Work from Mt. Mercy University. She felt that her experiences and desire to help others led her to CMC. She believes in the mission of CMC and says it’s inspiring to be part of an agency that highlights the importance of education to spark change. Cassandra is most proud of her family and the strong bonds she has with them and her friends. These relationships keep her grounded and provide her with limitless amounts of joy and laughter. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys traveling.
Tammy Mims, Women’s Services Case Manager
Bio coming soon!
Bailey Wilson, Women’s Services Program Specialist
Bailey (she/her) graduated from Iowa State University in 2019 with a B.S. in Sociology and a B.S. in Mathematics. Her passion for understanding social inequalities and barriers faced by marginalized communities brought her to Catherine McAuley Center. She joined the Women’s Services team in 2021 as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, spending a year researching women’s experiences of homelessness and uplifting women’s feedback and recommendations. Now, empowering clients as leaders continues to drive her work. Her hope is that each client leaves CMC with tools to advocate for themselves and their communities.