Staff & Board of Directors

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Families Helping Families is proud to introduce our hardworking staff and board of directors. Each member of our board of directors serves as a volunteer in the organization. Our team is proud to help support Iowa’s foster children and foster families.

If you’d like to join our team of volunteers, learn more and apply for available volunteer opportunities.

For information or to reach our board of directors, please contact us today.

Melissa Carlson, Executive Director
Melissa Carlson joined Families Helping Families as the Executive Director in January 2019. Melissa grew up in Sand Springs, OK and attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. From working with large brands such as Chick-fil-A and Whole Foods Market to a small Chamber of Commerce in a city of 9,000 people, Melissa has many years of marketing, event planning, and community relations experience. Melissa’s family permanently relocated to the Cedar Rapids area in June 2018 after her husband accepted a job as a Supplier Quality Manager at Husco International in Maquoketa. Melissa enjoys reading, movies, concerts, shopping and watching her kids play sports. Melissa lives in Marion with her husband Dennis and their two daughters.
Angela Hauskins, Director of Programs & Events
Angela Hauskins is a lifelong resident of Cedar Rapids. She graduated in 2002 from Jefferson High School. She went on to Hamilton Business College where she got her AA degree as an Administrative Assistant. Angela has a passion to serve her community. She works with preschoolers part time and has a passion for organizing people's homes. In her free time, Angela loves spending time with her boyfriend Casey, their 3 children, and their dog and cat. She also enjoys warm weather, live music and time with friends!
Raymond Siddell, Board President
Raymond is an adoptive parent who began volunteering with Families Helping Families in January 2016. He has adopted two sons, Keenan and Jordan. Raymond has strong ties to the Cedar Rapids community as he grew up on the Southwest side of Cedar Rapids and graduated from Jefferson High School in 2008. Professionally he is an entrepreneur and licensed REALTOR® with Keller Williams Legacy Group of Iowa.
Sandy Merritt, Board Vice-President
Sandy retired in June 2014 after more than 40 years in education.  She was a first grade teacher and high school drama director at Center Point-Urbana, an Inclusion Resource Specialist at Grant Wood AEA, the Student Services Director at College Community, Curriculum and School Improvement Director and Principal at West Elementary in Independence.  She is currently working part time for AEA 267 as an Administrative Coach and a data collector for School Administrators of Iowa. She also volunteers at her local school, library and Families Helping Families. Sandy is passionate about helping children to grow and learn so that they can be productive and positive children and adults.  She has been part of Families Helping Families since March of 2015 and loves seeing the look in a child's face when he/she gets a new pair of shoes, a new shirt, or a toy! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and grand puppies, reading, doing crafts, traveling, spending time with friends, and shopping.
Brenda West, Board Secretary
Brenda has been volunteering with Families Helping Families since January 2015 and brings a wealth of experience in communications, office management and excellent organizational skills.  She also brings public relations and marketing skills to the Families Helping Families team. Brenda very much enjoyed serving Waypoint Services as the Senior Executive Assistant to the Executive Board and the Board of Trustees for six years.  Since 2007, Brenda has been serving customers at Toyota Financial Services.
Alonzo Marsh, Board Treasurer
Alonzo graduated from the University of Illinois in May of 2019. Shortly after relocating to Cedar Rapids, he started volunteering with Families Helping Families. Alonzo's past volunteering experience includes working at the Woodridge Community Resource Center to tutor and mentor elementary school children and working at local community food pantries and shelters. He graduated High School from the Illinois Math and Science Academy in 2015, where he served as a class liaison and Student Council Vice President. During college, Alonzo coached children ages 6 through 18 on the Woodridge Sea Lions Swim Team. At the University of Illinois, Alonzo served on the Illini Union Board where he helped plan campus activities and advised the Union on strategic planning decisions. After graduation, Alonzo moved to Cedar Rapids to work as a Low-Level Software Engineer for Collins Aerospace.
Maria Johnson
Maria was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, and is a Jefferson High School graduate. She received her Bachelors in Public Relations and Communications from the University of Northern Iowa, and her Masters of Business Administration at the University of Iowa. She has over 15 years experience in Marketing, Public Relations and Communications, working in both Chicago, IL and Cedar Rapids. She is currently the Communications Division Manager for the City of Cedar Rapids, and previously was Assistant Vice President of Marketing at Collins Community Credit Union. Maria began volunteering at Families Helping Families in 2017 because of her interest in providing much needed support for foster children and foster families in her community.  In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband Matt, and attending the many activities of her teenage twins, Abram and Shea.
Michelle Hotchkiss
Michelle grew up in Coggon and Center Point and was a 1989 grad. She earned her BA at UNI for Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She has been a teacher at Center Point Child Care Center, and a substitute teacher. Since 1996, Michelle has been an in-home daycare and preschool provider. She enjoys the little kids, planning lessons and crafts, and watching them grow and learn. Her love for volunteering and giving started as a young child. Her mom, Sandy, was her inspiration in giving help to those less fortunate. Sandy is the FHF Vice President who got Michelle involved in volunteering with this organization in 2015. Michelle’s teen daughter, Megan, is also a volunteer for FHF. Having three generations working together has been a very rewarding blessing! Michelle enjoys spending time with her husband Berne and kids Tyler, Megan and Bryce, and her two fur babies Molly and Bella. She enjoys traveling, bike riding, and spending time with family and friends.
Amanda Cash
Amanda joined the Families Helping Families board in January 2020. She is a transplant to Iowa from Washington (state), where she was born and raised. A scientist at heart, Amanda has always experimented, explored and pushed boundaries. After graduating high school in an accelerated program allowing her to receive her Associate of Arts degree at the same time, she moved to New Jersey for more college. While in school, Amanda worked many jobs including as a nanny and babysitter. She finished her Bachelors of Science in Chemistry and her Masters of Science in Cosmetic Science simultaneously in 2015. Amanda worked as a Development Chemist for a large personal care company for three years, before relocating to Iowa in February of 2019. Here she began working for Frontier Co-op formulating new personal care products for the Aura Cacia brand. She enjoys playing with her dog and visiting her boyfriend who's out of state for school. A few of her favorites are: Movie - Lilo & Stitch; Food - sushi or Mexican; Candy - anything sour; Pastime - board games and travel. Being an only child from a single-parent home with different ethnicities, Amanda is passionate that children feel understood and know that they matter; each and every one! The determination she has had to show throughout her life is something she hopes to instill in all children through her position on the board. She is passionate to give respect and a voice to those that others cast aside and she’s excited to get ‘boots on the ground’ to help her new community.
Corrine Newport
Corinne has been married to Ben Newport for 18 years.  They have two daughters, Alexis, 16, and Alyssa, 13. They have lived in Marion for 16 years.  Corinne’s passion for volunteering and community involvement started in high school. She first started volunteering at a nature center helping with displays.  She eventually got hired by the conservation board and helped build the trails. It also happened to be where we got married. She then would help my father in college deliver for meals on wheels where he was the coordinator.  Once settled in Marion, Corinne became involved with the Marion Metro Kiwanis where she was President for one year. Corinne is currently employed at Alburnett Community Schools where she is a preschool teacher's assistant and a student support associate.
Jace Vevera
Jace Vevera is the Head Kids Instructor at Tipping Point Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Cedar Rapids. He grew up in Iowa City and joined the military in high school at 17 years old. It was during this time he discovered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and decided it was what he wanted to do with his life. After his time in the military, he followed his passion for competing and teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and for the past 5 years has been building the best-kept secret in Cedar Rapids, Iowa…The Tipping Point Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Kids! They are the most dominant kids' team in the state going undefeated at multiple tournaments, some as dominant as 28-0 unscored on, and won multiple team titles across the Midwest. He first discovered Families Helping Families when he started a school supply drive at his Jiu-Jitsu School with no plan set on what to do with the supplies. One of the parents of his kids' program recommended Families Helping Families and it didn’t take him long to realize this is the organization he will be committing his time to in order to support all those involved in the lives of children receiving foster care. Jace has experienced through coaching the kids' team the critical impact just one invested adult can provide to encourage the growth in the life of a child.