A little about us
What makes community building so complex is that it occurs in an infinite number of small steps, sometimes in quiet moments that we notice out of the corner of our eye. It calls for us to treat as important many things that we thought were incidental. An afterthought becomes the point; a comment made in passing defines who we are more than all that came before. If the artist is one who captures the nuance of experience, then this is whom each of us must become.
In the summer of 2021, we (Beth Ellen and Anna) spent the day on a beach at Lake Michigan talking about all the barriers to equity and the systems that perpetuate them. While it’s not the most relaxing beach conversation, it’s all we talk about when we are together. We realized that our theory of change (for everything) starts with a culture of belonging.
We spent the last seven years working together towards achieving a sense of community with staff, volunteers, and in Rise chapters all over the country in the pursuit of global gender equality. Beth Ellen was the CEO of Together Women Rise and Anna volunteered to lead national efforts there while pursuing a masters degree in social justice and serving as VP of Business Development of a $35m community development organization. Somehow in these busy times, we connected deeply in our desire for trusting relationships in community impact organizations.
Now we are using the depth of experience in our careers (over 60 years between us) to help nonprofit organizations become communities of belonging unto themselves with systems that support the quest. We believe this is the requirement for the justice, equity, and inclusion we all seek in our work in nonprofits, but also for ourselves.
We look forward to working with you,
Beth Ellen and Anna
Question the whole shebang. We believe that questions are transformative. Did you know that research shows that brainstorming questions is much more powerful than brainstorming ideas and answers? We ask why like two-year-olds.
Own it. We take a stance of ownership in every interaction; we take responsibility and learn from our stories. We are committed to the good of the whole in every engagement. We show up with excellence and achieve exceptional results. We hold ourselves accountable for the commitments we’ve made.
Disrupt Oppression. We pursue deeper understanding of our own complicity in maintaining inequitable systems and act to disrupt oppression. We understand leadership as a function that is always available to every individual and invite others to express their leadership at every opportunity. We make it our business to understand how power is concentrated and utilized to marginalize voices and communities. We take every opportunity to center the voices of those on the margins. We value the depth that diversity brings to creating new realities.
Community is everything. We believe people when they describe their experiences and we endeavor to understand the meaning and importance of each story they share. We create the experience of belonging in every room we enter, practicing radical hospitality that welcomes whole authentic people into the room and never demands that they be anything other than themselves.
Courage over fear. We choose courage over fear always. We take big risks and adapt. We practice vulnerability, transparency, and authenticity even when it’s difficult. We learn and try new things constantly. We care about feedback.
We are here for the long haul. We take care of ourselves so that we can be present for our clients. We respect our own limits and commit to prioritizing rest, health, and self-care.
Beth Ellen Holimon
Beth Ellen leads with the belief that purpose-driven organizations will achieve their aspirations when boards, fundraising, and operations are transparent, respectful, empathetic, and courageous.
She is the lead consultant with The Hive Collective which is a growing consortium of thought leaders and practitioners who apply the concept of connective and inclusive board governance. For over six years, Beth Ellen led Together Women Rise, a powerful community of women and allies dedicated to achieving global gender equality. She has served as the executive director of an emergency shelter for foster children, the American Cancer Society, Reach Out and Read, Norwegian Outdoor Education Center, Utah Community Associations Institute, and consulted with many more. She was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Mexico to learn and teach domestic violence intervention in Mexican shelters. She holds a BA in Women’s Studies from the University of Colorado and an MA in Linguistics from the University of South Florida. Beth Ellen is a Certified Fundraising Executive and BoardSource Governance Consultant. She is the mom of two incredible teenage boys, three cats, a happy standard poodle; she is also a beekeeper. She is gratefully married to a very patient Keith Albury.
Beth Ellen Holimon strives to dismantle systems of oppression in all her work, recognizing that often the systems under which nonprofits function were not created by the people who participate in them. Beth Ellen strives to give space for the creation of inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity, and respect.
Beth Ellen identifies as a cis-gendered, white, straight, woman. She recognizes that the unearned privileges that come with these identities may cause her to miss valuable perspectives in decision-making or advice. She invites feedback and conversation when she expresses privilege in any way and endeavors to learn, reflect, and continue to change. Additionally, she welcomes feedback on this written perspective.
Anna Schoon has over 25 years of leadership experience in a variety of human service settings. Since 2006, Anna has been working at Northwest Indiana Community Action, based in Crown Point, Indiana where she currently serves as Vice President of Planning and Business Development. In her role, Anna leads the organization’s community needs assessment processes, develops outcome-oriented strategies for change, and leads the organization’s efforts to measure and document success.
Anna holds a master’s degree in social justice from Loyola University Chicago and is a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the honor society of Jesuit universities. She is a Certified Community Action Professional and a Certified Trainer in Results Oriented Management and Accountability through the National Peer to Peer Training Network. She was awarded a fellowship with Common Good and was a semi-finalist for the 2020 cohort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leaders program. Anna helped lead the effort to establish an annual conference addressing the intersection of trauma/adverse childhood experiences and community development in Northwest Indiana in 2019.
Anna also volunteers as a local chapter leader and as chair of the national Regional Leader Committee for Together Women Rise, a Greenville, South Carolina based non-profit working for global gender equality. Anna is particularly interested in place-making and belonging as strategies to advance equity and inclusion.
Sheila Whittle has been working in the education and nonprofit fields since 2006. She has dedicated her life to serving at-risk and vulnerable populations with a focus on women and children.
Sheila is a licensed educator in multiple states and has taught both Special Education and English Language Arts at Title I Middle Schools. Her commitment to educatingand empowering youth earned her the Teacher of the Year award for the 2014-15school year.
Following her teaching career, Sheila pursued her passion to fight human trafficking.She has worked directly with survivors providing social services, employment,training, and recovery programs both locally in the Greater Houston Area and abroad in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Sheila has been active in the fight against trafficking since 2009. She has been interviewed on radio and television and has provided training and presentations on human trafficking to diverse audiences at local conferences, government agencies, schools, businesses, places of worship, and community organizations.
Sheila currently serves as the Director of Programs for Project Protect Our Children, a Texas nonprofit dedicated to fighting child sex trafficking, exploitation, and abuse…before it begins. During her time in the classroom, she witnessed the entire spectrum of at-risk factors in her students: sexual abuse, poverty, cognitive disabilities,sexual identity, homelessness, neglect, etc. While working with teen survivors, she saw how those same at-risk factors directly contributed to their trafficking, exploitation,and abuse. This reality pressed upon her the importance and urgency of bringing human trafficking prevention education to ALL students, especially those with increased vulnerabilities.
In all her work, Sheila strives to provide the resources, skills, and support needed forothers to realize their potential, grow, thrive, and make a difference in their own communities.