Missy has the honor of being the very first respite provider for Respite Connection! She began her career in home care and then with the Iowa Respite and Crisis Care Coalition before starting Respite Connection in 2002. Missy received her bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa (sorry Hawkeyes… she’s a Cyclone fan at heart). You will often see Missy with her husband Brian and their three daughters at Respite Connection events. She loves spending time with both her family at home and her Respite Connection family!
Grossly outnumbered by females both at home and work, Brian holds his own! He is our “behind the scenes man”, offering expertise every step of the way. Brian graduated from Iowa State University with a BA in Accounting and then went on to the University of Oklahoma where he obtained his Master’s degree and passed the CPA exam. Brian is quite a jack of all trades-he can go from birthing a foal in the morning to processing payroll in the same day. He founded the agency with his wife, Missy out of their home, and has been an integral part of the agency’s growth ever since. Brian likes to join Missy and the family in making spontaneous road trips and taking care of the family’s horses, cats, dogs, chickens and rabbits.
Cindy was born and raised in Des Moines until she attended the University of Northern Iowa where she earned her BS in Psychology. She went on to graduate school at Drake University and completed her MSE in Community Counseling (don’t tell the Bulldogs, but she’s a Panther at heart!), and maintains licensure as a Mental Health Counselor. She has experience with Applied Behavior Analysis, supporting individuals living in a residential setting, and has worked in a hospital setting completing mental health evaluations. She has been with Respite Connection in some capacity since 2003. In her time away from the office you will find her spending time with her husband, kids, and immediate family. A warning- if you get between her and a York Peppermint Patty (or any candy, really) there’s no telling what could happen!!
Shelly has been with Respite Connection since 2009, and offers years of experience working with families. She graduated from Drake with an Education degree and began working for a Respite program upon graduation. Shelly has worked in a variety of settings from in home Respite to Assistant Director at Respite Connection. Shelly enjoys a good mani/pedi as well as a good workout (but chasing her 2 toddlers around is workout enough!) She and her husband have 4 children and enjoy some friendly Wii Bowling competitions from time to time. Shelly is known in our office for bringing the best White Elephant gifts–we’re talking some incredibly amazing items!
You may recognize Natalie’s face, as she started up front in our office in 2010 as an Office Coordinator until she moved into the Service Specialist position. Natalie has had experience as an associate in a Special Education classroom, teaching dance to children, and providing Supported Community Living and Respite services. When Natalie isn’t at the office she can be found watching Criminal Minds, spending time with friends and family, planning her next trip to Las Vegas, and perfecting her coloring skills. Once a childhood winner of a Pamida coloring contest, she doesn’t want to lose her edge on the competition!!
Reyna was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, but is a true Iowan now! She attended Grand View University and earned her BA in Criminal Justice. Her experience working in special education classrooms ignited her passion for working with families. She forms a special bond with many of our Spanish speaking families with her skills as a Spanish interpreter. Reyna enjoys touching hearts and making smiles with the relationships that she has developed. In her time away from the office, she loves to go for bike rides and relax with a good book. You may also find her jet-setting to tropical destinations or in search for her next pair of new shoes!
Laura comes to us with lots of experience in many settings. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice at Cornell College, she began working with individuals with a developmental disability in a residential setting. She has provided in-home skill building and counseling services and then moved on to case management. Over the years she had developed a great empathy and desire to help others. Outside of work, she greatly enjoys spending time with her family. She and her husband have three children and continue to grow their family through foster care and adoption – a passion that has really blossomed for Laura and her family! In her spare time (does that actually exist?!), Laura enjoys many different activities…from acting and singing at a local community theater to spending time with her church family. She has a passion for children that is global….she’s working on sustainable projects for orphan care and third world countries. Ask Laura to tell you a story about life on her “funny farm”! (and she really, really likes eating….so combine eating with any of the above activities and she’s set!)
Jenny Black graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Social Work. She has experience in a residential setting, a school setting with at-risk kids, and as a social worker for the state of Iowa. Jenny landed at Respite Connection in 2011 and loves the relationships that she develops with the people she supports. Jenny is a very active gal and enjoys running, sand volleyball, and dinners with friends. Jenny also enjoys that she gets to be such a great support for her family members. After all of her work is done and it’s down time–this girl loves her naps!! She will tell you that she wishes there was an Olympic napping event, because she would take the gold.
Jenni Elston graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a teaching degree, then went on to earn her Masters in Education at Drake University. Jenni joined Respite Connection in 2006 as a Respite provider before moving into a Supervisor position. Jenni has a lot of great experience from her time working in a special education classroom. Her teacher experience has transferred into a passion for supporting individuals at Respite Connection to learn and set goals. Jenni loves to spend time being active with her family, and is our “go to girl” for all things related to healthy eating and living. Jenny has a hatred (yes, we know it’s a strong word) for glitter. With two young daughters, she spends a lot of her time trying to eradicate it from her home!
Kim graduated from UNI in 2014 with a B.A. in Marketing: Advertising and Digital Media. Shortly after, she moved to Des Moines in search of rewarding work and a great company. Eventually she found the perfect fit at Respite Connection. Kim grew up in Northern Iowa and went to the tiny school of Ventura (home of the world’s best ice cream shop: The Viking). She was valedictorian of her high school graduating class, which only makes sense since she had six wisdom teeth! When she’s not working you can find her visiting her friends and family, at concerts and other events around Des Moines or out exploring new restaurants in search of the most delicious food in the metro!
Megan graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Family Services degree. (Are you seeing a pattern here? We are stockpiling UNI Panther Alums here!) She has over ten years experience working in a waiver home setting with adults. After working part-time for us for many years, Megan has now joined our team full time covering the western side of the state! Megan likes to spend time with her family, travel, shop, and head to Okoboji to soak up the sun and warmth!
Kathy joined the Respite Connection team in 2015. She has held a variety of position over her 30 year career, including Program Director for a residential program. Her experience makes her a great advocate and resource! Kathy is a true Panther fan, having earned her BA degree in Social Work from the University of Northern Iowa, with an emphasis on Child Welfare. In her spare time, Kathy loves boating with her extended family or just spending quality time with a friend, seeing a good movie, or going out to eat. When beautiful winter days beckon, Kathy loves watching her two kids snow board (even though she isn’t brave enough to hit the slopes anymore. (Her passion for skiing has been replaced with a fear of injury:) She is a softy when it comes to animals, with one 10 year old dog and a new puppy she got her daughter for her 16th birthday this year!
Valerie is our source of positive energy at Respite Connection! She came to us in 2009 with lots of experience working with waiver services. She received her BA in Leisure, Youth, and Human Services from The University of Northern Iowa. She works full-time in our Urbandale office and when she is not working, she is on the go. She enjoys spending time with her family who keeps up with her, no problem!! Some of her favorite things include: traveling, ziplining, hiking, and line dancing. She has yet to go skydiving but hopes to soar the skies soon. When it’s time for our thrill seeker to slow things down she likes to pamper herself with a professional massage. When you come into the office, you will know Valerie by her huge smile and energy-no coffee needed!
Michele works part-time in our Urbandale office and really enjoys seeing how services can impact families in a positive way. She graduated from Dordt College with a degree in Social Work and has had a variety of roles in the helping field, ranging from a community mental health agency to case management, and using Applied Behavior Analysis with children. Michele was voted “Best Dressed” as a senior in high school, and could still land the title today with her scarf and necklace collection! While Michele really enjoys the time she gets to spend with her Respite Connection families, she also really enjoys time with her own family. She and her husband home school their three children, and attend sporting events on a regular basis. And when she’s done with all that? A manicure and pedicure is in order!
Brittney came to Respite Connection in 2013 with a lot of experience working with individuals with disabilities in a residential setting as well as a school setting. Brittney is very active, spending time at the gym, playing sand volleyball or taking her daughter on stroller rides. She also loves spending time at home with her husband, daughter and family. If you’re looking for a good bargain talk to Brittney. She will shop until she drops on Black Friday! Next time you’re in the office, ask to see a picture of her dog Jack and his beautiful underbite!
Deb is a part-time Service Supervisor out of Ottumwa. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a Master’s degree in Social Work and has experience at the Dept. of Human Services and with AEA. Deb is an advocate and can be seen advocating for individuals with a disability at our state capitol and even in Washington D.C.! Always on the go, Deb is extremely busy working (she has a full-time gig on top of her work with Respite Connection), spending time with her family (especially those grandkids!), and traveling. If you are a NASCAR fan, you may bump into Deb at one of the races, as she and her husband like to travel to watch.
Sara came to Respite Connection in 2012, bringing with her years of experience working with families in need. She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Criminology and a minor in Psychology. She has lived in a handful of places in the country, as she moved from Iowa to Texas, to South Dakota, and then back to us here in Iowa—she can’t stay away! She is glad to be back near her family, and enjoys the time that she gets to spend with them, and if it’s while she’s enjoying a glass of wine, even better!
Ann started in the human service field as a Respite and SCL provider. She went on to become a program coordinator, a Case Manager, and then landed at Respite Connection in 2008. She has additional experience as an Early Childhood Therapist after receiving her Master’s in Counseling from Drake University (though she is a Hawkeye fan through and through after receiving her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Iowa). Ann is passionate about helping others- both people and animals. Another passion: Starbucks. If you see her placing her order please let them know to fill the cup to the brim. Our easygoing Ann may just take issue with that!
Lynn has been with Respite Connection since 2010 and coordinates services for Respite Connection families in the northwest part of Iowa. She had an interest in working with families since high school, and went on to get her degree in Psychology from Clarke College. She has experience working with people with chronic mental illnesses, as well as at-risk youth and has worked as a Case Manager. After work is done for the day, Lynn and her husband enjoy spending time with their son and daughter and are licensed foster parents. They keep their weekends incredibly busy providing Respite to children in their area. When not running around with the family, Lynn likes to polish the trophy she received in her 7th grade spelling bee!