Leadership Team

Our Staff

Executive Director

Richard Gehrman

Operations Manager and Volunteer Coordinator

Stephanie McCorkell

Director of Development

Avivah Luehr

Board of Directors

Board Member

Nalee Vue

Board Member

David Foster

Board Member

Calvin McIntyre

Board Member

Sonja Greenwaldt

Board Member

Faith VanMeter

Board Member

Rick Morrissey

Richard Gehrman

Executive Director

Rich is the founder and Executive Director of Safe Passage for Children.  Mr. Gehrman developed expertise in child welfare metrics and Best Practices in his work for clients including the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the Ramsey County ACE program, and Growing Home – a Minnesota foster care agency.  This background led him to develop the core strategy and resources for Safe Passage. In his consulting work Mr. Gehrman is an experienced project manager who represents business owners in major Business Process Redesign projects and IT systems upgrades.  He has managed projects in federal, state, county and municipal governments in the areas of health, human services, state court administration, higher education, and juvenile justice. Mr. Gehrman has served as the chief finance and administrative officer for the Westchester County New York Department of Social Services, the Maryland Department of Human Resources, and the City of Saint Paul Minnesota. Mr. Gehrman is a graduate of Williams College, Harvard Divinity School, and Harvard Business School.

Stephanie McCorkell

Operations Manager and Volunteer Coordinator

Stephanie is the Operations Manager and Volunteer Coordinator for Safe Passage for Children. Before joining the team at Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota, Stephanie was a long time public school teacher who taught children at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in the states of Wisconsin, Georgia, and then Minnesota. Stephanie holds a Masters Degree in Educational Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota’s school of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (OLPD), a Bachelors of Science Degree from Saint Cloud State University in K-12 Teaching, and is licensed as a Teacher and as a PK-12 School Principal in Minnesota. Stephanie has served as a volunteer with several Twin Cities area nonprofit organizations, including College Possible, People Serving People, and as an elected Board Member of the Payne-Phalen District Five Planning Council in Saint Paul and co-founder/co-chair of the D5 Environment Committee. She is also a professional musician and private music teacher.

Avivah Luehr

Director of Development

Avivah is the Director of Development for Safe Passage for Children. Avivah joins the team with over a decade of nonprofit management experience in the areas of fundraising, food insecurity, foster care advocacy, volunteer coordination and pastoral care. Avivah has served as a volunteer for many twin city nonprofits including Feed My Starving Children, Minnesota Council of Churches, Youthworks!, Union Gospel Mission, Open Arms MN, and others. Volunteerism and serving local neighbors is a priority and passion of hers. Avivah lives in North Minneapolis with family and enjoys exploring new restaurants, getting to know her neighbors and an evening in with a new Netflix film. Avivah attended both Nyack College and Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrietta, California.

Patrick Hirigoyen

Chair

Patrick is Principal of The Hirigoyen Group LLC, a Saint Paul, Minn-based public relations and marketing communications consultancy. Prior to establishing his consulting practice in 2009, he was Vice President, Marketing and Communications at John B. Collins and Associates, Inc., a Minneapolis-based reinsurance broker. From 1986 until 2004, he worked in Corporate Communications at property-liability insurer The St. Paul Companies (now The Travelers), over time working with every part of the company in every aspect of corporate communications. He led a global marketing and communications program that included operations in the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. Mr. Hirigoyen began his career in the Minnesota State Senate, and worked for a Minnesota state agency. He holds a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor’s in English from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. He is accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (APR). Mr. Hirigoyen has served on the boards of directors of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies and the Highland Park Block Nurse Program, and the communications committee of the Saint Paul Area Red Cross.

Judy Schumacher

Board Member

Judy has been privileged to work in the early childhood and parent education field, supporting the welfare of children and their families, for the past 25 years. Judy was Director of Education and Community Partnerships for the Minnesota Children’s Museum, where she focused on stimulating creativity and imagination in well-designed, hands-on children’s exhibits. As the Senior Program Manager for Success By Six at Greater Twin Cities United Way, Judy developed grants to implement innovative early childhood and parent education programs through vital community partnerships. At Saint Paul Public Schools, Judy served as a Family Education Specialist and spear-headed the creation of a Parent Engagement Manual, convincing staff and parents alike of the critical importance of parent support and encouragement in their children’s social and academic lives. Judy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts/Theatre from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Master of Arts degree in Family Education from the University of Minnesota. Judy served on the advisory board of the Working Family Resource Center and was an active member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Greg Gardner

Board Member

Greg spent all but 15 months of his 40 year social work career working in the Child Protection system. He retired from Hennepin County, Minnesota in June, 2014, after having worked there for 37 years. Greg worked as a direct service worker in both the case management and the investigations areas of Child Protection. He was a unit supervisor for 30 years in foster care, Child Protection Case Management and for the last 24 years of his career in the areas of Child Protection Screeening, 24/7 Immediate Response and mostly in the area of CP Investigations. Greg served on several hospital and community based Child Abuse Teams, as well as on the Hennepin County Child Abuse Team. He also functioned as the Child Protection liaison for Hennepin County with the Minneapolis, Bloomington and Richfield Police Departments. For a number of years during the 1980’s and the early 1990’s Greg was also an adjunct faculty member of the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Greg received his BA in sociology from St. John’s University (Collegeville, MN) and his Master’s of Social Work from the University of Minnesota. During his working career he was a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Academy of Certified Social Workers. He was also licensed as a “Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker” by the State of Minnesota Board Of Social Work.

Ghazi Akailvi

Board Member

Ghazi is an experienced nonprofit leader, with experience in finance, accounting and information technology (IT). He currently is a consultant for nonprofit organizations. Most recently, he was chief financial officer for Living Well Disability Services, in Eagan, Minn. In that role, he led the financial and IT affairs of a $21 million nonprofit organization serving the needs of people with disabilities. From 2008 to 2012 he was director of Finance for the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF), based in Minneapolis. Although the HPF itself received little public attention, it was formed in the wake of the mortgage crisis in 2007. With the backing and direction of the White House, it ran a phone hotline to help distressed homeowners.  Ghazi created financial processes for this $63 million agency’s work with major banks and counselors; the hotline eventually helped millions of homeowners restructure their mortgages and keep their homes. Ghazi also served as director of Finance and Regulatory Services, Housing and Employment Services, for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, from 2005 to 2008. From 1990 to 2005, he was chief financial officer for Growing Home, a Saint Paul, Minn.-based, multi-state foster care organization with a $12 million annual budget.

Nalee Vue

Board Member

Nalee is owner of Project Skywings: Healings, LLC, which provides spiritual and energy healing services and raises funds to donate to nonprofit organizations helping women and children around the world.  From 2008 through 2017 she was a senior paralegal at a Minneapolis law firm, after working for two years as a junior paralegal at another law firm. Her involvement with Safe Passage began as a volunteer and donor in 2016, and is the most recent example of her varied community involvement. That involvement began in 2011 with Family Wise (formerly Children’s Safety Center), where she volunteered two weekends a month observing and ensuring the safety of children during visitation hours with their non-custodial parents. She is an advocate for Breaking Free, a nonprofit that helps women who have been the victims of sex trafficking. She serves on the executive committee of the Hmong Impact Giving Circle, which awards annual grants to selected nonprofit organizations in Minnesota’s Hmong community.  She is fluent in Hmong and holds a Bachelor’s degree from Hamline University and an ABA Paralegal Certificate.

David Foster

Board Member

David Foster is a vice-president at Merrill Lynch where he leads the financial planning efforts of the Broughton Group.  He joined the group in 2013 after working in retirement and financial planning specialist roles since joining Merrill Lynch in 1999.  Prior to that, David worked as a consultant at Ernst & Young, earned his Masters of Business Administration from Emory University, taught English in Japan, and graduated from Saint John’s University with a Bachelor of Arts in English.  In his free time, David spends time with his family and especially enjoys travelling to see and experience different cultures and coaching youth baseball.

Calvin McIntyre

Board Member

Calvin is an “ex-officio” member of the board of directors. In that capacity, he advises Safe Passage and participates in board discussions, sharing his firsthand knowledge of the system, how it can affect children and families, and how he helps them navigate that system. Calvin was born in Arkansas, moving at a very young age to Wisconsin and, ultimately, Minnesota. From ages one to 12, he was in the foster care system. He began his career as a substitute teacher in Minneapolis public schools, and later held a managerial position with AT&T until becoming one of many managers to lose their positions as part of a corporate downsizing. In the meantime, he became involved with the child protection system as a volunteer guardian ad litem with Hennepin County. That later led to a contract position as a guardian ad litem and, eventually, to working in that position full time. He has been a full-time guardian ad litem for seven years. Calvin says that, in his role, he is responsible for making recommendations to the court as to what is in the child’s best interests. In fulfilling that role, he has no “agenda,” whether in favor of parents, the court or any other parties to a child protection case. He is an officer of the court, given the room needed to gather the facts about a case and bring those facts – and his recommendations – to the family court judge. Calvin enjoys his current work because it gives him the opportunity to have a genuine impact on the lives of children who are subject to family courts and the child protection system. Guardians ad litem, he says, can help end the “downward spiral” that can trap victims of child abuse and neglect.

Sonja Greenwaldt

Board Member

Throughout her career, Sonja has always  had a passion for children, specifically those that are experiencing hardship due to  circumstances beyond their control. After graduation, she took a position with the Stearns County, Minn. Public Defender’s office, in  which she was assigned to both Juvenile cases and Child in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPs) proceedings. Seeing the struggles of many of her clients, and the repeat instances that their children were  subject to temporary placement outside the home, provided her with an insight into the brokenness of the system.  She  remained in her position as a public defender for a little over a year,  after which she took a position working as an estate planning attorney. For roughly two years, she volunteered as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in  Hennepin County, providing her with yet another viewpoint of the broken system. After her volunteer time ended as a GAL, she had the opportunity to participate as a court-appointed attorney in Hennepin County’s  Guardianship and Conservatorship matters.  For  the last five years she has held the role as Planned Giving Director at  the American Heart Association, the Salvation Army (Northern Division) and now at Minnesota Public Radio.  While each has provided a unique experience, she is still wanting to connect with the earlier passions of her career.  That is why she is so excited to work with Safe Passage.

Faith VanMeter

Board Member

Faith is in her fourth year of an anticipated five-year doctoral program at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development. Faith’s research generally examines how children develop following adverse experiences, such as abuse and neglect. Faith is also working with the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota to understand how different systems – for example, foster care and the legal system – affect a child’s development. In that research, she is seeking to identify the characteristics of foster care that may promote a child’s positive well-being. Faith currently holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology from the University of Minnesota and a master’s in social and developmental psychology from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. A native of Kentucky, she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY. Faith is also an adjunct professor at Augsburg University.

Rick Morrissey

Board Member

Rick recently retired after 35 years with Dakota County Social Services. In his final position at Dakota County, he supervised the Child Protection Investigation Unit. Throughout his career he has dealt with child and family matters including but not limited to truancy, mental health, chemical issues and investigations of child maltreatment cases. He testified to the Governor’s Task Force on Child Protection issues and provided advice and program enhancement ideas to the commissioner of the Department of Human Services. When asked about his accomplishments and what he was proudest of during his career, Rick said it would be developing a strong group of child welfare investigators at Dakota County who “work well as a team and with law enforcement and the court system.” Prior to working for Dakota County, Rick worked for three years in social services for St. Louis County and, prior to that, in Lake County Minn. in a County Group Home for adolescent boys. Rick is an advocate for high-quality work and training for social workers and other professionals that work together in the child protection system. He continues to be interested in reforms that would look at waste, duplication, and the burdensome paperwork requirements that exists in the state’s child protection system and to also look at the poor outcomes in specific areas and provide any support to ensure that the child protection system that is currently in place can be viewed as a model for other states.

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