U.S. staff


Executive Director

Shari Blindt
Executive Director

Shari Blindt was appointed executive director for Common Hope in September 2006, having previously served as the director of development. Shari brings more than 18 years of experience in the marketing and client services industry. Prior to Common Hope, she served in senior management roles with Penn Garritano Direct Response Marketing, Global Marketing Solutions for Fair Isaac Corporation, and Global Financial Services for DynaMark, Inc. Her experience leading team-based, collaborative business units contributed significantly to her clients’ success and the growth of these organizations.

Shari’s involvement with Common Hope began shortly after the adoption of her two Guatemalan children, when she felt a strong need to give back to the people of Guatemala. She began volunteering both in the US office and on the executive board’s marketing and fundraising committee. She also led a Vision Team, where she was able to directly participate in the services that Common Hope provides. In September 2005, Shari left the for-profit sector and joined the Common Hope staff.

At Common Hope, Shari sees a fitting unification of her personal and professional life. She has a very personal passion for building opportunity for impoverished Guatemalan children and families and says, "Common Hope is my opportunity to truly give back to a country which has helped to make my family and my life whole."

Finance

Lynn Brysiewicz
Director of Finance and Administration

As the director of finance and administration for Common Hope, Lynn provides leadership and support for financial management, accounting, administration, and sponsorship. This includes the management of budget development, human resources, and systems. In all of her work, Lynn strives to support our staff to maximize our efficiencies and financial resources.

Prior to Common Hope, Lynn served in various leadership roles with Optum Health and HealthPartners. Lynn’s passion for serving and working with Guatemalans began in 1998, when she traveled to Guatemala on a Vision Team with Common Hope. In 2001, Lynn returned to Guatemala as a long-term volunteer in San Lucas Tolimán. She continued volunteering in Guatemala working on many administrative and development projects prior to joining Common Hope.

Katie Anderson
Accounting Manager

As the accounting manager, Katie is responsible for day-to-day accounting tasks, account reconciliations, financial statements, and audit preparation. Katie also works closely with our Guatemalan accounting staff in the consolidation of financial data, reports, and audits.

Before coming to work for Common Hope, Katie obtained her CPA license and worked as an auditor in public accounting with Deloitte. Prior to joining the workforce, Katie spent time volunteering with orphaned children in Ecuador, an experience that opened her eyes to the injustice in our world and sparked a great desire to work towards change. After a year and a half of working in the for-profit sector, she decided it was time to pursue this desire.

She was drawn to Common Hope’s mission to not only promote change on the ground in Guatemala, but to also create public awareness of injustice here and around the world. She is so excited to be working with people that are dedicated to the same values and share her passions.

Development

Peg Fourré
Development Director

Peg oversees the development area where she provides direction and oversight to fundraising, communications, and Vision Team activities.

She brings a great depth of experience in marketing, communications, and fundraising, initially through her work in cable television and more recently in her work for non-profit organizations. Prior to Common Hope, Peg ran her own business as a fundraising and communications consultant for non-profits in Minneapolis, New York, and Haiti. Prior to that, she was the development director at St. Stephen’s Human Services in Minneapolis.

Common Hope has been a household name for Peg ever since her sister started an art school in Antigua and adopted two Guatemalan children in the early 1990s. Peg’s first visit to Guatemala was in October 2007 as a student of photography.

Michelle d'Almeida
Donor Relations Manager

Michelle's role is to care for the vital relationships that mobilize our work in Guatemala. She nurtures relationships by meeting with and listening to our supporters, and she plans fundraising events to increase awareness for our cause.

Before working for Common Hope, Michelle worked for an organization in New York City that supports children’s health care in Cambodia. She worked closely with Cambodian-American communities on the East Coast and was able to spend four months working on-site in Cambodia to establish a fundraising department. After this experience Michelle moved to Geneva, Switzerland to attain her master's degree in international relations from Webster University. Michelle is passionate about international humanitarian work and is very excited to be back in Minnesota, working to support children and families in Guatemala.

Lizz Weidenbach
Marketing & Communications Manager

As the Marketing & Communications Manager, Lizz oversees all print and electronic communications. She supports the Development team by editing the monthly e-news, annual newsletters, website, and other communications materials. She also manages our blog and social media presence.

Before working for Common Hope, Lizz was the Marketing Director at a small advertising agency in the Twin Cities. After a period of “soul searching,” she decided to look for ways to combine her love of copywriting, marketing, and volunteering. This led her to Common Hope, where she joined the staff in January 2014. She feels honored to have the opportunity to work for an organization she’s passionate about and use her skills to ultimately make a difference in the lives of others.

Strategic Relations

Jeffrey Smith
Director of Strategic Relations

As the Director of Strategic Relations, Jeff is responsible for leveraging and growing relationships with Common Hope’s many generous supporters.

Before joining Common Hope, Jeff worked for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity as the Global Engagement Program Manager and the National Service Programs Director. Jeff led numerous Habitat mission trips to Latin America—including one to Guatemala in 2010. During this visit, Jeff had the chance to visit and meet with leaders of an informal settlement (aka slum) in Guatemala City. The juxtaposition of the unimaginable living conditions of the residents with the passion and hope that these same residents had about their future was truly inspirational. This trip galvanized Jeff’s commitment to improving the living conditions of those in need around the world.

Jeff and his wife have sponsored several Common Hope students since 2005.

Sponsorship

Louise LeGrand Stanton
Sponsorship Manager

Louise thinks she has the coolest job. She gets to provide leadership for the U.S. sponsorship program, connect with supporters, collaborate with Guatemalan staff, and promote Common Hope’s mission to anyone who will invite her to speak to their group or meet over a cup of coffee.

Before this, Louise worked in development for an organization that brings impoverished Guatemalan youth to the U.S. for education. She also brings a decade of retail management experience, a background in communications, and a recently completed degree in theology. Louise’s love for Guatemala began in 2004, when three nephews joined her family through adoption. Like Common Hope, she believes that every person deserves the chance to flourish.

Jessie Szopinski
Sponsorship Coordinator

As sponsorship coordinator, Jessie supports the sponsorship manager in promoting relationships between the affiliated children in Guatemala and their Sponsors. Jessie matches children with new Sponsors and helps Sponsors visit Guatemala to see their sponsored child and family.

Jessie was introduced to Common Hope by a former Vision Team Coordinator and was drawn to the mission and values of the organization. She is excited to be part of a team that is dedicated to social change and long-term development in Guatemala.

Vision Teams

Brianna Jensen
Volunteer & Community Liaison

Brianna coordinates Vision Team trips to Guatemala for individuals and groups so that people can learn about Common Hope's work first-hand and integrate their experience into their communities back home. She also introduces and promotes Common Hope to new interest groups such as schools, churches and businesses.

Brianna spent a year in Guatemala after college with Common Hope coordinating and receiving Vision Teams on the ground in Antigua. She is excited to now work with the Vision Teams on the U.S. side, preparing and orientating people for time in Guatemala. Brianna has had a love for the Guatemalan people and culture ever since she spent a semester there studying in college and feels so fortunate to be able to be part of an organization that is dedicated to the country she loves.

Administration

Colleen Tracy
Office Administrator

Colleen supports the U.S. office in the areas of HR administration, in-kind donations, and office operations. She also supports the executive director, Shari Blindt, with board communications and other projects as requested.

A graduate of the College of Saint Benedict, Colleen worked for a number of years at Ecolab, most recently in the human resources department. She learned of Common Hope from her parents, who participated in a Vision Team. In addition, Colleen’s nephew volunteered with Common Hope in Guatemala and still lives in-country, working for another NGO. She and her husband recently visited their nephew and fell in love with the mission and people when they toured Common Hope. Colleen enjoys the close camaraderie she finds at Common Hope.