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

Danielle Draack
Chief Financial Officer

Danielle has a broad base of experience in nonprofit accounting and leadership. She comes to us most recently from the public accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen. In her 10 years at CLA she spent two years in nonprofit audit before transitioning into the firm’s nonprofit outsourcing division. Danielle spent the last eight years as an outsourced CFO/Controller for multiple nonprofits, leading their finance, audit and accounting functions. She’s led trainings for their national outsourcing group, and has experience managing both internal and client-based finance/admin teams. Prior to her work at CLA she worked at H.E.A.R.T., a nonprofit, for two years and was in-charge of their finance and administration department. Danielle is thrilled to join Common Hope and grateful for the opportunity to blend her professional expertise with her passion to help others.

Danielle graduated from the College of Saint Catherine with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. She is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and Minnesota Society of CPAs.

Dan Dahlke
Raiser's Edge Database Administrator

As the Raiser's Edge administrator, Dan is responsible for the full oversight, vision, strategy and integrity of the Raiser’s Edge donor database. He ensures that all gift and constituent data is collected, stored and properly used by members of the organization. He also supports program management decision-making by producing new and ongoing analysis reports incorporating relevant data points.

Dan is a U of M graduate, and he spent most of his career in IT for Control Data Corporation, Aetna Health Plans, and HealthPartners. In 2011, he made the switch to the world of non-profits, providing database management and technical support at Saint Croix Lutheran High School before joining Common Hope. He enjoys using his technical skills in a way that helps to make a difference in the lives of others.

Steve Knutson
Accounting Manager

As the Accounting Manager, Steve performs and manages all US accounting functions, provides leadership to Common Hope’s US staff, and works in liaison with his Guatemalan counterparts in the creation of consolidated financial reporting that is consistent with internal controls and policies. Steve also maintains organizational focus on promoting best accounting practices. He is responsible for accounts payable, general ledger, month and year end closing processes, consolidation of financial data, audit and other accounting related tasks.

Steve started with Common Hope on April 1, 2015. Before that he was in the US Army (as an Accountant) and the MN National Guard. During the time in the National Guard, Steve was part of a Humanitarian mission to Guatemala. After being discharged from the Army, he spent many years in Accounting roles with Travelers Insurance, Fortis Insurance and Dominion Investments until 2012. From 2012 to 2015, Steve spent three years being self-employed, starting several businesses and doing some temporary work for non-profit and for-profit businesses. Steve graduated in 1999 from Metropolitan State with a MBA.

Development & Strategic Relations

Stacey Minnick
Director of Development & Strategic Relations

During her twenty year career, Stacey has held leadership positions at five Minnesota based non-profits. Most recently she increased annual revenue by 50% and produced the country’s largest kids fundraising triathlon at The Miracles of Mitch Foundation. During her time as Director of Philanthropy at the Ecumen Foundation, she secured the first ever Margaret A. Cargill Foundation grant in the aging services arena for $3M, the largest private grant ever received by Ecumen; she lead a $2.5M campaign for the LL Gray Gymnasium at DeLaSalle High School; and she increased operating revenue every year at Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest by at least 7% and as much as 16%. She has consistently produced winning budgets and met goals and metrics that define success all the while remaining true to the ideals of “philanthropy – the love of mankind”. Stacey is committed to serving donors and missions alike, that result in great rewards for all involved.

Stacey holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and English and a master’s degrees in Philanthropy & Development from St. Mary’s University. She also holds a certificate from Penn State’s Executive Leadership Collaborative with Junior Achievement.

Stacey’s career features proven success in major gifts, planned giving, capital campaigns, annual giving, grantwriting, volunteer management, special events, corporate giving and sponsorship. Besides serving on multiple development advisory committees, she has served on the Cornerstone Board of Directors, the AFP Philanthropy Day Committee, the Common Hope Development Committee and the NCEA Convention Speakers Bureau.

Lizz Peterson
Marketing & Communications Manager

As the Marketing & Communications Manager, Lizz oversees all of the organization's marketing efforts, including all fundraising appeals and event marketing. She also manages Common Hope's monthly e-news, annual newsletters, website presence, social media pages, and blog.

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. She also enjoys being a child sponsor through Common Hope.

Stephanie Moline
Special Events Manager

Stephanie plans and executes all of Common Hope's special events, including Noche de Colores, the Golf Classic, the Holiday Open House, and many more. She works to create fun, meaningful events that bring people together to grow the donor base and provide opportunities to engage in Common Hope's work.

Originally from the Twin Cities, Stephanie coordinated and supervised events at several different non-profits in Oklahoma City prior to joining the team at Common Hope. Her love of event planning and philanthropy led her here, where she has fallen in love with Common Hope's mission and is so proud to support an organization that creates positivity and changes lives.

Avi Mylrea
U.S. Vision Team Manager

As the U.S. Vision Team Manager, Avi oversees and recruits all of the Vision Teams that want to have an experience in Guatemala. This position is central to Common Hope’s outreach efforts and is instrumental in securing and building new donor relationships.

Avi was born and raised in Guatemala, hence her love for Guatemala and Common Hope. If you want to visit Guatemala and hear all about it from a local perspective - Avi would love to hear from you! She came to Minnesota in 2011 and started as a volunteer for Common Hope translating letters. Her love for philanthropy and passion to serve others inspired her to come to Minnesota to get her Master’s in Public and Nonprofit Administration and further her career in the nonprofit world. Prior to Common Hope she served as a Wish Coordinator for Make-A-Wish Minnesota and volunteered at Children’s Hospital.

Avi has always been passionate about helping others and was involved in several projects in Guatemala - including Fabrica de Sonrisas and Fundacion Ayudame a Vivir that supports children with cancer among other projects in Guatemala. She is thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to share about her culture with Vision Team members and use her skill set to work for an organization that supports her country and allows her to stay connected to her roots.

Tannica Larson
Development Officer

As a Development Officer for Common Hope, Tannica is committed to the development and recruitment of new support for Common Hope’s mission. She is responsible for cultivating current donor relationships, pursuing new donor relationships, tracking donor activities, managing the Esperanza Society program, and growing support for Common Hope in regional markets outside of the Twin Cities.

Prior to coming to Common Hope, Tannica worked as the Alumni Relations and Development Coordinator for the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota. There she guided stewardship efforts, cultivated relationships, and engaged alumni and donors in meaning programs and activities. Tannica has enjoyed a long connection to Guatemala and Common Hope; She has traveled to Guatemala many times and was a part of a Vision Team in 2008. She is very honored to now be a staff member and enjoys promoting Common Hope’s work and mission. Tannica graduated from Saint Ben’s with a Bachelor’s degree in Peace Studies. She is thrilled to be working for an organization that allows her to utilize both her passion for helping others and her professional skills.

Paige Wielgos
Development & Strategic Relations Assistant

Paige joined Common Hope in 2016 and provides support to Common Hope’s strategic relations team. She also assists groups of volunteers and donors traveling to Guatemala on Vision Teams to participate in Common Hope’s work.

Previously, Paige served with AmeriCorps and worked as an Event Assistant for Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. Paige graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is very excited to be working for an organization that improves access to education.

Sponsorship

Jessie Szopinski
Sponsorship Manager

As sponsorship manager, Jessie oversees the sponsorship program in the U.S. Jessie works closely with the Sponsorship Director in Guatemala, pulling both teams together to grow and maintain the partnership that is at the heart of Common Hope’s mission – the special relationship between a donor and sponsored student.

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.

Teresa Hermodson-Olsen
Sponsorship Coordinator

Teresa’s role encompasses many tasks, which all aid in supporting the Guatemalan and St. Paul staff in facilitating the important relationship between donors and sponsored students. Teresa's greatest strengths include her contagious energy, organization, and Spanish-speaking abilities, making her a crucial member of the Sponsorship Team. If you want to sponsor a student, visit your student in Guatemala, host a presentation about Common Hope and sponsorship, or translate letters for our students in Guatemala – Teresa would love to hear from you!

Teresa and her family have a long history with Common Hope through sponsorship and Vision Teams. Most recently, Teresa was the facilitator of Common Hope’s youth leadership program in Antigua for 2.5 years, where she was able to see first-hand the great work that Common Hope is doing through our partnerships with the children and families of Guatemala. Teresa left a piece of her heart in Guatemala which is why she is very excited to continue her work with Common Hope in St. Paul, connecting others to Common Hope and the amazing families we serve.

Rachel Langefels
Sponsorship Operations Assistant

Rachel began her journey with Common Hope in 2016 as a sponsor and volunteer in the St. Paul office. As the Sponsorship Operations Assistant, Rachel provides behind the scenes operational and administrative support to the child sponsorship program.

Having grown up overseas, she has always been interested in cross-cultural outreach. Rachel studied abroad in Antigua, Guatemala in college, and says that this experience introduced her to the culture and beauty of the country and its people. She has a background in education and a passion for providing opportunity to children and working alongside them to see them succeed. Rachel says she “appreciates the model of Common Hope to provide tangible solutions using education from a holistic perspective, with a long term focus.”

Administration

Jess Grams
Office Administrator

Jess wears many hats as she supports Common Hope’s US Directors and the St. Paul office in the areas of Human Resources, insurance, Board relations, volunteer coordination and office operations. She has worked at large and small non-profit organizations in the past, and loves the close-knit family at Common Hope. Jess is the voice on the phone when you call Common Hope, and enjoys meeting all of the wonderful sponsors this way and hearing their inspiring stories.

Prior to her career in non-profit administration, Jess enjoyed a performance career as an actor, director, and opera singer, and still works occasionally with the Minnesota CIT Officer’s Association, a group that uses socially conscious actors to train law enforcement to de-escalate crisis situations without use of force.