Meet Our Staff
Our staff is dynamic, intelligent, creative, kind, caring, compassionate,
and committed to making a difference in the lives of our members.
Deborah "Deb" Buitenveld, Vitalize Kitsap Co-Founder, Program Director: Deb has lived on Bainbridge Island since she was a first grader. She loves the Pacific Northwest and her home; she has raised her two grown children here and is committed to a healthy community and environment. Deb has her B.S. in Food Science, while in college she studied American Sign Language for two years, as well as worked with her friend, who is blind to adapt Algebra class problems into a braille system. After college, Deb had an active 20-year career in Seattle’s food industry and has many fabulous memories of the time spent at Etta’s. Restaurants gave her the flexibility to serve as a first responder with the Bainbridge Island Fire Department, to drive an ambulance, and work part time for the BI School District in the health room. In 2001, Deb volunteered in the special education (SPED) classroom at Woodward Middle School where she met an amazing group of young women with whom she started Girls' Club to provide a safe and fun environment to socialize. By 2009, Girls' Club had grown in size and focus. Deb collaborated with her friend and SPED teacher, Holly Patton, to create Island Time Activities, now Vitalize Kitsap, and obtain its nonprofit status. Since its inception, Vitalize Kitsap has grown to serve members, their families, and our communities around North Kitsap. Deb is proud of the work VK does to empower people with intellectual disabilities to lead lives of meaning and self-determination.
Kellie Creamer, Executive Director: Kellie is our Executive Director and comes to us with years of experience working for underserved populations in management and fundraising development for nonprofits. She has a master’s degree in Community Health and a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition, and is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, where she served as a rural health educator in West Africa. Kellie has worked with people with a variety of disabilities and those overcoming hardships, having developed a nutrition education program in food banks, homeless shelters, and senior centers, to supporting conflict survivors from Southeast Asia. She is a mom and active, dedicated community member, and is happy to now be working with the amazing people at VK. Locally, she served for six years on the Board of the Boys & Girls Club of Bainbridge Island and two years as the Program Chair on the Board of Raising Resilience. She is also the author of the book, My Body, My Vehicle, a guide for healthy eating using Ayurvedic principles.
Kristi Barr, Program Coordinator: Born and raised in Washington State, Kristi started at Vitalize Kitsap as a Program Lead for Hike and Swim Club, Saturday Supper Club, and Afternoon Activities Club. Now VK is fortunate to have her on staff as our Program Coordinator, where all of our Clubs and programs benefit from her expertise and energy. Kristi’s primary job for the past 18 years has been teaching pre-school on Bainbridge Island at St. Barnabas. At home, Kristi enjoys her horses, chickens, pygmy goats, cats, and dogs with her husband; she is also the first woman in her family to graduate from a 4 year university and is the very proud mother of two successful, strong, independent daughters.
Bridget Elliott, Program Lead: Bridget Elliott was born and raised in San Diego, California and moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2004. She brings many skills to her role at Vitalize Kitsap, thanks to her BA in Psychology, training and certification in medical coding, and several years of experience as a local caregiver through DSHS. We’re lucky she found VK while searching for new DSHS clients, and even more fortunate to have her on our team as a full-time VK Program Lead. Bridget lives in Kingston with her son, dog, and cat. When she’s not busy with VK Members, she enjoys hiking, gardening, upcycling, and crafts, and she’s looking forward to incorporating these passions into her work at VK.
Michelle Thompson, Program Lead
Georgia Herren, Program Lead
Laurent Kox, Program Lead: Laurent was born and raised in Brussels, Belgium. He and his husband lived in several cities in Germany and moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2017. Soon after arriving in the PNW, he began working with people of varied abilities. Laurent has experience in Community Inclusion and Job Development programs. He’s excited to bring cultural diversity to VK programs by teaching his native tongue, French, to the members. He now lives in lovely Poulsbo where he enjoys gardening, hiking and travel.
Maria Knighton, Program Support: Maria has worked at VK for 6 years assisting in physical training and promoting independence in activities of daily living. Maria has trained in Pennsylvania doing a 6 week practicum for a Waldorf School for children with intellectual disabilities, she has won medals in the special Olympics for track and field and bowling and has also completed 100 hours of volunteering with Marion Forsman Boushe early learning center. With all these experiences and training she has been able to translate her knowledge to the members and programs here at Island Time. Outside of Island Time Maria Knits sweaters and hats for her family members, cooks, does yoga.
Mateo Biggs, Program Support: Mateo has been an integral part of our Vitalize Kitsap community for years. He was born in Guatemala and moved to Bainbridge Island before he started kindergarten. Since graduating from BHS, he's been bringing incredible food to our community thanks to his full-time job in the kitchen at Islandwood. We're lucky to have him join us at VK in his free time, where he cooked for Saturday Supper Club before the pandemic, and where he's been supporting our members and staff during our outdoor pandemic programming in a variety of ways. When he's not at VK or Islandwood, Mateo spends him time pursuing his passion for cars and caring for his Flemish Giant house rabbit, Jennifer.
Millie Rapada-Loughnane, Seasonal Program Lead
Emma Chee, Seasonal Program Lead: Emma is a Bainbridge High School graduate and current nursing student at the University of Connecticut, where she's also a UConn Track & Field pole vaulter. She has experience as a Special Olympics coach and is a huge fan of our local Seattle professional sports teams. Vitalize Kitsap is lucky to have her as part of our seasonal team whenever Emma is available during breaks from her studies.
Rebecca Rockefeller, Executive Assistant: Rebecca grew up on Bainbridge Island and returned to raise her own daughters here. She's the co-founder of the Buy Nothing Project, co-author of The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2020), and co-founder of the Buy Nothing App. She's delighted to be back on the Vitalize Kitsap team, where she served some years back as both Development Lead and then Executive Director. She's passionate about nourishing a more inclusive and equitable culture both locally and globally, and is proud to be the mother of two young women who are currently surviving pandemic high school and college.