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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" Payne, 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.

Cassandra Marie, Marketing and Social Media Coordinator & Program Lead: Cassandra has lived on Bainbridge since 2019. She brings years of experience from her time working at large corporations like Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness, and Noom. Led by a passion for DEI and human rights Cassandra returned to school to study Diversity and Social Justice at Seattle Central Community College and is currently finishing her bachelors at Washington University in St. Louis. Cassandra loves to read and buy books, go to bookstores, and spend time reading or studying in coffee shops or tea bars. She also enjoys stand-up paddle boarding, traveling, hot yoga, and spending time with her family and their husky.


Georgia Herren, RN, Skilled Nursing Coordinator & Program Lead: Georgia has a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Seattle University and completed her nurse residency at University of Washington Medical Center, followed by some travel nursing in California as part of the Covid-19 crisis response. She brings her nursing skills, innate empathy, and curiosity to her work at VK, where she serves as our Program Nurse and Skilled Nursing Coordinator as well as working directly with VK members as Program Staff.

Laurent Kox, Community Engagement Coordinator & 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. 

Carrie Strachan, Program Lead: 

More information coming soon!​

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 Vitalize Kitsap. Outside of Vitalize Kitsap Maria Knits sweaters and hats for her family members, cooks, and 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. 

Rebecca Rockefeller, Communication Coordinator: 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. 

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