Meet the Team
Our staff is dynamic, intelligent, creative, kind, caring, compassionate,
and committed to making a difference in the lives of our members.
Interim Executive Director
Deb is one of the original co-founders of Vitalize Kitsap and has lived on Bainbridge Island since she was a first grader. She loves the Pacific Northwest and has raised her two grown children here. 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 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 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 (VK), 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.
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 traveling.
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.
Communications Coordinator & Program Lead
Cassandra has lived on Bainbridge since 2019. She brings years of experience from her time working at 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, collect books, and go to bookstores. She also enjoys stand-up paddle boarding, traveling, hot yoga, and spending time with her family and their husky.
Leigh was born in North Carolina and raised all over the world due to her father’s occupation as an undercover CIA agent. Her family spent five years in Austria during the Cold War, three years in Laos (Thailand) while the Vietnam conflict raged on, and three years in France while the Cold War slowly ended. The family led a nomadic lifestyle but one filled with excitement, ups and downs, drama, and comedy. Leigh is a published author of several works including her most popular book, “Sticky Situations: Stories of Childhood Adventures Abroad.” Leigh is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has had experience working in both the private sector and the Federal government. She lives in Lewes, DE with her husband, Harry, their two cats, and her horse. When she is not working remotely for Vitalize Kitsap, she is out volunteering in the community or riding her horse. Leigh’s favorite thing to do when she is relaxing is to eat pizza and popcorn and watch lots of really scary movies.
More information coming soon!
More information coming soon!
Jennie joins the team at Vitalize Kitsap with a Master's Degree in Transformative Leadership, decades of experience working with Highly Sensitive People, and her huge heart! She has lived on Bainbridge Island since 2015 and is active in the community theater scene all over Kitsap County. Jennie loves to travel, cook Sicilian food, and put together jigsaw puzzles.
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 in high school and college.
Seasonal Program Lead
Millie grew up on Bainbridge Island and graduated from Bainbridge High School. She attended college with an Early Childhood Education background. She worked for Bainbridge School District for 10 years as the Native American program coordinator. She has also taught preschool for 11 years at St. Barnabas Day School. Millie has worked for VK since 2014. In addition, she holds a position for the North Kitsap School District as the Native American Liaison. Millie is married to Pat and has one grown son named Trent. She is also a grandma to Leo.
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.
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
Holly Aardal, Ed.D.
Holly was one of the original co-founders of Vitalize Kitsap. She currently works as a Special Education Supervisor for Clover Park School District. The accessible and inclusive foundation she designed for our VK programming serves us all well to this day.
In addition to serving as bookkeeper for Vitalize Kitsap, Jean cares deeply for our VK Members and their families, and serves as a wise sounding board based on her experience as an award-winning paraeducator.
Sheri is the mother of a VK member and has sat on VK's Board as Chair and Treasurer. She is a retired attorney who provided legal services to families of individuals with developmental and other disabilities. VK is grateful for Sheri's guidance and continued counsel throughout the years.
Karen served as BRIDGE Fitness instructor for VK for years and brought much joy and health to all of us. She continues to advise us as we build health, fitness, strength and sportsmanship into our daily programming. We are grateful for the joyful, accessible and inclusive approach to movement and athleticism she helped us build into our VK culture.