By now you should all be familiar with Alliance for Community Transformations, our programs and the many ways in which we serve the Mariposa and Merced communities. What you may not be familiar with are the incredible people who run these programs.
I’d like to use this opportunity to introduce each of our program directors, along with some background information about why they chose this line of work, and what motivates them to come into work every day — even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Alliance administrative office
Hello! My name is Caroline Fruth, and I have been working with the Alliance for Community Transformations for the past six and a half years. I was the executive director of CASA of Mariposa County when CASA joined the Alliance in 2014, and I enjoyed being the youth programs director (overseeing both Ethos Youth Center and CASA of Mariposa County) for six years.
In April of this year, I became the finance director for the Alliance. In this position,
I oversee our agency’s budget and fiscal team. I moved from working with individual programs (CASA and Ethos) to the administrative team of the Alliance because I am passionate about the work we can do to be stronger together.
Non-profit programs that recruit volunteer advocates for youth, provide safe spaces for young people, assist survivors of violence, house individuals needing shelter and support individuals seeking health and wellness are stronger when they share administrative knowledge, costs and resources. I am fortunate to work alongside this team of passionate individuals to support these programs and a community that is always stronger together.
Mariposa Heritage House
My name is Debra Barcellos, my friends and family call me wife, mom, nana, Deb and agapegirl.
I identify as someone in long-term recovery, which for me, means I have not found it necessary to use or drink since 2002. My recovery is a very important part of my journey, because it has paved the path for me to be the best I can be; wife to my husband, a mom to my children, a nana to my grandchildren and great-grandchild, daughter and niece, and to contribute to life in a meaningful way. God has blessed me in allowing me to walk beside my husband, family and friends in this journey.
In 1989, I became a Class A truck driver as my chosen profession, or trade. I operated commercial vehicles for 15 years. I was called to work in the alcohol and drug (now known as substance use disorders) field when I began my recovery journey in 2002.
Still driving trucks, I attended meetings, got a sponsor, started programming and began giving back by volunteering and working with others. I returned to school for AOD studies, and started interning as a part-time alcohol and drug counselor. I continued to drive trucks, work as a SUD counselor and continue my professional development. In 2004, I married and in 2005 I accepted the position of Administrative program director for the Men’s Residential Treatment Program for which I was employed.
I do not believe I chose this path for myself, but rather that it chose me. In 2016, my husband and I began planning our return to Mariposa and I was fully committed to returning to driving trucks and doing volunteer work — but the article in the paper was for a director at Heritage House, not a truck driver.
As I researched the Alliance for Community Transformations, its affiliate programs and the Heritage House, I knew my experience could help Heritage House further its mission and our values were perfectly aligned. There is no other way to say what motivates me to do this work every day, except this: hope and faith.
Connections Emergency Shelter
My name is Hal Nolen, and I have been the program director of Connections Emergency Shelter since we opened in September of last year. I have been in the “people business” in one form or another for my entire working career.
Everything from being a volunteer in multiple organizations, a customer service manager and as a law enforcement officer in Merced and Mariposa counties. Matter of fact, most of my family has been involved in helping out, volunteering through several organizations, including the Mariposa County Fire. You could say that helping others is just what we do.
When the opportunity came up to be part of the Alliance — and specifically Connections Emergency Shelter — I was intrigued. The concept of Connections was well within my wheelhouse, and helping others is an integral part of who I am. Being part of the Alliance has been great as well. Like minded individuals who have a heart for others. Count me in!
Being part of a group of individuals who want to make Mariposa a better place. Being part of a larger mission to help others overcome barriers in their lives. Having a great staff and community partners who genuinely care for our community, friends and neighbors, and who want to see them succeed. Personal satisfaction in knowing others have been able to obtain the help they need in some small way through something we have done. These are just a few of the reasons why I enjoy my line of work.
Valley Crisis Center (Merced)
My name is Kimberly Scott and I am the new program director for Valley Crisis Center in Merced County.
I have worked the last 29 years for social service type programs, from human services to housing and job services to community health. Working in the service field to better the community is what I have always been passionate about.
I have admired what VCC does for many years, and when the opportunity came up, I knew it was for me. What better pursuit than helping people with the trauma of violence, and working to change our community to make it safer? I am so grateful to be working with this organization, to continue the good work they do and make a difference in people’s lives as well as our communities.
Mountain Crisis Services
My name is Kristen Fiester. As a daughter of immigrant parents from Argentina, I faced many challenges growing up. Only Spanish was spoken in our home, and I didn’t begin to communicate in English until I was in the fourth grade. There were no ESL programs in the schools at the time, so I struggled academically for quite some time. Through my struggles I persevered and was the valedictorian of my senior class. Through this experience, I realized the importance of hard work, and of being self-empowered.
As an adult, I have been married for 37 years, have raised four children to adulthood and am now enjoying the gift of being a grandmother to 11 grandchildren. I founded and ran a daycare/preschool, Kristen’s Country Daycare, for 16 years, which was a very rewarding career. During this time in my life, my educational pursuits involved early childhood development.
I became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Merced County around 2003, which I found to be very fulfilling, as I advocated for children who otherwise would have had no voice in the courts. CASA instilled a passion in me to pursue work where I could serve others which lead to my true vocational passion as I began working as the shelter and case manager for Mountain Crisis Services in 2004. After 10 years as shelter manager, I became program director and I continue in this capacity today.
As a survivor myself, I’m motivated in my daily work when I witness survivors become self-empowered to overcome their challenges. I’m also constantly inspired by the passion and hard work of my MCS team members. The many educational opportunities to increase understanding and solutions in the domestic violence, sexual assault field and social justice are no less inspiring. Additionally, I am able to utilize my first language to better assist our Spanish-speaking participants which makes those struggles of my youth seem so much more significant.
Ethos Youth Center
My name is Kylie Pulley and I am the new Ethos Youth Center program director. I joined the team around three months ago.
Before the Alliance I worked in education. I taught music and art therapy to students grades K-12. I wanted to make the switch toward victim advocacy, and saw that the Alliance was hiring for a new program director for Ethos Youth Center. I have always wanted to help youth in some way, and that’s why I originally became a teacher. I felt like I could make a bigger impact on our youth by working with the Alliance, and so I made the change — and I couldn’t be happier.
As a survivor of childhood sexual assault and domestic violence, I knew that this new position would allow me to make a larger impact on those who had similar stories to my own. My own experience is what drives me every day. I think about the position that I have and how much I needed a place like Ethos when I was growing up. I want to help create a safe space where youth can come and feel seen and heard, and that is what I get to do here at Ethos!
CASA of Mariposa County
My name is Monica Martinez, and I am honored to serve as the new program director for CASA of Mariposa County.
I began in this work four years ago and have continued to be actively involved in the development and growth of CASA’s programs. I started on the team that created the RECESS program from the ground up. My passion to support children, and their families, helped RECESS to grow into a dynamic, successful resource for the Mariposa community.
My persistence and work ethic lead to a promotion as CASA’s program director. In this role, I combined my knowledge of the needs of families with advocating for children in Mariposa’s foster and delinquency systems.
Working with volunteer advocates, community partners and children in foster care strengthened my sense of commitment to provide quality, direct services to the youth CASA supports. Now as CASA’s program director, I am using my wisdom and experiences to instill these values in all of CASA’s programs.
Being a part of CASA has opened my eyes to the unfortunate situations children in the foster care system go through — through no fault of their own. At the same time, I have witnessed how much of an impact having a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) can have on child’s life. CASA has given me the platform to truly make a difference in our community, and this has been the most rewarding part of my job.
I could not do this work without the supportive CASA staff and amazing volunteers who devote their time to the children in Mariposa County.
Robin McInerney is an administrative assistant at Alliance for Community Transformations.