Board Members

Becky Loas

Becky has been involved with Joel’s Place since its inception in 2003.  Becky’s daughter died at age 20 of a congenital heart defect, and after seeing her sons struggle with that loss, she wanted to get involved with an organization that would provide needed grief support to children.  Her favorite part about volunteering with Joel’s Place is her ability to interact with the children.  Becky is a retired reading specialist with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Lauren Armstrong, children's grief support group facilitator in Cleveland
Lauren Armstrong

Lauren began facilitating with Joel’s Place in 2022. She became a board member in 2023 to continue giving back to the organization. She brings sales and marketing expertise to Joel’s Place and is currently finishing up a Master’s degree in Child Life at Missouri State University as she works to become a Certified Child Life Specialist. Lauren’s favorite part about working with the children at Joel’s Place is knowing that even the most simple interactions make all the difference to the children. Helping to create an open and safe space for grieving children to feel a sense of community and that they are not alone has been one of the most rewarding things she has ever done. She looks forward to contributing as a member of the Board and  to helping Joel’s Place continue to grow, prosper and serve as many children as possible.

John R. Crane, CFP®, CDFA™

John has been involved with Joel’s Place since October 2010 and currently serves on the Fund Development and Marketing Committees. He became involved with Joel’s Place because he wanted to be involved with a non-profit organization focused on helping children, and one that served an unmet need. John’s favorite part about working with Joel’s Place is building relationships with the other board members and volunteers all working toward the common goal of raising funds and helping grieving children. John is a Certified Financial Planner professional, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and is the founder and Managing Principal of Plum Creek Wealth Advisors in North Olmsted, Ohio where they focus on planning for life changes such as retirement, divorce, and survivor planning.  He lives in Olmsted Falls with his wife Maureen and their two children.

Richard Porter, R.A.

Rick has been a supporter of Joel’s Place for many years. He joined the board in 2023. 

Kathleen Kennedy-Rice

Kathleen has been involved with Joel’s Place since 2003 after seeing a request for volunteers in the St. Raphael’s church bulletin.  She thought her prior experiences would be put to great use by helping children who had suffered a loss.  Kathleen finds the compassion of the adult volunteers and the time spent with the children the most satisfying part of working with Joel’s Place.

Kathy Stellato, R.N.

Kathy is one of the founders of Joel’s Place. She is passionate about listening to and supporting children and families that are grieving a death of someone special. Kathy’s favorite part about working with Joel’s Place is watching the children interacting and sharing with one another. Kathy is a nurse who lives in Chagrin Falls with her husband  and has two adult children.

Lisa Stofan

Lisa has been involved with Joel’s Place since 2005 after witnessing the compassion and commitment of Mary and Kathy for grieving children and families. As a consultant for non-profit organizations, Lisa has interacted with more than 75 groups of all sizes and shapes, but continues to hold a special feeling for the important work of Joel’s Place and the dedication of the facilitators and other volunteers. Lisa lives in Lakewood, and enjoys spending time with her family, especially her delightful granddaughter.  

Mary Sue McGorray

Mary Sue has been involved with Joel’s Place since 2006, after responding to the request of Mary and Kathy to act as a Board Member.  Mary Sue is grateful to know that there is a group in which children can receive the support they need during a traumatic time in their lives.  She also knows that families are grateful knowing there is somewhere to turn to for help. Mary Sue enjoys knowing that her work on the Board helps keep the support groups running.  Mary Sue has been a funeral director for 29 years at the McGorray-Hanna Funeral Home.  She has a degree in Applied Social Science (Social Work) from Case Western Reserve University and is also a parishioner at St. Luke Church in Lakewood.

Mary Willhite - Emeritus

Mary is one of the founders of Joel’s Place and has been running the children’s groups since they began in 2003.  Mary believed that there was an unmet need for providing support to children who had a special person in their lives die.  Her favorite part about working with Joel’s Place is seeing the children become more comfortable sharing their stories. Joel’s Place for Children is named in memory of Mary’s husband Joel Willhite, who died of colon cancer in 1998. Naming grief centers in memory of those special to us who have died is common among the National Alliance for Children’s Grief. This is one example to model healthy coping skills and meaning making for our participants.

Olivia Schwartz

Olivia was working on a second Masters Degree in Clinical Counseling at John Carroll University when two guest speakers arrived: Kathy Stellato and Mary Willhite, Co-founders of Joel’s Place for Children. They had been invited to her class to encourage students to sign-up if interested in bereavement support training for Joel’s Place. Olivia immediately experienced her interest, signed up, trained, and became a group facilitator for Joel’s Place. She facilitated children’s groups for a few years and then became the Adult Group facilitator in 2011. She experiences her ongoing role as a privilege to work with bereaved adults whose children simultaneously attend the Children’s Grief Groups. Olivia is a former high school English and Creative Writing teacher.

Richard W. Pressler, M.D.

Dr. Pressler has been on the board of Joel’s Place since 2008. Dr. Pressler has a personal experience of childhood loss after the death of his older brother, Tim, who was killed in his military service during the Vietnam War. As a Family Physician, he saw the effects of childhood grief on families of children who experience the loss of a loved one. He believes that the services provided by Joel’s Place assist in addressing the special needs that children experience after such a loss. His favorite part of being involved with Joel’s Place is simply helping those who need the help. Dr. Pressler is retired after 37 years in practice, first in private practice and later as a staff physician at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He is a board certified Family Physician, former member of the Quality Council of the Cleveland Clinic, past District Director for the Ohio Academy of Family Medicine and is Assistant Professor, Emeritus at Case Western Reserve Medical School. He is married and lives in Bay Village. He has three married children. He is very proud of his five grandchildren.

Steve Petras, J.D.

Steve Petras is the Director of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s Frederick K. Cox International Law Center and U.S. National Director of the Canada-U.S. Law Institute.  He graduated from Case Law School in 1979 and has practice international business law until his retirement from Baker & Hostetler LLP at the end of 2018.  He was the Head of Baker’s International Industry Team from 1999 to 2012.  He has served as Chairman of the Board of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, President of the Greater Cleveland International Lawyers Group, Chairman of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s International Law Section, and President of the Cleveland World Trade Association.  He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Council of the Great Lakes Region, Director of the World Affairs Councils of America, Director of the Northeast Ohio International Business Network and Member of the Northern Ohio District Export Council.  He been involved with Joel’s Place since its inception, and his four children have benefited from its program.

Susan White

Susan has been involved with Joel’s Place since 2020 after having been referred by Business Volunteers Unlimited.  Susan is a partner at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP in the litigation and construction practice groups.  She has previously served two terms on the board of directors for the Junior League of Cleveland.  Susan lives in Westlake with her husband and two sons.

William Goodill

Bill has been involved with Joel’s Place since 2010. Bill wanted to give back to the community and work with an organization that could use his help. He became involved after being referred to Joel’s Place by Business Volunteers Unlimited. His favorite part about working with Joel’s Place is interacting with the people—the other Board members and volunteers who are also passionate about helping children. Bill is the CAO/CFO at Western Reserve Partners LLC, and lives in Bay Village with his wife Linda and his two teenage daughters.

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