Board Of Directors

Nate Loucks - President

I was asked to join the Board in April 2016. Through the work of State Street and the Pax Center, we have witnessed the tremendous impact of child abuse and neglect in our neighborhoods around LaPorte County. Every child deserves an advocate to push against circumstances that may foster marginalization and hopelessness. When families break down and chaos ensues, I want to be a part of creating solutions to these issues.Family Advocates intervenes and advocates on behalf of children in foster care and the court system knowing that under the layers of neglect and abuse exists an incredible child that is begging to be heard and supported.

To be invited to this justice work in a leadership role is a great honor and privilege. Every board member is asked to observe a court hearing where our CASA volunteers do their work. One case stands out in particular (and forgive me for my purposeful generalities). A young teenager had been in a group home for some years. Because of the traumatic physical and sexual abuse they had incurred, they were left with severe behavioral scars. They had been placed in many homes in different parts of the state. The only consistent voice in their life was an advocate who refused to abandon them in the process. No one was writing a story on that advocate. It was difficult and unglamorous work. But, it was essential and critical in the life of that young abused teenager if they are to find any hope for a better future. Navigating the court system can be a challenging endeavor, especially for a child who may feel forgotten or abandoned. On that day in court, the impact of a consistent advocate and friend was tangible. In the last two years, nearly 400 children in LaPorte County were removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect and entered into the court system. This figure represents a substantial increase in neglect cases in LaPorte County. While each situation of removal is often unique, there is a profound connection between the LaPorte County’s drug crisis, education priorities, and community health priorities. The solution to fixing abuse in a community is undoubtedly costly and complicated. However, ignoring the issue of neglect will be even more costly for our communities in the future.

My advice to all my friends and neighbors: Be empathetic to others. You never know what someone else is going through or what they have gone through to get to that point. The empathy and concern you show can be the catalyst for change someone needs. And, never lose hope that transformation can happen.

Matt Presley - Vice President

Board Member since January 2008.

Matt is an English teacher at La Porte High School. He obtained his Bachelor degree from Indiana University Bloomington in 2004 and is currently pursuing a Masters in English at Indiana University South Bend. Matt also coaches tennis at La Porte High School.

Shaw Friedman

Board Member since January 1998.

Shaw Friedman was one of the co-founders of Harmony House which began in 1999. He is on the Board of Swanson Center, the county’s community mental health center which is a strong supporter of our program and has provided its former outpatient facility at 1005 Michigan Avenue as our permanent home. Working with Executive Director Karen Biernacki and former CASA Board President Betty Daniel-Lanie, Friedman helped create the concept of Harmony House. A practicing attorney in La Porte since 1984 with the law firm of Friedman & Associates, PC he is very committed to non-profit programs such as Harmony House/CASA Program and says some of his most “satisfying work is seeing programs like this one grow and thrive and provide much needed services for our community.”

Rudy Kohn - Secretary/Treasurer

Rudy joined the Board of Family Advocates in 2018, after volunteering for two years as a CASA.He feels that “being a CASA was an eye-opening experience. It made me realize how essential this organization is for LaPorte County.” Kohn retired as Director of Junior Achievement of LaPorte County in 2011. Previously he worked as a Systems Analyst at Jaymar Ruby, and as the Director of Systems and Programming for CSI Inc. in Valparaiso for 25 years. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Purdue University. Kohn also currently serves on the Board of the Michigan City Community Enrichment Corporation and is chair of the Unity Foundation of Laporte County Community Grants Committee. He previously served as President of the MCCEC and as a Board Member and Past President of the Washington Park Zoological Society. In retirement, along with serving as a CASA, he has volunteered at St. Anthony, served as a Math instructional assistant in the Adult Education program at the A. K. Smith Center, and was Head Girls Tennis Coach for Michigan City High School. Kohn lives in Michigan City with his wife, Betsy and their daughter, Sydney, who attends Purdue. His sons Scott and Jeff also live in Michigan City. He is an avid Purdue fan, and enjoys hiking and playing pickleball.

Douglas Waters

Board Member since September 2006.

Douglas is a resident of Michigan City, IN, and a graduate of Indiana University School of Business. He has been active in the real estate business for many years with Long Beach Realty, and serves on La Porte County Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors and MCNEAT in Michigan City.

Kim Sauers

Board Member since December 2014

 

Dan Todd

Board Member since December 2018

Sean Fitzpatrick

Board Member since January 2019

 

Jenilee Hayes Peterson

Board Member since March 2020

Joe Ruiz, MBA; BS

Joe Ruiz, a dual credit business and marketing instructor with La Porte High School, is a husband and father of three. A graduate of Michigan City High School, Joe spent several years serving at-risk children in a residential facility while attending Bethel University in Mishawaka, IN. Upon graduation, he worked in marketing/sales with a local radio group and operated his own freelance marketing business before eventually transitioning into the world of education. In addition to Joe’s passion for kids, he also moonlights as an independent recording artist, opening for artists like Vanilla Ice and Pitbull on his free time, and is constantly searching for ways to better his community through music, entertainment, and various forms of social advocacy.