Board of Directors spotlights
Sue and Jack Kenney
Past Board Members and Founding Volunteers
Sue and Jack Kenney have worked behind the scenes to ensure Kinnect’s success from the time it was an idea that became the Waiting Child Fund (WCF) in 2005. Initially, co-founders Mike Kenny (Sue and Jack’s son) and Shannon Deinhart formed an idea but did not have a board of directors or official documentation. So, Sue, Jack, and their children served as the first board members to get the organization off the ground.
“It was off and running as a 501 (c) (3)” Sue recalled. “I stayed on as a board member along with John Cunningham and Kate Terrell. We met in a coffee shop on West 25th Street.”
From the outset, the board actively engaged in hands-on work to shape the WCF. Mike drafted proposals and sought advice from trusted advisors until they arrived at a strategy to launch their work. Mike assumed a full-time role within the organization in 2007, followed by Shannon as a part-time employee later that year. Their office was in Shannon's basement, where they explored many ideas and drew on previous experiences.
Sue fondly recounted the story of a year they sold gift baskets during the holidays. The fundraiser was “Coffee for a Cause” and supported WCF as they worked to help counties get the children waiting for adoption permanent homes.
“Our living room, our dining room, the whole house was full of gift baskets and things to go into gift baskets,” she laughed.
She consistently shared the WCF story with anyone in her social circle. Events were filled with family, friends, and neighbors. Eventually, as WCF transitioned into Kinnect, state funding followed.
“It was a relief because it could truly grow. Then we could be clear that the money we raised was for operations,” said Sue. “Before that, it was always the two of them, and every new program required funding. It was a lot of stress.”
While Sue stayed on the board for ten years, Jack devoted himself to organizing the 1st Annual Kinnect Golf Outing. His contributions have been crucial to the success of the event for 18 years. Kinnect’s most recent golf outing raised $35,000, a new record. You can see the pictures here. Next year, Jack will be stepping back to let others carry the event forward. We still hope to see him on the golf course!
What advice would Sue have for the volunteers carrying Kinnect’s work forward as she and Jack step back?
“Come in with fresh new ideas. Observe what others are doing. Take a risk that someone will show up. Ask friends and family to be part of the effort,” she said. “And always have stories in your hip pocket. Make it more personal with stories.”
Kinnect Board of Directors
David Boone learned about Kinnect from Board of Directors Treasurer Megan Fellinger. Megan heard him speak at a Harvard Club event and asked him to consider joining the Kinnect board. At the time, he declined because he was an entrepreneur building a business and did not have the capacity.
“I am a firm believer that if you are going to do something, you should do it well,” he said.
Megan gave him space but kept in touch. Eventually, after hearing about Kinnect’s work, David decided to join the board.
“After hearing about the work, I could not in good conscience say no,” he said. “I understand the mission and the vision. My point of view is personal.”
David experienced homelessness as a teenager. “I was so afraid of making anyone aware of it for fear of entering the foster care system,” he explained. “I remember that fear so vividly.”
David’s story of experiencing homelessness and going on to attend Harvard University and graduate with a degree in Computer Science was featured widely in the news. After working at Microsoft for several years, David brought his talent back to Cleveland in 2020. He was recently invited to the White House to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris, along with a group of other young men of color who are entrepreneurs.
While David values his college experience, he does not believe it is for everyone. He is passionate about changing the way people are trained for jobs.
“How do we take people leaving high school and prepare them for careers?” he said. “What are models we can leverage to produce better results for employers and young people trying to find their way in the world?”
David’s new effort, THRU is focused on the construction and building trades because that area has a historic track record of enabling high-quality lifestyles for people without degrees. The concept is education through work, with everyone in apprenticeship.
David realizes that social learning is key to figuring out one’s future. His dream is to build a community piece into this effort, an experience that young people who don’t go to college may miss out on.
“Doing a hard thing with other people the same age is transformational,” he explained.
On the Kinnect board, David is interested in sustainable funding so that Kinnect can continue its mission regardless of the political climate. He is dedicated to identifying funding sources that ensure organizational resilience. Kinnect is honored and thankful for David’s service.
Kinnect Board of Directors
When Kinnect Board of Directors member Ron Pollock was working with Business Volunteers Unlimited to identify a nonprofit with which he would like to volunteer, they asked what motivated him.
While Ron’s parents have been married for nearly 48 years, he had other family members that experienced divorce, including youth who were without parents and even experienced foster care. From this, he understood the importance of family. When he learned that Kinnect was dedicated to reuniting families, he knew it was the right fit for him.
“Anything that could help kids is something I have a passion for, especially now as a parent,” he said. “An organization dedicated to reuniting children with family was a cause I wanted to support.”
While he had volunteer experience with other nonprofits, Kinnect is Ron’s first board experience. He found himself surprised at how much work goes into running a nonprofit.
“So much work goes into supporting a nonprofit,” he said. “There is this idea that nonprofits fund and run themselves. If people understood that, more resources would be dedicated to it.”
In his day job, Ron is the Chief Operating Officer for Vox Mobile, a firm that provides mobile managed services to over 125 companies across the United States and Canada. Ron and his teams build mobile strategies for their customers, operationalize their mobile programs, and support their mobile users. Vox Mobile represents various clients across numerous industries, although they specialize in healthcare, manufacturing, and utilities. Before joining the Vox Mobile team in 2012, Ron worked for the marketing firm InfoCision for almost ten years and has experience in fundraising, donor recruitment, and cross-selling. He recently joined Kinnect’s development committee where he will be able to put those skills to use. Kinnect is thankful to Ron for his dedication and for sharing his skills and talents with us.
Dr. Nancy Rolock
Kinnect Board of Directors
Dr. Nancy Rolock joined the Kinnect Board of Directors in 2023. Early in her career, she was doing refugee resettlement work when a move took her to Chicago. She thought she would be in Chicago for a couple of months and sought out a research job for the summer. The assignment she found involved researching the child welfare system…and she stayed there for 12 years!
She began conducting child welfare research that summer and caseworkers asked how often children returned to foster care after adoption.
They knew of kids who came back into foster care but did not know if it was a majority or minority. There were no good numbers available at that time, so Nancy spent time with the administrative data to create linkages.
“Our systems evolved but our data had not caught up with that. It was a holdover from the way things used to be, rooted in closed adoptions. There was a deliberate process where they (foster care and adoption) were separate systems,” she explained.
The initial research found that at 5 years, five percent of children returned to foster care. At ten years, it was 12 percent. Nancy has replicated that research in other states and found similar patterns.
“When we think about how we are doing as staff, it is the difficult cases that we remember the most,” she said. Being able to track when youth return to foster care and to understand why is so valuable.
“I enjoyed it (the research) because I could work within the system to change and improve it for kids and families,” she explained.
Nancy’s research has focused on the long-term outcomes and well-being of youth who have found permanency after being in foster care. One of her studies looked at youth who were on average 24 years old to understand their adoptive experience.
“How do we support young adults to develop a sense of belonging, to feel like they are in a family that supports them? We don’t quite understand their family connections,” she said. Her research seeks to provide insight into those connections.
On the Kinnect Board of Directors, Nancy hopes to bring the perspective of thinking about long-term outcomes.
“One of the things I love (about Kinnect) is the primacy of listening to families and honoring what they want in their lives.”
Kinnect is honored to have Dr. Nancy Rolock on the board of directors.
Kinnect Board of Directors
Min. Jonathon E. Henry, MSSA, LISW-S, CCM, has lived every aspect of the child welfare system. He has been a foster child, an adoptee, worked as a child welfare caseworker, been a kinship care provider for his sister, obtained a foster care license, and now has become an adoptive dad.
Jonathon first became aware of Kinnect in 2016 when co-founders Shannon Deinhart and Mike Kenney did a presentation at Summit County Children Services, where he was an intake worker and protective caseworker.
“You guys are trying to keep families together,” Jonathon told them. “I was adopted, and this is so important to me.”
He told Shannon and Mike about his siblings, from whom he was separated as a young child. They invited Jonathon to meet the board of directors and join the group. He has been involved ever since, focusing on program implementation and grant funding.
Growing up, Jonathon wanted to be a social worker. He felt his childhood social worker was not proactive enough and did not listen to his voice or the voices of his siblings. But people discouraged him from pursuing social work.
He started college, majoring in architectural engineering. After changing his major four times, Jonathon was sure: he did indeed want to be a social worker.
After working at Summit County Children Services as an intake and protective services worker, he began to practice social work in a medical setting with the University Hospitals system, formerly Lake Health. During that time, he completed his Master of Science and Social Administration (MSW) from Case Western Reserve University. Soon after graduation, Jonathon transitioned to Cleveland Clinic Main Campus, where he eventually became the manager of the social work program. He is now pursuing his Ph.D. in Social Welfare at Case Western University and working as a clinical social worker at the Veteran’s Affairs Northeast Ohio Healthcare System. His goal is to remain in this hospital system. Jonathon especially enjoys working with veterans. He appreciates their service and bonds with them as a U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Veteran.
Along the way, Jonathon also became a kinship caregiver. He has 27 biological siblings, three of whom he knew as a child. He found his birth family through Facebook and began meeting them individually. He was 22 and living at home with his adoptive parents when he was notified that his 12-year-old sister was in foster care. So he bought his own home and became a licensed therapeutic foster parent to become her caregiver. She is a young adult now and doing well.
Jonathon told himself he would not take any more placements, but this soon changed. He obtained a call from Cuyahoga County discussing a young man placed in Ohio Guidestone in the fall of 2021. Jonathon agreed to meet him. When he arrived, the young man was holding a piece of paper and visibly nervous as his hands shook. The young man won the heart of Jonathon after he said,
“All I really want is a dad,” he told Jonathon. “I’ve never had a dad before.”
The young man began asking Jonathon a series of questions.
“He was interviewing me rather than the other way around,” Jonathon joked.
The young man came home with Jonathon and has been there since. A couple of months later, the young man’s brother joined them. Now, their formal adoption has been finalized.
We are so thankful to Jonathon for sharing his full circle lived experience with Kinnect and sharing his story to show the importance of our work. You can view a video about Jonathon and his brother here.
Secretary, Kinnect Board of Directors
Susan Hughes learned about Kinnect from board member Amy Kilbane, and she made a connection when she heard a news story on the radio about kinship care. At the time, Susan was exploring board opportunities through Business Volunteers Unlimited. She knew she was ready to serve, but didn’t know where.
She asked about Kinnect, met with Kinnect’s board chair and co-founders, and joined the board in 2019. Susan began her service on the board by serving on the Program Committee to learn more about how Kinnect operates.
“There are so many unique populations in the child welfare system,” she said. “One size does not fit all. Kinnect uses several approaches, including traditional kinship care through Kinnect to Family as well as Youth-Centered Permanency Roundtables where youth have a voice and Affirm Me for those who have unique challenges just because of who they are.”
What spoke to Susan about Kinnect’s work was the core belief that families can solve their own problems and be part of the solution.
“That is such a wake-up call,” she said. “It is not always the right answer for the government to step in and make decisions for people. The unique and impressive thing Kinnect does is that it empowers people. When we empower them to make the best decisions for their own lives and support them along the way, the outcomes are so much better.”
Susan has gone on to serve on the Human Resources (HR) Committee. In her professional life, she has over 14 years of experience as an HR attorney specializing in employee benefits. This allows her to contribute by developing policies and procedures that help Kinnect’s workforce function at its best and identify resources to support them.
“Stats and history show that what we do makes a real difference in the most meaningful way possible. The growth of Kinnect since I joined the board is staggering. The state recognized the efficacy of Kinnect’s strategies and funded them,” she said.
“I am proud to be part of Kinnect.”
And we are thankful to Susan for her service to Kinnect.
Treasurer, Kinnect Board of Directors
Megan Fellinger has served on the Kinnect Board of Directors since 2019. She first learned about Kinnect from her friend Julia Hornack. Julia knew that Megan’s family had adopted a son from the child welfare system and thought that the connection could be valuable for both Megan’s family and for Kinnect.
When Megan’s family adopted their son six years ago, they received no information from the county agency about his extended biological family or former foster families, except for the one with which he most recently lived.
Megan’s family is his third adoptive family, which has led to a difficult journey together. He required many services for behavioral health challenges. He is in a better spot now but still requires services.
Years after adopting him, his former foster family connected the Fellingers to a biological aunt and uncle who had worked toward adoption with their son in the past.
“They have been a lifeline,” Megan said. “They have reestablished a connection with him. It is meaningful for him and for our family.”
“When we adopted him, the county gave us no extended family connections. It would have been helpful for us from the beginning. They (children) can’t fill out their own family tree,” she explained.
There were no additional services provided by the county when Megan’s family adopted their son. Due to high turnover, no one at the agency had a connection with him anymore. There was also no support provided to his previous adoptive families to help them continue a relationship with him. Megan hopes that Kinnect’s work transforming the child welfare system and changing beliefs, values, and culture around kinship will help other families.
“My hope through my involvement with Kinnect is that no more kids have to go through more trauma than necessary when they change family situations,” Megan said. “As a society, we are obligated to ensure that kids’ families come with them in whatever way they can show up.”
In her personal and professional life, Megan is a parent to three teenagers. She is also a third-generation leader of a manufacturing company with 1100 employees in eight locations in North America. The company, Morrison Products, will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year. With all of the responsibilities on her plate, we truly appreciate Megan’s service to Kinnect.
Kinnect Board of Directors
Last year, Human Resources professional Denise Coats was on a quest to find an organization that she connected with based on her personal values. Business Volunteers Unlimited held a volunteer fair for board members of color. Denise went and reviewed several options. Kinnect was the last option she reviewed, and she wanted to explore getting involved.
As a kinship caregiver, she already understood the value of kinship in her own life. She had done research on kinship services and had a binder that already included information on OhioKAN. Once Denise spoke with Kinnect Executive Director and co-founder Shannon Deinhart, it was hard to contain herself.
"I have always been a person who believes in volunteering. Faith, family, and giving back are things I believe in. The greatest form of service to family is being a kinship caregiver,” she said.
As with many other families, Denise did not expect to become a kinship caregiver. She and her husband attended a funeral for a relative in Alabama and returned a kinship family. The relative was a grandmother who had been the primary caregiver to her granddaughter. The young woman’s mother was not able to care for her and asked Denise and her husband to take the daughter back to Ohio with them. No one wanted her to go into the child welfare system. Denise and her husband changed travel arrangements and returned home with a 12-year-old cousin Denise had seen before but had no interaction with in the past.
“Instantly, we learned that we do not have access to funds, or resources,” she explained. “I found it ridiculous. It was eye-opening and a little frustrating.”
Denise is still settling in on the Kinnect Board of Directors. She had long been a volunteer, but Kinnect is her first board service. As a change from her HR work, Denise chose to join the board governance committee for personal growth. She looks forward to growing with Kinnect.
“Kinnect is about giving back to family. It aligns with who I am spiritually.”
We are thankful to Denise for her service to Kinnect.
President, Kinnect Board of Directors
Grant Keating joined the Kinnect Board of Directors in 2019, but his involvement with Kinnect goes back more than fifteen years. His sister-in-law, who knows Kinnect co-founder Mike Kenney, suggested that they play in the golf outing. Grant and his brother Brian agreed. Grant is an attorney by profession. Neither he nor his brother knew a thing about Kinnect or its mission but they never miss a chance to golf and assumed it was a worthwhile cause. After the outing, Grant and Brian volunteered to join Kinnect’s golf committee. They have been on the golf committee ever since.
Kinnect began with only two employees, Mike and co-founder and current Executive Director Shannon Deinhart.
At the conclusion of each golf committee meeting, Mike would share a success story. One success story stuck with Grant. A family wanted to adopt their 16-year nephew but could not be approved without an additional bedroom. If not for Mike and Shannon’s intervention, that obstacle would have stopped the adoption. Instead, they found the resources to construct an addition to the house, which allowed the child to leave foster care to be with family. This story illustrated that with facilitation and support, families can come together to care for children and solve their own problems.
Grant remembers Mike saying, “there is nothing more important than the work we are doing here.” Grant was moved by the statement.
“It was a bold statement, but it was delivered with a level of sincerity that made me take a step back and really think about it. After considering how important my family was to me, I realized he was right. There are many worthy causes, but none more important than providing children with the opportunity to experience family. Many of us simply take that for granted. I decided then to devote my time and resources to supporting Kinnect and its mission.”
"Nothing is more important than the work we are doing here. Kinnect continues to embody the same sentiment, even as it has grown from two people who recognized a problem with the child welfare system to an organization with over 50 employees and a statewide footprint," Grant continued.
While he is delighted with Kinnect’s growth, the golf outing still holds a special place in Grant’s heart.
“My favorite thing about the golf outing is that it emphasizes what it’s all about,” he explained. “I always play with my family and close friends, and I try to get the other attendees to look around and take stock of who they are with. Undoubtedly, they are also with their kin. That is what we are fighting for at Kinnect: to make sure every child can have a family and share in those simple, but powerful experiences. It has been a tremendous honor for me to make a small contribution to that effort, and I am incredibly grateful to Shannon, her team, my fellow board members, and my wife Lea for their support and dedication to this most important cause.”
We are thankful to Grant for his contribution.
Kinnect Board of Directors Program Committee Chair
Kinnect Board of Directors member Mike Matasich has been involved with Kinnect since 2010. He was interested in volunteering for a nonprofit that involved children. An attorney, he wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who did not have a permanent family. Children in foster care fit that description. Mike met Kinnect founders Shannon Deinhart and Mike Kenney for lunch and he was sold.
“They were so passionate about what they were doing,” Matasich said. “It was new, no one else was doing it. It benefitted kids directly.”
Kinnect began as Waiting Child Fund, raising funds for the adoption of about thirteen young people who were in the permanent custody of a children services agency. In the beginning, Matasich said, they were sitting at a card table, and they got into every detail at the board level.
“We were figuring things out on a meeting-to-meeting basis. It was an exciting time. You really felt you were a part of it,” he reflected.
Not long after Matasich joined the board, the Summit County Permanency Collaborative began. The collaborative was a pilot program in Summit County that not only sought permanent homes for the longest-waiting children, but also reduced the number of children in long-term foster care and established and maintained a culture of permanency within the agency. It was active from 2010-2014.
“The pilot program took us in a new direction. It was about improving systems and training people who were working with kids, improving communications and the effectiveness of county agencies.” Matasich said. “The program gave us credibility and opened the door to other counties. New opportunities came along. We proved our work makes a difference.”
Matasich is excited by Kinnect’s growth in budget, staff, and programming.
“We have a reputation across the country. We are in every county in Ohio which increases the number of children we can serve,” he added.
Along the way, Matasich has touched every part of Kinnect’s efforts. He chaired the governance committee for several years, served as vice president and served as president for three years. He spoke at events.
As Matasich’s term on the board draws to a close this year, he feels a little bittersweet but plans to remain involved with Kinnect in whatever capacity he is needed. He is confident that Kinnect has assembled an effective and involved board to carry out its mission of finding, connecting, and supporting family for youth.
We are so thankful for Mike's service to Kinnect.
Kinnect Board of Directors Vice President and HR Committee Chair
Kimberly Bell joined the board of Kinnect in 2019. She was part of a program to match board members with open board seats in Fortune 500 companies, local nonprofits, and healthcare organizations. The mission of Kinnect resonated with her above the others for a family reason: her aunt was a kinship caregiver. Kimberly’s aunt lost her son and began caring for his baby when the child’s mother could not.
Kimberly saw firsthand that children have family members who are capable, willing, and able to provide them with a loving home, but they need support. Her aunt faced challenges registering the child for school and seeking medical care. The court system was not helpful. She was not offered services to support her in caring for the child.
“I was enthusiastic about what Kinnect is set out to do, which is to transform the child welfare system,” Kimberly explained.
“It takes a village to raise children, especially when children have trauma to cope with and barriers they did not choose,” Kimberly said. “It takes a lot, and Kinnect understands this.”
Kimberly did not expect to serve on the Kinnect board for as long as she has, but she has seen that our work is not done.
“In the work of Kinnect, the tools, engagement, and identity of each young person is at the forefront and top of mind always. That lends itself to the relentless effort, focus, and determination in transforming the system.”
“Change is slow,” she said. “We have to take it one layer at a time.”
"Every person that is part of Kinnect is important and connected to the mission. Every person on the team is passionate and mission-driven, young person-centered and family-focused."
In her work life, Kimberly is also dedicated to young people. She is the director of compliance in workforce development for Youth Opportunities Unlimited, an organization that helps young people transition into the workforce. Through summer programming and integration in 13 schools, they help youth prepare for the future in terms of the skills they need in this changing workforce environment.
We are so thankful for Kimberly's contribution to Kinnect.