Our Team

Our team is made of the wonderful individuals who give their time to further our mission as staff, board members, and volunteers. Get to know our team and help us reach more families through mentoring and Playscape programs.

Staff

Kate McVay
Executive Director

Kate grew up in the mid-west and has been a social worker for over 25 years. When she moved from Chicago to the northwest in 1993, Kate became involved in developing and managing programs for homeless and at-risk youth — including youth in the foster care system. She then worked for a number of years at the University of Washington’s Northwest Institute for Children and Families, evaluating community-based social service and educational programs. Recently she has worked on public policy issues affecting vulnerable children and families. Kate has also served as a board member and consultant to a wide variety of not-for-profit organizations.

As a parent and a community member, Kate is passionate about bringing together parents, families and organizations to give our children the best head-start that life may offer. She is honored to be part of Mother Mentors and to work in her own community with such a wonderful group of mothers, fathers, grandparents, caregivers and volunteers!

“I have had some challenging jobs during my career, but the most challenging and most rewarding job I have ever had is being a parent!”

 

Susan Pologe Jones
Playscape South Facilitator

Susan grew up on the east coast and has traveled extensively and lived in both Georgia and in California for many years.  She has loved working with children and families, and community building, for as long as she can remember!  Her undergraduate degree is in Early Childhood Education and she completed graduate studies in Waldorf Education. Susan's professional background is as a Waldorf teacher, having been the founding teacher in several schools. She has a special interest in the art of puppetry and storytelling and loves to share this with the Playscape community.

Susan is delighted to serve as the Facilitator at Playscape South, engaging her passion for helping support healthy families and individuals through developing community . She finds working with such wonderful parents and caregivers, children, co-workers and volunteers a constantly enriching and inspiring experience!

 

Elizabeth Willis
Playscape North Facilitator

Elizabeth Willis has a background in elementary education. She holds a BS degree in Early Childhood Education and has experience as a preschool teacher.

The Navy brought her to Whidbey Island and, after 8 years, she now considers the Pacific Northwest to be ‘home’. Her most important job is being a mother to her two young children.

Elizabeth is passionate about caregiver support and the importance of community support in raising children. She loves being able to connect caregivers to other caregivers going through the same experiences, as they raise young children. Just knowing someone else ‘gets it’, makes all the difference! She loves the opportunity that Playscape gives her to establish those vital support connections in her local community.

Board of Directors

Pat Burtner-Freeman

Pat Burtner-Freeman is a pediatric occupational therapist, who currently works part-time at Toddler Learning Center of Whidbey Island. She is honored to be a Board member of Mother Mentors, knowing on a personal level how individualized support can make a huge difference.

Pat is the mother of three adult children, one of whom is from her husband’s former marriage. Similar to many families, an important focus of their parenting was to integrate all children into a family unit. As a new mother with significant career obligations, support from her husband and her own mother was invaluable. (Her mother often flew in during final exams to keep the home front running.)

She is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Pediatrics of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and has received awards for her original research and teaching. She has been recruited to provide international consultation/instruction for health professionals in Romania, Russia, Mexico and most recently Sri Lanka.

Throughout her career, Pat provided services to families of children with disabilities. The time spent with families of young children was always grounding and provided direction for her classroom instruction, as well as for her grant and publication writing.

 

Sieb Jurriaans

Sieb Jurriaans and his wife Cary immigrated from Holland to the US in 1974 and have lived in the Seattle area since 1982. Most of Sieb’s career was in banking, working in Amsterdam, Chicago and Seattle until he acquired a telecommunications company in 1993. After his retirement, Sieb and Cary followed their son Sieb Jr. and his wife Jenn to Langley and started the Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio.

Besides their Langley-based son, they have a daughter living in Bellevue and a son in Brooklyn, NY. Sieb served as Treasurer for the South Whidbey Children’s Center in Langley.

 

Kristin Lasher

Kristin has been a passionate supporter of young mothers since she was a mother herself, isolated, overwhelmed and unsupported. Her passion comes from not only her own experience as a mom, but as a child from a loving and caring family, who believed in serving the community around them. Kristin has a degree in Political Science and Education from the University of Washington. She has served on the Board of Trustees for Cornish College, United Way of King County and the League of Women Voters. She is a weaver and textile artist. Her greatest challenge in life has been raising 3 little girls, born in the first 3 years of marriage. Her next challenge has been to support unconditionally those 3 women as they raise their own children.

 

Linda Ridder

Linda became a mom while still a teenager. She started college as a mom with a nine-month old son and a need to work to help finance her education. Her early marriage and family experiences led her to pursue a career in marriage and family therapy and education. After earning degrees from Purdue and The Pennsylvania State University, she earned her Ph.D. from Florida State University as a single parent while working full-time running a rural Florida mental health clinic and maintaining a part-time private practice. After remarrying, she pursued an academic and administrative career, mostly at Miami University of Ohio, starting their first women’s center, then as a Professor teaching 24 difference undergraduate and graduate family focused courses, researching and publishing in her field, and heading up two different academic departments before retiring and moving to Whidbey Island.

 

Scott Wessel-Estes

Scott Wessel-Estes started his legal career as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. Following his involvement in cases related to child abuse, and becoming a father, Scott began work as an Assistant Attorney General representing Children's Administration. He has dedicated his life to working for children, and was very active as a Youth Advisor and a facilitator for the "Our Whole Lives" sexuality education program for children and youth. Scott and his wife, Pamela, are the parents of two children, Seth and Brianna. Now that their children have "left the nest," Pamela and Scott moved into their dream home on South Whidbey in the Spring of 2016. Scott continues his work on behalf of children through the Attorney General's office, and is also excited about the opportunity to be on the board of Mother Mentors. Scott is an avid hiker, although he now spends more time 'beach combing' and just being at home.

 

Lynn Launer

Lynn has been a technical recruiter in the software industry for the last 30 years, having started at Microsoft when it was a small company.  She also spent ten years on the Board of Directors for Humanity’s Team.   The work of Humanity’s Team is based on the simple message: We Are All One. 

Lynn has been residing on Whidbey Island for over 25 years and serves the community as a volunteer doula, working with people at end-of-life, serving as their advocate. Lynn is also an End-of-Life Duala and is the God Mother for the child of one of her patients that lost her life to cancer.   This has raised her consciousness about the need to help parents with their caregiving, both in health and sickness.

 

Patrice O’Neil

Patrice O'Neill is a retired Family Practice Physician who ran the Freeland Clinic for 42 1/2 years. She and her husband (deceased) raised three children, all of whom graduated from South Whidbey High School.

Pat’s first medicine related earnings were for a freshman med school paper on childrens interactions with caregivers in a Korean orphanage. She has been a mentor and long time volunteer at Playscape South and now enjoys her work on the board of Mother Mentors.

 

Niki VanSice

Niki grew up in Iowa and in 2002 moved to Anacortes, WA and then down to down to Whidbey Island in 2006. She started attending Playscape shortly after the birth of her first child in 2014 and felt like Playscape “saved her life.” Now the mother of two beautiful young children, having a community of parents to share the joys and challenges of raising children has been very important to Niki and she has been involved in almost every aspect of Mother Mentors from knitting afghans for the auction to leading a parent discussion on how to ask for help. She joined the Board of Directors in 2019. As a stay- at- home mom she enjoys putting time into projects that further community connections like Mother Mentor.

Volunteers

Every non-profit organization requires a strong network of support in order to thrive. Mother Mentors is a relationship-based program so we value the time and energy invested by our volunteers. The women and men who volunteer in support of our Whidbey Island families are committed, caring, wise and wonderful people with a deep desire to partner with parents in the important work of raising healthy, happy human beings.

Being a volunteer can mean everything from a retiree who spends two hours a week with a family to some of our founding Board members who rolled up their sleeves and made a full-time job of creating the programs we provide.

Mother Mentor volunteers Sept. 2015

“For me, mother mentoring can be very gratifying, filling up an empty nester’s heart with joy, making new friends, sowing a bit of wisdom and companionship for families who are on their most important journey of life.”