Two Women of the ELCA staff have transitioned into new positions within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. And Deana Velandra began work July 29 in a new administrative assistant position.
Gabriela Contreras was director for meeting planning for Women of the ELCA. She moved to the Mission Investment Fund to serve as office manager.
Ann Hightower was director for budget and finance. She is serving ELCA Global Mission as coordinator for mission formation and the international leaders program.
“Ann and Gaby have been creative and supportive colleagues, committed to the mission and purpose of Women of the ELCA. While I and the remaining staff wish them well in their new endeavors, we hate to see them go. Since our offices are all in the same building, they won’t be too far away and we can continue to call them colleagues,” said Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director.
“Ann and Gaby have been creative and supportive colleagues, committed to the mission and purpose of Women of the ELCA.” — Linda Post Bushkosky, executive director
Contreras has worked with Women of the ELCA since December 1999, first as administrative assistant to the scholarship, grants and global education programs. In March 2003, she was named assistant to the executive director, a role she filled until taking the meeting planner position in 2009.
She spent her career working for the church and says she remembers with fondness her beginnings as a volunteer in the ELCA at age 18. She worked with the ELCA in the Information Technology Department as helpdesk coordinator from 1992 to 1996.
“It’s been 19 years since I first became staff of Women of the ELCA. I’ve have had so many great experiences, traveled to many places, and met terrific people during my time in this organization,” said Contreras. “To the women of this organization who have invited me into their lives by sharing their stories, thank you! To my colleagues and friends who have been on this journey with me, thank you!”
Hightower had been with Women of the ELCA since 2008. Although she began as a temporary administrative assistant, “she quickly became invaluable and soon became a full-time member of the staff,” Bushkofsky said. She also served as assistant to the executive director and to the associate director. She took on the role of budget director in 2017.
“I learned a lot in my work with Women of the ELCA, and I look forward to taking what I’ve learned and using it in my current role,” Hightower said. “I’m excited about the challenges ahead and am better able to meet them thanks to my work with Women of the ELCA. I’ll miss the women I’ve met through the organization, and I hope to see them again in my new work.”
Deana Velandra is a 2018 graduate of Hope College, Holland, Mich., having majored in theater (performance) and women’s and gender studies. She was a servant companion for the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering and a summer camp counselor at Living Waters Ministries, an ELCA outdoor ministry in Fairview, Mich. As administrative assistant, Velandra will provide administrative support to the executive director and staff, assisting in planning, coordinating and implementing services, projects and events. She will also support the executive director’s work related to the governance of the organization and assist with clerical work.
How the work is being handled
“The transitions of Gaby and Ann provided an opportunity to revisit how particular pieces of work are accomplished,” Post Bushkofsky said. “Women of the ELCA is already purchasing certain accounting services from the ELCA Office of the Treasurer. So the treasurer, Lori Fedyk, and I were able to expand those services.”
The Office of the Treasurer has hired an accountant for the specific purpose of supporting Women of the ELCA’s financial needs.
“I am very hopeful as we live into this new arrangement,” Post Bushkofsky said.
For its meeting planning needs, Women of the ELCA has contracted with a third-party planner, Framework Meetings and Destinations, a group the organization has worked with in the past.
“Framework will see the organization through the gathering next summer,” Post Bushkofsky said. “It seemed prudent to go this route, rather than filling the vacant director for meeting planning position as the organization awaits the recommendations of the exploratory committee.
“Existing staff will handle smaller meetings, such as meetings of the churchwide executive board and the annual conference of presidents.”
The need for an administrative assistant became apparent following the departure of Hightower and Contreras, Post Bushkofsky said “because both Ann and Gaby had done some administrative work.”
“Financial savings realized by the way we are handling our accounting and meeting planning needs allowed the organization to hire an administrative assistant,” she added.
Executive board changes
Meanwhile, two churchwide executive board members have resigned for personal reasons.
At its April 2019 meeting, the executive board installed Raeann Purcell of New Smyrna Beach, Fla. (Florida-Bahamas Synod), to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Anissa Canova of Gouldsboro, Pa.
In late May 2019, Dawn Wicklund of Superior, Wis., (Northwest Synod of Wisconsin) was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Keala Simoes of Hawaii.
Feature photo: l-r, Gabriela Contreras, Ann Hightower, Deana Velandra