Our Team

Evita Ellis

Founder

Evita Ellis has called Minneapolis home for most of her life. Here she has followed her dreams and helped many others follow theirs by improving their lives. Helping young women heal has been a passion of hers. "By helping young women heal they are able to help themselves and future generations," says Evita.

As founder of Ready and Relevant and chair of its board of directors, she brings more than thirty years of experience serving the community, resolving conflicts, providing guidance to those in need along with planning and implementing community programs.

Evita is passionate in the fields of education, racial justice, trauma informed care, family systems, adolescent and children's holistic health, drug and alcohol counseling, women’s rights, and mental health initiatives.

She received her BA in journalism and mass communications from Clark Atlantic University in Atlanta, GA, and her Master’s Degree in public and nonprofit administration from Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, MN. She has since been pursuing a PhD in human services at Capella University. She also holds a license and graduate certificates in various subjects.

In addition to being a dreamer with a plan, Evita is an Educator, Writer, Researcher, and the mother of one adult child. 

Kristine Waggener

Vice-President & Board Member

Kristine is an estate planning lawyer who believes that everybody has a legacy. She grew up in California but spent eleven years in the Midwest, and still feels a deep affinity for the Twin Cities.

 

She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. After college, she moved to Minnesota and worked at Mystic Lake Casino as a Blackjack dealer and in Training and Organizational Development. She then gained additional experience as a Learning Specialist at ADC  Telecommunications. During this time, Kristine helped to transcribe the autobiography of Ruth C. Webb, volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, volunteered as a GED tutor, and ran two Twin Cities Marathons.

 

She returned to California to earn her Juris Doctor from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and worked as a corporate associate at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. She then moved to the Family Wealth Group at Farella Braun + Martel, LLP, where she specialized in the intersection of business planning and estate planning. Kristine now runs her own estate planning firm in San Francisco.

Kristine brings her life’s work as overseer of operations and development. She provides vision and recruitment of doers and donors to every aspect of Ready and Relevant’s mission.

Brian Balk

Treasurer  & Board Member

Brian was born and raised in White Plains, NY. He was educated in public schools, served honorably in the U.S. Army, and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Special Education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has supported the Minnesota Child Support program for 23 years, including five years as a Hennepin County Caseworker and 18 years as a state trainer.

 

Previously, he worked with student loan program compliance at HEMAR Service Corporation and the Higher Education Assistance Foundation (HEAF), and with specialty pharmacy insurance claims at Chronimed, Inc. Brian has extensive experience leading and supporting teams, facilitating challenging conversations, supporting organizational policy and performance, serving the public and agency staff, and applying an equity lens to ensure equal and respectful service and outcomes for all. Brian is an active volunteer with several Twin Cities anti-racism organizations, including the Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative (FREC) and Anti-Racism Study and Dialogue Circles (ASDIC Metamorphosis).

Brian has been married to Julie Balk for 26 years. Their daughter, Rachel, will graduate from the University of St. Thomas and enter the University of Minnesota Pharmacy School in 2019.

 

Brian works with Ready and Relevant's books, finance and record-keeping. He also helps recruit and train the volunteers and help recruit donors to financially support the organization.

Rosemary Holman

Secretary  & Board Member

Rosemary Holman is a retired Speech Clinician, having worked for 35 Years in Minneapolis Public Schools with students, parents and staff from age birth to grade 8. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree as well as a Masters in Speech Pathology from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

 

Over the course of 35 years working with children and families from a variety of cultures and social-economic backgrounds, Rosemary saw first-hand the young people that may have the academic ability, interest and desire to be successful, complete high school and attend college but struggle to successfully complete their degree due to the lack of financial resources to attain their final goal. She has worked with children and families while they were living in shelters, transitional housing or living with other family members and has seen first-hand how difficult it is for these families to provide the financial support beyond daily needs for their children. Rosemary has provided training for staff and organizations working with families and children on how to promote speech and language development for children from birth to middle school. 

She and her husband of 45 years, Alec Holman, have raised two children, have one grandchild and have actively been involved in the lives of numerous nieces and nephews. 

Rosemary helps promote mentoring, coaching and lifelong relationship engagement at Ready and Relevant in an effort to, in her words: "help young ladies be successful as I firmly believe that our future depends on the empowerment of all through education." She also assists with Ready and Relevant's record-keeping and financials. 

Jane Elias (Janie)

Board Member

Janie is the daughter of a teacher and grew up in St Paul with seven sisters and a brother. Her grandparents emigrated from Bohemia and Ireland in the early 1900s. Her father was a paratrooper in WWII and was the first in his family to go to college, thanks to help from the GI bill. Despite having grown up lower income on a teacher's salary, Janie was able to put herself through college at the University of Minnesota. She waited tables, illustrated for the MN Daily, and received a little financial aid, graduating with a BS in 1985.

 

Janie worked on a contract basis for John B Goodman Inc. (a development company), for 15 years. She traveled all over the US creating art furniture and painting murals in restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healing environments. She has always been a community artist and has been awarded many grants to work in schools, churches, and other community venues. In 2007 she founded Simply Jane/ArtAble and serve the community with drop-in art sessions, parties, classes, and camps, with the mission to be inclusive of all abilities and disabilities. Being a Highly Sensitive Person she created a space that is sensory sensitive, and 90% of her staff are differently-abled and/or cognitively-divergent.

 

Janie has been married to Kevin Marshall for 25 years and they have two children in college. Their son is a junior at the University of Colorado, Boulder, studying engineering. Their daughter is in her freshman year at Eau Claire, where she is interested in nursing. Janie is personally aware that it is impossible for today's students ever to meet the financial demands of college today with only a part-time job!

 

Her family have been members of Linden Hills United Church of Christ for 18 years, where Janie taught Sunday School and serves on many committees. She served for 7 years on the Tangletown Neighborhood Association where her non-profit is located, and she currently serves with the Linden Hills Neighborhood Association where she lives.

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