July 2021 Blog Post

Meet the Staff

Renew has a very dedicated and passionate staff, and we’d like to take a minute to share a little more with you about the people that make up the Renew team.

Ellis

Tell us about your family and your educational background: I have been married to my wonderful wife, Carolyn, for 31 years and have two children, Peter and Rachel.  Peter and his wife, Grace, have a son, Parker, who is 15 months old. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Animal and Dairy Science from Auburn University and my Master’s of Agriculture in Agricultural Economics  from Texas A&M University.

Tell us about how you became involved with horses and Renew TRC: I was first introduced to horses at a very young age on my great uncle’s farm in Selma, AL. In my youth I worked on cattle ranches in Louisiana and Mississippi. For five years while I was in college and graduate school I worked on a guest ranch in Jackson Hole, WY where I instructed horseback riding and took trail rides and pack trips through the Teton Mountains. A friend of mine introduced me to Renew about five years ago and I was a volunteer and then earned CTRI.  

Jael

Tell us about your family and your educational background: I grew up in Hudsonville, MI and have a Bachelor’s Degree from Grand Valley State University in Therapeutic Recreation. I’ve been married for 2 years and we are about to move into our first house in West Olive.

Tell us about how you became involved with horses and Renew TRC: My parents have had horses since before I was born, so I’ve been around them my whole life. I started barrel racing at a very young age and never stopped 🙂 I own two of my own horses.  Zena, a 19 year old Quarter Horse and Yoyo, a 3 year old Quarter Horse.  I began volunteering at Renew eight years ago after my mom found it on a Google search and fell in love. I began as the Volunteer Coordinator Fall of 2019 and became a certified instructor in Fall of 2020.

Shaina Strikwerda

Shaina

Tell us about your family and your educational background: I grew up in West Olive, MI and I have been married to my husband, Mark, for 6 years. We are expecting our first child in February of 2022 (surprise)!! I became a PATH Intl. certified instructor (CTRI) in 2012 and obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Therapeutic Recreation from GVSU in 2013.

Tell us about how you became involved with horses and Renew TRC: My mom instilled a life-long passion for horses in me at a young age. We almost always had horses on our property and I eventually became involved with 4H, hunter/jumper shows, pony club rallies, and then eventually fell in love with the sport of eventing. I began volunteering at Renew TRC in 2010 and then became a part time instructor in 2012. When the opportunity to become full time in 2018 arose, I felt a clear call and passion for the work so it’s been a joy to see God continue to bless and guide Renew over the years.

Emily

Tell us about your family and your educational background: I was born in Tacoma, WA and grew up in Southwest Washington with my parents and one younger brother. For college, I attended George Fox University in Oregon and graduated with a degree in social work.

Tell us about how you became involved with horses and Renew TRC: Every summer from the age of 8 to 18, I attended a horse camp where I became heavily involved, volunteering all summer once I was old enough, and caring for horses and taking riding lessons in the off season. Once in college, I learned about PATH International therapeutic riding centers, and I spent time each week volunteering in lessons at a center close to my school. I moved to Pennsylvania after graduation and found another center to continue to volunteer at. It was in Pennsylvania that I pursued and completed a certification in therapeutic riding. Immediately after obtaining my certification, I moved to Michigan, and a month later was hired at Renew as an instructor and administrative assistant!

Cassie

Tell us about your family and your educational background: My husband’s name is Dave, and we have three pretty great kids, Ally, Amy, and Michael. We love to go camping together and spend a lot of time at sporting events. I graduated from GVSU with a degree in Advertising & Public Relations.

Tell us about how you became involved with horses and Renew TRC: Growing up as a horse-crazy kid who couldn’t have a horse of her own, I volunteered at Grace Youth Camp’s Paradise Ranch. In college, I was finally able to purchase my own horse, and I also had jobs at various barns around Allendale. I first heard about Renew from my nephew who attended the Ottawa Area Center. After speaking with Melissa and sharing that I would love to be a part of what God is doing at Renew, I was blessed to join the team in 2019 as the Communications Coordinator.

Melissa

Tell us about your family and your educational background: I have been married to my husband, Ben, for 30 years.  We have 4 children – Tommy, Tori, Taylor & Tessa.  I graduated from the University of Richmond in Virginia with a BA in Political Science and worked in the House of Delegate in Virginia for 7 years.

Tell us about how you became involved with horses and Renew TRC:  I grew up riding horses with my older sisters, and had my own pony named Patience when I was a girl. We competed in Hunter/Jumpers in Virginia and owned our own farm. I have fond memories of riding, showing and doing barn chores. As an adult, I became aware of therapeutic riding and realized that my passion for horses and for serving people could be combined into a ministry opportunity. I became a certified instructor in 2005, then Advanced certification with PATH in 2011 and spent eight years total developing the program at Dream Catchers in Williamsburg, Virginia before moving to Holland, Michigan in 2013. I was honored to become the Executive Director of Renew in late 2013 and to help work with a fabulous team here to build the dream of a permanent facility and program in West Michigan.

Dan

Tell us about your family and your educational background: I have been married for 34 years to my beautiful wife, Barb. I have a son, Joshua, and a daughter, Elizabeth ‘Libby’, and two beautiful granddaughters. I went to Davenport for a few years for my Business Degree.

Tell us about how you became involved with horses and Renew TRC: I was asked to get donations for a fundraising dinner event, now called ‘Denim and Diamonds’ 11 years ago. It progressed to other tasks until it turned into what it is today. I became the Farm Manager in 2021 and I ‘get to go to work’!

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