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Kim Bigler

Founder

In 2010 Kim Winston Bigler started what would eventually become James Samaritan out of the trunk of her car in California. Over the last 5 years (after moving back to Louisiana), she has built an organization which has an incredible impact on the Louisiana foster care community. She has grown James Samaritan by building relationships with the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS), local churches and an army of community volunteers. Her contributions to the foster care system have received statewide recognition. She has been recognized for her impact on changing how we care for our most vulnerable. Kim has been recognized by many of the top organizations in Louisiana for her service to children and families. These organizations include LFAPA, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation Angel Award, YMCA St. Tammany West Hometown Hero Award, Together We Can Conference, Linda Christmas Award, Louisiana Institute of Children and Families, Angel in Adoption Award, First Lady Edwards Louisiana Fosters, Governor Edwards, Louisiana Institute of Children in Families, and many more.

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Julie Wondergem

Executive Director

Julie Wondergem is the founding director of Royal Family KIDS Camp for Southeast Louisiana. She is a mother of 7 and has served as a foster parent since 2003. Julie has dedicated her life to serving others, especially those from hard places. Her experience and understanding of the challenges faced by children, families, and case workers in our local system, motivates her determination to make a difference. In addition to Royal Family Kids, she has helped start and manage other non-profit organizations. Julie received a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education from Western Govenors University in 2013.  She has taught both Special and Regular education in St. Tammany Parish.

Email: julie@jamessamaritan.org

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John Wondergem

Director of Media & Marketing

John is a father of 7 children and the husband to 1 amazingly, awesome wife.  John is a firm believer that we are to love and support those who are facing difficult struggles in life (Psalm 82:3)  His faith in Jesus propels him to serve the foster care community, as well as the special needs community.  Since 2006, John has been a public school educator and coach, and in 2014, with the help of his wife Julie, he launched the first Royal Family KIDS Camp in the state of Louisiana.  Since that time he has partnered with other passionate people to see 4 such camps erected across the state.  As a member of the James Samaritan team, Mr. Wondergem looks forward to supporting the staff and board as a fundraiser and community connector.  "The mission of serving the foster care community is one that all of us can have a critical role in doing."  

 

Email: john@jamessamaritan.org

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Sylvia Gray

Office Administrator

As a retired employee from the Department of Children and Family Services, Sylvia has spent the past 10 years assisting with Royal Family KIDS Camp. Sylvia gives not only a tremendous amount of volunteer time, but also her whole heart to serving kids from hard places.

 

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Melissa Breedlove

Community Outreach Coordinator

Melissa joined our team in December 2023 and has hit the ground running! Her experience as a foster and adoptive parent have proven extremely valuable to her work here. Melissa is trained as a TBRI Practitioner and has administration experience in educational programs in the area.

Her compassion and heart for foster care are evident as she leads our kinship and foster parent support events, our Homework Helper program and our community outreach events. With her passion for making a difference in the lives of children and families, Melissa brings fresh ideas and perspectives to our initiatives. 

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Kerri Vinyard

LifeNetwork Coordinator

13 years ago, God led Kerri into the ministry of serving foster youth after giving her an opportunity to volunteer with youth aging out. Because of her love for the youth, she has been serving ever since. While volunteering at a group foster home, being led by God, Kerri developed a youth mentorship for 13 young ladies in the home. She and ladies from the church were prayer partners and provided tutoring, birthday parties, Christmas, a summer day camp, monthly activities, and Bible study. 

Kerri then began to realize there was a gap in services in our area providing housing for youth when they aged out the foster care system. God empowered Kerri and the team to create a Christian nonprofit that would provide housing for ladies in the Extended Foster Care program. Kerri is the founder and current director of H2O Ministries.

In January 2024, Kerri joined the James Samaritan Team to develop and implement a mentorship program for Covington Region's Extended Foster Care youth. She will be training mentors and planning monthly events to engage the youth in building relationships with people in the community with the hope of changing the current statistics for this demographic. 

 

Board of Directors

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Rafael Flores

Board President

Rafael Flores was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala and moved to the United States in 1998. After moving around the country, he settled in Covington Louisiana in 2012 with his wife, Penny, and two children. He graduated from Spring Hill College with a B.A. in Theology, has a Masters in Pastoral Leadership from Notre Dame Seminary, and is currently in training for a Master's in Bioethics from the Ohio State University. Rafael began his career in education and parish ministry, spending eight years as a theology teacher at St. Scholastica Academy, and lay minister for St. Peter Parish. He currently is the Director of Mission Integration for Our Lady of the Angels Hospital and the Northshore Region of FMOL Health System. In this role he aids the healthcare ministry live out its Catholic identity across its regional and system operations. Rafael also currently leads the youth ministry team at Our Lady of the Lake Parish. He has a passion for serving those in need, and is always happy to find a way for people to help in the good work of service. When not riding his bike with his wife and kids around Covington, Rafael enjoys cooking, running, and hunting down a good jazz vinyl record. 

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Steve Kneier

Board Treasurer

Steve Kneier is a transplant to Louisiana from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio with a degree in Accounting, he followed his now-wife, Elizabeth back to Louisiana where they have been for the past 14 years. They have raised their 5 children on the Northshore, and 4 now attend St. Peter School in Covington. Steve began his accounting career working for 2 large companies with LA roots – Pool Corp and Hornbeck Offshore, while completing his CPA in 2013. He then served small businesses of Louisiana while working in the Client Accounting Services departments of two public accounting firms – Wegmann Dazet and Hannis T Bourgeois. He finally found a way to combine his love for accounting with his passionate faith in God by joining St. Joseph Financial Services as the Director of Transformation, where he leads a team that implements new accounting technology to clients within the Catholic Church all around the country. He also uses his financial and accounting gifts by serving as Treasurer for the Boy Scouts Troop 160 and Buna’s Hope. He enjoys tinkering on woodworking projects and redoing furniture with his wife.

 

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Belinda Pennison

Board Member

Belinda is a lifelong educator and former coach in the local community. Born and raised in Folsom, the heart of St. Tammany Parish, Belinda believes deeply in community, family, and Christ-centered service. She is deeply involved in her home church, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, where she serves as a lectern and a Eucharistic Minister of Holy Communion. She has been in education for over twenty years. Belinda has a heart for service but particularly for children with special needs and those in need of familial support.

"As a teacher and administrator, my eyes were opened to the large number of students who are homeless, fostered, split families, or of special needs."

Belinda first became involved with Royal Family Kids along with her husband Mark. Belinda and Mark have six beautiful children. She has a Master's Degree in Teaching as well as a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership. Belinda has been a volunteer Emergency Medical Responder for over 15 years. Additionally, she and her husband own Insurance Advisor's of Louisiana, an independent insurance agency in Covington and strive to serve the local community in that facility as well. Belinda believes 1 Peter 4:10 exudes she and her husbands desire to love and serve others in whatever capacity they can.

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." -1 Peter 4:10

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Sean Englert

Board Member

Sean Englert is the Dean of Student Life at Northlake Christian School in Covington, Louisiana, where he oversees student activities, develops student leadership training and programming, builds relational bridges between the student body and community organizations, and directs various aspects of spiritual life on campus. Prior to his administrator role, he spent over a dozen years as a classroom teacher and coach. In 2017 he took a brief leave of absence from the world of education and relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to work alongside the North American Mission Board as a recruiter and trainer of church-planting pastors in the area. He returned to education and his home state of Louisiana in 2020 in his current position at Northlake Christian School. 

 

With degrees in sociology and teaching, as well as a doctorate in education, Sean adds both his educational expertise and professional experience to the diverse makeup of the board. He and his wife, Tiffany, also have two children of their own. Both Jade and Ezra became members of the Englert family by way of adoption in 2017 and 2022, respectively. As an adoptive parent, Sean is passionate about supporting and caring for families engaged with the foster system. Sean, Tiffany, Jade, and Ezra reside in St. Tammany Parish and desire to see their community become a place where every person, regardless of family dynamics, has the opportunity for individual success and wellbeing. 

 

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Caitlin Picou

Board Member

Caitlin was born and raised in Covington, LA. She graduated from St. Scholastica Academy in 2003 and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications at LSU in 2007. Shortly after college, Caitlin moved to the Dallas/Fort worth area where she discovered her love of Product  Development in the Beauty Industry. After developing several products for the brand Bed Head, she was relocated to New York City to work in Brand Development for the mass haircare brand, Suave Professionals. In 2012, Caitlin returned with her husband to settle down in Covington. Taking all of her learnings from Texas and New York, she created her own beauty brand, Kismet, in 2013. Since launching her brand, Kismet has been featured in national magazines, subscription bags and even CNBC’s Billion Dollar Buyer. Kismet was also named LSU’s top 100 fastest growing businesses in 2019 and again in 2021. Caitlin is the beauty editor for Edge of the Lake Magazine, keeping the Northshore up to date with the latest hair, makeup and skincare trends. She also is on the St. Scholastica Academy Alumnae Board and she is the SSA Alumnae Coordinator. Caitlin loves to reconnect and bring fellow alumnae together to create an even stronger, female driven community. She also organizes the popular Dove Market, highlighting local businesses and community outreach. Caitlin is also part of the 2021 Leadership St. Tammany Class. Caitlin currently lives in Covington with her husband, Scott and their three children, Ruby, Henry and Eliza. Nothing makes her happier than driving around their kids to different activities, coaching Ruby's Pee Wee Pep Squad and being room mom.

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Rebecca Birkett

Board Member

Rebecca Birkett is the principal of Lyon Elementary school in Covington, Louisiana. She has worked in the field of education for over 15 years. Rebecca received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Mercy College in New York City. Rebecca is an Ohio native and is a proud (and loud!) Buckeye fan! She attended The Ohio State University in 2009 and 2014 where she completed coursework to obtain her principal and superintendent licensure. She married her best friend, Owen, in 2015 and quickly learned when you marry someone from south Louisiana, they bring you back to south Louisiana. Rebecca serves as the Executive Board Secretary for the Children's Advocacy Center - Hope House. She is extremely excited and humbled to join the board where her passion for children and young adults will be an asset to the mission and vision of James Samaritan. Rebecca lives in the city of Covington with her husband, their Yorkie-Poo Napoleon, and their niece who is a junior at Spelman.