Jennifer Singer, Executive Director, CFRE
Jennifer Singer helped co-found The Friendship Club in 1995. She served in several roles as The Friendship Club grew and became the Executive Director in 2004. Jennifer is connected in the community, has more than 20 years of nonprofit management experience and is a CFRE (certified fundraising executive). She served on the board of directors of Sierra Harvest, including as the founding board president, and as a founding board member and two-term board member of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership. Jennifer serves as a Nevada City School Board Trustee and on the Steering Committee for the Nevada County Youth Collaborative. Jennifer was raised in Nevada County and is a graduate of Nevada Union High School. Jennifer received a degree in Communication from the University of Colorado at Boulder and has studied nonprofit administration in a master’s degree program at the University of San Francisco. Jennifer is a Gallup/CliftonStrengths coach to build better teams and is a graduate of the Nevada County Leadership Institute.
Dena Valin Malakian, Associate Director
Dena Malakian has worked with nonprofits serving at-risk youth since 2000. She is a Nevada County native and graduate of Nevada Union High School. She returned to the area in 2004 and became the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada County, which she helped develop and grow over eight years to serve twice the number of children. Dena holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Anthropology, a Master’s degree in Social Ecology, and a Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership, where she focused her research on mentoring. She has extensive experience in inter-agency collaboration, program development and evaluation, and focuses on these areas in her work with The Friendship Club. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for NEO, the Membership Committee for the Center for Nonprofit Leadership, and is a commissioner on the Nevada County Adult and Family Services Commission.
Cindy Hintz, Community Engagement Manager
Cindy Hintz was born & raised in California. She holds degrees in both English and Commercial Interior Design. Upon graduation, Cindy began her career as a design coordinator, growing into a full-fledged project manager for over 15 years. She worked overseas in Singapore, leading the design team effort for a 220,000 sq. ft. headquarters building for a Silicon Valley Company. Cindy relocated to Nevada City from the bay area in 2007. She became involved as a volunteer in Soroptimist International Nevada City, and served on the board for four years. It was that service that ignited a passion for non-profit work, with a special focus on improving the lives of women and girls.
Cheryl Rubin, Development and Communications Director
Cheryl Rubin brings experience in business and with nonprofit organizations and government. She has lived in Nevada County for 20 years. Cheryl most recently served as Chief Communications Officer for Western Sierra Medical Clinic, a federally qualified health center that tripled its number of health centers – from two to six – since late 2014, when she joined the organization. Before Western Sierra, Cheryl’s career includes putting a wide-range of skills to work for the California Forest Products Commission, with an influential Washington, D.C. public policy research institute that raised more than $100 million during its largest fundraising campaign, for United Way of America, and at a major Madison Avenue firm, where she received the Silver Anvil Award, the Public Relations Society of America’s highest national honor. Early in her career, she worked at ABC TV’s Good Morning America. Cheryl, a professional tennis instructor, is a recipient of the Outstanding College Athletes of America award. Cheryl is active in the community, including serving on the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Community Advisory Panel, and previously on the Board of Directors for the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and NCTV.
Cassie Robertson, Community Outreach Coordinator
Cassie Robertson grew up in Nevada City and graduated from Nevada Union High School. She left for cities and adventures in the United States and abroad. Cassie holds a BA in French Literature from San Francisco State University. She spent many years working in hospitality, moved to investment banking and most recently worked in operations at a boutique architecture firm in Portland, OR. Cassie returned home to Nevada County in 2016 with a commitment to community, particularly the arts and arts education for young people. She serves on the board of the Nevada County Arts Council.
Chelsy Warmerdam, Youth Development Coordinator
Chelsy Warmerdam has been an alumnus of The Friendship Club since 2010 when she graduated high school. She has since graduated from Chico State University with a minor in Child Development, a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Chelsy’s passion is teaching elementary school students and hopes to one day teach in Nevada County. Chelsy is delighted to have the opportunity to come back and work at The Friendship Club. She understands what it is like to be a girl in The Friendship Club, and is hoping to help the girls through their adolescent years. Chelsy will be one of the leaders for the after school meetings. When not at The Friendship Club, Chelsy likes to travel, read, go horseback riding, ride her jet skis, and be with her friends and family.
Kaitlyn Miller, Youth Development Coordinator
Kaitlyn Miller brings more than five years of experience in youth education to The Friendship Club and works part-time. She served in several instructional, marketing, customer service and administrative positions for Broadreach Global Educational Adventures, which provides learning opportunities for young people from middle school through college. Kaitlyn’s responsibilities included interacting with students and their families, managing a team of enrollment and health coordinators and teaching wilderness first responder skills. Kaitlyn also served as a physical therapy aide at Body Logic in Grass Valley and is a Pilates and barre instructor. Kaitlyn graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication.
Lexee Smith, Youth Development Coordinator
Lexee Smith is a Nevada County native and a graduate of Forest Charter High School. After graduating at Forest Charter, Lexee earned her Associate of Science degree in Psychology from Sierra College and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Chico State University. She is currently working on getting her Teaching Credential in Science in preparation for becoming a High School Science and Biology teacher. Outside of school and work, Lexee’s interests include barrel racing, roping, snowboarding, and creating special effects movie makeup.
Evan Nielsen, Youth Development Assistant
Evan Nielsen fosters relationships with youth at The Friendship Club in this part-time position. She also works for the Center for the Arts as their Bar Manager, where she oversees up to 40 volunteers at a time. Evan is a certified Doula providing support and assistance before, during and after childbirth as well as a full-time student studying Midwifery. Her experience working with youth includes serving as a child and adolescent equine riding instructor. In her free time, Evan enjoys riding her horse, being with family and friends and, most importantly, laughing. She also has experience in the hospitality field. Evan attended Santa Monica College, where she received a CalArts degree in Entertainment Technology, Post Production Editing.
Cassidy Cecil, Youth Resource Coordinator
Cassidy Cecil has her Bachelor’s degree in Social work at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. She’s working with Friendship Club youth and their families, connecting them to the resources they need in the program and throughout the community. She also works part time as a caretaker with United Cerebral Palsy, which is a nonprofit that provides services to and advocates for adults and children with disabilities. While in college, Cassidy was in intern at Catholic Charities Adoption Program in Florida, where she helped families with the adoption process. Outside of work, Cassidy’s interests include being with family and friends, hiking, traveling, and reading.
Aurora Packard, SAFE Program Director
Aurora Packard is overseeing The Friendship Club’s SAFE (Stability. Access. Foundation. Empowerment) program, which provides academic, social and emotional support and life skills training to high school seniors experiencing homelessness as they transition into adulthood. Aurora is developing and implementing the SAFE program, connecting youth experiencing homelessness to resources to help ensure they graduate from high school and achieve a college degree or Career Technical Education certification. Aurora graduated with a B.A. from Arizona State University (ASU) in Community Advocacy and Social Policy in 2018 and will receive a Master’s of Social Work degree from ASU Watts College of Public Service in 2020. Aurora has taken social work courses in equity, diversity and oppression, and understands the dynamics that can interfere with a family’s ability to provide for their children.
Jasmine Aebersold, Organization Assistant
Jasmine Aebersold serves as the “go-to” person assisting the Executive Director and Friendship Club team with administrative, clerical and database management activities. She is an alumnus of The Friendship Club who joined the staff in 2019. Jasmine brings experience in customer service in retail and nonprofit organizations. She previously worked as an Event Assistant at Sierra Memorial Hospital Foundation and as a Sales Associate at the Salvation Army thrift store. She is CPR and First Aid certified. Jasmine is pursuing a degree in Communications at Sierra College.
Wendy VanWagner, Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator
Wendy brings a breadth of nutrition and wellness expertise to the Friendship Club. She is certified as a nutrition educator from Bauman College as well as a certified Diabetes Education and Empowerment Program instructor. Wendy is also trained to teach the Stanford model of Chronic Disease Self-Management. As a public health educator providing direct education to at-risk groups, Wendy has seen how increased health literacy and education can positively impact the choices people make over the course of their lives. Prior to her career in public health, Wendy founded In the Kitchen cooking school and catering in Nevada County where she built a thriving business that connected people to delicious, wholesome food and imparted the skills to take charge of their health and happiness at home. Wendy naturally builds relationships wherever she goes and looks forward to connecting with Friendship Club girls and volunteers. Wendy has a B.A. in anthropology and psychology from Pitzer College, one of the Claremont colleges, and a master’s degree in health education.
Mary Collier, Founder, Grant Writer
Mary Collier founded The Friendship Club in 1995. At the time, she was the coordinator of the Pupil Assistance Liaison Program (PAL) in the Nevada City School District. This program paired disadvantaged elementary students from single parent homes with students from the local high school for mentoring and friendship. The girls in the PAL Program, on the verge of entering the tumultuous years of adolescence, expressed a deep desire for more interaction with positive female role models. Mary designed a curriculum to specifically address the challenges facing young women from disadvantaged backgrounds and launched The Friendship Club as a year-round program in 1997. In 2004, she received Sierra Nevada Children’s Services award for service to Nevada County children. She retired as executive director of The Friendship Club in 2004 and now devotes her time to writing grants for the organization.