Tatenda International Board of Directors

Pamela Van Wechel
President
Pamela Van Wechel has served the Alaska school districts for over 20 years as superintendent, principal, teacher and teacher training specialist. For 3 years, as the Rural Coordinator for the National Senior Service Corps, she was responsible for the recruitment, orientation, placement, training, evaluation and recognition of Elder-Mentor Grandparents serving in rural Alaska.

She also secured new funding for rural program expansion, always seeking to improve service to children. As a retired – but practicing teacher and university consultant the past 7 years, she has provided direct service to children and families through “teacher job shares”, summer school coordination and math curriculum study. Her ongoing goals are to improve service to clients and instill pride in the staff by maximizing group effort and success.

She brings to TATENDA International her experience of developing staff strengths and promoting teamwork. Her goals are to provide guidance, leadership, and effective management for projects and services to improve the quality of life for all people. Presently, she resides in Hawaii with her husband.

Sarah DeKoven
Vice President

Service and volunteerism have been lifelong passions for Sarah. While working in the financial arena in NYC, she sought out opportunities to volunteer with children and the elderly. Following her dreams, Sarah went on to obtain degrees in Theology, Social Work and Spiritual Direction.

She has worked extensively with grief counseling in hospice and church settings and led retreats for victims of assault. Currently, Sarah serves as Chair for Kenya Self-Help Project, Inc., volunteers as part of the travel team for TATENDA and has a vibrant Spiritual Direction Practice.

She lives in Texas with her husband and spends joyful times with her two granddaughters.

Annette Gardner
Secretary

Annette grew up the eldest of 5 children on a ranch in Helmville, Montana. She made a career in education, currently specializing in a K/1 classroom. Annette found a tall, handsome logger who married her, and together they raised two wonderful children (now grown) near the Blackfoot River in Lincoln, Montana.

She is the President of Council for the Arts in Lincoln, and Vice-President and Educational Chairman of Blackfoot Pathways, Sculpture in the Wild, an innovative environmental art project featuring installations from internationally renown artists.

Mary Lou Verla
Treasurer

Mary Lou Verla is passionate about liturgy, happily married to her husband, Joe, of 35+ years, a proud mother of 4 sons and a homemaker. Mary Lou is currently the Shipping & Receiving Manager for a small company, Zentangle, Inc. Prior to this, she was Benefits Administrator and bookkeeper for the Clergy Benefit Plan of the Diocese of Worcester, MA (1992-2012).

She is an active member of St. Patrick Parish in Whitinsville, MA. Mary Lou looks forward to helping Tatenda with her strong administrative skill set combined with her strong support for the organization’s mission.

Dr. Nicki Verploegen
Co-Founder and Retreat Director

Dr. Nicki Verploegen, Co-Founder of TATENDA International, served as Director of Spiritual and Ministerial Development and Visiting Professor at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts for 8 years. Presently she teaches courses in spirituality in graduate schools around the US, including the Archdiocese of Boston’s Diaconate Program. Her academic degrees include: Ph.D. and M.A. Formative Spirituality from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, M.. A. and an M.A. from Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington.

Originally from Montana, Dr. Verploegen has traveled throughout the US, Asia and Africa, offering support for caregivers, as well as serving as a lay missioner in Liberia for two years. She has been conducting retreats and giving spiritual direction for over 30 years and is the author of four books, including From Monks to Missionaries; Planning and Implementing Retreats: A Parish Handbook; Organic Spirituality: A Six fold Path for Contemplative Living; and Meditations With Merton.

Her books can be obtained by contacting Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR at 541-344-1528 or via email at orders@wipfandstock.com. Contact information: nicki@tatendainternational.org

S. Marty Dermody, SC
Communicator

Marty Dermody is a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. I have taught elementary school for twenty-five years, working with students from grade 1 to grade 8. I stepped down from teaching in 1999 and have been working within my Congregation for the last several years. I served in our Communication Office as the Community Photographer from 2000 to 2015.

I am presently the director of our Spirituality Center for the Sisters of Charity. I work with inviting and creating space for others to come and pray and just take some time for themselves as they develop and grow in their spirituality. I look forward to serving Tatenda International in whatever capacity I can to help those in need of some downtime and an opportunity to gain some refreshment for their soul and spirit.

Susan W. Hassinger
Member-at-Large

Susan W. Hassinger is a retired bishop of the United Methodist Church. Ordained as an elder in 1968 in eastern Pennsylvania, she has served local churches as pastor, been a district superintendent – supervising pastors and congregations, and been a consultant working with congregations and organizations on visioning and conflict transformation.

Elected as bishop in 1996, she served the Boston Episcopal Area from 1996-2004, retired in 2004, and was brought back as interim bishop in the Albany (NY) Area from 2006-2010.

In retirement now, she serves as bishop-in-residence and lecturer at Boston University School of Theology. Her areas of teaching include spirituality, leadership, and conflict transformation. She also is available for spiritual direction with some students. Susan has two daughters and 3 grandchildren. She became part of the Tatenda International Board in August, 2016.