Board of Directors spotlights 

Megan Fellinger

Treasurer, Kinnect Board of Directors

Megan frame

Megan Fellinger has served on the Kinnect Board of Directors since 2019. She first learned about Kinnect from her friend Julia Hornack. Julia knew that Megan’s family had adopted a son from the child welfare system and thought that the connection could be valuable for both Megan’s family and for Kinnect.

When Megan’s family adopted their son six years ago, they received no information from the county agency about his extended biological family or former foster families, except for the one with which he most recently lived.

 

 

Megan’s family is his third adoptive family, which has led to a difficult journey together. He required many services for behavioral health challenges. He is in a better spot now but still requires services.

Years after adopting him, his former foster family connected the Fellingers to a biological aunt and uncle who had worked toward adoption with their son in the past.

“They have been a lifeline,” Megan said. “They have reestablished a connection with him. It is meaningful for him and for our family.”

“When we adopted him, the county gave us no extended family connections. It would have been helpful for us from the beginning. They (children) can’t fill out their own family tree,” she explained.

There were no additional services provided by the county when Megan’s family adopted their son. Due to high turnover, no one at the agency had a connection with him anymore. There was also no support provided to his previous adoptive families to help them continue a relationship with him. Megan hopes that Kinnect’s work transforming the child welfare system and changing beliefs, values, and culture around kinship will help other families.

“My hope through my involvement with Kinnect is that no more kids have to go through more trauma than necessary when they change family situations,” Megan said. “As a society, we are obligated to ensure that kids’ families come with them in whatever way they can show up.”

In her personal and professional life, Megan is a parent to three teenagers. She is also a third-generation leader of a manufacturing company with 1100 employees in eight locations in North America. The company, Morrison Products, will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year. With all of the responsibilities on her plate, we truly appreciate Megan’s service to Kinnect.

Denise Coats

Kinnect Board of Directors

Denise frame

Last year, Human Resources professional Denise Coats was on a quest to find an organization that she connected with based on her personal values. Business Volunteers Unlimited held a volunteer fair for board members of color. Denise went and reviewed several options. Kinnect was the last option she reviewed, and she wanted to explore getting involved.

 

As a kinship caregiver, she already understood the value of kinship in her own life. She had done research on kinship services and had a binder that already included information on OhioKAN. Once Denise spoke with Kinnect Executive Director and co-founder Shannon Deinhart, it was hard to contain herself.

"I have always been a person who believes in volunteering. Faith, family, and giving back are things I believe in. The greatest form of service to family is being a kinship caregiver,” she said.

As with many other families, Denise did not expect to become a kinship caregiver. She and her husband attended a funeral for a relative in Alabama and returned a kinship family. The relative was a grandmother who had been the primary caregiver to her granddaughter. The young woman’s mother was not able to care for her and asked Denise and her husband to take the daughter back to Ohio with them. No one wanted her to go into the child welfare system. Denise and her husband changed travel arrangements and returned home with a 12-year-old cousin Denise had seen before but had no interaction with in the past.

“Instantly, we learned that we do not have access to funds, or resources,” she explained.  “I found it ridiculous. It was eye-opening and a little frustrating.”

Denise is still settling in on the Kinnect Board of Directors. She had long been a volunteer, but Kinnect is her first board service. As a change from her HR work, Denise chose to join the board governance committee for personal growth. She looks forward to growing with Kinnect.

“Kinnect is about giving back to family. It aligns with who I am spiritually.”

We are thankful to Denise for her service to Kinnect.

Grant Keating

President, Kinnect Board of Directors

Grant frame

Grant Keating joined the Kinnect Board of Directors in 2019, but his involvement with Kinnect goes back more than fifteen years. His sister-in-law, who knows Kinnect co-founder Mike Kenney, suggested that they play in the golf outing. Grant and his brother Brian agreed. Grant is an attorney by profession. Neither he nor his brother knew a thing about Kinnect or its mission but they never miss a chance to golf and assumed it was a worthwhile cause. After the outing, Grant and Brian volunteered to join Kinnect’s golf committee. They have been on the golf committee ever since.

Kinnect began with only two employees, Mike and co-founder and current Executive Director Shannon Deinhart.

At the conclusion of each golf committee meeting, Mike would share a success story. One success story stuck with Grant. A family wanted to adopt their 16-year nephew but could not be approved without an additional bedroom. If not for Mike and Shannon’s intervention, that obstacle would have stopped the adoption. Instead, they found the resources to construct an addition to the house, which allowed the child to leave foster care to be with family. This story illustrated that with facilitation and support, families can come together to care for children and solve their own problems.

Grant remembers Mike saying, “there is nothing more important than the work we are doing here.” Grant was moved by the statement.

“It was a bold statement, but it was delivered with a level of sincerity that made me take a step back and really think about it. After considering how important my family was to me, I realized he was right. There are many worthy causes, but none more important than providing children with the opportunity to experience family. Many of us simply take that for granted. I decided then to devote my time and resources to supporting Kinnect and its mission.”

"Nothing is more important than the work we are doing here. Kinnect continues to embody the same sentiment, even as it has grown from two people who recognized a problem with the child welfare system to an organization with over 50 employees and a statewide footprint," Grant continued.

While he is delighted with Kinnect’s growth, the golf outing still holds a special place in Grant’s heart.

“My favorite thing about the golf outing is that it emphasizes what it’s all about,” he explained. “I always play with my family and close friends, and I try to get the other attendees to look around and take stock of who they are with. Undoubtedly, they are also with their kin.  That is what we are fighting for at Kinnect: to make sure every child can have a family and share in those simple, but powerful experiences. It has been a tremendous honor for me to make a small contribution to that effort, and I am incredibly grateful to Shannon, her team, my fellow board members, and my wife Lea for their support and dedication to this most important cause.”

We are thankful to Grant for his contribution.

Mike Matasich

Kinnect Board of Directors Program Committee Chair

Mike Matasich frame

Kinnect Board of Directors member Mike Matasich has been involved with Kinnect since 2010. He was interested in volunteering for a nonprofit that involved children. An attorney, he wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who did not have a permanent family. Children in foster care fit that description. Mike met Kinnect founders Shannon Deinhart and Mike Kenney for lunch and he was sold.

 

 

“They were so passionate about what they were doing,” Matasich said. “It was new, no one else was doing it. It benefitted kids directly.”

Kinnect began as Waiting Child Fund, raising funds for the adoption of about thirteen young people who were in the permanent custody of a children services agency. In the beginning, Matasich said, they were sitting at a card table, and they got into every detail at the board level.

“We were figuring things out on a meeting-to-meeting basis. It was an exciting time. You really felt you were a part of it,” he reflected.

Not long after Matasich joined the board, the Summit County Permanency Collaborative began. The collaborative was a pilot program in Summit County that not only sought permanent homes for the longest-waiting children, but also reduced the number of children in long-term foster care and established and maintained a culture of permanency within the agency. It was active from 2010-2014.

“The pilot program took us in a new direction. It was about improving systems and training people who were working with kids, improving communications and the effectiveness of county agencies.” Matasich said. “The program gave us credibility and opened the door to other counties. New opportunities came along. We proved our work makes a difference.”

Matasich is excited by Kinnect’s growth in budget, staff, and programming.

“We have a reputation across the country. We are in every county in Ohio…which increases the number of children we can serve,” he added.

Along the way, Matasich has touched every part of Kinnect’s efforts. He chaired the governance committee for several years, served as vice president and served as president for three years. He spoke at events.

As Matasich’s term on the board draws to a close this year, he feels a little bittersweet but plans to remain involved with Kinnect in whatever capacity he is needed. He is confident that Kinnect has assembled an effective and involved board to carry out its mission of finding, connecting, and supporting family for youth.

We are so thankful for Mike's service to Kinnect.

Kimberly Bell 

Kinnect Board of Directors Vice President and HR Committee Chair

Kim Bell Kinnect frame

Kimberly Bell joined the board of Kinnect in 2019. She was part of a program to match board members with open board seats in Fortune 500 companies, local nonprofits, and healthcare organizations. The mission of Kinnect resonated with her above the others for a family reason: her aunt was a kinship caregiver. Kimberly’s aunt lost her son and began caring for his baby when the child’s mother could not.

Kimberly saw firsthand that children have family members who are capable, willing, and able to provide them with a loving home, but they need support. Her aunt faced challenges registering the child for school and seeking medical care. The court system was not helpful. She was not offered services to support her in caring for the child.

“I was enthusiastic about what Kinnect is set out to do, which is to transform the child welfare system,” Kimberly explained.

“It takes a village to raise children, especially when children have trauma to cope with and barriers they did not choose,” Kimberly said. “It takes a lot, and Kinnect understands this.”

Kimberly did not expect to serve on the Kinnect board for as long as she has, but she has seen that our work is not done.

“In the work of Kinnect, the tools, engagement, and identity of each young person is at the forefront and top of mind always. That lends itself to the relentless effort, focus, and determination in transforming the system.”

“Change is slow,” she said. “We have to take it one layer at a time.”

"Every person that is part of Kinnect is important and connected to the mission. Every person on the team is passionate and mission-driven, young person-centered and family-focused."

In her work life, Kimberly is also dedicated to young people. She is the director of compliance in workforce development for Youth Opportunities Unlimited, an organization that helps young people transition into the workforce. Through summer programming and integration in 13 schools, they help youth prepare for the future in terms of the skills they need in this changing workforce environment.

We are so thankful for Kimberly's contribution to Kinnect.