Chair / Prairie U.S. Regional Director
Tim is president of Harper Industries, which manufactures specialized agricultural, industrial and turf products – from flatbeds and hydraulics to bale loaders and all-terrain mowers.
Tim got to know MEDA while serving with Mennonite Central Committee in Bolivia and says he was "very impressed with how MEDA operated in economic development, job creation and micro-loans." Ever since then, economic development has been in his blood. His children caught it, too. Son Daniel spent part of last year with MEDA Paraguay, and daughter Jessica works with Plowsharing Crafts, based in St. Louis.
Tim and his wife, Faith, like to bring fellow employees to the annual MEDA convention. "That has been a lot of fun," he says. "It's just amazing how often during the year those times together as a business group, with spouses, come up in conversation as people reflect on what they learned."
A MEDA investment club that former MEDA staffer Peter Wiebe helped start a dozen years ago still meets on the first Saturday of each month. "I don't think we've ever missed a Saturday," Tim says. The group has invested in two MEDA entities – Sarona and MicroVest.
Tim enjoys sports and reads widely. Recently he and his brother planted native grasses and several hundred trees on their farm in Nebraska to create a wildlife habitat and return some of the land to its natural state. Another "hobby" is the sister church relationship between his local congregation and a Mennonite church in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. "About every other year there is some kind of fraternal visit – either we go there, or they come here," Tim says. "That church started in Santa Cruz in the 1970s, and now there are 10 churches in the area."Close
Vice-Chair / Ontario
Jenny Shantz of Mercedes Corporation, and co-owner of Stone Crock Inc, a family operated restaurant and food service business, has actively been involved in St Jacobs’s operations since 1991. She has managed and developed the St. Jacobs Country brand since 2002, creating a partner marketing consortium and taking an active role in regional tourism development efforts.
Jenny is vice chair of the Grand Philharmonic Choir and past president of the Centre for Family Business, Waterloo Region. She continues to be active with a number of community organizations including The Mennonite Story Inc.
“MEDA is hopeful and positive. In a world of distress and turmoil, MEDA’s work and involvements encourage us to keep looking forward. Not only is it motivating for those businesses and clients who we partner with around the world, but also for us as donors who get involved and contribute on various levels. MEDA is creative and not paternalistic. It actively creates projects and partnerships that have potential to outlive MEDA’s involvement.”
Jenny and her husband, Willem Moolenbeek, live in Waterloo, Ontario.Close
Treasurer / Member-at-Large
Zach Bishop is Senior Vice President, Public Finance for D.A. Davidson & Co. in Denver, specializing in investment banking for local governments. His work primarily involves raising capital for real estate development, whether for a new residential neighborhood or the redevelopment of blighted urban projects. That gives him a lot of affinity for the deeper undercurrents of MEDA's investment activities. His father, Tom, was a long-time member of MEDA's board of directors who also served as MEDA treasurer, chair of its finance committee, and as a member of the board of MEDA Investments Inc./Sarona.
"What attracted me to MEDA is the sustainable, market-based approach," says Zach. That was reinforced in February when Zach toured MEDA's Ethiopia project, which assists rice farmers and weavers. He was struck by the number of non-government organizations (NGOs), as seen by all the signs in the towns and along the roadside. While he does not doubt those organizations' good intentions, he believes MEDA scores higher on long-lasting sustainable impact. He was also highly impressed by MEDA's Ethiopia staff.
Zach and his wife, Christina Alderfer, have two sons, four and two, and keeping up with them almost constitutes a hobby for Dad. "They're big train lovers so we're always looking for the next train ride for them," he says.Close
Secretary / Member-at-Large
Gary Leis is President and CEO of Leis Pet Distributing Inc., which distributes pet food and supplies to independent pet retailers across Eastern Canada. Between the head office in Wellesley, Ontario and a second location in Moncton, New Brunswick, Leis Pet employs 65 full and part time employees.
As a long-time social and peace activist, Gary has always struggled trying to justify feeding pets for a living but has found comfort in MEDA. "Belonging to an organization like MEDA, meeting other business people and financially supporting the poorest of the poor in an entrepreneurial setting has given me a sense of social responsibility. What better way to achieve world peace by meeting the basic needs of people around the world?"
Gary was first introduced to MEDA through the local Waterloo chapter, where he became a member of the local board for nine years and served six years as Board Chair. As a semi-retired person, he felt the need for a new challenge. It was his belief in MEDA's mission, coupled with his business experience, that made MEDA a natural fit.
Gary says it's not only important to help people start businesses, but also to complete the value chain from producer to the end user, as MEDA does. He added how rewarding it is to see their lives improve in a sustainable way. "My MEDA dollars are multiplied many times over by government and other funders. The management and staff at MEDA are second to none. I trust them with my donated dollars."
Gary and his wife, Brenda Sauder, have three children and six grandchildren. Active in his community, Gary is a member of the Wellesley Lions Club and is a member of Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church. His hobbies include golf, hockey, camping and fishing.Close
Board of Directors - Officers
Crystal Weaver is a visionary who enjoys creating businesses that contribute specifically to the social landscape of Lancaster city.
Her specific passion and experience is in creating job opportunities within the hospitality sector that are meaningful, empowering, and forward thinking. Crystal loves connecting people and places in ways that have lasting impact.
Her strong work ethic and commitment to the city have been evident in the success of Prince St Cafe, Passenger Coffee Roasting, as well as prior city business ventures in a market stand and residential housing. Despite her upbringing on a working farm in Millersville, Crystal has lived in Lancaster city for over a decade and cannot imagine life any other way.Close
Greg Gaeddert is a managing partner with B12 Capital Partners and B12 Real Estate Advisors, a private equity investment firm located in Kansas City, MO. He has experience in investments focused on manufacturing, distribution and real estate related entities. His private equity investment interests are the culmination of five -years of direct employment in manufacturing entities and eleven-years of commercial banking, most recently as executive vice president and commercial banking group manager for one of the large regional U.S. banks. Greg serves on the boards of numerous manufacturing, distribution, and financial servies and non-profit entities. He is a graduate of Bethel College, and the University of Kansas where he earned an MBA with a focus on finance.
Greg enjoys the work of MEDA and its ties to the global community. The “blended finance” that MEDA has become known for resonates with him due to its similarities to the private equity investing, consulting and end market customer engagement roles of his “day job.” Providing business solutions to poverty is more than a passion, it’s a responsibility for those of us fortunate enough to offer assistance to the working poor with aspirations for more.
Greg and his wife, Terri, live in Leawood, Kansas. They have three children. Greg’s interests include travel, history, art and outdoor sport.Close
Jim Miller is founder and CEO of JMX Brands, a Florida e-commerce company recognized as one of the top 1,000 internet retailers in America. The company’s flagship brand, DutchCrafters, is the largest e-commerce brand of Amish-made furniture.
Jim was also founding director of Goshen College Sarasota, and has taught at Goshen and Eckerd colleges. He served as associate pastor at Bahia Vista Mennonite Church (1993-1998), in various capacities with Southeast Mennonite Conference, and in a transitional role as bi-vocational pastor at Covenant Mennonite Fellowship (2011-2013), where he still attends.
A graduate of Goshen College, he earned a Master’s Degree in management from the University of South Florida, and studied at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Eastern Mennonite University and Bethel Theological Seminary.
Jim gives generously of his time through community service, including twice as president of MEDA’s Sarasota chapter and playing a formative role in the chapter’s development. He is currently a member of the board of directors at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.
“For me MEDA’s faith perspective is compelling. MEDA blends compassion with effective solutions to change economic systems. While this is not the only appropriate response to poverty, it certainly resonates with me as a way to use my gifts as a business leader to following the way of Jesus in a complex world.”
Jim and his wife, Linse, have two adult sons, James and Alexander, and two teenage daughters, Alysa and Brielle. His interests include tennis, boating, fishing, reading and traveling.Close
Jeremy works in global sales and scale engagement with non profit customers in the Microsoft Philanthropies Technology for Social Impact group. He has worked for both Microsoft Ireland and Microsoft Vietnam, recently serving as Chief Operations Officer and Chief Marketing Officer for Microsoft Vietnam Jeremy is an avid learner, earning degrees from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, George Washington University, and Rose-Hu Iman Institute of Technology.
Jeremy first connected with MEDA when he was in college through the Northern Indiana chapter. He has acted as advisor of several technological improvements at MEDA over the past years and appreciates MEDA's value of faith and development via business solutions with a focus on vulnerable populations in emerging markets.
Jeremy and his wife Pa'lee have enjoyed raising their three children across different cultures and being active members of church communities wherever they are living.Close
Marianne Unruh developed a passion for produce selling peaches out of an old pickup truck in high school. After studying Biology at the University of Kentucky, she decided to return home to California and jump head-long into produce. For numerous years she worked as a commodity manager for a large retailer buying and selling fresh produce.
In 2006, Marianne decided she missed being in the fields and decided to start her own business, Fresh Solutions. Today Fresh Solutions provides on-the-ground buying services to retailers and food service vendors in several states following the produce seasons. She also serves on the board of the Mennonite Aid Plan of the Pacific Coast.
Marianne attends First Mennonite in Reedley, California, and is Auntie M to numerous nieces and nephews. She is a huge San Francisco 49er fan and loves watching college football. She also enjoys classic cars.
Why MEDA? "I was first drawn in by like-minded business people who were willing to open up about their business experience. Through the years I have kept coming back to MEDA because of their creative, business-minded solutions to poverty."Close
Pat is president & CEO of TGI Systems Corporation, which provides signage, graphics, display systems and services (design, install, event management) to the sporting sector of the marketplace. If you've ever watched a soccer match on TV you've probably seen his work – the bright graphics and dazzling perimeter signage along the sidelines.
Pat has been active with MEDA at the local level, helping start a MEDA chapter in Chicago and heading up planning for the annual entrepreneurs conference in Palm Springs, California. He likes the Mennonite church's "best-kept secret," especially the way it multiplies donations by 10 times for greater impact on the field. "With a ratio like that, why not invest/donate?" he says. "What better form of stewardship and utilization of talents with our values?"
"I enjoy attending conventions and forging lifetime relationships with other businessfolk whose goals and objectives are similar to mine," he says. "As Coach John Wooden said when asked why he coaches basketball, 'Where else do you find more splendid company?'" With an appetite for international business in his own pursuites, Pat "can't wait" for a trip to a MEDA project.
Pat likes to travel with his family – wife Ann and twin children, Chris and Kate – to new and favorite places like Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Europe. "Certainly we like to watch soccer matches live, like the FIFA World Cup matches," he says. "Hanging out at our Lake House in the summer is always a favorite fun time."Close
Yvonne Sieber is the new Chief Philanthropy Officer of Bluestem Communities, a growing corporation of retirement communities in South Central Kansas, effective July 2014. For the past seven years, she was VP of Advancement at Hesston College and had previously served on their Board.
With an MBA and undergraduate business degrees from Hesston College and Bethel College, most of her career has been in health care, undertaking various management and executive roles in the areas of human resources, finance and philanthropy. She notes that MEDA's "business approach to poverty solutions, as well as the quality of leadership and membership, was impressive. I'm pleased to join the Board of a growing organization that is diligently measuring results and outcomes."
Yvonne has attended the last six MEDA conventions in her role at Hesston College and has encouraged the college's business students to get involved with MEDA. "I value the engagement of MEDA's clients, staff, members and Board. I also value MEDA's innovation, flexibility and results-oriented approach."
Yvonne looks forward to learning more about MEDA and visiting a project in the field during her first term on the Board. She hopes to help spread the word about MEDA's impact on improving lives, a quality Yvonne appreciates. "I support MEDA because I see it making a difference to many."
Married to Gerry Sieber, a cross-country coach at Hesston College, they live together on an eight-acre farm along a peaceful creek. The couple has two adult daughters - one married with three children in Illinois and the other married with two children in AbuDhabi. Yvonne enjoys country living, travel, sports, historical fiction and a newly formed gospel choir.Close
Board of Directors - U.S. Regional Directors
Abe Fehr is the owner of Uni-Fab, a metal fabricating company they founded in 1991. With 130 employees, Uni-Fab specializes in custom metal fabrication of machine enclosures that they ship across North America as well as globally.
Abe and his wife Lisa became acquainted with MEDA in 2005 on a MEDA tour to Egypt. They liked what they saw, and in 2008 went on a MEDA tour to Romania. In 2009, Abe also visited MEDA's Ukraine Horticultural Development Project (UHDP). On his time on the Board they have also visited MEDA projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana & Nicaragua. Seeing projects first hand reinforces his support for MEDA.
He particularly appreciates MEDA's emphasis on creating multiple levels of value chain for the clients we work with.
Abe and Lisa, married 35 years, have three grown children: Helen, married to Geordie Hagerman, she is a teacher in Kitchener-Waterloo; David, is working in construction in Calgary; and Mary, who is studying for her Master's in Business at Wilfred Laurier University. Besides being an avid golfer, Abe also owned the Leamington Flyers Junior Hockey team for the past 8 years.Close
John and his wife, Kelly, own Valleybrook Gardens, a leading North American producer of containerized perennials for independent garden centers. They established the company right after John graduated from university in 1980, and today grow 1,500 varieties of perennials, ornamental grasses, herbs and succulents. John and Kelly have four daughters and twelve grandchildren to keep them young.
John has been involved with MEDA since his university days, more than 40 years ago. MEDA's work with small-scale producers in developing countries resonates with his own entrepreneurial spirit. "I love to see opportunity, get something started, get in there and be hands-on," he says. He likes MEDA's efforts to create business solutions to poverty. "I've always been a great fan of using good business principles to solve problems," he says.
John has participated in a number of MEDA related trips, including Ethiopia and Nicaragua. Seeing some of the projects and meeting with farmers and entrepreneurs whose lives have been changed dure to MEDA's work is "humbling and fulfilling at the same time" he says. "You can read about it and you can watch videos but to actually be face to face and see it allows you to personalize it in a dramatic way."
John is an avid reader (especially history) and photographer. "I love to travel," he says. "It's my favorite activity. I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning." John and Kelly share their love of travel by organizing and leading garden tours to destinations around the world.Close
Karin Krahn works for an oil and gas company (Nexen, A CNOOC Limited Company) in Calgary, AB. She is currently the Manager, Operations and G&A Accounting for the Canadian Operations. Previously she was the Manager, Risk Management and Internal Controls for the company. Karin received her Canadian CPA designation in 2002 after graduating from University of Saskatchewan with a BA, majoring in Psychology and a BComm, majoring in Accounting. In between degrees, she worked with adults with developmental disabilities placing them into wage-earning positions.
While serving on the Abundance Canada (formerly Mennonite Foundation of Canada) board, Karin met Abe Fehr, a current MEDA board member. After many conversations about similar values and interests, Karin found herself drawn to the mission that MEDA has to reach out globally to assist people to enhance their livelihoods and support their families through business opportunities that they see, but need a little assistance.
Karin and her partner, Harold, enjoy watching sports, specifically football, both Canadian and the NFL. Both have spent time travelling with previous jobs and roles so spending a little more time around home and at their little place in Radium Hot Springs, BC are high on their relaxation list.Close
Peter Dueck is co-president of Vidir Machine Inc., which specializes in storage and handling solutions for big box stores such as display and storage mechanisms for carpets, vinyl flooring, tires and bicycles. They sell widely to the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Chile and Australia.
A former pastor, Peter sees a great deal of skills transference between church ministry and business. "Seminary prepares you to be an ethical, moral businessman," he says, "and business teaches you how to behave, act and interact with people, which you need in the church."
While some agencies seem like "big black holes that you just pour money into," MEDA aims to create durable business solutions to poverty. When Peter speaks to others about MEDA, "they always want to know more" and would like to become involved. "It's a charity that kind of sells itself."
In 2009, Peter joined a MEDA tour to the Mennonite World Conference assembly in Paraguay, and enjoyed visiting early MEDA sites there as well as touring current projects in Peru. He also climbed to the top of Machu Pichu with MEDA president Allan Sauder. "It was an absolutely exhilarating experience."
Peter and Trudy, parents of two adult children, enjoy summer visits to their Hecla Island cabin on the shore of Lake Winnipeg. In winter Peter enjoys downhill skiing and snowmobiling.Close
Rick is general manager of Wallenstein Feed & Supply Ltd., Ontario's largest feed mill. The business his father began in 1958 now operates 24 hours a day, six days a week, providing a complete range of nutritional solutions for Ontario's livestock and poultry farmers.
Rick is a director of Ontario Agri Business Association, Chesley Lake Camp and Hallman Chapel. He enjoys playing golf and curling, chess and math puzzles and reading.
Rick likes the way MEDA uses microfinance to help women (and families) gain independence and status in countries where this is not the norm. He and his wife, Nancy, live in Elmira, Ontario. They have two daughters and two grandchildren.Close
Board of Directors - Canadian Regional Directors
Bert Friesen founder, President, CEO and Board Chair of Medicure Inc., a pharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization cardiovascular drugs for the U.S. market. He is also founder, President and CEO of Genesys Ventures Inc., which helps scientists commercialize their human therapy research. Genesys selects the most promising prospects and helps them form a company, license the technology, provide all the regulatory and financial expertise, and try to commercialize the business. Dr. Friesen played a key role in founding several health industry companies including the first employee and President of the Winnipeg Rh Institute for over 20 years where he oversaw the development of WinRho, a drug which prevents Rh disease of the newborn.
"What initially intrigued me about MEDA was the combination of providing a forum to explore and discuss work and faith, and then to help the poor with a business solutions" says Bert. He found the emphasis on efficiency and sustainability appealing. "That's what I do for a business, so I really associated with that."
His appreciation for the international dimension deepened when he joined a MEDA trip to Paraguay, Peru and Bolivia with Gerhard Pries to see how business solutions relieved poverty. "The entrepreneurship surprised me," Bert recalls. "To see firsthand the excitement and entrepreneurship of Bolivian farmers at work was awakening."
Bert is a big sports fan. He loves golf and plays whenever he can. He played hockey in university and still straps on the skates.Close
Dallas Steiner is CEO/COB of Venture Products Inc. with its headquarters in Orrville, Ohio. Venture is a global company that designs and manufactures two product lines; VENTRAC, a compact tractor with over 30 commercial grade attachments for markets that include slope mowing, golf courses, landscape/snow contractors, and municipalities, and TILMOR, a small agricultural tractor with implements and tool equipment that provide innovative solutions built for small-scale farms.
Steiner describes himself as passionate about MEDA's mission, vision and values. His own acquaintance with the organization goes back to the late 1970s when he served with Mennonite Central Committee in Bolivia and worked collaboratively with MEDA's agricultural team.
"MEDA provides that spark of hope in a person's life that can ignite into a flame," Steiner says. "When that flame ignites, it makes such an impact and changes their own personal life, their families, schools, churches, communities and countries. I am honored to be a part of this type of activity!"
Since Steiner spends half his time on international sales to keep up with the volume of VENTRAC products exported, he is on the road a fair bit. With his frequent travels, Steiner admits, "I just love to come home. I have such a wonderful family and enjoy them so much. I have nine grandkids and enjoy spending time with them; they are such a joy."Close
“I started in digital electronics when the computer industry was in its infancy,” says new MEDA board member Donovan Nickel of his long career with Hewlett‑Packard, where he ended up as a vice‑president leading two global divisions. When he retired in his early 50s he wasn’t ready to “sit on the porch and sip lemonade.” Today he keeps busy with business and investment management, consulting, a house construction project, a farm operation of wheat, milo and beans in Kansas, and involvement with non‑profits.
Donovan appreciates MEDA’s track record of effectiveness based on strong leadership and solid management processes, as well as its “congruence and alignment between who we say we are and what we say we do, and who we actually are and what we actually do.” He also likes MEDA’s focus on sustainable economic and opportunity development through market‑based principles and investments. Not only does it work, he says, but it also fits well with his own values and beliefs on how to accomplish positive outcomes in areas of need.
Donovan and his wife, Jewel, who have three daughters in various stages of advanced education, travel “for fun” when possible (such as MEDA’s recent board tour to Ethiopia; in the photo above he’s getting a quick course in weaving). He enjoys scuba diving in island locations and exploring Colorado’s back country on his mountain bike. Donovan also maintains a well‑equipped woodwork shop, where he builds furniture, as well as a metal machine shop complete with lathe, milling machine and welder to enable his hobby projects.Close
Jamie (Jim) Alvarez
Jim Alvarez is chief financial officer of Everence Financial, which offers banking, insurance and financial services with community benefits and stewardship education. He joined Everence in 2006 after gaining broad industry experience in food processing and international grain markets in Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Texas. He got his start in the family grain and feed business in 1988 after earning an MBA in Marketing from Pennsylvania State University and a BA Economics from Goshen College.
Jim serves as board member for the Goshen Health System in Goshen, Indiana, and Mennonite Health System in Puerto Rico. Jim lives in Goshen, Indiana.
“It is fulfilling to be a part of MEDA. This is an organization that closely connects donors, staff and board members with people in significant need around the world. While we engage rationally by providing business solutions to poverty we also experience the emotion of literally improving the livelihood of people. Travelling and personally visiting with recipients of of our services fill me with tremendous joy.”
Jim enjoys endurance bicycling and travelling.Close
Joyce Bontrager Lehman
Joyce Bontrager Lehman has been working in international economic development for the past 20 years, first with the MEDA Consulting Group and most recently as a Program Officer with the Financial Services for the Poor team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she managed a $100 million grant and contract portfolio that funded projects throughout the developing world. From 2003 through 2007, Joyce spent most of her time in Afghanistan working with the World Bank, USAID and other bi-lateral donors to establish and support a microfinance sector. Currently, she is an independent advisor with a focus on financial inclusion using digital delivery channels.
While she admits to having been invited to join other boards, she acknowledges MEDA's "is the one I felt was most closely aligned with my own work and passion. I also like the way MEDA staff involves the board in the field projects or MEDA investments as appropriate." She is now on the board of MiCredito, a microfinance institution in Nicaragua that's partially owned by MEDA and MEDA members.
"The business approach to poverty encourages, even demands, innovation and flexibility in project design. Things change quickly in the industry and MEDA has been good at responding to new priorities...if I didn't love and believe in what the organization is doing, I wouldn't be able to support it."
While hard to pick a favorite memory, Joyce shares that she'll never forget the first microcredit client she visited in Managua in 1998. She recalls being so impressed at how an illiterate woman knew both the CHISPA (a MEDA-supported microcredit program) loan terms and how much additional daily income she was able to make by using the $75 loan to purchase four months of firewood for her tortilla stand in bulk instead of every day. "The increase in income was enough to permit her to send one of her boys to school and also to buy fruits and vegetables so her family could have a more nutritional diet. Illiteracy does not imply incompetence."
Living in New Hampshire, Joyce has two adult children who live on the west coast – one in Seattle and one in Portland, Oregon. She loves to travel, especially to places she hasn't been before, and is nearing her goal of travel to 100 countries.Close
Myrl Nofziger has had a 52-year career in real estate. He is board chairman of Hoogenbomm-Nofziger, which has developed many areas in the vicinity of Goshen, IN. the company has a variety of holdings - from apartments, commercial, retail, office, bank and industrial buildings to gas stations.
A graduate of Goshen college and Indiana University, Myrl has served on many boards in his community - churches, businesses, banks and public companies, and many different committees. He is passionate about philanthropy, estate planning, deferred giving and working with endowments for non-profits. His hobbies include travel, jogging, golf, woodworking and reading.
A long-time MEDA supporter and Sarona investor, Myrl has attended many conventions and traveled to various MEDA projects. In both a seminar at a MEDA convention and in Marketplace magazine he has expressed the importance of planned giving, philanthropy and preparing one's testament.
Myrl and his wife Phyllis, split thier time between Goshen, where they attend College Mennonite Church, and Green Valley AZ. They enjoy spending time with their four children and six grandchildren.Close
Verda is no stranger to MEDA, having served on the board of the Sarasota chapter, assisting with audits, and helping plan MEDA board tours to Tajikistan and Tanzania.
Verda, her husband Dale, and their grandchildren participated in the recent Tanzania board tour to see first-hand the impact of MEDA's projects. Verda's 25 years of involvement with MEDA has inspired a passion and interest in international travel, experiencing different cultures, and meeting new people.
Verda attended Hesston College, then pursued a career in Property and Casualty Insurance. She proceeded to own her own agency, Mutual Aid Services, for 20 years.
Since retiring, Verda and Dale enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and attending their various music and sports events. She also enjoys golfing, reading, and walking.Close