President | John Thibodeau
John is a counselor in Portland with a small private practice specializing with seniors. He also serves as board president for the Deering Center Neighborhood Association. John enjoys civic and political engagement, gardening, hiking, canoeing, and sports. He is grateful to call Portland home.
Secretary | MaryEllen Schaper
MaryEllen holds a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Maine and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She was an educator in Maine for 42 years, teaching health education, physical education, adapted physical education, dance, and theatre. MaryEllen is active with choral music and theatre locally and is very involved with art education at the state level. She has previously served on the Board of Directors for the Wayside Soup Kitchen.
Treasurer | Elinor Miller
Ellie worked as the Assistant Director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance for 28 years. She developed funding for legal aid assistance for victims of domestic violence for underserved populations, including migrant farmworkers and Native Americans, and for a variety of other services. More recently, she served as the Director of Levey Day School and as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Alliance. In 2019, she completed a 9 year term as a trustee of the Sam L Cohen Foundation and currently serves as Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Pine Tree Legal. She continues to teach both adults and kids in a range of Jewish subject areas. Her degrees are from Colby (B.A.) and Hebrew College (Masters). She and her husband have 3 married children and 6 grandchildren.
Andy is a business economist with international business experience across a variety of industries. He is currently a benefits specialist at Unum. Andy holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics & Management from the University of Kinshasa. He lives in Gorham with his wife and daughters.
Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, Behzad Habibzai arrived in Portland in 1983 where he grew up helping in his family's popular Afghan restaurant. He once performed professionally in and around Portland as a drummer and percussionist, but now works as an independent Salesforce consultant based in South Portland. Before joining our Board, Behzad supported Hope Acts staff in implementing a Salesforce data collection infrastructure for our programs. He holds a business degree from George Mason University.
Don is a retired United Methodist Minister who served numerous parishes in Massachusetts and was a District Superintendent and Conference Council Director (Program Director). He and his wife, Sue, have three grown children. Don is one of the founding members of Hope Acts and is a member of HopeGateWay Church where he is Chair of the Trustees. He is a graduate of Drew and Oxford Universities and has taught Urban Ministry in the United States and Great Britain.
Erin brings a wealth of knowledge and experiences to Hope Acts from her varied career as a psychological educator and now as a leading Associate Broker with Portside Real Estate Group. Erin lives just a few blocks from Hope House with her partner, who teaches English to New Mainers at Portland High School. Having raised her triplets (now in college) in our neighborhood and fully embracing the diverse community, Erin is a wonderful addition to our Board.
Felix is an immigration attorney whose law firm Hagenimana Law specializes in immigration law. Felix has previously worked as a linguist, translator, and consultant for the BBC and a student attorney in the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic. A graduate of the University of Maine Law School, Felix works as an Asylum Outreach Attorney at the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) in addition to managing his own law firm.
Helio is the head of Human Resources for Catholic Charities Maine and has over 25 years of experience leading global organizations. He's held leadership positions in the semiconductor, communication, and non-profit sectors, with expertise in many facets of Human Resources across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Helio has also worked as a translator for the State of Maine Judicial Branch and has done extensive pro-bono work as an interpreter and translator for asylum seekers from Angola. Helio holds a Master of Science and a Bachelor of History from the University of Rhode Island and is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish.
Innocent is employed as an Accountant with Redfern Properties and he lives in Portland. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Innocent lived at Hope House and participated in our Hope House English Language Program, as a student and then as a volunteer assistant. Innocent holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from University Libra des Pays des Grands Lacs.
Leslie is a leadership coach and organizational development consultant with her own practice based in South Portland. She previously worked for years as a healthcare policy specialist, consulting with state government agencies across the U.S. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities from Providence College and completed her coaching training through the Co-Active Training Institute. She is a volunteer English tutor for Portland Adult Education, a member of the Ladies’ Adventure Club, and previously served on the Board of Trustees of The Maine Girls’ Academy.
Linda is a retired teacher of history and comparative religion who was ordained in the UCC to a ministry of refugee resettlement. She worked as church sponsorship developer for Interfaith Refugee Ministry in New Haven, Connecticut. She founded and served as resident director of the Melita Welcome House until retiring to Chebeague Island in 2008. She now lives in Portland, where she teaches at and serves on the steering committee for the Hope House English Language Program. She is a writer and an artist who enjoys leading workshops on mandala journaling.
Rachna is Vice President of the Member Information Center (MIC) at Workers Credit Union based out of MA, and has made a career of helping others succeed. Rachna has helped lead the transformation for the way Multicultural Mainers bank, making resources easier to access and building a foundation of trust along the way. She also facilitates financial literacy workshops. In addition to Hope Acts, Rachna also serves on the Board of Directors for the Intercultural Community Center. She Rachna holds a degree in Business & Commerce from the University of Kolkata in India. She lives in Westbrook and enjoys cooking traditional Indian dishes, watching Ted Talks, and spending time with her son.