Meet our

Board of Directors


Interested in becoming a board member? 
Growing Gardens is always looking for possible new board members. Board terms begin in January, but we’re happy to receive applications or inquiries at any time. Just visit our contact page.

Nell Tessman


Gray Family Foundation

Nell works as the Program Officer for Gray Family Foundation, where she has the privilege of connecting organizations, educators, and youth to resources that support their efforts to be strong stewards of the environment, their health and each other. Nell has worked in public health and education throughout her career, including working as a Growing Gardens’ Youth Grow Educator nearly ten years ago. Nell lives in Northeast Portland and loves to play basketball, bake bread, and get messy in the garden with her family.

Jeff Shular

Vice President

OneWest Bank (retired)

Jeff improved overall performance and long term value of the Retail Bank. Defined and executed strategic direction to create an integrated customer experience across all touch points for Consumer and Small Business customers. Focus on strengthening competitive position, while integrating branch, internet, contact center, digital solutions, corporate and social media marketing. All efforts centered on ability to meet changing customer preferences for educating, shopping, purchasing and servicing of financial solutions.

Missy Maese


Kaiser Permanente

Missy recently retired from Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, where she served as the Director of Compliance and Ethics. At Kaiser, Missy consulted with leaders in healthcare and the insurance industry to support a compliant and ethical organizational culture. Missy enjoys family time, travel, gardening, and boating. Missy lives on a floating home with her husband and cat.

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Ben Coleman-Fire


US Bankruptcy Court, OR Division

Ben grew up in a farming town in Idaho where he raised sheep and helped out with his grandparent’s orchard and sprawling garden. He is an attorney specializing in bankruptcy law. He has worked in both government and private practice and currently works as a law clerk at the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon. When not working, Ben enjoys gardening, testing out new methods of home food preservation, fly fishing, and exploring the woods with his wife and toddler. 


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Rebeca Márquez

Familias en acción

Rebeca Márquez is the Health Education Manager at Familias en Acción. Rebeca moved to Portland 5 years ago from Xalapa, Veracruz, where she studied Nutrition and specialized in Pediatric Nutrition. In Mexico, she worked at the State Autism Center and created their Nutrition Program. In Portland, she was previously employed as a Community Health Worker supporting immigrant and refugee communities.

Eca-Etabo Wasongolo

Village gardens

Wasongolo likes to spend his time in discussion with community members, listening to people’s stories, building trust among people to work for positive change in the community, doing outreach to bring the solutions to unmet needs, and acting as a bridge and cultural mediator. Wasongolo’s dream is to always fight social inequality and poverty, to build community food security, and to work concretely for peace and human development. Wasongolo brings more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit organization and community evaluation projects.

Ray Lewis

Connections Associates

Ray is retired after a career focused on promoting innovative projects and programs in higher education with a primary focus on technology and distance learning. His experiences included funding (U.S Dept. of Education), managing (State of Oregon) and evaluating (consulting firm) creative responses to critical needs—the kind of things Growing Gardens does so well. Ray enjoys cycling, hiking, skiing, travel, gardening and spending time with his partner, Denissia Withers, and their grandchildren.

Shireen Duke


Shireen worked over 20 years with Mt. Hood Community College in many areas supporting new students and students of color to be successful in their college experience. Shireen started with Growing Gardens as a Home Gardens program participant, then a garden mentor, and now serves as a board member.

Justin Rossman

new seasons market

Justin is a Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator at New Seasons Market. He’s a N.E. Portland native and a Benson Tech Alumni, holding a passion of service to the city. His career and personal path constantly have him on a pursuit of food justice for all, dreaming of the day that all are welcome a seat at the table. He loves spending free time with his son Malachi as they paddle-board, roller coaster, eat, and travel through this world together. 

Darren M Harold-Golden

urban league of portland

Darren is proud to call Portland his home. He began gardening as a child with his grandfather and has never forgotten the impact and values instilled through hard work and patience. He chose to join Growing Gardens to further his ability to engage and help cultivate progress and strong relationships with community.

Kelso Brasunas


Kelso is committed to building more resilient food systems centered on economic justice, community, and health. She is the Financial Planning & Analysis Manager at FoodCorps, and before that was an AmeriCorps service member in Arkansas, connecting kids to food in schools.

Simbiat Yusuff

forth mobility

Simbiat supports Forth’s events, marketing and membership program. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Strategic Communications with a focus in Public Relations from Washington State University. 


joemil santos

new seasons market

joemil r. santos is a neighborhood outreach coordinator at New Seasons Market. He is committed to both being of service to our community and leading with racial equity. Whether he is cooking for friends and family or bridging the gaps between organizations and people, joemil joins communities through both food and action.