Due to COVID-19 our office is closed and staff are working remotely. Visit our "Team" page for contact details.
Due to COVID-19 our office is closed and staff are working remotely. Visit our "Team" page for contact details.

Meet our

Think Tank Members

Think tank MEMBERS

Interested in becoming a Think Tank member?
Growing Gardens is always looking for new Think Tank members.  We’re happy to receive applications or inquiries at any time. Just visit our contact page or email us at info@growing-gardens.org.

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.

Rick Kwan

Treasurer:M Financial

Rick is a retirement benefits actuary at M Financial. Having learned from the example set by his grandmother, he is committed to fostering a sense of community through shared food, culture, and dialogue. In his free time, he can be found on the trails admiring Oregon’s breathtaking greenery alongside his canine hiking companion, Beckett.

Missy Maese


Kaiser Permanente (Retired)

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.

Justin Rossman

Think Tank Director: 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. 

Ben Coleman-Fire

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. 

Rebeca Márquez

Oregon Food Bank

Rebeca Marquez is a bicultural, bilingual Mexican who grew up in Xalapa, Veracruz.  She moved to Portland six years ago, with a B.S. in Nutrition and a specialty in Pediatric Nutrition. Rebeca is passionate about supporting immigrant rights, addressing issues that relate to social justice, developing dynamic training programs, pursuing health equity, and helping to form leaders who may, in turn, pursue the goals of social change and health equity.   Rebeca is the Network Equity and Racial Justice Manager with OFB.

 In her free time, she enjoys exercising, cooking traditional foods, learning new recipes, dancing, visiting her family in Mexico, and spending time with her dog.

Eca-Etabo Wasongolo

Our 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.

Shireen Duke


Shireen is a 5th generation Oregonian who loves to get outside to grow collard greens and fresh tomatoes. She is also an accomplished dancer (Line Dancing and Chicago Steppin). Shireen has been involved with Growing Gardens since 2013. She started as a Home Gardens Program participant, then a Garden Mentor, and now serves on the Board of Directors.

Yoli Flores

Lines for Life

Yoli Flores supports the Equity and Cultural Engagement department at Lines for Life and is a long time Growing Gardens supporter. She is an advocate for food justice, health education, environmental justice and the general advancement of the Spanish speaking community. Yoli is the daughter of Carlos and Maria Flores from Zamora, Michoacán and Tampico, Tamaulipas.

Darren M Harold-Golden

Consultant- Police Reform Advocate

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. 


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