Judy Cockerton, Founder and CEO
Judy Cockerton is not your average social entrepreneur. She is a nationally recognized visionary committed to Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America. This award winning educator and businesswoman established the Treehouse Foundation in 2002 to help move children out of foster care into permanent, loving families and communities so that they are never at risk of “aging out" of foster care alone.
Cockerton is known for her collaborative social change approach to inspiring widespread investment in foster care innovation. Her bold vision - Every Child Rooted in Family and Community - has inspired thousands of Americans of all ages and backgrounds to work in partnership to ensure improved outcomes for all children and youth in foster care.
Kerry Homstead, Community Facilitator
Kerry joined Treehouse in 2005, during the construction of the first Intergenerational Treehouse Community in Easthampton. She has been key to building the Treehouse Foundation from a grassroots movement to a nationally recognized and award-winning organization. Kerry welcomed the opportunity to promote collaborative change “outside the foster care box.” She continues to facilitate the Re-envisioning Foster Care in America Movement and Intergenerational Treehouse Community with creative programming, partnerships and leadership.
Homstead received her EdD from the University of Massachusetts and her BA from Smith College, previously served as a Research Project Coordinator for Casey Family Resource Centers in the Northeast. She brings over 30 years experience in community-based work with at risk populations to the Treehouse Foundation.
Julie Kumble, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Development
Julie Kumble, M.Ed., joined the Treehouse team in August, 2018 as the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Development. She brings to Treehouse many years of social justice programming, organizing, organizational development fundraising and grantmaking. Julie is also a researcher, writer and consultant in leadership, and presents on gender issues in politics, nonprofits and businesses, and veterinary medicine to international audiences.
She was the founding director of a leadership program called the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact at the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, a philanthropic foundation, where she was also the interim CEO. She also served as senior foundation officer at the Peace Development. Julie has been a U.S. State Department Fellow, grantee of the Foundation for Motivated Women, and U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. As a research consultant at Cornell, she co-authored a book with Cornell University Dean Emeritus Dr. Donald Smith on women’s leadership in veterinary medicine, "Leaders of the Pack, Women and the Future of Veterinary Medicine" (Purdue University Press). Julie is currently working on a book about servant leadership across professions and lifestyles.
Yael Petretti, Volunteer Coordinator
Yael serves as the Treehouse Volunteer Coordinator and in this capacity, she helps assess the needs of community members and then matches them with others in the community who can step in to help. Her Treehouse activities also include planning community events, preparing the TH newsletter, working to engage and see to the well-being of our older adults, conducting the Voices for Children semi-monthly tours of TH, processing donations made to TH and maintaining the Donor Perfect data base and other administrative tasks.
Yael has been a certified Compassionate Listening facilitator since 2003. She has brought this practice to the Treehouse Community where she has worked since 2014. She serves as a volunteer Alternative to Violence facilitator at the Osborn Correctional Facility for men in Sommers, CT. She a contributing author to World Vision’s upcoming book entitled, “Interfaith Peace-building: Challenges for Practitioners.”
George Plouffe, Assistant Director of HEROES Youth Leadership and Youth Development
George came to Treehouse in 2017 and serves as the Assistant Director of HEROES Youth Leadership and Youth Development. He helps the Treehouse youth navigate some of the challenges of transitioning to adulthood, whether it be related to housing, schooling, or working on life/social skills. He also supports the young people in the HEROES Youth Leadership program, which helps current and former foster youth become leaders and advocates for change in the foster care system. He is very passionate about youth development and helping young people achieve their goals of successful independence.
George Brings with him leadership experience from residential youth programs, juvenile justice, youth coaching, as well as being a veteran of the U.S. Navy. George is an adopted youth himself who grew up locally in Western Massachusetts. He received his BS from the U.S. Naval Academy and is currently working on his Masters of Public Policy Administration at UMass Amherst.
Maryellen Santiago, Director of HEROES Youth Leadership
Maryellen Santiago is a former foster youth, social worker, and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Maryellen started advocating on behalf of children and families while in the care of Casey Family Services in Bridgeport, CT. Her social work advocacy largely focused on addressing racial disparities and disproportionate outcomes for children of color. Maryellen earned an MSW from Columbia University, a BASW from Western CT State University, and an AB from the Community College of the Air Force. She’s passionate about supporting young adults transitioning out of foster care and providing the tools that they need to be leaders of change in the community. Maryellen joined the Re-envisioning Foster Care in America movement to ensure that every child is rooted in family & community. Through this movement, she plans on supporting the HEROES Youth Leadership Program and other Treehouse Foundation initiatives.
Kattye Soares, Intergenerational & Arts Programming Coordinator
Kattye received a BS in Psychology and a BFA in Dance from UMass Amherst. She was a Treehouse volunteer (2017) and an arts integration intern (2018) before joining the Treehouse team (2019) as the Intergenerational Arts Programming Coordinator. In her work with Treehouse, she has focused on bringing movement to the intergenerational community. In partnership with the youth and some community elders, Kattye directed and choreographed a dance production for UMASS. The production, Being Human in Public: A Social Justice Plea for all People, included Treehouse youth performers. Kattye received the Friends of Dance Award for Community Engagement from the College of Humanities & Fine Arts: Department of Music and Dance at UMASS (2019) in recognition of the collaboration and engagement of Treehouse residents in the arts.
Going forward, Kattye’s vision for the Treehouse community is to foster healing and build a stronger intergenerational community through the arts.
Beth Spong, Chief Operating Officer
Beth Spong is a nonprofit leader who's had a variety of roles: Founder, Development Director, Chief Operating Officer, Executive Director, leadership coach, and consultant. She’s served in the fields of political advocacy, education, women’s wellness and foster care innovation. Beth leads from experience in the trenches.
As Executive Director of MotherWoman, she tripled annual revenue and led the organization’s growth from local impact to a national force for maternal mental health. Beth also served as the Director of Donor Relations for The Care Center, and as Interim Director of Development for National Priorities Project. In every case, Beth’s expertise and vision have been central to increasing the regional and national profile, and significantly expanding revenue.
Beth has a proven track record of raising millions of dollars and coaching nonprofit leaders and boards to successfully reach their fundraising and organizational goals. Beth is committed to the health of high-performance nonprofits and to the power of joyful philanthropy.
Rachel Hinkel-Wang, Education Coordinator
Rachel Hinkel-Wang joined the Treehouse team as Education Coordinator in 2011. Her main focus is providing educational advocacy and support to the Treehouse youth, but she enjoys helping them to experience enrichment in all areas of their lives.
Rachel received a B.S. in secondary education from Southern Connecticut State University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from UMass. She has taught at several public schools in the area as well as at UMass and in South Korea.
Most of all, she appreciates the quality, length, and depth of the relationships she has formed with the youth at Treehouse. She believes it's this depth and continuity in a relationship that really helps young people feel supported in forging their paths.