Rev. Dr. Alex Gee
President and Founder
The visionary of Nehemiah. He is a loving husband and father and also a pastor, writer, community activist, life coach, international lecturer, relief worker, and social entrepreneur. His interests include: understanding the impact of fatherlessness on the African American community, cross-cultural leadership empowerment, spiritual life coaching, motivational speaking, mentoring, and transformational leadership development. You can find more of his own personal thoughts and insights at his personal website: AlexGee.com.
Dr. Gee studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Fuller Seminary’s Distance Learning Program and Bakke Graduate University, where he earned his doctorate. The author of two books and a local radio host, his relief work and motivational lectures have lately taken him to Cambodia, Korea, and South Africa.
Executive Vice President
Harry Hawkins brings over ten years of management experience to Nehemiah. He holds multiple degrees in Business Administration with a focus on Organizational Behavior. Harry is an author, business owner, and a dreamer. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he responded "One of the X-men". He hopes to leave a legacy of excellence at Nehemiah, building on the work of the last 25 years.
Vice President of Research and Education
Karen Reece holds a Ph.D. in Physiology granted from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She began her career as a research scientist in academic and biotechnology settings. Dr. Reece is involved in strategic planning for Justified Anger and manages a continuous/dynamic evaluation program to ensure forward progress and quality control. Dr. Reece supports Nehemiah program staff and others to expand their understanding and use of evidence-based practices. She works to help program staff with setting realistic and measurable goals and outcomes and develops data collection tools that can be seamlessly integrated into day-to-day program activities to facilitate accurate tracking and reporting. When she’s not doing research and/or organizing events, Karen enjoys the local music scene (particularly Hip-Hop), playing the cello and singing, and fighting for social justice.
Director of Community Chaplaincy & Allied Empowerment Services
Gloria Manadier-Farr is a licensed Minister of Fountain of Life Church and licensed Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor. She has worked in several positions throughout Dane County, including: Allied Wellness Center, Harper Adult Family Home, Rise-Up Inc., Tellurian U-CAN, Madison Inner City Council on Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Center of Dane County. Most notably, Gloria has over 18 years of experience in the fields of substance abuse, trauma, and mental health. She worked for seven years as the Program Director for Genesis Development Corporation, serving primarily African American families of Dane County and surrounding areas.
Director of Youth Development and Education
Coach O, is devoted to uplifting her community through education, mentorship, curriculum development and academic coaching. She is a mother of three boys and a wife of 22 years. As a community educator, Ozanne is passionate about education that serves children and youth holistically. She believes people are best served when we prepare to serve them completely considering the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well being of the whole persons she serves.
Program Director of Performing Arts for Madison Allies Community Gospel Choir (MACGC)
Julia Saffold is a choral director and gifted teacher of music with a sharp ear for both vocalists and instrumentalists. Having served as guest directress for several choir workshops and community programs, Julia's 30+ years of directing experience, along with her anointed and energetic style, encourages, motivates, and demands excellence, from those whom she serves. Julia’s passion to encourage and uplift others is greatly inspired by the life of her son, Aaron Battle, who suddenly passed away in 2007 at the age of 16. As a result, Julia, along with her daughter Jasmine Zapata, M.D. (Empowerment Coordinator for MACGC) instituted MACGC's theme to spread the message of "Hope, Strength, & the Power to Overcome" with the goal to help empower others to overcome various obstacles in their lives as well. Julia currently serves as Director of Choral Ministries and Worship Team Leader at Fountain of Life Covenant Church. She cherishes being a grandmother and is happily married to husband, Melvin Saffold, who also plays organ at their church.
Director of Youth, Family, and Community Wellness
Lindsey Johnson grew up a military brat, having spent the majority of her life traveling the United States. She lived in six different states and has revisited each multiple times. Moving across the country has allowed Lindsey to build lifelong friendships with people from all different backgrounds. She brings over 10 years of administrative skills to Nehemiah and she is passionate about family, health, and fitness. As a mother of four children, Lindsey is committed to helping make positive changes that will help underprivileged children and families. Her hobbies include working out, traveling to new parts of the world, exploring Madison’s parks and libraries with her kids and shopping.
Director of Administration
Shameka Harper has a strong background in sales and business management. Shameka has helped run two businesses focused in telecommunication sales and contract writing. Shameka has also owned and ran her own in home childcare. As a wife and mother of 4, she enjoys traveling with her family, watching documentaries and listening to music.
Denise Thornton Mjelde
Director of Economic Innovation and Sustainability
Denise Thornton Mjelde has a Masters in French Language and Literature. She comes to Nehemiah after 20 years in the banking industry, where she was most recently in charge of a compliance department. Prior to her position with Nehemiah, she spent most of her free time volunteering for the organization. Denise lives with her husband and two cats. Her two children are grown and live elsewhere, in other cities or even other countries.
Director of Mobilization
Rebecca Compton-Allen (RCA) has a BS in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She started her career in the non-profit sector specializing in training staff and families to provide mental health services to children with Autism. A lifelong musician, Rebecca used her non-working hours to teach and direct youth music ensembles in Minnesota, California, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Rebecca now serves as the director of a youth ensemble called Shadow Drum & Bugle Corps based in Oregon, WI and organizes a yearly non-profit fundraising event called the Wisconsin Winter Plunge on Lake Waubesa. She brings her leadership skills, administrative skills, and teaching skills to the Director of Mobilization position to make a positive impact in her community by helping others find a sense of purpose and belonging through service work.
Director of Communications
Eli Steenlage has a Masters in Cinema and Media Studies from DePaul University and has previously taught Film and Media in higher education. Eli is a filmmaker and instructor with experience ranging from community development, digital marketing, and cross-cultural interaction. He is passionate about storytelling and highlighting the amazing work that individuals are doing in their community. Eli has three energetic kids with his wife Jess and enjoys podcasting, traveling, trying new restaurants, and debating film theory.
Aaron Hicks started working with Jerome Dillard and Voices Beyond Bars on return from incarceration back into the community, which brought the very work that he was doing while incarcerated now into the community. This was also his introduction to Nehemiah and meeting Pastor Alex Gee, who had started his own men’s group, called Man Up. Aaron then moved into a Reentry Specialist role at Nehemiah, where he now facilitates the Man Up Group with his amazing ability to connect with people and help them work through their hurts and pains.
Faith Community Relationship Manager
Tyler Nylen received his Master’s of Divinity from North Park Theological Seminary in May of 2017. After serving as an intern at both Nehemiah and Fountain of Life Covenant Church during the summer of 2016, Tyler relocated to Madison following graduate school in order to pursue the vision of Nehemiah after his compelling experience with the organization. In this role, Tyler loves connecting, building relationships, and strategizing with faith communities and churches to determine how they can partner with Nehemiah to strengthen the African American community while addressing racism in faith contexts. He loves reading, exploring the city through coffeeshops (he even ranks and reviews them all), and all things Chicago sports.
Executive Assistant to Dr. Alex Gee
Don Thornton has a varied professional and educational background. His work experiences include retail and business management, software testing, several roles within the USPS, and most recently, working as a debit card fraud protection coordinator before retiring in 2015. His volunteer work with Nehemiah began shortly afterward, where his passion for their work led to yet another career. He and his wife, Denise, moved to Madison in 1999, he’s the proud father of four amazing adult children, and his hobbies/obsessions include cycling, converting his yard to native pollinator plants, and spoiling his two Russian Blue cats.