Leah Goss - Executive Director, Hide In Plain Sight
Leah Goss has been fundraising her entire life. She started as a young girl going door-to-door collecting money for the March of Dimes and never stopped. Her passion for rallying people around a cause makes her a perfect fit for her new role as Executive Director for Hide in Plain Sight. This nonprofit, which began in Highlands Ranch, provides scholarships for homeless or impoverished students to remove barriers to education like tuition, books, fees, transportation, childcare, food, and housing.
Goss married young and initially didn’t finish college. She went back to school as an adult with four young kids in tow, and she and her husband took turns putting each other through. As a result, she’s adamant that education changes lives, and she believes everyone, regardless of background or income, should have an opportunity to go to the school of their choice.
Goss lives by the motto that luck happens when opportunity meets preparation. She advises young women to prepare for the job they want by getting the necessary credentials and showing interest through volunteer opportunities or by taking roles that will showcase their capabilities.
Nicole DeVries, Executive Director, Wellspring
Nicole DeVries is a Colorado native who, along with her husband and five children, has spent the last 25 years calling Douglas County home. She leads Wellspring Community, a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating and honoring adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
DeVries calls herself a recovering CPA (certified public accountant). She had her own tax practice and consulting business and was on track to make partner with a six-figure salary. Yet, she grew disillusioned with the tax season's long hours and grueling demands. She started volunteering and serving as an outreach pastor in Parker, and she eventually sought out Wellspring as a place to work because she loved working with that community.
DeVries left her accounting practice and became Wellspring’s director of development in 2019, leading the community’s fundraising efforts. She then took over as Wellspring’s executive director in 2020 during the pandemic.
“When I look back on it, it was the scariest, most terrifying time ever,” she said. The staff at Wellspring and I decided to stick to our mission and ensure that we continued to provide services. It was stressful in many ways, but so many people supported us. Our donors and our families came out in a big way to say make sure we succeeded through that time,” said DeVries. She credits the kindness of Douglas County residents as the reason they’re going strong today.
She also believes everyone has something they’re passionate about that can benefit someone else. She says volunteering doesn’t have to be boring, and it’s a great way to discover what brings you joy. “When it comes down to it, you can volunteer as little or as much as you’d like, and most people say they get far more out of the experience than ever expected,” said DeVries.
Wellspring offers a day program Monday through Friday with 30 different opportunities each week for their 130 participants to get out in the community, take classes, and learn other skills, like photography, health and wellness, and leadership. Wellspring believes meaningful work is essential for everybody, so they also have a full commercial bakery and an arts and ceramics studio. Their products are sold at the Castle Rock Collective, a coffee shop and market in downtown Castle Rock.
Erin Kane - Superintendent, Douglas County School District
Long-time Douglas County resident Erin Kane holds the top job in a school district that is two-thirds the size of Rhode Island and is home to more than 62,000 students and 8,500 staff. How she got there is as unique as the challenges she faces.
With degrees in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science and a Master’s in Public Administration, Kane was in the middle of a successful career in the technology industry when she led the effort to open American Academy, a charter school emphasizing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curricula. Kane wanted her children to have a STEM education and thought that was missing from the district’s nearby options. When American Academy opened in 2004, Kane became the Executive Director.
Kane excelled in the role, opening two more campuses and growing the K-8 school to more than 3,000 students, gaining a reputation as an excellent leader in the meantime. So when the school district needed someone in 2016 to step in and take over during a transition period, they went to her for the superintendent job.
She was hesitant at first but eventually agreed to take the position after falling in love with the district’s leaders and 64,000 students (at the time). She returned to American Academy at the end of her contract but became the Douglas County School District superintendent again in 2022.
Kane never let her female status in traditionally male-dominated fields intimidate her. “I have never thought of myself as a victim,” she said. “I consider being a female a tremendous advantage.”
She believes women are uniquely qualified for leadership roles because of their high emotional IQ, empathy, and ability to read a room. She tells her daughters and other young women, “Don’t be bitter. Be better.” With determination and hard work, anything is possible.
Stacy Garmon, President and CEO, Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce
Stacy Garmon became president and CEO of the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce in November 2022 after a cross-country move from Alpharetta, Georgia. She may be weary of snowy winters, but she’s ready to discover all her new city offers and get to work drawing top talent to the area.
Garmon has a long history of working with local chambers. First, as a small business owner looking for guidance, then as an employee of a business that was a chamber member, and finally, as a volunteer. When a position opened at one, she jumped at the chance to become a chamber professional and hasn’t looked back.
Garmon knows owning a business is hard, especially for women who often think they should have it all figured out. “That’s why women’s networking groups or finding a mentor or small group you can talk to is so important,” she said. “The chamber is there to help and can connect people to organizations and partners.”
Tina Hansen, Executive Director, Castle Pines Chamber of Commerce
Tina Hansen leads the Castle Pines Chamber of Commerce as the community welcomes many new businesses in the expanding city. Hansen comes from a family of entrepreneurs and appreciates the many challenges businesses face.
When Hansen joined the chamber as its marketing director in 2018, she relished the opportunity to work part-time doing what she loved while raising two young daughters. Yet, when the executive director stepped down a year later, Hansen found herself taking over the role only a short time before the pandemic began.
To stay afloat, Hansen furloughed her entire staff and ran the chamber alone until she could bring everyone back in March 2022. “It was a struggle, but we’re finally back to pre-pandemic numbers membership-wise,” she said. “My girls are proud of me, and my husband is supportive. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect role.”
Hansen encourages business owners to seek networking opportunities and take advantage of local events to get to know the community. “Friends buy from friends,” she said.
“Don’t be bitter. Be better.” With determination and hard work, anything is possible. - Erin Kane