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Women Who Give

These leaders inspire a sense of shared responsibility to meet needs within our community

Article by Bree O'Brien and Heija Nunn

Photography by Courtesy of the interviewees

Originally published in Kirkland Lifestyle

Dr. Catherine Cushinberry

CEO of Hopelink

A Memphis native, Dr. Cushinberry has called the Pacific Northwest home since she was named CEO of Hopelink in the spring of 2021. She has 25 years of experience in the non-profit sector.

How did you first become involved in non-profit management?

While I was in college, an acquaintance working in my home church wanted to start a summer camp program for inner city youth and tapped me to manage it.

What inspires you to do this kind of work?

Growing up, my family and I benefitted from non-profit programs like Hopelink until my mother became the first in our family to graduate from college. I strive to be a competitive leader, leading from a place of passion.

How does Hopelink serve its clients?

We work with hundreds of organizations across the North End and the Eastside on issues like providing food and transportation options to those in need, stabilizing families and helping them exit poverty, energy and rental assistance, and education. Across all of our programming, what matters most is serving our clients with dignity and seeing their humanity.

What changed for Hopelink over the course of the pandemic?

Need increased, particularly with regard to food insecurity, and assistance with energy and rent. Pre-boxed food was put together at our facility in Kirkland and shipped out to other locations to meet the need. We saw government support increase as well as support from the community, which was heartening.

Samantha St. John

Samantha has served on the board of Attain Housing for five years (until 2021), including a stint as Board President.  Kirkland born and raised, Samantha has had a varied career including retail and restaurant management and a tech startup before joining the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce in 2013, becoming CEO in 2017.

What inspires you to give back in the way that you do?

While I was on the board of Attain Housing, I saw the human impacts of the housing crisis up close. I was very passionate about the Stable Home eviction prevention program. While band-aid solutions are needed, I like to put my energy toward solving problems by addressing the root cause.

What challenges in the Kirkland area does the Chamber make a priority?

Housing is a big one – particularly workforce housing affordability. The Chamber pursues market-based solutions to tackle the housing shortage. Transportation is another one, like how to improve the gridlock on 405. We also partner with the LWSD College and Career Readiness program where we can evaluate community needs and how to serve them so kids have what they need to achieve future success.

What do you enjoy about working for the Chamber?

As I’ve worked here for several years, it’s been really fun to see this Chamber grow and change and join the digital age. The Chamber is more than just a business organization, we really have a heart for the local community.



Dhaarmika Coelho

Founder, Camp Kindness Counts   

Providing children, youth, parents and caregivers with resources to help them thrive and service experiences that help better the health and happiness of both individuals and the community.

What do you find most challenging and/or rewarding about the work you do? 

The most challenging part of my work is convincing people about the power of kindness. Kindness involves the curiosity to wonder what you can do to make a difference, the empathy to understand a different perspective or feeling, the compassion towards ourselves in challenging times, and so much more. Witnessing a child feel a sense of purpose and joy from a kind action they performed is the most rewarding feeling in the world.

How do you connect the community to your mission? 

We have provided enrichment to camps for all community members, for more than 8 years. Our programs and resources include character development and service-learning components; Family Service Projects, free parenting workshops on character development and free virtual workshops sharing ways to support the community as a Kindness Ambassador. As a parenting partner of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, we have developed the Kind World Explorers character development curriculum.

What are you most excited about right now? 

Honestly, right now, I am most excited about creating sustainable ways to nurture and spread kindness! We are involving and teaching interested role models and gifting community members with free guides and resources to help them get started.



Dominique Alex

Chief Program Officer, Mary’s Place

Supporting women, children, and families to find safe, inclusive shelter and services on their journey out of homelessness.

What do you find most challenging and/or rewarding about the work you do?


Our greatest challenge is keeping up with the growing need, right now that’s rental assistance to keep families in their homes as the eviction moratoriums end. Witnessing the commitment and love our front line staff share with our guests, through this pandemic and at great personal sacrifice, is incredibly rewarding!

How do you connect the community to your mission?


Our caring and generous Eastside neighbors share our passion to ensure that no child sleeps outside. They have been stopping by to donate, volunteer, and welcome us!

What are you most excited about right now?


Continuing to grow and lean into our work of centering equity and guest voice to improve our services.


Arlene Hampton

Senior Site Director, Mary's Place Family Center

Supporting families in shelter to find the stability and resources they need to move back into permanent housing.

What do you find most challenging and/or rewarding about the work you do?


Our greatest challenge is knowing that our brand-new family center is already full, and that there are still families and children outside in cars and tents. When we see a family achieve their dream of home, we all celebrate and do a happy dance! It’s incredibly rewarding and why we do this work.

How do you connect the community to your mission?


We invite our neighbors in to meet our families! Come in and help serve a meal, clean & organize, support a family’s housing search, or just say hello – you can change a life with your gift of time!

What are you most excited about right now?


Collaborating with partner organizations on the Eastside to provide shelter and services for families here.

Chezik Tsunoda

Founder and Film Director, No More Under

No More Under (NMU), a non-profit organization focused on water safety and drowning prevention. The documentary film Chezik produced and directed, Drowning in Silence, is about her journey of grief, channeled into purpose, after her son drowned. She traveled the country interviewing thought leaders, doctors, and families who have faced a similar tragedy as well as sharing an intimate look into her journey of healing.

What do you find most challenging and/or rewarding about the work you do?

The most challenging part of my work is that it's based in grief. I talk about swimming and drowning daily. Somehow, that is also the most rewarding part of this work as it's based on my son Yori's story and his legacy.

How do you connect the community to your mission?

We were able to work with the City of Bellevue last year to organize temporary life jacket loaner stations at our beaches. This initiative was so successful that we are partnering with them again this year, as well as local architecture nonprofit, The Loft Project, to make loaner stations permanent. We also partner with pediatricians to disperse water safety information and have a teen ambassador program.

What are you most excited about right now?

I'm most excited about Drowning in Silence and NMU's Learn to Swim program. The film is on the festival circuit right now and it's been an incredible experience. No More Under is partnering with Waterbabies, the YMCA, and Bellwether Housing for our Learn to Swim program, which provides children with free swimming lessons and resources, such as swimsuits. Learn more at: and

  • Photo Credit: Heidi Leonard