Jenny Bender, our Executive Director, offers over 18 years nonprofit fundraising and organizational management experience. She has dedicated her professional career to improving the lives of vulnerable children, especially those who are victims of abuse and neglect. Ms. Bender is responsible for providing the organization with strategic vision and leadership at the state level, supporting the 18 independent local CASA volunteer child advocacy programs across the state of Colorado.
Prior to being appointed as the Executive Director for Colorado CASA, Ms. Bender served for two years as the Executive Director of CASA of the Pikes Peak Region, where she successfully grew the organization, increasing funding and program reach. In this capacity Ms. Bender worked extensively with the juvenile court, human service providers, and other nonprofit agencies to address the myriad of needs of children in her region.
Ms. Bender was also previously the Executive Director for Newborn Hope for three years where she was responsible for carrying out the overall mission of the statewide volunteer driven nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of premature babies and families.
Before joining Newborn Hope, Ms. Bender’s experience in nonprofit leadership and fundraising spans the sectors of university development and international nonprofits. Bender is deeply committed to the well being of vulnerable children and has adopted children from foster care. She is the 2016 recipient of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption "Angels in Adoption" Award, nominated by US Senator Cory Gardner.
Ms. Bender received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Communications and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a Human Service Concentration from California State University in 2000.
Tisa Kunkee, our Operations Manager, joined the Colorado CASA team in February 2018. Ms. Kunkee's key responsibilities include managing the State Organization’s day-to-day operations and accounting as well as providing support and coordination for various committee projects, events and meetings.
Ms. Kunkee found her passion for social justice early on in college at Colorado State University, participating in a variety of community services projects addressing social, cultural and environmental needs. After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology with an Environmental Concentration and Minor in Women’s Studies, she pursued an adventure abroad to make a grassroots-driven impact.
From July 2010 to May 2013, Ms. Kunkee served as a Health Volunteer in Peace Corps Madagascar. She lived and worked in a rural village, promoting maternal and child health, basic hygiene and water sanitation. She extended her service to partner with a marine conservation organization called Blue Ventures, where she supported the Education and Community Health programs.
From September 2014 to February 2018, Ms. Kunkee worked as a Volunteer Case Coordinator at CASA of Jefferson and Gilpin Counties. She supported volunteers during their case assignments, assisted in various office projects and events and helped implement a peer coordinator program. She is happy to have stayed in the CASA family, working at the State Organization.
Lily Sussman comes to Colorado CASA as a former educator and current public health professional. Her dedication to applied public health, to make a difference in communities, resulted in her position as Director of Evaluation and Learning for the statewide CASA organization. Lily brings significant data and evaluation expertise, both qualitative and quantitative, as well as experience facilitating group processes around data and decision-making. Lily is currently a CASA Advocate Volunteer in Boulder County.
She is passionate about bringing partners together to collectively address challenges and work toward common goals. Prior to joining the CASA team, Ms. Sussman served as an epidemiologist at Boulder County Public Health. Her work included increasing data capacity for the county, particularly around behavioral health, which was prioritized by county residents. Prior to moving to Colorado, she worked on a range of projects including an evaluation of Missoula Foster Child Health Program in Montana, qualitative research on perceptions of asthma control among parents in Baltimore, and quantitative modeling of risk of opioid overdose in relation to proximity of treatment locations.
She spent the first several years of her career as a special education teacher in Chicago, where she witnessed incredible resiliency and heartbreaking challenges. Through seeing the obstacles her students and their families faced, she developed a drive to address social determinants of health and work with the range of systems (education, criminal justice, healthcare, built environment) that affect children and families’ ability to thrive.
Ms. Sussman holds a Master of Science in Public Health from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, as well as certificates in Applied Epidemiology and Maternal and Child Health. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University in Chicago.
She is thrilled to be part of the CASA team and excited to use data to identify the influence CASA volunteers have, each day, on the lives of children and families.