WRC - OUR PEOPLE
Staff & Volunteers:
- Cherie Simmers - Executive Director
- Joy Kruppa - Program Manager
- Cheryl Meade - Client Services Coordinator
- Eileen Sweeney - Client Services Coordinator - Lakeland
- Clenther Jackson - Receptionist/Client Services Assistant - Lakeland
- Maria Penzes - Special Projects Manager
- Lisa Jones - Thift Store Supervisor
- Jo Ann Schaffer - Case Manager
- Vincent Paolillo, Jr. M.S.W. - Counselor
- Julia Bush - Intern / Counselor
- Angela Shelton Chandler - Intern / Counselor
- Katherine Ford
- Rodney Gadson AARP
- Joyce Harris
Cherie Simmers is married to Terry for fifty-two years. They reside in Lakeland and have three adult children and eight grandchildren. She attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Cherie has a distinguished career in advocacy for women. She is serving as the Executive Director of the Women’s Resource Center of Florida for the past three years. Previously, six years as Director of Agency Relations with Give Well Community Foundation, six years as the Senior Court Program Specialist for the 10th Judicial Circuit Court of FL, eight years as Manager of the Domestic Violence Department for the Clerk of Courts with the 10th Judicial Circuit of Fl. She has also served for three years as a Victim Assistant Specialist to the same Clerk of Courts.
Among several of her achievements she had been appointed to Governor’s Task Force on Domestic & Sexual Violence, Co-founded Domestic Violence Task Force and awarded the Governor’s Peace At Home Award. She has successfully collaborated with victims’ rights group judges and other court personnel creating a court based domestic violence advocacy program that has severed over 8000 clients annually.
Joy Kruppa is WRC’s Program Manager who handles all aspects of programming for the Independence Program. She also serves as a case manager and is key to the organization success to reach out to the men and women in our community. She is married with two children and four grandchildren. She started working as a volunteer for WRC then joined the staff. Graduated from St. Leo College and has had varied work experiences in social services. She started her career working with delinquents at Juvenile Alternative Services Program, then pregnant and parenting teens at Family and Youth Alternatives, next Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital at Inner Harbour, then worked with Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Survivors at Peace River Center, and Medication Management all before joining WRC. She is certified in First Aid, CPR, and Credit Counseling. In addition she is certified to teach Alzheimers to staff in Assisted Living Facilities/Nursing facilities.
Eileen Sweeney is a Client Service Representative with our Lakeland Office. She originally started with WRC through the AARP program and has been with WRC since 2010. Eileen is responsible for assisting clients and their families with referrals and valuable information through a variety of Guest Speakers, which she books and follows-up with for both WRC offices. Additionally, Eileen assists with orienting new staff, new Interns, and new AARP individuals to the Lakeland office. She acts as a liaison for WRC with Lakeland Volunteer in Medicine and Family Fundamentals. Eileen can be counted on to do all of her tasks with efficiency and cares deeply for our clients and our presence in Lakeland.
Jo Ann Schaffer
Jo Ann Schaffer is WRC’s Senior Case Manager who provides assessment, monitoring and advocacy for clients and their family members enrolled in case management. She determines eligibility for services for clients who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Jo Ann’s husband passed away ten years ago. She has three children and six grandchildren.
She graduated from Warner University and has many years of experience in social service and business. She began her 26-year career with the City of Lakeland as an Employment Services Counselor. From there, she worked with FL DCF as a Child Protection Investigator. She and her husband had their own business, building and renovation of golf courses, where she was President and Office Manager. She then came to WRC as Exec Director for six years. She also was at Clark’s House, Inc., assisting veterans with housing. After a short retirement, she is now come back at WRC.
She enjoys activities with her family and her best relaxation is boating on the Chain of Lakes.
Cheryl Meade, Client Services Coordinator, is a single mother of two (ages 16 and 5) and a native of Polk Co. residing in Winter Haven. She started volunteering in May 2013 with WRC and came on board as an employee in June 2014. Prior to that she worked a variety of roles with the JC Penny Distribution center for ten years. As a Client Services Coordinator, she determines eligibility for clients who are applying for several forms of public assistance for governmental and community services and programs and performs related work such as Tax Preparation, support clients with the DCF ACCESS website, assist with case management & Cheep Boutique Thrift Store as well as perform coordinated entry at WRC for Polk Co Homeless Coalition. She enjoys helping families navigate resources as they work together to make a difference!
Vincent Paolillo, Jr. M.S.W recently graduated from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey with a Masters in Social Work. Vincent completed a one year internship as an advocate and counselor at the Iris Center for Domestic Violence before joining the Women’s Resource Center in January of 2016 as a counselor. Vincent completed a year and a half with the Women’s Resource Center working as a counselor and now is a part of the staff in Winter Haven and Lakeland. Vincent’s specializes in trauma and domestic violence counseling but is capable of providing a wide range of different types of therapy and counseling. Vincent enjoys sailing and restoring old cars, he is an artist, and loves to garden. His most influential event in his life has been taking on a masters in social work which has shifted his world view and helped him better understand his community. Vincent would like to establish a long term free professional counseling program in Winter Haven while at WRC and going forward.
Julia Bush is a new intern for WRC starting April 24, 2017. She is married and the mother of 10 children. She graduated with a bachelors in Human Services in 2015 from Indiana Wesleyan University, and is currently working toward her Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) from Amridge University . It is her hope to be of service to the employees and clients of WRC, seeking to daily enrich the lives of those she meets and find tidbits of knowledge and friendship in each interaction.
Intern / Counselor. Angela, wife and mother of two resides in Winter Haven. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in business. She is presently seeking completion of her Master's degree in School Counseling from UCF. She has taught 7th grade mathematics in Polk Co for three years and held others employment roles such as: a paraprofessional in self contained classroom, Language Arts & Social Studies teacher with learning difficulties, substitute teacher, enrollment specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Cheep Boutique Thrift Store Supervisor
Lisa is the mother of five kids (ages: 28, 23, 18, 17, 15) and she first worked part-time at WRC then joined in a full-time capacity. She has had a variety of employment opportunities over the course of her career, often multi tasking numerous jobs (e.g. caterer, bus driver, administrative support, mail carrier, cashier, hair& makeup, child care worker, delivery driver and a cabbie). She is originally from Queens NY but moved to FL for the weather. She loves Bingo, dancing and rollerskating with her kids.
Maria M. Penzes
Maria as Special Projects Manager joined WRC in April 2017. She earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Montclair State University, a M.S. in Organizational Dynamics from University of Penna and has completed two years study for a Doctorate degree in Church Leadership from the Antioch School. She has twenty-three years experience as a MIS Director in the financial and telecomm industries. She moved to Florida and joined the staff of a mega church for eight years in various ministry roles. Additionally, she has been involved in numerous ministry areas creating and sustaining outreach programs: for returning citizens (a jail program) and for homeless children and their families in Seminole County.In addition, she served in a number of volunteer roles:Stephens Minister and Singles Ministry leader. She also has three years experience with other non-profit ministries in project and office administration. Maria is a fan of wellness using essential oils, swimming and watching old movies.
Cheep Boutique Thrift Store Volunteer
Joyce has been volunteering at the thrift store full-time for the past two years. She and her husband had five kids and were married 50 years before being widowed. They ran a Mom &Pop grocery store for 40 years. She has a ton of grand kids, great grand kids and great great grand kids. She loves interacting with people and life has a purpose in meeting the needs of the community. She enjoys making and serving lunch to staff and volunteers each Wednesday. She is one sassy lady who first bungee jumped at age 70, ziplined at age 82 and her first sky dive was at age of 83.
Rodney a resident of Lakeland for forty years, now lives in Fort Meade. He attended Polk State where he studied Interior Design. He has also attended Mr Del's University of Cosmetology and is an iIndependent sales rep for Paparazzi Accessories. He came to WRC through the AARP Foundation and works in our Cheep Boutique. He enjoys meeting customers and serving them on a daily basis.
He enjoys shopping, Interior Design, singing, and music. A fun fact about Rodney is that he is a comedian without a payroll.
Clenther Jackson is the receptionist/client service assistant with the Lakeland office. She started with WRC through the AARP program in 2016. She has the pleasure of answering the call of many and assisting in client services. She loves that the WRC has given her an opportunity to share her experiences with the IP group members.