Staff & Volunteers
Gloria Kraegel (Executive Director)
Gloria has 30 years independent consulting experience focusing on helping nonprofits and cooperatives develop capacity through training, information management, and organizational systems development. Gloria has degrees from SUNY Stony Brook and Syracuse University, a background in Information Resource Management and Organizational Development, plus a passion for sustainability, both environmentally and organizationally. Since 2008 she has infused knowledge and unique leadership style into the operation of BEST.
Gloria’s Thoughts on BEST: BEST is more than an organization about brain injury. The core of BEST is about people supporting one another to be the best they can be. Everything we do is about the belief in becoming our best with the right support. Everyone at BEST reflects our core and I couldn’t be more proud.
Robin Spicuzza (Program Manager, Support Group Coach)
Full charge bookkeeper, real estate investor, and web developer, Robin has done it all. She’s also actively engaged in raising her son. One of the things she loved to do was to make cupcakes for her son’s football team. Then in 2011 a car accident on Interstate 5 changed everything. Faced with the challenges that came with an undiagnosed TBI she struggled to find support. It wasn’t until she found the Edmonds Brain Injury Support Group that she was able to accept and understand what was happening. Today she is the Program Manager for BEST. She is also a co-facilitator of the Edmonds Support Group and a BEST Support Group Coach.
Robin’s Thoughts on BEST: It’s pretty simple, when all the systems and services that are in place to help with brain injury have failed BEST was/is the only place where I found hope, recovery, and friendship and family.
Kathy Lefkowitz (Accounting Advisor)
Kathy received her Bachelors Degree in Accounting from Clemson University and is a licensed CPA having worked for such noted accounting firms as Ernst & Young and BDO Seidman. Her career has spanned various roles and environments from auditor of nonprofits and governmental entities to Internal Audit Director and Controller in distribution and service organizations. Prior to becoming a consultant she was part of a management team focused on transitioning a company held by a private equity group to a public company traded on the NYSE [New York Stock Exchange].
Kathy’s Thoughts on BEST: Working with BEST, both for the mission, and for opening a new process of working for me, have had amazing impacts on my life. I’m proud to be considered a BESTie.
Diane Rasch (Gratitude Specialist)
Diane will tell you 2006 is the year that turned her world upside down. Prior to sustaining a TBI due to an auto accident she was a teacher, trainer, and mentor. She traveled internationally as an educator and trainer. Now she is an invaluable member of our BEST team, teaching and training those around her to manifest their creativity. She has transformed not only her life, but the life of those she’s touched. As BEST’s Gratitude Specialist Diane created the Birthday Card Project. She knows there are those that feel alone or are without family and sending them a card for their birthday is Diane’s way of letting them know just how special they are.
Diane’s Thoughts on BEST: The most special thing about BEST is that they really support and care for brain injured people and encourage and help us to move on, because moving on is important. The most special thing that happened to me at BEST is when Penny asked me to be the Gratitude Specialist. This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for doing Moving On. BEST is my TBI family. BEST brings hope.
Kim Thompson (Communications Manager)
Kim is a lifelong admirer of the written word and has pursued that passion from a young age. She holds a degree from the University of Washington in English literature and creative writing. Kim has shared her writing, communications and project management skills in many fields. She began her career in the public television local affiliate and expanded her career by joining a large telecommunications corporation where she served for a decade in multiple roles as a corporate writer and trainer, business analyst, vendor manager, advertising coordinator and national marketing consultant. Kim’s next adventure in writing was through print and online newspaper work and blogging and spent eight years as a local, high-producing freelance journalist for multiple publications in Pierce County, Washington. Kim joined BEST in the fall of 2013 and has proudly served as the Communications Manager where she writes and oversees BEST social media platforms, the BEST website blog, external and internal communications, public relations and event and promotions assistance.
Kim’s Thoughts on BEST: The positive energy, can-do spirit and loving hearts of the BEST team, volunteers, supporters, community partners and generous donors is like nothing I’ve ever seen! You can’t help but feel empowered, energized and hopeful in their presence. Together, we are truly changing the face of brain injury forever.
Board of Directors
Maggie DePuye-Phillips (Vice President)
Maggie has been a caregiver/care partner for a disabled veteran with a TBI/PTSD for about eight years. She holds a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and was a counselor for the deaf and hard of hearing and an ASL instructor at Northern Illinois University for 15 years before relocating to Washington State. Maggie is passionate about caregiver issues and is an advocate for veterans and individuals with disabilities.
Maggie’s Thoughts on BEST: I always have viewed BEST as a lighthouse for individuals with brain injuries, their caregivers and family members. BEST gives us that beacon of hope in all they do by educating advocating and promoting awareness about brain injuries. Without BEST, we’d be lost! Anytime I need support, I know I can find it at BEST because their shining light is always on.
David A. Grant (Director)
David A. Grant is a freelance writer and the author of Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury. In early 2013, he founded the Facebook page, TBI Hope & Inspiration. In its first year alone, the page has emerged as a vibrant and important online support platform for both people living with brain injury and their caregivers. David is also the publisher of TBI HOPE Magazine. (Note: in the photo attached, David is pictured with his wife, Sarah).
David’s Thoughts on BEST: Over the last several years, I have had the opportunity to work with many people within the brain injury support community. The BEST team is unlike most any other that I’ve been privileged to get to know. Across the board, every BEST member I’ve gotten to know has a passion to serve those within the TBI community. It is that passion that has transformed the local brain injury landscape into one that is vibrant, alive and life-changing to those who are part of it!
Jeff Hartson (Director, Support Group Coach)
Jeff Hartson has been a TBI survivor since 2003 and he has been part of BEST since 2010. He currently facilitates the Tacoma Brain Injury Support Group at Tacoma Area Coalition of Individuals with Disabilities (TACID) in Tacoma, WA and the Puyallup Brain Injury Support group at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, WA. Jeff is also involved in other community activities that involve traumatic brain injuries and serves on the Governor’s Traumatic Brain Injury Strategic Partnership Advisory Council of Washington State..
Jeff’s Thoughts on BEST: I feel that our involvement in the community and what we offer plays a big role in defining opportunities for survivors with brain injuries. There is a willingness of our group to be of a supportive agency to those in the community that have a brain injury. I think the companionship, comradery and closeness that we share as brain injury survivors help us to be able to understand each other’s dilemmas. We are one.
Penny Condoll (Secretary)
Before becoming the Founder of BEST, Penny was a manager of a team of nurses and social workers in hospitals and had been a social work case manager for many years. A TBI in 2003 left her unable to return to the work she loved. However, after learning how uncoordinated and under-funded services were for individuals with brain injury in WA she became a vocal advocate and educator of TBI. She served on the Washington State TBI Advisory Council for five years and was its first co-chair. She also served on the WA State Community First Choice Workgroup. She is a 2015 Golden Tennis Shoe Award recipient from Senator Patty Murray. Penny served as Executive Director and Chief Visionary Officer of BEST until retiring in 2016.
Penny’s Thoughts on BEST: At BEST, we like to take support to a whole new level. BEST is dedicated in working, learning and being together as a team, supporting and caring for each other. Together, we are taking the steps to build the BEST lives possible and changing the face of brain injury all together, while building awareness.
Nick Mehrnoosh (Director)
Nick Mehrnoosh is currently an Eastern Washington University graduate student pursuing an MS in Experimental Psychology, with his thesis focusing on holistic identity transformation following a brain injury. He earned his BA in Psychology and holds certifications in Suicide Assessment, Treatment, and Management, and Disability Studies. In addition to being on the BEST Board of Directors Nick is a Support Group Facilitator and serves on the Governor’s Traumatic Brain Injury Strategic Partnership Advisory Council of Washington State.
Nick’s Thoughts on BEST: