Cheryl Wassus, President  —  MPRI ReEntry Liaison

Cheryl received her Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University. Shortly after, she began working for the Michigan Department of Corrections as a Field Agent, retiring in 2010 after 30 years of service. Presently, Cheryl works as the MPRI Liaison for Monroe County and is committed to providing a comprehensive plan of case management to aide former prisoners in reengaging with their families and within the community. During her employment, Cheryl became one of the first female field agents to be trained in the Gender Specific caseload, which specializes in the needs of women in corrections. Cheryl has served on the board for four years and brings a vast amount of experience, dedication and a passion in working with others to assist women with their pathway out of crisis and into the community through self-sufficiency and workforce development.


Brittany Braunlich-Blaszczyk - Vice President

Brittany graduated from Michigan State University with her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Advertising.  Shortly thereafter, she went on to Law School and earned her Juris Doctorate Degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan.  Brittany currently works at Braunlich, Lievens & Braunlich, PLC as a licensed attorney practicing in a variety of areas of law, including criminal, general civil, family law, landlord/tenant, probate, and estate planning.  Brittany also serves as a member of the Monroe County Bar Association.


Paula Whitman, Psy.D.  -Employee   —  Executive Director Paula’s House

Paula worked for the Salvation Army Harbor Light in Monroe, MI for 10 years and for another 10 years she was employed at Monroe Community Mental Health Authority.  During this time, she witnessed the struggles of many women and the very low success rate for women with addictions. Upon investigation, it appeared these women would fare better if they had a support network and a safe place to go while they learned a trade, improved their education and reunited with their families, with therapeutic assistance.  It didn’t take long for Paula to realize that no one would take her serious about this project as she was new to recovery and she had a high school education.  Therefore, she began to pursue improving her education and when she graduated with her master’s degree in 1999, she began seeking potential board members to assist her in making her dream become a reality. Together, the original founding board members of Women Empowering Women, Inc. stood strong against the city and fearful neighbors until they were they were able to find an appropriate house. She graduated with her doctorate degree in psychology from the Michigan School of Professional Psychology in Farmington Hills, MI, in August of 2004 and, with permission from the city, the transition house opened in September of 2004.


Bonnie M. Peterson-Stewart – Treasurer

With over 25 years of accounting and financial experience in the private and public sectors of accounting, Bonnie has gained an insight into the financial operations of companies, individuals and non-profit organizations that benefits business owners and directors. Experience in all facets of payroll processing, human resource, and tax reporting provide a total accounting and tax expertise.

Since 1999, Bonnie has had the opportunity to use her experience and knowledge in organizations that offer assistance for the needy, women, homeless, and children of Monroe County. These opportunities have been fulfilling and it is her goal to continue in these organizations. Bonnie looks forward to expanding into areas that allow her to benefit the organization and the people they serve. Through Integrity Business Services and Acts II Closet, donations of many items to various organizations such as Paula’s House, Spirit of Giving, New Beginnings Mercy House, Second Chance Ministries, Oaks Warming Center, Damascus House, Sunset House, Heart Beat of Monroe, and many individuals has been an added blessing.


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Lucy DeSilvis - Secretary

Lucy has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Spring Arbor College.  She was employed for 16 years as a Corrections/Training Supervisor at the Monroe County Sheriff Department.  In 1997, she transferred to 1st District Court Probation Department as the Pretrial Services Coordinator. She developed and implemented the 1st District Court Pretrial Services Program.  The program provides biographic information and bond recommendations to the courts on newly-arrested defendants and supervises defendants released to the community on conditional bonds.  In 1998, she became the part-time Community Corrections Coordinator for Monroe County, responsible for writing grant applications and overseeing prison/jail alternative programming for non-violent offenders.  She has been a certified instructor for corrections and law enforcement academies throughout Michigan for over 25 years.  In 2011, she retired from her full-time position with Monroe County.  She continues to serve as Community Corrections Coordinator overseeing a variety of programs including in-jail Cognitive Behavioral Change classes; Relapse Prevention classes and Employability Skills training and Probation Residential work release and drug treatment programs within the community. Lucy brings years of experience working with at-risk populations and is enthusiastic about finding safe alternatives and constructive programming for women in need of assistance.


Dr. Geoffrey L. McIntyre

Dr. Geoffrey L. McIntyre is currently a part-time instructor at the University of Toledo and Monroe County Community College. His areas of interest include social inequality, social behavior, social change, addiction studies, deviant behavior, and criminology. Dr. McIntyre teaches undergraduate Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in the College of Literature, Language, and Social Sciences.  Dr. McIntyre holds a Ph.D. from Mississippi State University (2002), a Master of Arts from the University of Toledo (1997), and a Bachelor of General Studies from Indiana University-Bloomington (1990).  Prior to moving to northwest Ohio, Dr. McIntyre served as a member on the Board of Directors for Renascence House Inc. Transitional Re-entry Ex-offender Housing Program.  Responsibilities included; Program Development as Committee Chairman, Resident Selection Committee Member, and Consultant / Advisor to the Acting Executive Director - Program Coordinator.  He also served as a volunteer, advisor, and group facilitator for U. S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons Drug Abuse Program at the Federal Prison Camp-Maxwell Air force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.  Dr. McIntyre has over 25 years of experience in the professional addictions treatment field.


Michael Brown

Michael has a Bachelor of Science from Purdue University and afterwards earned a Juris Doctor from University of Michigan Law School.  He has been employed as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney at the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office since 2004.  Michael joined Women Empowering Women, Inc. Board of Directors in 2013.  He is also a member of Michigan State Bar, Monroe County Bar Association, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, Monroe County Assistant Prosecutors Association, and is on the Board of Directors for Friends of Potter Cemetery.


Betzi Lievens

Betzi is a local and international artist.  She is the president of Betzi Pipis Studios and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan.  Betzi is also a community activist.


Madonna Burkit

Madonna has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental, Safety, and Health from Findlay University and an Associate of Science in Environmental Management from Owens Community College.  Employed 16 years by DTE Energy and an active force for growth in the community with many non-profit organizations utilizing DTE  resources and foundation grants with husband and fellow DTE Employee, Pete Burkit, Madonna has a heart and commitment to the community where she lives and serves.  The American Legion in Toledo, Ohio, a United Way organization, was her first real job making Paula's House mission a natural fit and progression.  Madonna and Pete share their heart with a family of 6 wonderfully talented children and also share in the belief and commitment to keep children out of Foster Care and in a healing family setting.  Another natural progression is the enrollment to Madonna University pursuing a Master of Humane Studies focusing on animal welfare, impact with human relations, and working with non-profit organizations.  Madonna is a member of the Monroe Vineyard Church and also teacher and outreach coordinator for Kingdom Ministries classes with a personal God given promise:  Isaiah 40:31, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."


Additional Board Member:

Melissa Matiash