OUR TEAM

STAFF

Bethany Keener

Bethany Keener

Executive Director

Bethany has nearly two decades of experience in nonprofit communications and development. She has nine years of experience working in organizations that support adults who have intellectual disabilities, and prior to her role at Spirit Club Foundation worked as the communications director for a nonprofit focused on affordable housing.

 

Bethany holds a bachelor’s degree from Goshen College, a Master of Nonprofit Administration from the University of Notre Dame, and an associate degree in graphic design from Northern Virginia Community College. She lives in Silver Spring with her husband and two sons. To stay active, she enjoys dancing, hiking, playing Frisbee, and kayaking.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Tigest Alemu | Executive Director, Community Options, Inc., Rockville
Board Member

Tigest Alemu is the Executive Director for Community Options, Inc. in Rockville, a national nonprofit that provides community-based options for residential for children, adult, and employment support services to people with disabilities living in Montgomery County.

 

She has over 15 years of experience working in the adult disability services industry, with specific expertise in managing community engagement, quality assurance, and housing operations initiatives. Tigest previously served as the Director of Program Support services at the Jubilee Association of Maryland.

 

Tigest was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Delaware, where her parents reside. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Baltimore and a Master's in Business Administration in Healthcare and Finance from Wilmington University. She is also a graduate of 2018 Leadership Montgomery's Emerging Leaders, a graduate of the University of Delaware's National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, and a certified interviewer for the Council on Quality and Leadership.

 

Tigest is a member of the National Black MBA Association of Washington, D.C. and Young Ethiopian Professionals.

Sifa Bokwala | Assistant Vice President Client Regulatory Services, Morgan Stanley
Board Member

Sifa Bokwala serves as  Assistant Vice President, Client Regulatory Services at Morgan Stanley. She previously worked at the Kensington M&T Bank, most recently as Assistant Vice President/Branch Manager. She holds an associate degree in Business Administration from the Institute des Volcans in Congo (DRC), and a bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science from KICTI in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to her extensive experience in the banking industry, Sifa holds a certificate in French Translation and Interpretation. 

 

Sifa lives in Glenn Dale, Maryland, with her husband Patrick and their two children. Her family loves adventure and traveling.

Jared Ciner | Founder & Director, SPIRIT Club
Board Member

Jared Ciner is SPIRIT Club’s Founder and Director. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified fitness trainer, and is certified by the Maryland Department of Health’s Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) to work with people of all abilities. 

Jared lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and three children. 
 

Sharon Freiman | Disabilities Advocate, Retired Attorney

Board Secretary

Sharon has been an advocate for people with disabilities for more than 30 years. She has served as Commissioner on the Montgomery County Commission for People with Disabilities and engaged in lobbying at the Federal level and in Annapolis. One of Sharon’s sons is active in Special Olympics, Best Buddies, and Main Street, and as a result, she has gotten involved with those programs as well. 

 

Sharon is an attorney by trade and is presently retired from practice to focus on her advocacy work. She has two adult sons and two adult stepsons. She and her spouse live in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Julie Gold | Inclusive Pre-K Teacher

Board Member

Julie Gold is a special educator in a Montgomery County Public Schools inclusive pre-k class. Her journey into special education began in with a summer job as an early intervention therapist for infants and toddlers.

 

While studying special education at the University of Maryland, College Park, she served as president of the Student Council for Exceptional Children and participated in a dialogue at the White House that focused on the Obama Administration's initiatives on children with disabilities and their families.

 

Julie holds a Master of Education in Special Education with certifications in Generic Early Childhood Special Education, Early Childhood Education, and Severe/Profound Disabilities. She previously worked as a Comprehensive Autism Preschool Program teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools for five years, designing individualized instructional programs to work on academic, life, and communication skills.

 

She lives in Columbia with her family and enjoys staying active by doing yoga and going on family walks.

Susan Hoffmann | Communications Manager, Montgomery County's Office of Community Partnerships

Board President

Susan is the Communications Manager of Montgomery County's Office of Community Partnerships.  She is the founding producer of the Silver Spring Jazz Festival, the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade, and producer of the Silver Spring Summer Concert Series.  Before joining the Office of Community Partnerships, Susan worked on the redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring, serving as Marketing Manager in the Silver Spring Regional Center.  Susan joined Montgomery County as a Legislative Liaison in the Office of Intergovernmental Relations working during the legislative sessions in Annapolis. 

 

Susan is also the former Mayor of Rockville, Maryland.  As a three-term member of the Rockville City Council, Susan was a leader in the redevelopment of Rockville’s Town Square and surrounding downtown.

In addition to the Spirit Club Foundation Board, and continuing her interest in public service, Susan has been active with many organizations over the years, and currently serves on the Judicial Inquiry Board of the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival, and formerly served as President of the Jubilee Foundation Board of Directors, and Vice President of the D.C. Special Olympics Board.

 

Susan was named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women and is the recipient of the Betty Mae Kramer Community Service Award.  She was president of the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League and vice president of the Maryland Mayors Association.  A graduate of Temple University, her Bachelor of Science degree is in Communications.  She came to the DMV to work on the Capitol Hill staff of U.S. Representative Peter H. Kostmayer of Pennsylvania.  She has lived in Montgomery County since 1978 and currently resides in Rockville.  Susan is most proud of her daughter and son, and two grandsons.

Adam Lewis | Trial Attorney, Department of Justice

Board Member

Adam Lewis is a Trial Attorney in the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice where he enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Prior to joining the Civil Rights Division in 2019, Adam worked first as a law clerk for Judge Richard Seeborg of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco and then for Judge Roy McLeese III of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Prior to law school, Adam worked as a teacher at Commonwealth Academy in Alexandria, Virginia, as an associate in the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch, and as a policy analyst at New Profit, Inc., a venture philanthropy fund in Boston. 

Adam holds a B.A. from Haverford College and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. He lives in Silver Spring with his wife and two children. 

Richard Male | Founder & President, Richard Male, and Associates

Board Member

Richard Male is the founder and president of Richard Male and Associates, a nonprofit consulting firm based in Denver, Colorado. He is a nationally recognized keynote speaker, writer, trainer, and educator. Rich has helped author and steward public policy reform on the national level including the Community Reinvestment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He has taught fundraising, leadership and governance issues at the Master in Nonprofit Management degree program at Regis University, University of Colorado, Hawaii Pacific University, State University of New York at Albany. 


Rich lives in Denver and has four beautiful children. He is a Master Gardener and grows lots of heirloom tomatoes and peppers. Rich works extensively in Africa.

Gary McPherson, ll | Senior Managing Partner, McPherson Financial Partners 

Board Treasurer

Gary’s work in the financial industry spans 18 years. Today, he is the Senior Managing Partner of McPherson Financial Partners, LLC (MFP), a comprehensive financial services firm in Bethesda, Maryland. 

He also serves on the board of the Community Education Resource Group in Washington, D.C. Gary partners with AFEA, a North Carolina non-profit, to deliver financial education to the Bethesda community. Since 2014, Gary has volunteered and provided financial literacy to African American student-athletes and young adults with disabilities. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor’s degree in business management with a minor in financial planning from Towson University, Gary holds the following certifications: Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor (CPFA), Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®), and Certified Long-Term Care (CLTC). 

Gary and his wife, Amy, live in North Carolina with their two children.

Sam Smith | Fitness Trainer, SPIRIT Club

Board Member

Sam Smith is a fitness trainer at SPIRIT Club. He holds a physical fitness certification from Berkshire Community College and is a certified running coach through the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). Sam has run six Marine Corps Marathons and one New York City Marathon. A proud man with autism, Sam has been working for SPIRIT Club since its inception. 


Sam lives in Rockville, Maryland. In addition to being a fitness enthusiast, he is an avid musician.