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Kelis Houston, Founder

Kelis Houston is founder of Village Arms. A Christ centered organization created in direct response to the over representation and inequitable treatment of African Americans across the child welfare service continuum.  Kelis began her career in social services over a decade ago and has long served as an advocate and voice for marginalized communities. Her personal mission is to address and help eradicate child welfare disparities; through legislative action, youth and family advocacy, policy reform and community engagement. Kelis wrote and is advocating for the African American Family Preservation Act. An act that promotes the stability and security of African American families by the establishment of standards to prevent the arbitrary removal of African American children from their families.

Kelis currently serves as cultural consultant to child welfare staff, students and service providers. Her training is designed to bring a new level of cultural awareness to those working for and within the African American community; in an effort to achieve clearer lines of communication and a sensitivity to culture.


Thomas Berry

Thomas was born in South Bend Indiana but raised in Minneapolis MN. He is the founder of S.W.I.M; an organization that served youth; teaching economic empowerment, health, social skills and art. 


Thomas is former executive board member of Sankofa Academy North where he also served as Dean of Students. Thomas is the Program Director of Black Civic Network and a current EJCC Fellowship member; focusing on the political and environmental impact on African Americans in the Twin Cities.

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Joanne Hodgeman

Joanne is a single mother of three, as well as a long-time youth and family advocate and foster care alumni. She is a founding board member and co-chair of Foster Alum Minnesota (FAM) as well as parent leader with Minnesota Communities Caring for Children. She currently serves on a variety of committees, task forces and community initiatives with a focus on youth and families. Joanne is a licensed social worker with extensive training in trauma, community building and restorative practices. Her background includes education, mental health, and disability services.

Village Arms staff Hodgeman.jpg
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