Meet our Team
As Founder and executive Director of Empowering the Parent to Empower the Child (EPEC), which operates The Grooming Project, Natasha Kirsch believes in a two-generation approach to breaking the cycle of poverty. Basic needs for food and shelter must be met before a parent can focus on guiding children through school and out of poverty, so a living-wage, family-flexible career for the parent is key. Natasha’s idea earned support from the UMKC Bloch School’s Aaron L. Levitt Social Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2013.
Natasha has an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Iowa and an Executive Master’s degree in public administration from the UMKC Bloch School. She is passionate about working with single mothers with multiple barriers to entering the workforce, such as low reading skills or past incarceration and brings experience in both staff and volunteer roles for Healing House, Reach Out and Read, Community LINC and Stop Child Trafficking Now to the EPEC project.
The owner of Empire Pets grooming salons in Mission and Lenexa, Kan., she’s been a groomer for years. Her mother groomed dogs for more than 40 years. Her three sisters are groomers, one in Independence, another in Claycomo and the third in Gladstone.
And these days, Teri not only employs one of our graduates – Christine Banks from our inaugural class works full time at Teri’s Mission salon – but also helps our students learn the trade that has been such an integral part of her family’s life and livelihood.
After graduating from high school, Lacey Adair worked at a small grooming salon in San Diego as a bather/brusher. She learned dog grooming on the job, and eventually became a grooming manager at a salon in Point Loma, having an opportunity to travel to grooming shows and seminars.
Lacey and her husband then moved back home to Kansas, opening and later selling a small shop in Mission. Since then Lacey has worked as a yoga teacher and, with a long-term goal to make a positive difference for women, hopes in the future to work with a program teaching yoga to women in prison.
She is loving the opportunity to use her grooming education and experience to help other women find a career path that works for their lives. “I have always made a great income as a groomer,” she says. “It can be stressful, but with the right training and an organized personality, it can provide a lot of stability.
“I am very happy to be part of this school.”
Director of Student Services
Betty Jean Curran is thrilled to be working at EPEC. As the Director of Student Services, Betty Jean works closely with students, providing wrap-around services that ensure student success. She also works closely with community partners to develop life skills programming that is tailored to EPEC’s students, like groups centered on developing social-emotional skills, parenting skills, and “soft-skills” that promote workforce readiness. Everyday, Betty Jean is inspired by the resilience of EPEC’s students, and she is excited grow with the organization.
Betty Jean recently moved back to Kansas City after earning a Master of Social Work Degree from University of Denver and a certificate in Animal Assisted Social Work. While in Denver, Betty Jean worked with underserved, high school-aged youth at the Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation. She also worked at the Institute for Human Animal Connection (IHAC), where she partnered with the City of Denver’s Office of Behavioral Strategies and many agencies serving Denver’s homeless population to develop creative programs that integrate the therapeutic aspects of the human-animal bond in homeless outreach services. She focused on educating various stakeholders about the growing evidence base for animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) and worked with agencies to brainstorm and implement new AAI programs. During this process, she also worked with IHAC to develop human-animal bond competencies that ensure best practices for this trail blazing work in Animal Assisted Homeless Outreach.
Betty Jean has three dogs, Dharma, Maiko and Bodhi, who fill her with joy and continue to remind her of the powerful lessons and uncomplicated love that animals can bring into our lives.
Theresa joined The Grooming Project as a volunteer in 2017 and quickly embraced its students and mission. After a recent move to Kansas City, the opportunity to become a member of the operations team was presented. She knew this was the perfect place to utilize her business acumen and her commitment to the continued success and growth of The Grooming Project.
After the birth of her daughter, Theresa left her administrative career to be a “stay at home mom”. Her entrepreneurial spirit didn’t let her stay out of the workplace for long though. She recognized an opportunity to resell gently worn maternity clothing (before they were widely available!) and eventually grew her business into an upscale boutique that was a staple for all-things maternity and baby in Wichita, Kansas for more than 20 years. Theresa later built on her experience as a successful business owner to serve Goodwill Industries of Kansas as a state-wide district manager where her management, trouble shooting and retail capabilities continued to advance. And, now she’s bringing those skills to The Grooming Project.
Theresa’s a self-proclaimed “junk queen” and can often be found scouring estate sales and auctions for fun, vintage finds. As new Kansas City residents, she and her husband, Steve, are enjoying exploring the city and spending time with their daughter, Meredith, and grand-puppy, Chloe.
Barbie Daniels recently joined the EPEC family. She brings a wealth of knowledge about community services and human behavior. With a background in substance use disorder counseling and recovery support systems, Barbie has worked with Independence Probation and Parole, Drug Court, and Heartland Center for Behavioral Change. Her professional trajectory reflects a dedication that has come from her lived experiences with Kansas City “street life.” Due to her past lifestyle, Barbie has a passion for helping people overcome obstacles and barriers in their lives, so that they may become empowered to live a new life.
As the Employment Specialist, A.K.A “The Motivator,” Barbie works with graduating students to ensure a smooth transition into their new jobs as groomers. She works closely with the grooming salons that hire our students; she also tracks graduate progress, and troubleshoots with students whenever it is needed. As “The Motivator,” Barbie leads life skills classes for current students that address workforce readiness and “soft skills” that will ensure success after graduation. She is so excited to be in this new role at EPEC, and can’t wait to see all the success stories that will surely unfold.
Barbie is a single mother of two beautiful girls, Cianna and Sophia, and one handsome dachshund named Boss.
Marla comes with over 20 years’ experience in Non Profit work experience, from volunteer to direct service to program management and most recently, executive administration. Marla has committed the majority of her career towards eliminating oppression, especially for women, children and pets, with a five year hiatus in marketing at Hallmark. Marla has worked at Rose Brooks Center for over 12 years, and currently serves as the organizations Chief Development Officer. Marla brings with her a variety of previous experience, having served on the Board of Directors of Downtown Rotary Club and Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse.
City Architect, The City of Kansas City, Missouri. Senior-level architecture executive with 25+ years of experience in the private and public sectors. Instrumental leader overseeing $250 million in contracts associated with the successful planning, design and construction of numerous buildings and facilities for the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and for many client departments including Police, Fire, Parks & Recreation, and Public Works. Collaborative professional with significant experience understanding, relating and working with divisions, facilities, and employees, and with the Mayor, City Council, City Manager, and outside agencies.
Chelsea is a founding board member of EPEC, the parent organization of The Groomimg Project. Before moving to Cerner Corporation where she’s currently employed, Chelsea worked as a Case Manager for more than nine years at Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare where she performed a variety of roles including group facilitator and skills trainer. She also worked individually with severe and persistent mentally illnesses. She graduated from UMKC’s Executive Master of Public Administration program and received her EMPA with an emphasis in Non-Profit Management and Executive Leadership. Chelsea has a great passion for serving others and assisting families in defeating the cycle of poverty.
Katy is Vice President of Business Development at LifeWise Renovations, a residential renovation company specializing in accessibility. LifeWise relies on Katy to engage with payers challenged with finding quality providers to keep their members at home and out of institutional care. Katy earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Economics from Rockhurst University and serves on the LifeWise Renovations Advisory Board to provide recommendations for strategic business development. She earned her Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation in 2010, served as an Executive Board Member with Case Management Society of America in Kansas City, and is a council member on the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), First Suburbs Coalition.
Jason is an attorney at McDowell, Rice, Smith & Buchanan, practicing in all areas of civil litigation. He represents clients in construction, contract, and other commercial disputes. He also has appellate experience in both state and federal courts. Jason has extensive experience handling design professional and other construction litigation in numerous jurisdictions. He has also handled professional negligence, product liability, vehicle and trucking accidents, and other tort claims, breach of contract, warranty, trade secrets, and other business litigation, bad faith and insurance coverage claims, and age, race, and gender cases. He earned his Doctor of Law degree at Wake Forest University and is a member of the American Bar Association, Kansas, Missouri, Johnson County, and Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Associations as well as the American Association for Justice and Kansas Association for Justice.
Joyce is a retired clinical social worker. She has worked with students, staff, and parents for three area school districts – Kansas City, Kansas; Shawnee Mission; and Turner. While at Shawnee Mission, Joyce helped run the Parent Resource Center for 10 years and spent a great deal of time connecting and building partnerships with the community. She has worked in private clinical practice with parents, families and children. Early in her career, Joyce worked as a child protection worker in Johnson and Wyandotte counties and helped supervise a foster care program for TLC Caregivers. As volunteer at Wyandotte High School, Joyce works with students and helps staff find ways to increase parent involvement.
Kevin Flattery, President of KLF Development Consulting LLC, is an experienced, entrepreneurial nonprofit business executive. Following graduate school at UMKC he worked in management at the old General Hospital and Truman Medical Center. He then went on to become Executive Director of the first hospice organization in Kansas City, the first Director of Institutional Advancement at St. Teresa’s Academy and the first Director of Development for the Center for Advanced Heart Care at The University of Kansas Hospital. He also has had experience in the for-profit business arena where he designed, built and sold several companies. As a consultant, he used his for-profit business skills to guide and assist nonprofit organizations in their efforts to develop a more entrepreneurial, broad-based approach to their fundraising activities. His expertise is in organizing, educating and inspiring staff, board and volunteer leadership to successfully implement fund development plans and major gift campaigns that exceed expectations and goals.
Susan is a Wealth Management Consultant for The Commerce Trust Company, providing objective financial advice and guidance for all stages of the wealth cycle. With more than 30 years of experience in the financial service industry, Susan is dedicated to helping individuals and families meet their dreams and goals by providing customized banking and financial solutions for their investment, trust and estate planning and lending needs. Susan is an advocate for her clients and is passionate about helping them.
Susan served as member of the Board of Trustees of The Barstow School, where she served on various committees and chaired the Development Committee.
Susan shows her Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers in conformation in addition to training them in agility nose work, barn hunt and obedience. Susan, breeder/owner/handler, won Best of Breed at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show in February 2015 with GCH Mirikal Double Top Breakout NA, NAJ and showed at Madison Square Garden… a once-in-a- lifetime experience!
Dave served as a senior Human Resources executive and chief learning officer with Sprint over a 30-plus year career. His achievements in creating and implementing strategic workforce plans and learning initiatives have been nationally recognized by a number of forums and benchmarking organizations. Dave also has an extensive background in finance, from leading corporate supplier negotiations to support for international operations. His undergraduate degree is from Stanford University and his MBA is from Keller Graduate School. Dave served on the United Way KC Adult Literacy Advisory Board and as a long-time volunteer at Animal Haven (now Great Plains SPCA). His passions for learning and holistic solutions align with the mission of EPEC and The Grooming Project.
Meredith is the Assistant City Manager for the City of Raymore, Missouri, where she is responsible for overseeing human resources, citizen engagement and outreach initiatives, and economic development for the City. As an advocate for programs that support and develop strong, healthy women, Meredith served as Board Chair for Girls on the Run of Greater Kansas City during a time of triple-digit growth, and is also an active volunteer with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault. She has a master’s degree in Public Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, both from the University of Kansas.
Kathy is a Divisional Vice President at Helzberg Diamonds where she is responsible for E-Commerce and store systems. She has previously held leadership positions operating at the nexus of technology, marketing and strategy at companies such as H&R Block and DineEquity, Inc.. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Northern Iowa and has completed graduate work through Penn State University.