Staff Bios 

 

Gary Peters - President of the Board of Directors 

After a 40 year career on Wall Street, Gary retired as Executive Vice President of LaSalle Bank, where he had founded the Broker-Dealer Services Division (BDSD), a national wholesale distributor of fixed-income securities and equity-linked investments.

Pushed by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 to consider hunger and poverty issues in our area, Gary Peters became a member of the Board of Directors of Boca Helping Hands, and then President of the Board shortly thereafter.  Under his guidance and oversight, Boca Helping Hands has expanded its programs, and in 2010, moved into a brand new, 15,000 square foot facility.  The Remillard Family Resource Center, home to Boca Helping Hands has truly become the crown jewel in the social service network in South Palm Beach County.                                           

Gary is married to Cecilia Peters and is the proud father of five children, five grandchildren. 

 

James S. Gavrilos, CFRE - Executive Director

Born in Hammond, Indiana, James Gavrilos graduated as valedictorian from Hellenic College in 1986, and received his Master of Divinity, again graduating Valedictorian, from Holy Cross School of Theology in 1989. After a brief stint as the Assistant Director of Youth Ministry for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, he entered parish ministry, where he would serve for the next 16 years. In 2006, James became Director of Development for The Haven. In 2007, he accepted the position of President/ CEO of Junior Achievement of the Palm Beaches. During his tenure at Junior Achievement, James oversaw the agency's first accreditation, a move to a new location, and the creation of the world’s first fully mobile BizTown...a simulated city where area students come to experience a day in the life of a business owner.  In 2010, James Gavrilos became Executive Director of Boca Helping Hands.  During his tenure, Boca Helping Hands has experienced a period of unprecedented growth.

James is the proud father of four wonderful children: Alexios, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy currently serving  in the United States Air Force, Constantine, a law student at Loyola University, and Anastasia and Evangelia who are students at Boca Raton Christian School.   

 

Kelly Altus - Receptionist

Kelly moved to Florida from Rhode Island in 1991 to continue her career with American Airlines.  Her 10 year customer service training and later, administrative experience as a certified legal assistant was a perfect fit for BHH's front desk. Prior to becoming our "Director of First Impressions" she volunteered at the front desk for 2 years.

 Her desire to serve others in her community made the transition from stay-at-home mom to fulltime working mom an easy one to make.

 Kelly is married to James and has two daughters, Kristen and Morgan.

 

 

Trina Chin Cheong - Program Director

Trina came to the United States in 2010 after 15 years of experience in the banking industry in her native Trinidad and the United Kingdom. Upon moving to Florida, Trina became involved in the nonprofit world, bringing corporate expertise to the work of the heart.

Moved by the mission of Boca Helping Hands, Trina works to bolster the efforts of the Resource Center, Job Mentor Program, Job Training Programs and outreach in West Boca. She also has developed new initiatives at BHH  for both Health & Wellness and Professional Development offering new transformational opportunities to the community in Boca Raton and surrounding areas.

My goal is to make a difference in someone’s life every day by being the change I wish to see in the world.

 

 

Kelly Coulson - Social Media & Marketing Associate

A rare and true Floridian, Kelly currently resides a stone’s throw away from Boca Helping Hands. After graduating from the University of South Florida with a BFA in photography she returned to South Florida to pursue a career in Marketing and Advertising. It’s with her fine arts background that Kelly approaches social media and marketing with a creative viewpoint – both in significant content and visually grabbing imagery. Her hope is that each post, flyer and update educates the BHH online community on how #BHHhelps South Palm Beach County and encourages them to be a part of building the bridge to self-sufficiency for our clients.

Kelly enjoys exploring South Florida’s culinary scene, being in nature and traveling with her 4-legged copilot Oliver.

 

 

 

Jennifer Disla - Job Training Program Coordinator

Jennifer enthusiastically brings to Boca Helping Hands over ten years of Employee Development. Her experience has been gained within various corporate industries in the South Florida and New York City region. A professional in Human Resources who broadened her knowledge of Employee Relations and Account Management through her added experience in Talent Acquisition; all while managing accounts throughout the United States and Latin America.

Jennifer was born and raised in the Bronx, New York to wonderful Hispanic parents, Orlando and Frances.  Jennifer has two younger siblings however, her sister, Krysten is her greatest motivator and inspiration to push towards the seemingly unattainable.  The sisters’ lost their mother to Cancer and have since been each other’s greatest support system.

On her downtime Jennifer is a full time student at South Florida Bible College pursuing her Bachelors of Arts in Pastoral Ministry.  She is a talented poet/writer, creative artist and avid singer in her Church’s Praise team. Jennifer’s love and care for people proves to be the force which drive all of her endeavors.   She is extremely passionate about giving back to the community and fostering a healthy positive lifestyle. She is a true encourager, supporter and advocate of Human Rights.

Jennifer welcomes all Boca Helping Hands guest to learn more about the Job Training Programs by giving her a call or visiting our location for more details!

 

Bill Harper - Director of Food and Warehouse Operations
After 24 years in the business world Bill sought a more meaningful experience working in the non-profit community. His passion was in mentoring young men and women, equipping them with the necessary tools to succeed in life. Following his passion, in 2006 he became Athletic Director, middle school P.E. teacher and varsity baseball coach at Boca Raton Christian School. Bill helped build an athletic program that would bring over twenty championships to the school over the next five years. He was also a successful baseball coach winning over 90 games in his seven seasons of coaching, winning three district championships along with one district runner-up finish.

Having started at Boca Helping Hands as a volunteer in September, 2011, Bill came on board in November, 2011 in a newly created position to oversee all aspects of food recovery and distribution. Bill’s passion now is two-fold; helping our volunteers have a meaningful experience in serving others and helping our clients with the basic necessity of food. His desire to serve others has grown stronger as he has served at Boca Helping Hands.

Originally from Linthicum, MD, Bill moved with his family to Boca Raton in 1990. He is married to Suzanne Harper and the proud father of three grown children, Andrew, Nicholas and Lauren. Bill enjoys playing the guitar, writing music, reading a good novel, and cheering on the World Champion Baltimore Ravens. Bill holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science from FAU, graduating magna cum laude.

Anne Jaakkola - Bookkeeper

Anne was born and raised in Finland. She moved to USA as a young adult, 35 years ago.

She has been married to Henry for over 30 years, has two daughters, two grandsons and a grandaughter.  She enjoys traveling, running, horseback riding and watching ice hockey. Anne is a proud puppy mommy to 5.5lb Yorkshire Terrier, Jere and 4.5 lb Maltese, Bentley.

She works full time for Gary Peters Family Foundation and, through her job, volunteers at BHH two days a week as a bookkeeper.

 

  

  

 
 
Suzan Javizian - Operations Manager 
Born in Cairo, Egypt of Armenian descent, Suzan and her family came to the United States in 1965 and settled in Detroit, Michigan.   In 1983 she moved to south Florida and worked for JM Family Enterprises for over 25 years.

 In April of 2009, Suzan volunteered in the newly formed Job Mentoring Program and in August of 2009 was offered and accepted a part-time administrative position for the Job Mentoring Program.  Shortly thereafter, when BHH was ready to move into their new building, Suzan was then approached to take on a full time position as Office/Facilities Manager. 

 Suzan is married to Semon Javizian since 1984 and they have one son, Alex, who is 2015 graduate from FAU with a degree in Music Education.  Trixie, her Yorkie-Poo, is a delight to her family.  Suzan enjoys traveling, spending time with her family and friends, and cooking Armenian and Middle Eastern dishes, especially for all the holidays!

 

Melissa Keklik - Volunteer Program Manager

Melissa hails from Huntington, Connecticut. Melissa moved to South Florida in 2009 to attend Florida Atlantic University.  Melissa graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and Management. Growing up in a tight knit family who came to the U.S. from Turkey, they instilled in her that living a healthy lifestyle is the key to living a happy and balanced life. She prides herself on taking care of her body and mind which gives her the strength to condition herself through her love of fitness and taking care of others.  

 

 

 

 

 

Greg Peters - Development Officer

Greg has been living in South Florida since 1983 and in Boca Raton since 1992. He retired from the Financial Services industry in 2008; shortly thereafter he became actively involved with BHH’s Development Office. He focuses on grant opportunities with foundations and corporations while maintaining existing relationships and fostering new partnerships. Greg serves on the boards of Genesis Community Health; The Gary Peters Family Foundation and The Boca Helping Hands Endowment Fund.

Greg and his wife Debbie, enjoy traveling, live music events, dining, golf and tennis. Their daughter, Hayley graduated from Pope John Paul II High School and is continuing her education at Florida Atlantic University as a Marketing Major.

 

 

Karen Swedenborg - Development Manager

Born in Ashtabula, Ohio, Karen has been a transplant Florida Native since 1968 when her parents moved to Florida with Karen and her four siblings.  She graduated from Palm Beach State College with an AA Degree and recieved a BA Degree from Florida Atlantic University, Go OWLES!  Having worked in Development, Special Events and Coordinating Volunteers, Karen came to Boca Helping Hands in 2010 as the Development Manager. 

Karen enjoys theatre and music.  She is an active member in her church choir, and is an avid movie buff, especially the movie classics from the '30's and '40's .

 

 

 

 


Bozena Szalobryt - Director of Food Center

Born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, Bozena graduated from the Warsaw University with Master’s Degree in English Literature and Master’s Degree in Travel and Tourism. In 28 years of her professional life, she devoted majority of her career to conducting her own businesses in Europe and USA.  She is focused on customer service, honesty and integrity, staying 100% committed to her job.

Bozena has been with Boca Helping Hands since August 2006 as the Food Center Manager.  She oversees its operations, making sure people are provided with their basic need, which is food. Her colleagues describe her as an energetic multi-tasker, action and goal oriented, creative but also very compassionate with great communication skills.

In her spare time, Bozena enjoys promoting video communication tools helping to connect people to the world, listening to classical music and playing with her miniature Pinscher Rocky and Chinese Crested Stefan. Bozena is married to John and has two daughters Caroline and Margaret. Her Motto in Life is: Making a Difference in People’s Lives.