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Board of Directors

Our Board of Directors

Willows Way is a 501c3, not-for-profit organization that is directed by an experienced administrative team and an active Board of Directors.

Willows Way Board Members are vital to our organization’s mission. We are very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable and dedicated team serving as advisers, decision makers, problem solvers and advocates from several different industries around the St. Louis area. We’d love to expand our team of professionals to make an even greater impact.

For more information about volunteering on the Board of Directors, please inquire.

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Michael Cherba

My nephew has Down Syndrome, so that gave me an understanding of the disability and the demand in the community for programs that assist others with those types of needs. Additionally, I worked for the Missouri Attorney General's Office in the Mental Health Unit and witnessed cases of caregivers who would misuse funds and verbally and physically abuse the vulnerable people who they were supposed to be taking care of. I wanted to do some good and be involved in something that helped people with disabilities. I was recruited to the Willows Way Board of Directors by a former board member in 2012.

One of my goals in serving on the board is to keep Executive Director Joy Steele and her staff well supplied with what they need in order to run the type of organization that I believe they are, and are striving to continue to be. I also want to try to increase our board reserve fund so that if, and when, there is another economic downturn or cuts that could negatively impact our services, we will be in good shape. I am also striving to increase participation in our RISE day program and helping to build up our Individualized Supported Living (ISL) program.


Vice President
Kirby Cole
Director/Talent Aquisition

While I may not know someone personally with a developmental disability, I realized how blessed my life has been and decided that I needed to do something to give back and share my blessings with others.

When I discovered Willows Way, I found an organization dedicated to its mission, and a group of people who genuinely care for their clients. That inspired me to want to be a part.

As Vice-President, my goal is to advance the mission of Willows Way and to help people with developmental disabilities live an independent, dignified, happy and productive life.


Mike Parsons
Retired Engineer/Management

When I retired in 2011, I decided that, as part of my retirement plan, I would devote a certain portion of my time giving back to the community. When I was getting ready to retire, a friend of mine who was already on the board recommended Willows Way to me. I liked the place, the people and what they were doing for people with developmental disabilities, so I interviewed for a seat on the board.

The board has goals that we set yearly. As Chairman of the Finance Committee, I make sure the agency stays liquid and that the money is being spent in the right areas. Our goal is working for the long-term financial health of the organization.

An old Chinese proverb says that we spend the first third of our lives learning, the second third earning and last third giving back. I am very happy to be spending my retirement years helping Willows Way. I think they do a terrific job.



David Barkey
Air, Land & Sea Express

I have a younger brother with a developmental disability and he receives some of his services through Willows Way. I know that my brother, who has autism, enjoys and feels supported by the services provided to him by Willows Way.

I got involved with Willows Way five years ago because I wanted to support people with developmental disabilities. I have been involved with a variety of organizations since age 14 or 15. Over the years, I have seen a lot of positive changes in terms of opportunities available for people with developmental disabilities, but I still think that there is a lot more that can be done.

As a Willows Way board member, I am able to provide the perspective of a family member affected by a developmental disability and I am continually striving for more outreach and activities for our clients.


Brian Brooks
Director of Demand Planning

I have a teenage son with severe autism. I plan to use my experiences raising a child with a severe developmental disability to help others within the Willows Way organization.

I learned about Willows Way through one of the current board members. I saw being on the Willows Way Board of Directors as a new experience for me and a new way to help out and reach others through my experiences, in a positive way.

My goal on the Board of Directors will be encouraging parents and family members of individuals with developmental disabilities to seek out and accept support from organizations such as Willows Way. I want people to realize that it's okay to receive help; you don't have to do this all on your own. Getting and accepting help to care for a person with a developmental disability is a positive move for everyone involved.


Rick Isaac
Merric Millwork and Seating

I was searching to be a part of an organization that helps those in need and found Willows Way.

Willows Way helps those in need to live their life to their fullest potential.

I am proud to be a part of this organization and will use my talents to support and help them serve their cause.


Ryan Strecker

Ryan Strecker
Account Executive at GuidePoint Security

I was introduced to Willows Way by current board Vice President Kirby Cole. I have also been personally affected by a family member with I/DD and wanted to use my personal experience to improve the lives of others.

My four-year-old son Liam has Down Syndrome. He has had an amazing, positive effect on my family's life. He has shown us the true meaning of love and joy. There are many private and public support organizations to help people with disabilities when they are young. I wanted to help support and grow an organization that helps adults with disabilities lead fulfilling lives and focuses on building relationships and achieving independence.


Mayur Thulasidas

Mayur Thulasidas
VP Business Banking Officer with U.S. Bank

I was looking to make volunteerism a greater part of my life when I was introduced to Willows Way by current Board Member Brian Brooks.

I have volunteered short-term in the past with organizations that assist people with developmental disabilities. I am hoping to make it a more recurring theme in my life. The fulfillment one gets to see individuals visibly make progress is most important to me.

I also plan to use my six years of banking industry experience to assist Willows Way with its overall financial strategy.


Abby Hare
Quality Systems Engineer for Synergetics (Bausch + Lomb)

Abby Hare, a Quality Systems Engineer for Synergetics (Bausch + Lomb), says she had been looking into volunteer opportunities and searching various websites when she came across the Willows Way Board of Directors position and liked what she read about the organization and its mission.

Hare has a younger sister who was born 10 weeks premature and is greatly impacted developmentally and somewhat physically.

“I was five years old when she was born, so I grew up with her restrictions and disabilities being my normal life,” said Hare. “She will never be independent, and I know how much of a burden this can be on caretakers. She currently lives with my parents, but I will be her provider should anything happen to my parents. Organizations such as Willows Way are great resources.”


Julaine Murphy
Senior Consultant in Learning and Development

Julaine Murphy, a Senior Consultant in Learning and Development, holds the position of Secretary on the Board of Directors. She said her family was searching for a day program for her brother and sister when the sibling’s case manager recommended Willows Way. Growing up, Murphy’s family included her biological sister with Down Syndrome and foster brothers and sisters with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities.

“The more I researched and learned about Willows Way, the more I wanted to get involved. Willows Way became our provider of choice and an organization that I wanted to serve,” said Murphy.

Murphy has a brother Matt, 43, who came to her family as an infant, and a sister Lori, 52, who has been with her family since the age of five. Matt and Lori, who both have Down Syndrome, use services provided by Willows Way, including Individualized Supported Living which allows them to live with the right balance of independence and supportive care in homes within neighborhoods. They also attend the RISE day program three days a week which gives them social interaction and community involvement opportunities.

As a member of the Program & Quality committee, Murphy has set a goal to continually find ways to develop the skills and attitudes of team members when it comes to providing the best care possible to Willows Way’s clients.

“We must care for our team members so they will care for our clients. Willows Way provides excellent training and is absolutely on the right track. I am also interested in building board engagement, empathy and insight by creating opportunities for connection between board members and clients, and board members and staff,” she said. “The vision and mission of Willows Way are powerful, and their leadership is second to none. I feel honored to join the Board of Directors.”


Jessica Maykopet, MSW
Behavioral Health Clinician

Jessica Maykopet, MSW, is a Behavioral Health Clinician who previously worked at Willows Way and has returned as a board member to fulfill her desire to volunteer. “Willows Way was very supportive of me and my career and path when I worked there and I wanted to give back,” she said.

Maykopet says she was inspired to volunteer on the Willows Way Board of Directors by a cousin who is blind and developmentally disabled who benefitted greatly from similar services in Illinois, so the work that Willows Way does is important to her.

“The existing board has done a wonderful job of helping the agency position itself for success and to be able to help the most people possible,” she said. “I want to be able to continue that work and help any way that I can.”