Who We Are
As a non-profit organization, HumanKind is made up of a unique group of staff members, volunteers, and a board of directors that all play key roles in our daily operations.
LynAnne Wiest, Store Manager
LynAnne grew up in Kingsburg, a small town in Central California. She ventured to the Midwest for college, studying graphic design at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, graduating in 2009. While in college, LynAnne took advantage of the school’s month-long study tours, traveling to Western Europe in 2007 and Southern India in 2008. These opportunities ignited a love of cultures and an interest in how people live in different parts of the world.
LynAnne grew up with knowledge of fair trade, and spent many hours playing with the Fair Trade toys in World Handcrafts, a Fair Trade store in Reedley, California that has since closed. This knowledge turned into a passion when she had the opportunity to spend a year working with Fair Trade artisan groups in Phnom Penh, Cambodia through Mennonite Central Committee, a faith-based relief and development agency. As a Market and Product Design Advisor, LynAnne worked alongside artisans to develop products that would be appealing to their western customers. This entire experience, living with a host family, learning about traditional Cambodian handicrafts, and seeing how Fair Trade business can make an impact in peoples’ lives, left LynAnne with a desire to play a part in giving these people a way to support themselves and their families. Following her year in Cambodia, LynAnne worked as Assistant Manager of Plowsharing Crafts in St. Louis, Missouri, a large Fair Trade store that began in 1985. She joined the HumanKind team in June of 2013.
In her spare time, LynAnne loves traveling, eating sushi, and working creative projects of all kinds.
Tim Kelly, Assistant Manager
Tim Kelly grew up on a ranch in Los Osos Valley where some of his favorite memories consist of working in the orchards and veggie gardens, raising goats for milk, and keeping bees. From these experiences Tim developed a great respect and connection to the environment.
He worked with Earthflow, a small local permaculture based landscape company building edible and sustainable landscapes. Tim then moved from landscaping into the plant nursery business where, before his most recent job, he worked as the grower and nursery manager of San Luis Creek Nursery, a native and drought tolerant plant nursery. Before joining the HumanKind team, he spent 9.5 years working with Green Goods, a local environmentally friendly design build firm. There Tim worked as a designer/sales person and finished his construction career as the project manager.
He lives in Nipomo with his wife, Alissa, and their furry family. A family consisting of 2 cats, 2 dogs and 2 tortoises. On his days off Tim enjoys working in the garden or on the house, hiking local trails, seeing live music, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.
Lanelle Chavez, Sales Associate
A native to the central coast, Lanelle grew up in Pismo Beach where she spent most of her time in the tide pools and white wash of the Pacific Ocean. Following a deep passion for the arts and theater, she moved to Los Angeles to study theater at the University of California of Los Angeles. After earning her bachelors, she worked in various film offices such as RatPac Entertainment (Horrible Bosses, The Revenant, Kong) and Bay Films (Transformers, Bad Boys, Armageddon). Seeking a career path with more involvement within the community, Lanelle moved back to the central coast to help create a more meaningful and positive impact.
Lanelle currently works as a part time theater teacher for two different middle schools as well as studies sound design and audio production. She loves the incredibly warm and passionate staff of HumanKind and is grateful for her deepening involvement of community on a global level. Working at HumanKind has allowed Lanelle to feel part of a wider web of support and empowerment.
Jenny Grady, Marketing Intern
Jenny is a SLO-native who volunteered at HumanKind for two years while attending SLO High, where she graduated in 2016. Jenny has just completed her first year at Scripps College in Claremont, California and decided return to HumanKind for the summer as a Marketing Intern. She has not yet declared her major but is considering Religious Studies and Linguistics and plans to minor in French. After college Jenny hopes to work for an organization that empowers marginalized groups and educates the public by sharing their stories–perhaps a fair trade organization or an organization for women. In her free time, Jenny enjoys running, camping, baking, and playing with her dog Ollie.
Laura Mullen, President
Laura Mullen is a “Heinz57″ Southerner who was happy as a clam in Texas until she was dispatched to California on a 6-week temporary assignment with Shell Oil Company. Her first day in San Luis Obispo, she had a meeting with one Pat Mullen, and the next thing you know, she finagled a transfer to the Golden State. Laura and Pat have been happily ensconced in SLO since 1993 and have 3 involved “young adults” age 16, 18 and 20.
Laura is a “professional volunteer” now, active at the First Presbyterian Church and SLO High School, and with AFS student exchange and the German School Committee exchange program with Rotary de Tolosa.
Her family has hosted four exchange students from Germany, Denmark, Kyrghyzstan, and Japan. Laura’s Thursdays are spent, though, at HumanKind, where she has volunteered since the store opened in 2009.
Elizabeth Aebischer, Secretary and Store Founder
Elizabeth Aebischer started dreaming about a Fair Trade store in San Luis Obispo in 2006 after her first child was born. With a group of dedicated people, she formed a nonprofit and raised funds to make that dream a reality in 2009.
“I am thrilled at the hope that our little store generates, both here in our community and around the world!”
As a mother and a teacher, Elizabeth believes in a bright future for families all around the world. “I love how Fair Trade empowers artisans and farmers, many of whom are women, to become leaders and improve their communities with their earnings. ¡Viva HumanKind!”
Sharon Juhnke, Volunteer Coordinator
Sharon Juhnke was first drawn into the HumanKind store because of her background in anthropology, archaeology, education and museum work. “The stories of the people behind objects have always fascinated me,” she shares. “But what I found here was much more–not only an opportunity for me to give back, but also an education about Fair Trade and an increased global awareness.”
As SLO County residents since 1986, Sharon and her husband raised their sons here, and have worked and volunteered in the community in a wide range of fields, from archaeology to giving behind-the-scenes guides at the Performing Arts Center to being volunteer coordinator at the high school. “HumanKind has been my most fulfilling volunteer job, and I am pleased to be involved with such a great cause and get to work with so many interesting folks!” When not doing something HumanKind-related, Sharon enjoys hiking, reading, jewelry-making, traveling and especially cooking.
Joan Parker, Treasurer
Joan Parker is passionate about her profession, giving to others and traveling. She spends the majority of her time as owner of Empowering Financial Solutions, Inc., a fee-only firm established in 2007 that offers personalized financial planning and investment management services to individuals.
As a graduate of UC Berkeley, Joan spends time serving as the chairperson of the local scholarship committee, hosting the annual summer picnic and attending football games when time allows. She also serves on the Board of The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County and Women’s Legacy Fund advisory committee, a fund held at the Foundation.
Joan shares, “When not in San Luis Obispo – one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I love to travel! When approached by Sharon Juhnke, Laura Mullen and Jackie Parker in the summer of 2012, the idea of participating on the board of HumanKind fanned the embers originally sparked while traveling in Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro and in South Africa to watch the World Cup in 2010 where those less fortunate than ourselves is commonplace.”
She is married to Larry Parker, an engineer at Diablo Canyon, and has two sons.
Jackie Parker moved to SLO in 1982 and worked for Caltrans for 30 years with a career in Human Resources and Administration. She and her husband Ben have two sons and over the years added to their brood by hosting several exchange students. Jackie’s own large family hailed from Oklahoma, but since 7th grade she loyally adopted California.
Since retiring in 2009 Jackie actively volunteers with the First Presbyterian Church (deacons and homeless services), AFS (support for exchange students and host families), and is a member of the German School Committee Board. She and Ben particularly enjoy travel through home exchanges. Jackie enjoys biking, sewing, knitting, crafts, entertaining and friends.
Ali Semon trained to be a teacher at UC Santa Barbara, but instead took over the family business, Frame Works, when her parents retired in 2004. Her experience in retail started at a young age while helping her parents out in their business.
As a member of the Board, Ali brings to HumanKind the perspective of a small business owner who understands the local community’s retail climate.
She loves to travel and give back to my community as a volunteer, serving on the YMCA Board of Directors, Leadership SLO Board of Directors, SLO Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, SLO Gallery Association and most recently as last year’s President of San Luis Obispo’s Rotary de Tolosa Club.
Whitney Szentesi joined the HumanKind board of directors in 2016, but she has a long history of volunteerism and has served on several nonprofit boards in San Luis Obispo County over the years. Her love of volunteering started in high school when she joined her campus’s Amnesty International Club. This organization nurtured her passion for raising awareness about human rights abuses and inequality around the globe, a passion which she brings to the HumanKind Board.
Whitney works full-time as the Communications Analyst for the County of San Luis Obispo and teaches part-time at Cal Poly in the evenings. She moved to San Luis Obispo County from Ventura County in 2006 to attend Cal Poly and fell in love with the region. She loves to travel and see the world, but says her favorite thing about traveling is coming home to SLO. She spends her spare time cooking up a storm with her husband, dog and two cats.
Debby Nicklas is currently Vice President of Philanthropy for the French Hospital Medical Center Foundation. She led the effort to establish the hospital foundation in 2004 when Dignity Health acquired French Hospital. Under her leadership, the Foundation was named “Foundation of the Year” by Dignity Health in 2016.
Debby has held numerous senior-level management positions in health care marketing, business development, public relations, and fundraising, and was a part-time lecturer at California Polytechnic State University.
A dedicated volunteer, Debby has been involved with several not-for-profit organizations. She has served as board chairwoman for the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, which named her Citizen of the Year in 2002. She received the Woman of Distinction Award from Cuesta College in 2006. Today, she is a member of Rotary Club de Tolosa San Luis Obispo, president-elect of the local chapter of the Association for Fundraising Professionals and a board member of RISE. She is deeply honored and very excited to join HumanKind.
Debby lives in San Luis Obispo with her husband, Steve, and has two grown sons.