Who We Are
As a non-profit organizaiton, HumanKind is made up of a unique group of staff members and Board Directors that play key roles in our daily operations. Get to know us:
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 cooking, gardening, and reading memoirs.
Katie Nakayama, Assistant Manager
Originally from Southern California, Katie moved to SLO during the summer of 2012 to join her sister, Anna, a Cal Poly student. “Now, in addition to living in a beautiful place, I’m excited to combine my love of travel and support for Fair Trade as a member of the Humankind team,” she shares.
Katie chose to attend Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland based on its study abroad program and graduated with a degree in International Studies, completing three study abroad programs in Turkey, South Africa, and Tanzania. She wrote her senior thesis on Fair Trade and the cocoa sector of West Africa after a visit to Ghana and Ivory Coast with Cal Poly professor Tom Neuhaus.
“Accompanying Tom on his NGO’s (Project Hope and Fairness) annual trip to West Africa opened my eyes to understand the need for Fair Trade in our global market.” Katie’s hobbies in addition to travel include hiking, baking, going to the beach, and spending time with friends and family. “I enjoy using my personal experience to promote and share Fair Trade, as well as working with passionate fair trade volunteers.”
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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 Visibility and Marketing committee at the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County.
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.
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.