As a naive 20-something-year-old, having just graduated from Tarleton State University, Brandy went to work for the Department of Family and Protective Services. Little did she know this job would change her life forever.
“I always tell people, whether you work at Child Protective Services (CPS) for two weeks or ten years, it changes you because it is the kind of job that leaves a piece of your heart behind.”
During her time as a CPS caseworker, she worked with several teenagers who shaped her skillset as a Social Worker. One thing she noticed time and time again was how used to abandonment these youth were. Youth after youth she was up against the same challenge– proving she was different than the others and that she was not going to leave them or abandon them.
Brandy began to understand that the key to making a lasting impact in the lives of these youth was persistence, commitment and dedication. It was through this approach that she began to see change in their lives. Youth who were once getting in fights every day at school, running away, and getting kicked out of placements, began to try harder because they believed they could make something of their life. She believed in them and they began to believe in themselves.
After several years working as a caseworker for the state of Texas, Brandy moved on to work with adults, primarily in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and homelessness. Over the course of her years as a Social Worker, she worked in a psychiatric emergency room, a homeless shelter, and three county jails. Seeing the direct connection between youth aging out of foster care and youth entering the other social service programs, she desired to make a great impact– that is why she started Zoie’s Place.
With over 10 years’ experience as a Social Worker, Brandy’s cumulative work history have equipped her to lead and direct Zoie’s Place. Brandy is passionate about bridging the gap between foster care and adulthood. She desires to see every youth connected with a community of support and equipped with the skills they need to live independently.
Board of Directors
Board Chair -- Serving since February, 2018
John Awtry has nearly 30 years’ experience working in the field of finance and economics. He currently holds the position of Chief Financial Officer for Crossvale, Inc. and has played an integral role in taking the company from $3 million to $10 million in just three years. Mr. Awtry’s background in business and finance provides indispensable value to Zoie’s Place in its formative years. In addition, Mr. Awtry has a passion for working with children and has served as a board member for the international orphan care ministry, Haiti Vision 3, which provides services to children and young adults in children’s homes in Haiti. Mr. Awtry possesses a B.S. in Finance and Economics and an MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Shannon Cole, LMSW
Secretary -- Serving since October, 2016
With over 16 years of experience working for Child Protective Services, Shannon has knowledge and insight that are invaluable to the aid of Zoie’s Place. Shannon is a champion for the rights of abused and neglected children and her heart overflows with compassion. Shannon’s expertise, familiarity with the system, and resourcefulness are a cherished combination.
Serving since December, 2017
Melinda Rathke is a luxury retail store manager with over 30 years’ experience in wholesale sales and retail management. She has held management positions with Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, Escada, Carolina Herrera, Loro Piana and is currently the Store Director of Etro in Highland Park Village. She is active in the community, primarily with organizations that assist women and children. She is passionate about her faith, her family, her pets and improving the lives of abused and neglected children.
Treasurer -- Serving since November, 2017
Since she was seven years old, Crystal’s remembers her mother following her passion to help disadvantaged youth by becoming a foster parent. The home she grew up in was always filled with one to four new brothers or sisters at any given time, over 73 in total. Early on, she had to learn to share her life, belongings, and family with complete strangers. She still remembers each of them, from her first sister Fran, to her most recent brother, Lamont and even after gaging out of the foster care system, most of them still find their way back home.
As she grew into adulthood, she began to notice that although her siblings received the love they always needed, they still weren’t prepared for life after state-care. Many ended up in jail, homeless, dead, or continue to struggle on their way to find success. Like many young adults beyond eighteen, they still need guidance and support on how to make the right decisions. As she continued to see her siblings return home for this guidance, she couldn’t help but think of all of the foster children who didn’t have that loving, supportive environment her mom created. As a result, Crystal has dedicated her life to serve underrepresented children. Crystal has started her own nonprofit organization, Buried Seeds, to aid transitioning foster children to adulthood. Her experience growing up as a sibling to children in foster care and maintaining relationship with them after they aged out of foster care helps Zoie’s Place to make decisions from the prospective of the young adults we serve.