MEET OUR STAFF

Jenna Christensen

Executive Director

jenna@rih.me

Jon Standerfer

Peer Recovery Specialist

Elliott Lamere

Elliott Lamere

Peer Recovery Specialist

Siobhan Mckee

Peer Recovery Specialist

Jessica Minear

T-ADC Treatment Counselor (Austin, MN)

Jodi Solum

Administrative Assistant

Brooke Rayfield

LADC Treatment Counselor

Shirleen Voigt

Administrative Assistant (Austin, MN)

Angie Sailor

LADC Treatment Counselor (Austin, MN)

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Sharon Duneman

Board Chair

Stephanie Hurt

Chris Rock

Sarah Kirk-Maass

Kurt Lentz

Melissa Dickison

Jennifer Smith

Dr. Bob Hyde

Cheryl Laugen

Peer Recovery Specialist Supervisor

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Byron, Minnesota.

What are your favorite things to do?
Spending time with my children and grandchildren at family game night

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening.
For the vast majority of 16 years I lived in active addiction. During that time I caused major damage to myself, my family and the community I lived in. I was unable to be the mother my children deserved. My substance use disorder had caused me to be a person I detested. Early in my recovery I met Tiffany Hunsley, founder of Recovery Is Happening. She gave me an opportunity to volunteer and a chance to give back to my community. It is during that time I became aware of the Peer Recovery Specialist position, a job that my life experiences made me qualified for. Today I am honored to walk along side so many others as they begin their own recovery journeys. This has blessed me with the opportunity to take the nightmare experiences of my substance use disorder and use that to have a positive impact on so many others and their families.

Is there something about you that might surprise us?Prior to my substance use disorder, my entire criminal history consisted of a speeding ticket.

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
Recovery has allowed me to challenge my own thinking and strive to always be a better person than I was the day before.

Ethel Chitseko

Lead Peer Recovery Specialist

Where did you grow up? 
Malawi 

What are your favorite things to do? 
Fishing, cooking and painting. 

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening.
I was looking for support and to get connected. The treatment program I was in recommended I check Recovery Is Happening out. I have always known addiction to be a dark place in my life and I didn’t understand the happiness that living in recovery could help me obtain. I saw that at Recovery Is Happening and I wanted it for myself. 

Is there something about you that might surprise us?
I have weekly dance offs with my two wonderful daughters. 

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
I have learned to accept life as it is and I am growing to learn what God’s purpose is for my life.  

Tyler Mayer-Engelking

Peer Recovery Specialist

Where did you grow up?
Rochester, Minnesota

What are your favorite things to do? 
Skateboarding, music and spending time with family and friends. 

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening
Chronically addicted for 15 years of my life. Ended up homeless for the last 4 years of active addiction. Went through many trials and tribulations that left me wanting more for myself. After doing inpatient treatment, I sought out Peer Services at Recovery Is Happening. After obtaining long-term sobriety, I found myself wanting to help others in the way others helped me along my journey. Not only have I found a greater sense of purpose in life I have found another community and family. 

Is there something about you that might surprise us?
I was homeless for 4 years and living in tents in the woods and under bridges around the area. 

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
Having the capability to enjoy life in a way I never knew was possible. Having the ability to mindful and experience genuine laughter and appreciation of life. 

Maria Sontag

Peer Recovery Specialist

Where did you grow up?
Canada until I was 5 years old, then Lake City, MN. I am from Sagkeeng First Nation Aninishnaabe.

What are your favorite things to do? 
Hiking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, fishing and connecting with my Native American culture. 

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening
There was an employee that worked at Recovery Is Happening that encouraged me to become a peer recovery specialist. I never thought I had anything to offer! After 9 years of clean time I finally took the Peer Recovery Specialist academy at Recovery Is Happening. I have worked as a Peer Recovery Specialist for 3 years at two different organizations in Minnesota. 

Is there something about you that might surprise us?
I used to work in the carnival!

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
Absolutely everything, including the ups and downs. I love it when life isn’t perfect because I grow and evolve. I now have the ability to travel and be a part of new experiences and be present for them. 

Kalie Vreeman

Peer Recovery Specialist

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Stewartville Minnesota.

What are your favorite things to do?
Other than being a mother, I like to do a variety of things. I like cooking, being outdoors especially by the water, random arts and crafts mostly DIY youtube projects, and I can’t forget the thrill of amusement parks!

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening?
I started intensive outpatient care in June of 2022 at Recovery is happening. I graduated in January of 2023. During those short but life changing 7 months I received amazing support from not only the staff there but others that were working on their own Recovery Journey. I knew I wanted to give back what was given to me so I took the PRS course in February 2023 and I join the Recovery is Happening team in March! 

Is there something about you that might surprise us?
I have never seen the ocean! 

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
There are many favorite parts but hands down being the best mom I can to my children. Being able to provide them a safe and supportive environment. A positive role model and most importantly being there for them! 

Peter Aufenthie

Peer Recovery Specialist

Where did you grow up?Rochester Minnesota 

What are your favorite things to do?
My favorite things to do are fishing and fellowship… sometimes at the same time. 

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening.
After 30+ years of addiction, homelessness, and criminal thinking I was offered the option of 60 months (about 5 years) in prison or the opportunity to experience recovery. Recovery turned out to be the greatest thing to ever happen to me. I am extremely grateful to have received a second chance in life. I owe it all to God,12 step meetings, and the fellowship of a fantastic recovery community. When I was offered the chance to be a peer recovery specialist and help others fighting with addiction as I had, I saw it as an opportunity to turn my gratitude into an action.  

Is there something about you that might surprise us?Not really, I am a face value, what you see is what you get kind of guy. I think Being authentic is the best way to build trust with my participant’s and everyone else I associate with.  

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
I do not know where to start with this question. I have so much gratitude today. I’m grateful for the relationship I have with my family. Recovery has shown me how to be a good son, so in turn I have great parents. When I decided to be honest people started to trust me. It sounds stupid, but I had to learn that when I stopped breaking the law the police officers stopped knocking on my door. Today I get to hold my head up and walk with a sense of integrity that I’ve never known before. And that to me means doing the next right thing, even when no one is looking. I have great friends, and a fantastic job with people that treat me like family. I have been givin the opportunity to help people change their lives like I have. I mean really, what could be better than that? 

 

Caitelyn Caskey

Peer Recovery Specialist

Where did you grow up?
Willmar, Minnesota 

What are your favorite things to do? 
Riding my motorcycle, going shooting, spending time with my loved ones and traveling.

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening
I was pregnant and still in my active addiction. I reached out to Cheryl at Recovery Is Happening and asked for her help. I received services for 2 years and then enrolled in Peer Academy at Doc’s Recovery House. 

Is there something about you that might surprise us?
I am a dual citizen for the United States of America and Burkina Faso, Africa

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
Being able to support others and having a clear mind.  

Leah Stempf

Peer Recovery Specialist

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small, blink-and-you-miss-it town, Onamia, MN. 

What are your favorite things to do?
I enjoy spending time with my littles and family making memories. I love listening to music and doing puzzles. I love mingling with people. I love just chilling on the couch in my home watching a movie with my kiddos and vegging out! It really is the small simple things I truly enjoy. 

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening
I started my Recovery Journey with Recovery is Happening. In 2019 I lost everything including my children due to my addiction. I was living in ford ranger with my cat and had no one. I realized I couldn’t do it no more and I was nothing without my kids! So, I made the choice to leave Rochester and put myself into treatment. I did 2 months of outpatient up in the cities and I honestly had no intentions of coming back to Rochester, but my higher power had a different plan for me.

I ended up coming back here and doing 18 months of outpatient with Recovery is Happening and in those 18 months I got my license, home and kids back and started working and graduated outpatient treatment. Shortly after graduating I was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma which is a cancer of the blood and had to undergo 6 months of chemo. It was the scariest thing I had to do but I remained positive and kept my faith and realized now that it was part of my rebirthing process.

I was in the last month and Pam, my counselor from Recovery is Happening had reached out and asked if I was interested in coming to work for Recovery is Happening and I said yes, and they were willing to hold the position for me until I was done with my last round of chemo. I started by witnessing UAs for Recovery is Happening and then was offered a part time position at the front desk. After doing that for a while I realized I wanted more and made the choice to take the PRS course at Doc’s Recovery and was offered a position to be Peer Recovery Specialist and here I am! 

Is there something about you that might surprise us?
I love going on vacation with my family. Our new tradition since I became sober and that is me and my kids go to a different state every year and we go school clothes shopping and take as many pictures as possible! I remember when I lived paycheck to paycheck and took my kids piggy bank money. It’s a blessing to live this life I live now, and it wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for my higher power, my loved ones above, my inner strength and my earth angels that looked out for me. 

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
Connection! I used to think I was highly introverted when I was in addiction but it turns out I am highly extraverted and love being a free spirit and flowing with all the different people I cross paths with daily. 

Brandon Moseng

Peer Recovery Specialist

Where did you grow up?
(Up North) Hinckley, Minnesota

What are your favorite things to do?
I love to fish, work on vehicles, play basketball, going for walks with my 3 kids. I love anything outdoors.

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening
My biggest motivation to become a Peer Recovery Specialist was to give back to a community that I once hurt, I love to help people and love to see people succeed.

Is there something about you that might surprise us?I’m a big teddy bear (haha)!

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
My favorite part of recovery is that I’m able to pass my story and knowledge on my recovery path. I love connecting with new people and hearing other people’s stories, by me helping others I’m also helping myself!

Makenzie Boone

Peer Recovery Specialist

Where did you grow up
Albert Lea, Minnesota

What are your favorite things to do? 
Anything that involves being in nature, traveling, visiting different waterfalls, shopping, baking!

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening
Well… At the time I was currently applying for jobs as a corrections officer. I went though 5 interviews, no one would hire me as I didn’t have the required time since my last change. I felt defeated. I gave up. About 6 months later Jeremy called me and mentioned he was quitting and recommending me for his job. I called Cheryl and Jenna and they asked me to come in for an interview.

Is there something about you that might surprise us
From the age of 17- 21 I traveled to many different states with the fair. I worked on rides, games, food joints, and for the last two years I babysat for a family. I stayed with the same crew for 4 years. I consider them family and some of my best friends. 

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?
Freedom! Being able to live life, travel, meet new friends, being able to smile and laugh again.

Recovery functions/ fellowships. It refuels my soul and It gives me energy.

Cassie Pappas

Treatment Counselor

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Rochester, Minnesota. I lived in some of the smaller towns near Rochester as well as a teenager.

What are your favorite things to do?
I enjoy lifting weights, reading, watching my kids learn, socializing but also deeply value my solitude.

Tell us about the journey that brought you to Recovery Is Happening
When I was getting ALLLL the way clean in 2015, the women I looked up to in recovery were apart of RIH, which at some point lead to volunteering and eventually getting certified as a peer support. Additionally, I was in college to obtain my alcohol and drug counseling degree. I eagerly returned to do my practicum and haven’t left since. I am a proud employee of Recovery Is Happening today.

Is there something about you that might surprise us?

Oh boy, the things that come to mind. In 2006 my brother passed away from an opioid overdose and 2019 my mother passed away due to complications of her alcoholism.

What is your favorite part of being in recovery?

It’s difficult to narrow it down! One of my fav 5 things about being in recovery is witnessing people come back to life after stopping use. The pigment in their skin turns from grey to a healthy shade, is one of the biggest rewards of being in recovery.