Marina Peshterianu joined Bridge Refugee Services Chattanooga in 1999 transitioning from the career in education. Before joining Bridge, she taught in an inner-city magnet school focusing on environmental and global issues.
During her time at Bridge, Marina participated in resettlement of refugees from Vietnam, Bosnia, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Liberia, Sudan, Burundi, Tanzania, Congo, Chad, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Cuba and Colombia and performed a variety of job responsibilities such as case-manager, job developer, Early Employment (MG) program coordinator, sub-office coordinator, and became Associate Director in 2014.
“I am honored to have an opportunity to help refugees from all over the world to make a transition into their new life in our community and reclaim their freedom and independence. Their achievements are an everyday affirmation of human capacity to survive, rise and step forward”
Joellen Banks is a California native who came to Chattanooga to join Bridge in December 2022 as an AmeriCorps VISTA, coordinating the Youth Mentoring Program. She developed a passion for engaging with international communities while studying abroad in England, Guatemala and Sicily. After graduating from the University of Redlands with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, she worked for a federal grant program at a middle school. She then moved to Latin America to earn her TEFL certificate and went on to teach English as a foreign language for 3 years in Peru and Guatemala. She looks forward to learning through her position at Bridge and serving the refugee youth community. In her free time, Joellen enjoys reading, doing yoga and hiking.
Bonnie Boley is passionate about welcoming newcomers to Chattanooga and connecting with other cultures. She graduated from Pellissippi State Community College with an Associate of Science in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Middle Tennessee State University. Before joining Bridge in 2019, Bonnie worked for a U.S. Member of Congress as a caseworker and event coordinator. Her responsibilities include overseeing setting up apartments, meeting families at the airport, connecting refugees with language and social services and ensuring they receive extensive cultural orientation. She also supports refugee families through the Matching Grant Early Employment Program with the goal of refugees becoming financially independent within 4-6 months of arrival.
Sarah Copeland joined Bridge in August 2021 as an AmeriCorps VISTA, coordinating the Youth Mentoring Program. After completing her AmeriCorps term, Sarah accepted another position with Bridge as a Program Specialist. From hosting exchange students throughout her childhood and being exposed to displacement living in Turkey and Spain during two of her summer breaks, her desire to learn about people and serve people from different countries grew. She graduated from Covenant College with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, with a focus on migration, and is eager to continue learning more through Bridge and the people it serves. In her role, Sarah works with special populations (or Ukrainians) determining eligibility, scheduling appointments, and referring clients to services prior to their meetings with case managers. In her free time, Sarah enjoys cooking and being outside as much as possible.
Jennifer Croxall has traveled extensively and has a passion for other cultures. She has been volunteering with Bridge Refugee Services in various capacities since 2000, when her church co-sponsored a refugee family. Jennifer became a Pre Arrival Specialist at Bridge in 2015. Her responsibilities include securing affordable housing for refugees, preparing apartments with community volunteers for newly arriving refugees, and providing them with housing orientation to assist them in their transition into their new home. Jennifer graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a B.S. in Psychology.
Angel Daugherty is our Tennessee Office for Refugees Liaison/Senior Case Manager. She is responsible for enrolling clients into appropriate TOR funded programs, managing cash and medical assistance eligibility, and timely reporting for all programs. TOR provides state administered refugee resettlement programs providing assistance (cash and medical) and social services to refugees with the purpose of increasing refugee prospects for early employment and self-sufficiency. She is responsible for providing Health Literacy Training (general health, nutrition, mental health, and other special topics) to all newly arriving clients, as well as assisting case managers with medical case management for clients with ongoing or more serious health concerns. Angel works closely with program staff to provide ongoing support and/or training as needed.
Wies de Laat joined Bridge in August 2022 as a Programs Support Specialist. She was born and raised in The Netherlands where she graduated from Radboud University Nijmegen with a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology and a Master’s degree in Human Geography: Globalization, Migration and Development. Her interest in topics related to migration started when she lived a year in Mexico, where she learned more about undocumented migrants and migrant caravans passing through the South American continent. Having studied migration, she is excited to put her knowledge into practice at Bridge and assist those who come to this country through the refugee program. Her responsibilities include locating appropriate and affordable housing for newly arriving refugees, managing in-kind donations, and coordinating apartment set up with volunteers and Bridge staff. She will also provide clerical and administrative support for all Bridge’s programs.
In her free time Wies enjoys traveling, ballet classes, and going for a hike with her dog Cindy.
Ellen Eichelberger joined Bridge’s case management team in October 2022. She graduated from the College of Charleston with Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and International Studies and is excited to be returning professionally to her field of study. Ellen’s passion about the nonprofit arena is due in no small part to her experiences living and studying in post-conflict regions of Uganda during college, where it became clear that nonprofits can be truly incredible community builders. As a case manager, Ellen is thrilled to be working with refugees and immigrants to further strengthen our communities. Outside of work, Ellen is passionate about designing her life for adventure and sustainability, and is often found exploring southeast Tennessee’s incredible outdoors.
Marina Ghani moved to the US in 2017 from Brazil where she worked as an Occupational Therapist in the mental health field. She assists vulnerable populations since 2008. Her experience spreads through non-profit organizations and government institutions at municipal and federal levels. Before she joined Bridge her work focused on community health programs, client-based interventions, and the National Professional Rehabilitation Program in Brazil.
Since she moved to the US she has volunteered at several organizations including Bridge< Refugees Services, continuing to be actively involved in the improvement of people’s quality of life and empowering them to be independent. Marina loves working with people in a collaborative team-based environment.
She likes arts projects, painting, crocheting, meeting new people and visiting new places. She is a volunteer who raises dogs for Smoky Mountain Service Dogs in Lenoir City. But most of all Marina enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.
Peyton Jocsing joined Bridge in March of 2022 as a Case Manager and the Wilson Fish TANF Liaison. Prior to Bridge, she worked as a case manager at another nonprofit organization in Chattanooga. Peyton became interested in the social sector during her time as a collegiate and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and History with a minor in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management from UTC. After university, Peyton moved to Spain in 2018 to teach as an ELA at a high/middle school for an academic school year. Once coming back to the States, she went on to obtain her TEFL certificate and is certified to teach English as a second language. Peyton has dedicated the past three years to nonprofit work and is excited to work with refugees at Bridge.
Sarah Pedersen is passionate about helping others and learning new cultures. After growing up in New York around many diverse cultures and around family members who worked with refugees and non-profit agencies, Sarah has always had the desire to use her talents to serve her community and make it a welcoming place for all people. She joined Bridge in January 2022, after teaching second grade for 4 years, and made the transition out of serving children through education into serving families with Bridge Refugee Services. She works to ensure refugees integrate into the community by providing social adjustment and employment services while orienting them to their new community. She will also be a school liaison, helping students and families navigate the education system. She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with loved ones.
Megan Revis joined Bridge Refugee Services in February 2022 as a Case Manager. She graduated from Liberty University with her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies and a Master of Public Health. Megan’s desire to work with refugees began when she had the opportunity to work with refugee and migrant centers in Europe during an internship. As a Case Manager, she is passionate about helping refugees resettle and integrate into Chattanooga. Megan enjoys a good book, a long walk, and kayaking in her free time.
Nathan Walker hails from Birmingham, AL but has gladly called Chattanooga home for a number of years. He joined Bridge in October 2022 as our new Volunteer and Co-Sponsorship Manager.
Nathan’s experience managing volunteers for nonprofits, undergraduate degree in Community Development from Covenant College (‘16), and drive to empower marginalized and at risk communities are all pieces that helped him find us. He enjoys the chance to facilitate our clients’ successful integration into Chattanooga through the invaluable aid of our volunteers.
Nathan’s passion to travel the world and see other ways of life developed his global perspective.
His travels took him to 15 different countries over the years; he hopes to see more in the future. “Everyone should practice being a minority in a different culture at least once in their life. When I intentionally invest time in this type of experience, it always positively changes the way I view the world and how I treat everyone around me.”
When Nathan is out of the office, you’ll most likely find him on the side of a cliff rock climbing or hugging his roommate’s dog Fozzie.