Meet the Team

With a passion for community development, our staff and Board of Directors propel us forward.


James VanderBerg

Executive Director

Collaboration and community involvement are two passions of mine! In previous positions, I have coordinated the justice-related activities of the different faith communities, and I connected interested volunteers with organizations across the city. We all need to work together to make our communities more welcoming and inclusive, and safe and inviting. I am a father of four and an outdoor enthusiast, passionate about canoe-tripping, white-water thrills and running. (Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment). Over the years, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for local poetry and writings from within the aboriginal community. Storytelling is one of the most human endeavours, and I believe all voices are important. This is true at Welcome Inn, too!

Ruth Kaulback

Seniors Program Coordinator & Volunteer Coordinator

Being a part of a diverse, resilient community is both exciting and meaningful to me. It is one of the reasons that I am so drawn towards Welcome Inn Community Centre. I love the mix of people, and the beauty that happens when people are welcomed unconditionally. As people live life together and look out for each other, there is a connection that is sparked that I think enriches all of our lives, I know it enriches mine. I live in the north end of Hamilton with my husband and two daughters. We love the creative, diverse vibe in our neighbourhood. I enjoy gardening, traveling, camping, photography, reading and spending time with friends at neighbourhood coffee shops.

Krista Rao

Community Programs Coordinator

I am a Hamiltonian born and raised! I feel so privileged to be able to raise my family in this amazing city, specifically in the North End. My creativity, love of community and my ability to see the potential in all, makes the North End an ideal landing spot for me.

My background is in Nursing, with a focus in Acute Mental Health. In addition to raising my two children, being creative is a major part of my life… Knitting, sewing, bookbinding and paper craft are just a few of my hobbies. I love to walk along with the skills and creativity that we have in our community to build an amazing space here at Welcome Inn.

The importance of family and the idea of community as family has always been a huge part of the way I live my life. From the moment I walked through the doors of Welcome Inn I felt like part of this community that feels like a big family. A family that is so accepting and unique.

Michelle Urbanek

Children's Program Coordinator

As the song goes, I believe that children are our future! Having spent many years working with children in many different capacities, I am thrilled to call Welcome Inn my new home. Whether it was as a camp counselor, camp supervisor or working with children from around the world on cruise ships, I have been surrounded by kids my whole adult life! Trained in Social Work and Recreation and Leisure, I am very excited to have the opportunity to create programming that will address the unique needs of children and families from the north end. I moved to Hamilton more the 25 years ago, and despite seeing some spectacular places around the globe, am very happy to have settled back in the north end of this great city.

Kari Dengerink

Community Visitation Manager (Seniors)

Volunteering at Welcome Inn was my first introduction to Hamilton after moving to the city a few years ago. It didn’t take long for me to see that this quirky, vibrant, and welcoming community was where I wanted to be!
I worked as a baker for a number of years before returning to school to study Community and Health Service Navigation. Beautiful things can happen when we look out for each other! I am excited to continue working with volunteers and seniors in the Welcome Inn community. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time outside with my dog, Benny, and finding the time to be creative, whether that is learning to refurbish furniture, making pottery, or gardening.

Barb Brow

Food Bank Manager

I am a true Hamiltonian, born in the north end and still here! I am very grateful to be part of such a diverse and beautiful community. Working with the community is one of my many passions. Being able to lend a helping hand or just being here to listen is what I love to do.

My hobbies are cleaning, organizing, lifting and being an awesome mom. I love to read and write and you can always find me coloring and crafting with the kids.

Being part of the Welcome Inn is a huge part of my life. We’re all one big family who support and work together closely. It is my goal to always give back where and when I can. Empathy and understanding are things that come naturally to me, and I use both daily here at Welcome Inn.

Board of Directors

Tom Geiger, Chair of the Board
Tom is a Director of Automation with Celestica. He came to Hamilton in 1980, thinking it was a short stay and never left. He’s been helping the local and wider community ever since. He joined the board in 2018 and has been passionate helping the Welcome Inn build a strong and vibrant community.

Leah Schwenger, Vice Chair
Leah is a retired teacher and principal with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. Her family has called Hamilton home for four generation. Leah joined the board, so that she could continue working with children and families in Hamilton. She is also on the boards of Wesley and the Hamilton Foundation for Student Success.

David Dutchak, Treasurer
David retired as a managing director with Royal Bank of Canada. He is a lifelong Hamiltonian, and in addition to serving on the board he also serves as an elder & trustee at Central Presbyterian Church and has coached minor league hockey at Coronation Arena.

Joanne Roth is currently the Program Manager with CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses, and throughout her career has been involved in championing programs designed to improve service delivery models and increase overall program efficiencies. She sits on a number of advisory committees associated with both the settlement and healthcare sectors in Hamilton.

Carolynn Reid is a retired Business Development Consultant with the City of Hamilton's Economic Development Division. Carolynn held several key leadership roles that were of great benefit to the City of Hamilton, its citizens and businesses. Born and raised in this great City, a McMaster University Commerce graduate and community builder to the core, she is excited to join the Welcome Inn board.

Peggy Savage uses her writing skills gained as a freelance writer for the Hamilton Spectator and various other publications to support the work of Welcome Inn. Over the years, Peggy's volunteer commitments have included working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, United Way, West Hamilton Wraparound, the Hamilton Council on Aging and McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine Tapestry Program.

Harvey Bremer retired as a Human Resource Business Partner with BMO Financial Group after 33 years. Prior to his HRBP role, he held numerous leadership roles in Retail and Business Banking in the Hamilton and Mississauga areas, including Personal Banking Area Manager for Hamilton Centre. He has also previously served on the Board of Directors of both Trinity Christian School in Burlington and Providence Christian School in Dundas. He currently resides in Waterdown.