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A Success Story for Thousands of Children, Parents and Job Seekers

The Better Together story began in 2015, when Megan Rose took the helm of a Chicago-based nonprofit model and started it the Southwest Florida community. After 10 years of working in the Florida child welfare system, she brought real-world experience and a heartfelt desire to prevent child abuse and neglect with an alternative to foster care.

Megan modified the program model, shifting from a state-funded approach to one that is 100% privately funded. As a result, she was able to inspire volunteerism at new levels and assure families that their children wouldn’t be taken away just because they needed help.

Soon, she recognized that what at-risk parents need most is jobs. So, Better Together began the Better Jobs program, partnering  with churches and employers to restore people’s income and dignity. Thus, Better Together families and many others in the community have overcome significant barriers to employment and become self-sufficient, thriving members of society.

Since its inception, Better Together has provided temporary homes to more than 3,102 Southwest Florida children. And they are successfully helping parents who wish to keep their families together. They have also helped more than 34,000 Job Seekers find employment in 12 different states.

“We’ve innovated, grown and perfected our own model, learning what really works,” said Megan. “Now, we want to take what we’re doing with Better Families to all of Florida. And we plan to continue expanding Better Jobs by partnering with hundreds of churches across the country.”

To learn more about our impact, check out our most recent Annual Report.

One Mission, Two Programs

Together, Better Families and Better Jobs provide a powerful platform for people who are ready to enact positive change. They are 100% privately funded and community driven, implemented by faith-based organizations and a caring volunteer force.

Learn more about each of these highly successful programs:

OUR FINANCIALS

Every dollar counts. When you donate to a nonprofit, you want to know your money is being used effectively and efficiently. Transparency and accountability are important to us, too. We work hard to make every dollar count, and we’re happy to share our financial forms, audits and reports with you here.

Meet the Better Together Team

Under the leadership of Megan Rose – and with the help of an amazing volunteer force – this small, yet deeply dedicated, team connects families and job seekers to the help they need.

MEGAN ROSE

Chief Executive Officer

Stephen Schahrer

Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel

LORA BOSTICK

Executive Assistant and Development Connector

ISIS LAROSE

Director of Programs

Brittnie Steinmetz

Lee County Family Coordinator

Mellissa Foster

Mellissa Foster

Church Engagement Director

Paola Rendon

Collier County Family Coordinator

Dawson Jordon

Dawson Jordan

Creative Director

CHRISTY SANCHEZ

Training Specialist

GISELA WEIGEL

Better Jobs Project Manager

Pamela Hayford

Marketing & Communications Manager

Vanessa Estrada

Vanessa Estrada

Program Administrator

Krista Shafer

KRISTA SHAFER

Bay Area Church Engagement Director

Jessica Braemer Sarasota and Manatee County Catalyst

JESSICA BRAEMER

Sarasota and Manatee County Church Engagement Director

Adirem Garcia

Adirem Garcia

Lee County Home Study Specialist

Lisa Perry

Lisa Perry

Pinellas/Pasco County Home Study Specialist

Meet the Better Together Board

Generosity underpins everything Better Together accomplishes on a daily basis. In addition to the hands-on volunteers in the field, we have an exceptional board of directors. These leaders lend a diverse array of knowledge and expertise. They graciously walk alongside and support the Better Together team!

TARREN BRAGDON

Founder and Board President

DOUG CAMPBELL

Board Director

LEE WYATT, JR.

Board Director

DR. ALISE G. BARTLEY

Board Director

Christian Spilker Board Director

Christian Spilker

Board Director

Lee County Community Advisory Board

Bess Charles

Owner of LadyCakes Bakery, LLC

Bryan Blackwell Better Together Board Member

Bryan Blackwell

Managing Partner of Southern Oak Wealth Management

Chad Hodges Better Together Board Member.jpg

Chadd Hodges

Owner of Best Home Services

Corey Demmel Better Together Board Member

Cory Demmel

Pastor of Cape Christian Church

Josh Dorcey

Managing Partner of The Dorcey Law Firm, PLC

Better Together Board Member

Michael Deluca

Principal-in-Charge of HBK CPAs & Consultants in Southwest Florida

Teri Hansen Better Together Board Member

Teri Hansen

President & Creative Director of Priority Marketing

Better Together | Keeping Families Together

Better Together Team
Megan Rose
Chief Executive officer

Megan came to understand the value of empowering families with support and resources through her own journey. When she was young, her father went through recovery and the family was split apart. He was able to get healthy, while strangers came alongside her family and showered them with support. Soon, her parents and family reunited. Those powerful lessons of compassion were the early inspiration for a life and career dedicated to the calling of strengthening families and reminding people of their dignity, worth, and value.

In addition to her passion for her helping families, Megan has a wealth of education, over ten years of dedicated experience in social services. She holds an undergraduate degree from Liberty University in Psychology and a Master’s in Human Services with a dual concentration in Executive Leadership and Family and Group Dynamics. After college, Megan worked abroad as a nanny, then returned to Florida where she worked for four years as a child welfare case manager before becoming director for a foster care agency. In 2015, she joined Safe Families for Children, then branched off in 2018 to start her own organization, Better Together.

Megan was the recipient of the Manhattan Institute Civil Society Award in 2018 and was accepted into their Fellowship in 2020. In October 2020, Megan was featured on the cover of Grandeur Magazine for her work at Better Together and also earned the Cape Coral Community Foundation’s Rising Organization of the Year Award.

Family is everything to Megan, and she counts her husband Mason and their three precious children, Brady, Ellie, and Emma, as her greatest blessings in life. Megan and her family approach this ministry together, and routinely host children in their home. They are a team, and her family continually supports her wonderful adventure as the leader of Better Together. She feels blessed to have her family’s support behind her and to be a part of a team of talented, passionate individuals who love people and want to help equip the faith community to grow the Better Together mission.

Better Together Team
Stephen Schahrer
Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel

Stephen first became involved with Better Together when he and his wife, Rhya, signed up to serve as a volunteer host family. The couple and their children have seen firsthand the impact Better Together can have in people’s lives and this fuels Stephen’s passion to help the organization thrive in Florida and beyond.

Stephen grew up in Naples, Florida, and attended Gulf Coast High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from Florida Gulf Coast University. He continued his studies at Liberty University School of Law where he earned his Juris Doctor.

Stephen has a diverse professional background that includes experience working for the Florida Legislature, the U.S. Marshals Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the nonprofit St. Matthew’s House. Prior to joining Better Together, Stephen worked as a business and commercial litigation attorney in Naples. Stephen serves as Better Together’s chief administrative officer and general counsel and is responsible for directing the finance, information technology, human resources, fundraising and marketing operations of Better Together in Florida and nationally.

In his spare time, Stephen enjoys training and teaching martial arts and spending time with his family in Naples.

Better Together Team
Lora Bostick
Executive Assistant and Development Connector
Lora’s desire to help others and her passion for children is what brought her to Better Together. She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from West Virginia University. Lora previously worked for the government as an operations specialist.  Her husband Chris ‘professional baseball career brought them to Florida where they started as a volunteer host family with Better Together. She feels blessed and excited to remain a part of the organization as the Executive Assistant and Development Connector.

Lora and Chris have two children, Jay and Nia. She enjoys attending church, hosting gatherings with friends and family, cooking, and game nights.

Better Together Team
Isis LaRose
Director of Programs

Isis started on the team as our Outreach Director in 2017 and was promoted to the Better Families Executive Director role in the beginning of 2020. Prior to joining Better Together, Isis worked in the medical field for 16 years. She has always had a passion for helping others, but it wasn’t until being introduced to Better Together, and becoming a host family, that she realized her passion for helping families in need.

Over the last three years, her family has hosted 18 children. Her husband and children are just as committed as she is in this ministry and share in the joy of being able to care for children while their families maneuver through crisis. Better Together is a way her whole family serves together.

Isis loves spending time with her husband, Danny and their two boys, Asher and Ayden. She always has something planned to do with them, including Disney, Universal, and Islands of Adventure. She also loves to party plan, and everyone enjoys her get-togethers, even when her husband says she is “going overboard!”

Better Together Team
Brittnie Steinmetz
Lee County Family Coordinator

As a former foster child herself, Brittnie holds inherent love and empathy for the children and families that Better Together serves. She brings years of experience to the Better Together team, having worked as a Child Protective Investigator with the Department of Children and Families. This invaluable experience helps her to understand the crucial delineation between government and non-profit sectors and gives her an appreciation for the “neighbor-helping-neighbor” model. Brittnie is passionate about Better Together’s drive to keep children out of foster care as well as prevent its need entirely. Brittnie holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Social Work and Sociology as well as a master’s degree in Social Work.

Mellissa FosterBetter Together Team
Mellissa Foster
Engagement Director

Mellissa has a heart to serve and love people exactly as they are and to connect them to a local body of Christ for encouragement and relational support. She comes to the Better Together team with a background in marketing and development and uses these skills along with her passion to serve and love others. Prior to joining the Better Together team, Mellissa worked in ministry for over ten years serving local churches in the Family and Children’s Ministry. She also serves at her local church in Jacksonville, where her husband, Jonathan, works as the Associate Design & Media Director.

Mellissa, her husband, and her children Jad, London, and Barrett have served as a host family and mentors for several Better Together families and look forward to continuing to do this as a family unit. Mellissa is passionate about the Better Families program because of the life changes she has seen by helping families in crisis. Mellissa believes serving as a family gives her children the opportunity to learn to love others with action in a tangible way.

Better Together Team
Paola Rendon
Collier County Family Coordinator

Paola serves as Community Outreach Director for Better Together and is passionate about bringing innovative and restorative services to children and families who need them most. She believes the local church has the greatest opportunity to love and engage in what the Lord calls us to do through this program: help the widows, the orphans, and the hurting in their time of need. For the past ten years, she has worked within the child welfare system, providing intervention, tangible resources and the hope of Christ to at-risk youth.

Paola graduated from Southeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and she continued to earn her master’s degree in education with a concentration in counseling. She loves spending time with her husband Jared and their sweet girl, Ellie Grace. She loves to watch sunsets and eat ice cream.

Dawson JordonBetter Together Team

Dawson Jordan
Creative Director

Dawson is an exciting addition to the Better Together Team. Since graduating college in 2015 from Florida Gulf Coast University with his bachelor’s degree in Business Management he has managed to create a successful career for himself as a self-employed freelance videographer/photographer. He has recently relocated back to his hometown in SWFL and is excited to join the team as the Creative Director to help us tell the Better Together story. Dawson is passionate about telling stories through a creative lens, especially when it comes to seeing families stay together and for individuals to thrive and become the best version of themselves. When Dawson is not in the office he likes to hang out with his friends, workout, and watch sports.

Better Together Team
Christy Sanchez
Training Specialist 

Christy began her journey with Better Together working with local churches in Southwest Florida before moving with her family to Milwaukee. Now, she is our Church and Training Specialist assisting our Work Ministry nationally. She feels blessed to be a part of the Better Together team and is thrilled to help equip and inspire churches to reach their community by providing employment opportunities to unleash their full potential. Christy’s husband Diego is the Worship Director at a local church in Milwaukee, where they are raising their daughter Adelina.

Better Together Team
Gisela Estrada
Better Jobs Project Manager

Gisela was born and raised in Southwest Florida, so naturally, she has a strong passion and desire for helping people in this community. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Florida Gulf Coast University. She previously worked in the non-profit sector supporting foster children but then decided to pursue a corporate career. Gisela quickly learned that her heart belonged to serving those in our community through non-profit work, and this led her to Better Together. Gisela is excited to join the Better Together team and help lead our mission of keeping families together and children out of foster care.

Gisela loves spending time with her family, fiancé, and her precious dog Obi. When asked, others would describe Gisela as thoughtful, optimistic, and persistent. When Gisela is not in the office, she enjoys volunteering, watching the Hallmark Channel/reruns of her favorite shows, and making memories with her family and friends.

Better Together Team
Pamela Hayford
Marketing & Communications Manager

Pamela is a storyteller. In more than 25 years as a journalist, she worked as a writer, reporter, editor and page designer. She’s interviewed politicians and a celebrity or two but spent most of the last 15 years among Southwest Florida’s families as editor of Southwest Florida Parent & Child magazine. That’s how she first learned of Better Together and became excited to tell the stories of its mission, its families and its staff.

Pam grew up in Northeast Ohio and earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Bowling Green State University. Falling head over heels for her husband and her work eventually brought her to Florida. They’ve been living in Cape Coral since 2000 and have two teenage children, four if you count her spoiled pups.

Vanessa EstradaBetter Together Team

Vanessa Estrada
Program Administrator


Vanessa’s journey with Better Together began a few years ago as she volunteered assisting with fundraising events. Now, we are thrilled to have Vanessa on staff and for her contribution in this key role. She has previously worked in the non-profit sector for 7 years, serving children and families in foster care and at-risk youth. As a previous Program Manager, she is able to bring many years of administration experience on all levels. Vanessa’s strong faith and passion to help children and families in need are both evident by her commitment and willingness to always go the extra mile.

Vanessa was born in Fort Myers, Florida, and raised in Houston, Texas. Along with her husband Fabien and their two daughters, Arianni and Alyson, Vanessa now lives in Naples, FL. Vanessa loves spending time with her family and friends, mentoring at-risk youth, dancing, and event planning.

Krista ShaferBetter Together Team
Krista Shafer
Bay Area Catalyst
Krista is our Bay Area Catalyst as Better Together has now expanded into Pinellas and Pasco counties. She has an innate compassion for others and a heart to serve especially children and families in need. Krista has lived in St. Petersburg since 2013, as she moved from Wisconsin where she was born and raised. She graduated from Ripon College with her Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science-Sports Management. Krista has many years of experience working directly with families in various capacities. She has over 10 years of administrative experience in the for-profit realm; she has served locally in children’s ministries, outreach ministries, and as a volunteer at The Ronald McDonald House. With her combined experience and her faith-driven mission to see radical change led by the local churches, Krista has hit the ground running. She will continue to connect with church leaders, volunteers, and community partners to bring them all together in order to best serve our communities and to keep families together here in Florida.

Jessica Braemer Sarasota and Manatee County CatalystBetter Together Team

Jessica Braemer

Sarasota and Manatee County Catalyst


Jessica has worked in the non-profit sector through building and serving women and children, and families in her community. Jessica has a deep desire to do the Lord’s will in her life, and feels privileged to share her testimony of overcoming to bring hope into the lives of others. She has a passion to walk alongside those who are yearning for a better life. Jessica also works hand in hand with those struggling in addiction, domestic violence, human trafficking, and any life controlling issues. She lives a lifestyle of cultivating community. Jessica is excited to be part of the Better Together family by bringing resources and compassion to families in crisis.

Jessica and her husband Joshua share a beautiful blended family of 6 and have a powerful testimony of what the Lord can do in someone’s life. They have a passion to serve God, their family, their community, and are blessed to do together.

Adirem GarciaBetter Together Team
Adirem Garcia
Lee County Home Study Contractor

My name is Adirem Garcia, recently married in November 2018. I attended FGCU and graduated with my Bachelor’s in Social Work in 2013. I have worked within the foster care system since 2014 and my husband and I actually foster ourselves since June 2019. We love being able to help others, and be a mentor if we can to the families that need support and love during their trials. We attend Life Church and love to spend time with our family and friends. For fun, we both play on coed sports teams together – kickball and softball at the moment. We love to travel and try to vacation on a cruise annually! My stepson (Jeremiah) is 8 years old and he loves to play sports as well and he is a great, big foster brother to the kiddos who come to our home. We recently had a baby ourselves and are loving growing our family. It is a blessing to be able to help others in our work environment and also in our home! We love sharing the love of Jesus with others!

Lisa PerryBetter Together Team Lisa Perry
Pinellas/Pasco County Home Study Contractor

Lisa is looking forward to meeting all of the families who are wanting to support those in need within our community. She is a prior teacher with over 20 years experience teaching Kindergarten. She is a certified Child Protection Investigator, and based on her experiences understands and truly supports the mission of Better Together.

She has worked and advocated for foster families and is currently a Resource Specialist assisting families and children in need. Lisa also holds a certificate in Infant Family Mental Health from the University of South Florida and volunteers at John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in the NICU.

Lisa and her husband of 34 years have 2 grown children, C.J. and Jessica. They enjoy spending time with their children and 4 grandchildren as well as their fur babies Ricky and Lucy – high energy, frisbee catching miniature Aussies.

Better Together Board
Doug Campbell
Board Director

Doug Campbell’s life is now consumed by trying, through Better Together to keep families together and kids out of foster care and, through Friends of Foster Children Forever, to do for abused and neglected children what neither the state nor any other agency does to make their lives closer to normal. He serves on the board of Healthcare Network of SWFL that provides primary medical, behavioral and dental health care to over half the children in Collier County and, he has been a Guardian ad Litem for 20 years. Doug is a central Kentucky native and was an oil and chemicals industry executive, a career that included 17 moves and more than 20 jobs.

Doug and his wife Nancy have lived in Naples since 1997 but have had family in the area since 1966. They have two children Mary and Jim, and three grandchildren. They periodically visit them in Boulder and Chicago, and the rest of the time he spends doing as instructed by Nancy, his wife of 50 years.

Doug is motivated by Better Together, Friends of Foster Children, Healthcare Network and his involvement as a Guardian ad Litem. All have taught him the glaring unfulfilled needs of children who, through no fault of their own, become dependent on the government. His philosophy is to make money, have fun and do all you can to keep the government from destroying what you worked to earn, including working within the system to see that tax dollars do as much good as possible.

Doug believes that this is a valued venture since Better Together works with volunteer families to help families at-risk who want to stay together, thrive and avoid foster care. Friends of Foster Children meet the unmet needs of kids in the dependency system who have become wards of the state with little to no explanation. It’s for these children that he spends most of his time working to meet their needs that the state does not.

In Collier County, more than 700 abused, abandoned and neglected children are removed from their homes each year. Doug dreams that through volunteer initiatives such as Better Together, the need to remove these children from their homes and place them in foster care will no longer exist.

Community Advisory Board
Bess Charles
Co-owner of LadyCakes Bakery

LadyCakes started 2006 when Bess Charles wanted to use her cake decorating and baking hobby to save money on making her kids’ birthday cakes. Eventually LadyCakes Bakery grew from her kitchen to a commercial kitchen and storefront in 2014 and her husband Jeff left his job to join her.   

LadyCakes family Bakery in Cape Coral has quickly grown to provide custom cakes throughout Southwest Florida, working with dozens of area wedding professionals as well as providing cakes for wedding packages at five area resorts.   

LadyCakes works with non-profit organizations such as Icing Smiles, The Mighty Mike Foundation, the Wounded Warriors Project and many other local organizations.   

Bryan Blackwell Better Together Board MemberCommunity Advisory Board
Bryan Blackwell,
managing partner, Southern Oak Wealth Management

With more than 13 years of experience in financial planning and investment management, Bryan began his career in financial services in 2008. Previously he spent eight years in the United States Marine Corps and Florida Army National Guard. Today, Bryan provides financial planning and estate planning for Southern Oak Wealth Management using equities, fixed income securities, managed money, and more through Raymond James.  

A native of Ashville, North Carolina, Bryan has resided in Cape Coral, Florida for 29 years. He is an active member of Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce where he serves on the board.  

He is also a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast. Away from the office, Bryan enjoys giving back to the community, golf, fishing and spending time with his family.  

Chad Hodges Better Together Board Member.jpgCommunity Advisory Board
Chadd Hodges,
Co-Owner and CEO, Best Home Services

In 2009,  Chadd and his brother Keegan Hodges purchased Best Home Services from their parents Perry and Marilyn Hodges, expanding on the electrical residential customer service foundation of the company that had been family owned and operated since 1980.  

Offering heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing services throughout Southwest Florida, the company has begun expansion plans with the help of outside investors and is planning Fort-Myers based headquarters. The company supports many local charities and worthwhile causes, ranging from Habitat for Humanity to the American Red Cross, Special Olympics, Midwest Food Bank and the Alliance Defense Fund.  

Chadd is a board member of the Ephesians 3:20 Foundation and a Summit Church member since 2007. Married to Andrea and has three children, Emery, Addilyn and Beckett, he enjoys working out, hunting, boating and golf.  

 

Corey Demmel Better Together Board MemberCommunity Advisory Board
Cory Demmel
Lead Pastor at Cape Christian in Cape Coral

Cory is lead pastor at nondenominational Cape Christian and has been working at churches for 19 years, with a focus on growing leaders across ministries.  

He has led in adult ministry, children and student ministry, small groups, and Master’s Commission. Cory’s goal is to add value to people everywhere he goes, and he loves to help people discover and pursue their passions and purpose.  

Cory enjoys living in Southwest Florida with his wife Rebecca and daughter Madison. Originally from Nebraska, he is an avid Husker’s fan. Cory’s energy is evident in everything he does, from golfing to spending time with his family and friends.  

Community Advisory Board
Joshua Dorcey
Managing Partner, Dorcey Law Firm

Joshua founded the Dorcey Law Firm in 2007  helping thousands of families establish and maintain their personal estate plans. Prior to opening the firm, he worked at a premier real estate and business litigation firm in Fort Myers.   

His vision is for the firm to be transformational and process driven with a focus on going over and above the industry standard when taking care of clients, their families and their businesses.  

Josh’s family homesteaded in southwest Florida in 1913, and he is the fourth generation of his family living in Lee County.  

Better Together Board MemberCommunity Advisory Board
Michael DeLuca
Principal and partner-in-charge of HBK CPAs & Consultant’s Southwest Florida offices

Michael works extensively with closely held corporations, partnerships, small- to middle-market businesses, large private corporations and individuals, primarily within the health care industry. He specializes in the areas of strategic business consulting and structuring, tax planning and preparation, and domestic and international compliance. Prior to joining HBK CPAs & Consultants in 2011, he spent time as a manager at Ernst & Young and Deloitte Tax LLP in their Atlanta, Georgia and Miami, Florida offices.   

In addition, he is driven to help create a multi-generation, multi-industry economy in Southwest Florida.  

He is a founding committee member of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Leadership NEXT, a mentor for Take Stock in Children, a Foundation for Lee County Public Schools committee member and a founding committee member of the Naples Children & Education Foundation Friends of the Foundation.   

Teri Hansen Better Together Board MemberCommunity Advisory Board
Teri Hansen
APR, President/Creative Director, Priority Marketing

Teri founded Priority Marketing in 1992, an entrepreneurial dream that began at a dining room table and flourished into the region’s largest, full-service marketing, advertising and public relations firm.  

Over the past 25 years, Priority Marketing has donated more than $2 million in pro-bono or discounted services to nonprofit and community organizations to help support their mission and fundraising.   

Teri is a member of the charter board and Board of Directors for Lee BIA Builders Care and is a founding member, past-president and former chairman of the board for the Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation. She is a charter member of the Tiger Bay Club and recently completed an eight-year term serving on the board for Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties. She is dedicated to her husband, daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and family, as well as her devoted Priority Marketing team.