Elevate Team


Jay Carlson – Executive Director

Jay@elevatehopehouse.org – 612.643.1887 (text/call)

Jay is the Executive Director of Elevate Hope House. He joined Elevate in the Fall of 2022 to lead alongside Founder Melinda to provide guidance, support and strategy to the Board of Directors, as well as great direction and support to the Staff & Volunteers as Elevate’s mission continues to grow in the community, according to God’s will. 

Fighting homelessness and helping people experiencing homelessness has always been a part of his personal ministry. Jay has worked in the non-profit world for over 10 years. From inventory and volunteer coordination at 2nd Harvest to managing ACBC Food Shelf to his most recent role of Operations Director at CROSS Services, Jay adds tremendous knowledge and heart to the leadership of Elevate Hope House. While at CROSS, he primarily focused on housing and financial work. Being an avid volunteer for the last 15 years in his church and community, his heart beats for volunteerism & volunteers, and is excited to be able to lead Elevate’s growth into the future. It is Jay’s firm belief that with a little help from community and non-profit organizations that there is a home to be found for everybody. “I believe this kind of work is a calling to be taken seriously, but there is so much room for fun and it should be done in love.”
Jay, his wife, and two children currently reside in the Anoka County area and are active in their church. They love to explore Minnesota and beyond, and can often be found road tripping across the state!


Mary Sufka – Family Advocate Coordinator


Mary has been a part of Elevate Hope House since 2019. She has worn a lot of hats within the organization, but most recently became Elevate’s Family Advocate Coordinator for our Ham Lake Families. As one of our first Family Advocates with Elevate Hope House, Mary has learned through hands-on experience what it takes to be a Family Advocate within Elevate Hope House. These Advocates are currently volunteers, and it takes the right person to be willing to walk alongside a young mom in crisis and choose to stay resilient, committed, and showing Christ’s love in all circumstances.

In addition to working with Elevate, Mary is a full-time nurse, mom of two, and wife to a servant-hearted, Christ-following husband. They also have a family dog that keeps them busy! Her family enjoys the outdoors and is often road tripping whenever they get a chance outside of school and work schedules. Mary’s heart for the Lord is overflowing, and we are beyond blessed to have her on our team.


Melinda McDermott – Founder/President

Melinda@elevatehopehouse.org – 612.615.8824 (text/call)

Melinda is the Founder of Elevate Hope House. She spends a great deal of time with her family, whether it’s fishing with her husband, attending her son’s baseball games, having tea parties with her two girls, or traveling to her parents in Wisconsin with the whole family to enjoy cabin/lake life. She has a variety of interests, but none more important than serving others in her community!

Since her Senior year of High School, Melinda has been on a career path of leadership. Initially, in retail management, then working with businesses and families throughout the metro area. She earned both her undergrad in Business Management & her MBA from Bethel University. At the end of her MBA program, she realized that her heart truly resided with families and children, and she has spent the last several years working with organizations in Anoka County on the fight to end homelessness – specifically focusing on families.

In addition to her work with Elevate in the non-profit world, Melinda is the Vice President of Operations for New Creations Child Care & Learning Center. The combination of leadership experience and career experience in both business and early childhood education has given her a unique perspective to cast vision for our organization. While leadership is a priority, Melinda’s overwhelming desire is to help guide the moms we work with on a path of self-sufficiency through Christ. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (I John 3:16-18, NLT)

Caryn Buxengard – Finance Director


Caryn joined Elevate’s Board of Directors in 2018. She is an active wife and mom. Caryn works for Code42 Software, Inc. as a Revenue Accountant is very active in her church in children’s ministry.  She loves to be outdoors and you will find her with her family in the spring, summer, and fall camping and enjoying God’s creation! Caryn has a B.S in Speech and Hearing Sciences with a minor in Psychology. This education laid a foundation for her life and has supported her strong desire to help children and families be strong and healthy.

Tami Shinder – Program Director


Tami joined Elevate’s Board of Directors in 2019. She has a passion for walking alongside people as they pursue God’s purpose for their lives. Her volunteer experience spans from Hospice Care to Hope for Youth; she is also active in her church working in Care Ministries and First Impressions. A driving force in Tami’s life is the promise from Jeremiah 29 that God has a plan for each of us and that He is in control!

Therese Hamel – Community Outreach Director


Therese joined Elevate at the beginning of 2021 as our Community Development Director. She enjoys serving people in our community that struggle with life’s essentials: finding food, value, housing and faith in Jesus as she once did for herself and her children. Prior to joining Elevate, Therese enjoyed a career in Mortgage Banking, while also volunteering with non-profits, both in the Pro-life movement and with people experiencing homelessness. Like Melinda, Therese graduated from Bethel University with a degree in Organizational Leadership – at the age of 50! She loves fishing, golfing, hosting celebrations, cooking, and visiting people and places far and wide. Grandchildren are her greatest pleasure.

Lisa Arnason – Special Events Director


Bio & Picture Coming Soon!

Lorna Donner – Local Events Director


Bio & Picture Coming Soon!

Sandi Hevern – Housing Director


Bio & Picture Coming Soon!