The mission of the JUSTin HOPE Foundation is to give hope to families and individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities by promoting inclusion and creating opportunities through education/training and family support to maximize the individual’s potential.
Maricela Gutierrez Rodriguez, MNLM | Executive Director
Maricela was born and raised in Reno, Nevada. She graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in Communication Disorders and completed her Masters in Nonprofit Leadership and Management. She is fluent in Spanish and functional American Sign Language.
Maricela has worked in community-based organizations for over six years specializing in program management, education and training. She has been working with families and individuals with disabilities both locally and worldwide for the past eight years.
Maricela brings her passion for community engagement and inclusion to the JUSTin HOPE Foundation.
Hanna Lee Fetters | MSW Intern
Hanna has been living in Reno since 2016 when she began her education as a student in the Community Health Sciences with an emphasis in Kinesiology. After graduating with the Bachelors in CHS-Kinesiology, she found her passion for working with children and families in the autism and neurodiverse community through work as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) for over two years. Hanna is still an active RBT at a new ABA clinic called Reno Children’s Center, providing home, clinic, and school based services to clientele, while also pursuing organizational behavior management (OBM) and staff training. The field of behavior analysis has provided Hanna with opportunities to connect deeply within the community of neurodiverse and developmentally disabled families and individuals of all ages. It has also provided her with the chance to recognize and learn about the importance of education, opportunities, and resources needed by this community.
Hanna is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Nevada, Reno. After completing her MSW in 2024, she plans on becoming a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) as well as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Hanna’s final career goal for her is to pursue her passion of working with families and individuals in this community, providing advocacy, family support, individual empowerment, and assisting with behavioral challenges through family education, consultation, and therapeutic interventions.
"I am eager to utilize this opportunity as a social work intern to not only make a positive impact on the community, but also to get exposure to the nonprofit sector and gain important professional skills necessary to be an effective leader, social worker, and behavior analyst."
Jessica Pellecer | MSW Intern
Jessica is a first-generation college student pursuing her Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW)
at the University of Nevada, Reno. She graduated in Spring of 2022 with a Bachelor’s in Social
Work (BSW) degree and a minor in Addiction Treatment Services (CASAT) at the University of
Nevada, Reno. After graduating she plans to work as a school social worker to help the youth.
She has worked with children for twelve years, which has opened her eyes to the importance of
education and support that students and their families need.
Jessica was an intern at UNR’s Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities in the Path to
Independence program for the 2021-2022 school year. Prior to that, she worked in California as
a teacher’s assistant for students with disabilities for several years. These experiences have
given Jessica the opportunity to see the hard work that is put in to giving individuals with
disabilities the proper resources and how important it is to advocate for this community.
Jessica’s goal for her placement at JUSTin HOPE is to gain the skills and knowledge to use her
voice to positively impact and advocate for those who have not been heard or who are not
being given proper resources within the community.
"I am excited about interning for the JUSTin HOPE Foundation because I would like to learn more
about the importance and positive impacts behind non-profits. I know this internship will
challenge me in ways to help me grow and succeed as a social worker, and it will allow me to
get to know the community better."
Alice Prastka | MSW Intern
Alice was born and raised in Reno, Nevada. She graduated from the University of Reno, Nevada with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Developmental Disabilities. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2018, she has worked with a wide range of individuals. She has worked at a treatment facility with adolescent males in the criminal justice system, been a case worker for individuals struggling with housing and substance use, and case worker for individuals with disabilities at her current employment High Sierra Industries.
Alice is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Nevada, Reno. She plans to become a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) with the goal to eventually get her Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Her goal is to further her education so she can support the individuals she works with proficient skills in advocating, community resources, individual empowerment, support systems, education, therapeutic interventions, and navigating adverse challenges throughout the lifespan.
“The opportunity with interning for the JUSTin Hope Foundation provides me the chance to work and learn with an incredible organization and professionals. Not only do I wish to soak in as much information as possible during this experience, but I also hope to make an impact myself with the work I do for the organization.”
Carla Parra | BSW Intern
Carla is a first-generation college student pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree at the University of Nevada, Reno. After completing her BSW, she plans to graduate with her Master’s in Social Work (MSW) and hopes to help vulnerable populations. Coming from a low-income family has taught her the importance of education while emphasizing the significant role that community resources and services can have on families in need.
Carla has primarily volunteered in the community through student organizations, where she has been able to connect with children of all ages and their families. Carla aims to use this opportunity as a social work intern to not only help people in the community but also gain knowledge and skills that will assist her in her professional career as a social worker.
"I am excited about interning for the JUSTin HOPE Foundation because although I expect it to challenge me at times, I know there is so much I can learn from working with the people and community who make this organization possible."
Board of Directors
Mitch Laughton | Chair
The Laughton Co.
Mitch is the president of The Laughton Company, an insurance brokerage and investment advisory firm. Mitch has spent more than 30 years specializing in advising businesses and individuals on their Health and their Wealth. His goal is to assist in designing a blueprint for success with business owners as they build their financial fortress. With his unique experience in Employee Benefit, Executive Benefit, and Retirement Benefit planning , the team at the Laughton Company delivers programs that can combine sponsored programs with individual planning to meet personal goals. Mitch graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor's of science in business. Mitch and his wife Galen have been married for 29 years. They have two sets of twins: Carter, Kelsey, Sydney, and Shayna. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, golf, skiing, fishing, music, and sports
Karen Purcell | Chair-Elect
PK Electrical, Inc.
Karen Purcell, P.E., is the founder, owner, and president of PK Electrical, Inc., an electrical engineering, design, and consulting firm with offices in Reno, NV and Denver, CO. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Widener University in Pennsylvania. Ms. Purcell has more than 30 years of experience in electrical engineering.
She draws on her successful engineering experience to inspire young women to enter into and remain in science, technology, engineering and math related careers with full confidence, knowing that she did it, other women have done it, and that they are unquestionably our leaders of tomorrow.
Ms. Purcell is a Nevada Women’s Fund board member, served as the Event Chair for the 2016 Salute to Women of Achievement, and has received numerous awards in her profession.
Darrell Plummer | Past-Chair
Sierra Nevada Properties
Darrell is an owner/broker of Sierra Nevada Properties. A fourth-generation Nevadan. Darrell is a 1984 graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in business administration with a special emphasis in finance and a minor in economics.
Darrell has been the past president or chair of numerous professional boards and is currently the chair for the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce. He is the recipient of the 1992 College of Business Outstanding Alumnus Award and the 2017 recipient of the Nevada Alumni Association Professional Achievement Award, which is awarded for outstanding records of distinguished career accomplishments and contributions to their profession.
Beth Farley | Treasurer
Beth is a partner at Eide Bailey LLP, a national top 25 CPA firm. Beth is an experienced accountant who specializes in nonprofits, churches, governments, contractors, and small businesses. Beth works with her clients to make sure they understand their financials and develop tools that strengthen their business or organization. She prides herself in making sure clients receive professional service and valuable information.
Outside of work, Beth is married to Mike, and they have two daughters. As a family, they enjoy spending time with family and friends camping, hiking, and relaxing. Beth has lived in Northern Nevada since 1997 and is a UNR graduate.
Carol Reitz | Co-Founder
Sierra Nevada Chocolates
Carol grew up in Southern California, where she met Art nearly 30 years ago. She graduated from Lee College of Court Reporting in 1999, and now would never leave "home."
She completed the Nevada Leadership Education in Neurodevelopment Disabilities, Partners in Policymaking, and is a certified Nonviolent Crisis Intervention instructor.
She is also the owner of Sierra Nevada Chocolates. The business was purchased so that Justin and others can be trained to become contributing members of our society.
Carol enjoys running and hanging out with her four extraordinary boys: Kyle, Justin, Riley, and Art. Her passion is to continue to build a community of support and engagement for all individuals and families with special needs.
Art Reitz | Co-Founder
Reno Fire Department
Art is the co-founder of the JUSTin Hope Foundation. He is Justin's father and has been married to Carol for almost 20 years. He has been employed with the City of Reno Fire Department for the past 17 years.
He is the recipient of the 2014-2015 Community Service Award from Firehouse Magazine and the Northern Nevada Red Cross Real Heroes Community Impact Award for 2014.
United Federal Credit Union
Market Vice President for United Federal Credit Union, responsible for growing the Nevada Market through engaging and developing her employees and the community.
Meredith has over 23 years of financial service industry experience in the Reno and Carson City, NV area and also serves the community as a board member and Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern NV.
BDG Web Design
Brandon is the founder and owner of BDG Web Design, a web development firm in Reno, NV. BDG’s main focus is custom web development and mobile applications. Brandon enjoys being able to work with other small businesses in the area to develop systems and create solutions to help his clients succeed.
Brandon grew up in Washington state and moved to Nevada to play baseball at the University of Nevada Reno in 2002. In 2005, Brandon graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in Business Information Systems.
In his spare time, he enjoys playing sports, camping, hiking and spending time with his wife and two daughters.
University of Nevada, Reno
Dr. Diamond is an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Diamond teaches courses at the graduate level and is the Project Director for The Nevada Collaborative: Interdisciplinary Training to Improve Educational Opportunities for Young Children with Autism (NVC). NVC is an interdisciplinary personnel preparation program funded by the United States Department of Education (USDOE) through the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to address state-wide shortages of qualified personnel serving young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who have high-intensity needs by training Early Childhood Special Educators (ECSE) and Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) scholars.
Prior to this position, she worked with young children with high and low incidence disabilities at the elementary level as a teacher and a new teacher mentor. Her current research interests are surrounding the availability of quality early childhood and special education services for young children, interdisciplinary training programs, instructional approaches to teaching problem solving, both in school and out of school supports for families and children, and disability awareness among police officers.
Dave is a US Navy Veteran, founder and President of CEI Alarm in Sparks, Nevada since 1991 (30 years) and has recently sold his business and is now retired. Dave has completed The EO Entrepreneurial Master’s Program at MIT (Class of 2014) and has extensive business experience having purchased 15 alarm companies over the years. He has won many awards such as voted Best Place to Work in the State of Nevada (twice).
Dave is an active member in the community serving as Past President of many organizations including The Rotary Club of Sparks, Executive Association of Reno, and currently a board member of the Reno/Sparks Chamber of Commerce.
MN | G Partners, Inc.
As the principal of her firm, Meagan personally oversees the execution of communication campaigns, manages client budgets, oversees operations, new business development, and media and client relations on a local, regional and national level. Her areas of practice include corporate communications, product promotion, event management, traditional and online advertising placement, crisis communications and media relations.
A Reno native, Meagan is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with dual degrees in journalism and political science. She taught media production as a member of the faculty at the Reynolds School of Journalism and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Northern Nevada Children's Cancer Foundation. She is also an active member of the University of Nevada Young Alumni Association and the Builders Association of Northern Nevada (BANN).
Gunderson Law Firm
Austin is a partner at Gunderson Law Firm. Austin’s practice focuses on business, contract, and real estate law. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington before attending the Boston University School of Law. Since returning to Reno, Austin has primarily represented local businesses and business owners in a wide variety of matters across Nevada, California, and the nation.
Austin enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife Kerry and their two daughters. You can usually find them somewhere in the Sierras, likely hiking, skiing, rock climbing, trail running, backpacking, or camping.
Rasa was born and raised in a small town in Lithuania and moved to the USA 20 years ago. She is a proud stay at home mom to Brady, 6, and Abigaile, 11. Her daughter has cerebral palsy and requires 24/7 care and that is why she chose to be a stay at home parent 8 years ago.
"Abby is my inspiration and drive to stand up and advocate for kids and adults with disabilities."
Parent/First Responder/Record Street Brewing
Jesse is Nevada native and is a proud father of four amazing children. He is a firefighter of 20 years, business owner, and a passionate community stake holder.
Together they enjoy and value family time, days at a lake, nature walks with their pup Luna, date nights trying new foods, concerts and binge watching Netflix shows.