Jennifer Montalbano

Jennifer Montalbano is the Development Steward at GWI focused on the design and implementation of development strategy, including institutional funder and individual donor cultivation. Jennifer began her journey in fundraising as part of the Advancement team at Sarah Lawrence College while pursuing a Masters in Women’s History. She believes wholeheartedly that we are living in a historical moment where inequities and destruction have come to the forefront of our collective consciousness and that the answers lie in people — in democratizing communities, wealth and work. For the past decade and a half, she has helped organizations fund these good and important collaborative efforts. She is passionate about connecting the people doing work toward a Just Transition with those who want to support it. Jennifer grew up in the Mahicantuck Valley and currently resides in Saugerties, NY with her wild spirited 10-year-old son and stubborn but loveable black labrador. She also practices yoga and was trained and certified at Shakti Yoga in Woodstock, NY.

Massoumeh Emami

Massoumeh Emami (she/her) was born in Iran and fled the Revolution shortly after with her family. She went from London, to Las Vegas, to Northern Virginia, to Lexington, KY, to NYC, and eventually to Kingston in 2013, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and two pups. She played tennis at the University of Kentucky, and moved to New York after college where she set out on a 20+ year career in the film and TV industry. Mass (pronounced like the unit of measure) has produced feature films, commercials, and web series, and has worked on countless films and TV shows as a script supervisor, including The Squid and the Whale, and The Kite Runner. Whether it’s a film, a tennis match, her work at GWI, or a busy day chasing around her girls, she is passionate about the work in front of her, but not nearly as much as she is about the people around her. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to work locally in her community, bringing people together, as the Greenhouse Manager at GWI.

Susan Grove

Community Engagement, Democratizing Work, General, and Learning Circles

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Elder, and many other activists, these words guide my work.

Susan (she/her) is a white, working/middle class, cisgendered parent who is energized by opportunities to learn and facilitate learning; to design participatory gatherings and organize information; to tap into the power of effective collaboration and the generative potential of conflict; to connect across differences and contribute toward more equitable futures in her communities based in Poughkeepsie, NY and the wider Mahicantuck Valley.

Susan has dedicated her working life to advancing mission-driven organizations with diverse foci: Just Transition / regenerative economies, food system change, holistic adult education, anti-poverty, economic and rural development, and faith-based. Her work has involved participatory facilitation; strategic planning; program design, implementation and evaluation; resource development; financial management; and governance. Prior to beginning her work with the Good Work Institute, first as a contracted facilitator in 2017 and then as a team member in 2018, she served for five years as the first Executive Director of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, coordinated the grassroots Poughkeepsie Plenty food justice initiative, and managed the cross-departmental community engagement strategy of the Omega Institute. She was awarded a Community Leadership Award from New Horizons Resources in 2019. Before moving to the Mahicantuck Valley in 2008, she worked in Romania, India, Ecuador, Cambodia, Laos, Kenya, Mali, the Philippines, Ethiopia and China as a consultant to Oxfam America, director of the US Office of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, and Peace Corps Volunteer. She holds a graduate degree in international affairs from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Partner to Chris and parent to Sebastian, she replenishes her reserves alone or with dear ones over food, on trails in the woods, in meditation, in backyard hammocks, over or along the river, reading, reflecting, and journaling.


Academy, Development, Fiscal Sponsorship, General, Greenhouse, Network Circles

I am working on expanding my definition of self, in everything I do, and in all the ways I do it, so that when I act selfishly it will be for the betterment of the whole. 

Micah (he/him) is of mixed race (black and white) and mixed religion, and grew up in two different socio-economic homes. He is a cisgendered, working/middle class parent of two living on Munsee/Lenape land in the Mahicantuck Valley, commonly referred today as Kingston, NY, working to prove possibility and to liberate the imagination in order to see a Just Transition. He serves on the board of Radio Kingston, is co-host of The Breathing Room – a radio segment discussing and leading mindfulness as well as host of Hip Hop 101 on Radio Kingston. Micah is also a workshop leader of TMI Project.

Hélène Lesterlin

Circles: General, Communications, Community Fund, Development

I am a pragmatic optimist, a voracious reader, and a hope-filled instigator, working towards a vision of the future that is joyful, abundant, and equitable.

Hélène (she/her) is inspired by the values articulated by Italo Calvino: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, and consistency. She has deployed those qualities in a variety of roles across the US, France and Taiwan. Currently she fosters connection, social impact, and access to aligned capital, working with community leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists to help build healthier economic and social ecosystems in the Hudson Valley. Her role as Worker Trustee at GWI is focused on the community fund, organizational strategy, and communications. She is a co-founder of CO, a co-working co-op and community center, and enjoys acting as a mentor and coach to mission-led entrepreneurs. She serves on the boards of, an accelerator for cooperative startups and Co-op HV, a loan fund that is a project of Seed Commons. To her work, she brings fifteen years experience as a producer, curator and interdisciplinary contemporary artist, devoted to nurturing creativity and experimentation in media, art, dance and theater. A dual citizen of France and the US, she is raising two daughters with her husband in the Catskills, grateful to be rooted in these mountains.

Caitlin Dourmashkin

Operations, Fiscal Sponsorship, Greenhouse, Learning and General Circles

As one of my favorite human beings, Zadie Smith, says “time is how you spend your love” and every day I choose to spend my time thinking of ways I can support the work of my colleagues, and therefore the work of this beloved, and important organization. 

Caitlin (she/her) brings a passion for process to everything she does at the Good Work Institute. One of the original employees of the organization, she has spent the last six years working to support each member of the team through compassionate, human-centered organizational design. 

After fifteen years spent developing programs for local economic development organizations, Caitlin has now found her calling supporting the work of others through her love of policy, strategy, design, and (surprisingly!) administration. She is the go-to on the team on issues of internal policy and operations design, and she also co-leads our fiscal sponsorship and shared leadership offerings. She is a great resource if you are curious about the operation of our Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit, but she is also just as happy to talk about dogs, parenting strategies for toddlers, skiing, and craft brewing in the Northeast.

Aja Schmeltz

Communications, Community Engagement, Community Fund, Democratizing Work, General and Greenhouse Circles 

“It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.” – His Holiness The Dalai Lama.   I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother and a friend. I am an artist, an activist, a musician, a hiker, a kayaker, a gardener, a music lover, a sports fanatic and a damn good cook. I am an agent of change, striving hard to be the change I want to see in the world.

Aja is an Afro-Latina, cisgendered, middle class woman raising 3 daughters with her partner of 20+ years, growing food and medicine, creating art, loving hard and strengthening connections in her beloved communities throughout the Mahicantuck (Hudson) River Valley. The Just Transition is central to her work, both personally and professionally, because she strongly believes that a successful community is made up of individuals working collaboratively on all fronts to create avenues to build a healthier, thriving, more sustainable environment. 

During her career, Aja has held a number of professional positions from Art Director to Distillery Consultant, and has spent more than twenty years volunteering throughout the Hudson Valley. While she enjoyed all of these jobs enormously, she knew there was something missing. Aja was yearning for a position that combined her commitment to social justice reform, community building, her absolute love for this region and her tribes, and her unique skill set. GWI has given her that opportunity to bring her values, drives, and talents together in her work. 

In addition to her roles at GWI, Aja sits on the boards of Wild Earth and The Hudson Valley Current, is a member of the Kingston Trust Hub Advisory Board, is a member of HUDSY’s Content Committee, is a member of the Hudson Valley Food Systems Coalition and is a thought-partner for many initiatives and organizations throughout the region.