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Board of Directors

CEO, JESSI Exceptional Search Services, Inc.

Julie was inspired to learn more about Women’s Bean Project after noticing the individually labeled soups on the store shelf. The Bean Project mission aligns with her beliefs that when an individual is addressing their circumstances, they deserve the resources to succeed and that, as a society, we all benefit by lending a helping hand. Julie has a Master’s degree in Organizational Management and has held leadership and sales positions in entrepreneurial companies, as well as large corporate environments. She believes that measurement drives growth and success and the Bean Project’s ability to show success with solid numbers fits her approach. Julie has a close family with three children and grandchildren. They spend a lot of time enjoying the outdoors and traveling to new places.

AMY BITTNER – Vice Chair
Principal, Mercer

Amy Bittner is a Principal at Mercer in the Employee Health & Benefits Practice. She is responsible for developing new business partnerships for Mercer’s Denver office as well as developing programs and content to educate and empower the local human resource community. Amy has over 18 years of experience helping organizations access their current human resource strategies as well as overall business goals. In addition to her board position with Women’s Bean Project, Amy served for 3 years on  the board of Firefly Autism and co-built a skills-based volunteer group, hrUnlocked (Formally hrCares Colorado), which focuses on removing barriers to employment for those who struggle to find appropriate work. hrUnlocked has more than 70 members and hosts volunteer events throughout the year.

CFO Consultant

Leslie has been a supporter and customer of Women’s Bean Project since its beginning so when the opportunity to join the board presented itself, she jumped at it. She is semi-retired from her 35 year career in accounting and looks forward to spending time supporting organizations such as the Bean Project. Leslie believes that helping one woman at a time gain self sufficiency for herself and her family is the only way to break the cycle that surrounds those who live in poverty. There are many other things that peak Leslie’s passion but one in particular is history – women’s history and her family’s genealogy specifically.

Senior Director, Finance, Level 3 Communications

After attending Ready, Set, Grow in 2014, Jill was immediately inspired to get involved with Women’s Bean Project. Jill saw loved ones struggle to overcome barriers to steady employment and self-sufficiency, such as job skills, stable housing, legal issues, personal finance, and other life skills. Finding an organization focused on these issues was perfect for her. Jill immediately started volunteering and joined the board a year later, serving on the finance committee. Professionally, Jill has an MBA and engineering degree which she uses to help organizations understand the link between their strategy, operations, and financial results. In her spare time, Jill enjoys running, yoga, gardening, quilting, rescuing dogs, and spending time with her family.

Senior Vice President & Director of Commercial Banking – Colorado, Academy Bank, N.A.

Bret has been in the banking industry and active in the greater Denver, Colorado market for 25 years. Bret has extensive experience helping small and mid-sized commercial businesses grow and prosper. He has held numerous executive management roles with responsibility for small business, business banking, middle market, SBA, and credit administration divisions during his tenure. Prior to joining Academy Bank, Bret served in executive roles with Vectra Bank Colorado, Flatirons Bank as its CEO, and multiple roles of increasing responsibility with KeyBank, N.A. Bret is a graduate of Texas Tech University and holds an MBA from the University of Colorado. He has served on multiple boards including as past President of Trout Unlimited (St. Vrain), South Metro Economic Development, and a graduate of the prestigious “50 For Colorado” leadership program. He currently serves as a Mentor in the DTC/Greenwood Village Young Professionals Mentorship Program. Bret and his wife Heidi just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and have two children, Bryce (17) and Aubrey (14). The family resides in Castle Rock, CO.

Director, Business Development, Kelley Bean Co. Inc.

Women’s Bean Project was one of Bryce’s first customers when he went to work for his family’s business after graduate school. When he relocated to Denver many years later, it wasn’t hard to find the perfect spot to combine his knowledge of the food industry with the responsibility he felt to giving back. Bryce believes the Bean Project is one of those special places that has the team and vision to make a permanent change in the trajectory of a life. Having a general passion for business, much of Bryce’s free time is spent with entrepreneurial endeavors rounded out by the mountains of Colorado and a well-worn passport.

Executive Director Career Services, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver

Bob has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Women’s Bean Project for over 15 years, primarily because of the work and dedication of CEO Tamra Ryan. Having failed at early retirement, his day job is the Executive Director of Career Services at the Daniels College of the University of Denver. He is a seasoned business strategist and executive with a background in strategic marketing, early stage investment, technology product development, e-commerce, and digital advertising. He is an adjunct faculty member in the Daniels College and University College at DU. Bob earned a BS from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an MBA from the University of Denver. He is married to pediatrician and saint, Karen Leamer, and has two reasonably well adjusted kids and two poorly behaved Siberian Huskies.

Associate, Arnold & Porter

Moved by the Bean’s commitment to empowering women in the community, Holly joined the board in 2014 and began serving on the Program Committee shortly thereafter. She worked in banking before earning her J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law, where she graduated in the top of her class. Holly practices general litigation with an emphasis on complex commercial matters and loves to travel.

Director, Marketing and Community Relations, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA)

Jerilynn is the director of marketing and community relations for Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, the state’s largest investor in affordable housing and community development. In her role, Jerilynn is responsible for developing and implementing marketing, communications, and public policy strategy to support CHFA’s work statewide. Jerilynn has been a part of CHFA’s team since 2007 and in her current role serves as a member of the organization’s Strategic Management Team. Her efforts building statewide coalitions to support affordable housing investment have been recognized by the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) with an Award of Excellence in 2016, and have resulted in more than $450 million in state and federal resources being created or preserved to help Coloradans in need. Jerilynn is a Denver-native and graduate of Colorado State University and the University of Denver. She is proud to serve on the Board of Directors for Women’s Bean Project and HomeAid Colorado.

Founder, HOA Real Estate Solutions LLC

VP of Talent & Business Partnerships, WOW!

Leslie Peabody is the VP of Talent Acquisition & Partnerships at WOW!, a telecommunications company headquartered in the Denver Technology Center. She is responsible for developing the talent acquisition strategy and delivering engagement initiatives to over 2800 team members. Leslie has over 15 year’s experience supporting organizations in the construction, nonprofit (retail), and telecommunications industries. In addition to Women’s Bean Project, Leslie is the Vice-President of the Maria Droste Counseling Center’s Board of Directors, which was formed out of the understanding that people need access to counseling regardless of their ability to pay.

Community Volunteer

Ann’s career was spent at the Walt Disney Company as the Vice President of National Accounts at Disney/ESPN Networks. Ann was inspired to shift gears in life in 2011, when she attended Ready, Set, Grow, Women’s Bean Projects’ annual luncheon and graduation celebration. Ann has been a mentor for six years, worked on several special projects, served on the Programming Committee, and in 2017 joined the Board of Directors. She never ceases to be amazed by the transformation the ladies go through from when they first start their journey to when they begin to blossom with self-confidence, and learn work skills they never thought they had. It is a true metamorphosis. Travel, gardening, bike riding, and bridge keep Anne entertained when not volunteering at the Bean Project.

EVP of People, Galvanize, Inc.

Krystal Than is the EVP of People at Galvanize, Inc. based in Denver, CO. She has been serving in HR roles for over 17 years, helping organizations assess their human resource strategies, as well as overall business goals. Her interest in the Women’s Bean Project came out of several volunteer events to prepare women to interview. Interacting with the program participants and the level of accountability the program provides furthered her passion for the Bean’s mission. Krystal has served on several boards in the past including: Firefly Autism, National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP), MEED (Minority Education and Enterprise Development) Colorado, and Theatre Esprit Asia (TEA).

Associate General Counsel and Secretary, Johns Manville

Roger heard from co-workers about this amazing organization called Women’s Bean Project. Finding the project’s mission compelling, he joined the board four months later. Roger has practiced law for over 30 years in the area of corporate and commercial law with an emphasis on international business transactions. He has run two different businesses; a railroad and a manufacturing company in Singapore. Having traveled extensively, Roger enjoys international travel, time with friends and family, boating, and most athletic activities.


First drawn to the Bean’s social enterprise approach, it’s seeing first-hand the optimism, self-reliance and success of program participants that continues to inspire Claude. He is an attorney specializing in marketing and advertising compliance. Claude formerly raced sled dogs, owning, training and caring for a kennel of 17 dogs. Since retiring from competition, he serves as a race announcer in Colorado and Utah.

Principal/Owner, Leonard Rice Engineers, Inc.

A bag of bean soup on the grocer’s shelf intrigued Janet enough to move her to learn about the Bean. Impressed by how the program addresses the myriad of underlying barriers to employment and self-sufficiency, she joined the board in July 2013. Janet is a consulting engineer, providing water rights, water resources and water supply planning services. She is a mom to three, loves to play the piano, and frequently connects with her “inner child” on the seat of a bicycle.

Senior Counsel, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnel LLP

For many years, Gwen has donated to Women’s Bean Project and other non-profits that help women. She believes that women in our community and abroad who suffer from cycles of poverty, incarceration, homelessness or other struggles need the tools to obtain the employment and social skills to become productive members of their communities. Having served on a non-profit board for eight years and volunteering on its various committees, Gwen hopes to bring that experience to grow the Bean Project and help the women who commit to its program to thrive for their entire lives. Gwen is an attorney in private practice, primarily in the area of complex commercial litigation, and is a founding partner of her Denver firm, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell. She semi-retired in April 2018 and is now Senior Counsel, looking forward to committing to the Bean’s success for years to come.