* Photo Credit Arianna RedDay

Hi, I am Rene. I am originally from Boston and moved to Flagstaff in 1999. My mother taught me the power of community. Whether in the neighborhood, our school, or her faith circle, my mom was (and still is) always engaged in the community! She ensured her three children were as well. I firmly believe we are here to connect, listen, and support each other when we can.

I am a wife and mother to my teenage daughter, Arianna. In hopes of instilling the same values my mom did in my daughter, my family regularly participates in community family and music events and festivals. I believe it’s essential to know my neighbors, and I do! It is my honor to have spent years in community leadership circles.

I began my work in child and family development in 1995. I have worked as a teacher, center director, professional development specialist, curriculum developer, educational coach, and program coordinator. In all my work, I have placed a high value on hearing the voice of diverse people! I enjoy listening to others sharing their lived experiences. I am committed to ensuring those experiences are shared within community leadership circles. In addition, I realize not all individuals feel connected to their community. I hope to change that in Coconino County!

Partnering Coconino Community Builders

Coconino Community Builders are passionate about ensuring their community has a voice in matters most important to them and decisions impacting them. If you consider yourself a community builder, please contact us! Building Community would love to partner with you!

Jeanne Crookston

My name is Jeanne Crookston. I have had the wonderful opportunity to make Fredonia my home. I am married to the love of my life, and together we have seven children and five grandchildren. I have lived and taught school in Fredonia for 21 years. When I arrived in Fredonia, I fell in love with this area’s beauty because the people here made me feel very welcome and at home.

When my children were younger, I made it my goal to be involved as much as possible in my community. I still value community connection and involvement, even though my children are now grown. I believe a sense of community helps everyone feel included and gives them a sense of pride. I work to connect my community to any resources that are available to us. I bought a shirt a few years ago that says, FREDONIA: One school, One town, One Family! That is my feeling as well.

Kim Robinson

Hello! My name is Kim Robinson. I was raised in Decatur, GA. After years of military service, over-the-road truck driving, and serving as a Park Guide in the National Park Service, my husband and I arrived in Arizona from the US Virgin Islands in 2008.

With our kiddos and cats, we highly enjoy engaging with our community, nonprofits, and government organizations to help those without a mighty voice or unhindered access to resources. I am a community builder to help others unite and advance and show them their voices can be heard. I am a small business owner focused on project management. 

Mariah Zavala

My name is Mariah Zavala. I am originally from Fresno, CA, and grew up in Tucson, AZ. I am Mexican, Puerto Rican, and a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. My mother has been my inspiration to create and strengthen my community. My siblings and I were constantly surrounded by other children, parents, family, and friends. These connections and relationships developed a warm and welcoming environment in our community in Tucson.

I moved to Flagstaff to attend NAU. My degree in Public Health and Biology. It is God’s blessing that I am now a community builder; using my skills to strengthen ties, develop new relationships, and promote social capital is my goal here in Flagstaff and perhaps all of Arizona! I’ve come to believe community is vital for day-to-day healthy living. Feeling warm and welcomed in a community you call home is a feeling everyone should have.  That is why I love working for North Country Healthcare as a health benefits advocate focused on outreach and enrollment. 

One of my favorite quotes is an African Proverb by Marth Goedert “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” A beautiful reminder of why community is essential.

Melissa Gielbeda

My name is Melissa Gielbeda. I live in Williams, AZ. I am married to my best friend and together we have five children and six grandchildren. I am a fourth generation Native Arizonian. My grandmother was born in Flagstaff and my father in Parks, so Northern Arizona is a part of me. Three years ago, my family became homeless for over 9 months. Luckily, we finally we able to buy a home in Williams. My husband is retired but I work at the Head Start in Williams. Our two youngest children attend school in Williams, and we all are becoming more active in the community.

Our experience with being homeless really has made me aware of what resources are available or missing in communities in Northern Arizona. A sense of community helps everyone feel included and gives them not only a sense of belonging but also of pride. I believe everyone should have a voice in how their community is growing and to be able to get the resources they need when in need. That’s why I love working for NACOG Head Start in WIlliams.

Miranda Baldosky
Valle/Grand Canyon

Hello, my name is Miranda Baldosky. I was born and raised in the Valle area, also known as Grand Canyon Junction. Many visitors pass this area on their way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Our community is unique and attracts a wide variety of individuals. First, you will find folks trying the off-grid lifestyle, and then you have the folks living in employee housing that help the businesses in Tusayan operate.

I am a community builder for multiple reasons. The first is that when we unite, we are stronger. Living off-grid, you face many obstacles. So, it helps to know your neighbors and available resources. Secondly, I know how it feels to be raised in this environment and grow up needing your community to survive. I want to build community connections so youth can have the opportunities I had due to the community builders of that time. My business Canyon Community Alliance is an organization dedicated to igniting community building. We are excited to partner with Building Community to collectively initiate, develop, and maintain strong relationships within our communities and county! Here in Valle, we are a community ready to unite, love, help, and love Mother Earth.

Penni Case

My name is Penni Case. I was born in Utah and raised in Utah, Arizona, and Oregon. For the past 21 years, I have lived in Page, Arizona. I am a wife and mother to three amazing humans and two dogs. I am the Director of Exceptional Student Services for Page Unified School District.

Page is adjacent to the Navajo Nation, so the community I serve in my work encompasses 2400 square miles. Page is the gateway to some of the most iconic views and attractions in the southwest. But unfortunately, it is also physically isolated. Due to this isolation, our community has vast needs, but it seems our voices fall on deaf ears, and we are often an afterthought.

As a child, I lived in eight different communities. The people I met who worked to develop a community where people cared about one another significantly impacted me. I work to build community because I want to make a difference in the lives of community members in Page and Coconino County. As a community builder, I aim to foster communication among individuals and establish a way for community members to share their voices so that we can discover what the community members care about, need, and desire. I believe learning what we care about is one of the most powerful ways to ignite change.