Because children belong in families.

Mission and Vision

A Family for Every Orphan is a Christian organization that helps orphans find loving families in their home countries. Our vision is a world without orphans.

We believe children belong in families.

Read more about our work here:

Financial Accountability

We believe in fiscal transparency. We want you to feel confident that we are using your gifts to help kids not only get into families, but STAY in loving families. Visit our financial accountability page to learn more.

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Statement of Faith

The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
I believe in the holy catholic* church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting. Amen.

*represents the global ecumenical church

David Melilli, J.D., LL.M.

Voting Board Member

David is an attorney located in Boerne,Texas. His areas of practice include estate, tax and philanthropic planning. One of the major priorities in his practice is helping his clients invest significantly, wisely and strategically in Kingdom work. David enables his clients to accomplish their estate, tax and charitable objectives efficiently. He understands the need for business and legal professionals to lead the way in promoting Kingdom Investment and growth.

David and his wife Julie are blessed with six children – ages 1 to 14. They are both strong proponents and supporters of adoption and orphan care. David was adopted and it has impacted his journey greatly. Their care for orphans and heart for adoption has helped form and grow their family. Three of their children are adopted from China and each adoption story has been an amazing journey of faith; watching God provide for their family in truly awesome ways. David and his family continue to have a heart for the orphans and are continually looking for ways to be involved in this arena. He is thrilled to be involved with A Family for Every Orphan as a board member.

Melinda Mandell

Vice Chair

Melinda is the owner of Melinda Mandell Interior Design, a residential design firm located in Palo Alto, California. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interior Design from Seattle Pacific University, and an associate’s degree in Interior Design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Melinda lends a creative and market savvy edge to the A Family for Every Orphan team.

Melinda is passionate about orphans and how families can play a role in the healing of children with broken pasts. She is specifically interested in how the physical home can support foster/adoptive families as they care for their children. Her three siblings, who were adopted from Russia, who were instrumental in making her aware of the plight of orphans in Eastern Europe and the issues surrounding orphan care.

Dr. Richard Scheuerman

Richard Scheuerman served for thirty-six years in public and private education and as a foundation and non-profit board member for organizations promoting indigenous adoption and orphan care in Europe and Asia. He and his wife have three children and are natives of the Endicott, Washington area where he recently co-founded Palouse Colony Farm. The business produces and markets sustainably-grown heritage grains.

After coming to Seattle Pacific University in 2004, Dr. Scheuerman chaired the Master of Arts in Teaching program for seven years. His teaching and research focused on comparative educational systems with special emphasis on Russia and Eastern Europe, and on environmental sustainability education involving perspectives from Northwest Native Americans and U.S. and Canadian Anabaptist groups. He is co-author with Dr. Arthur Ellis of the Journeys of Discovery interdisciplinary curriculum series for middle level and high school students and has recently worked with students and faculty on curriculum development at Seattle Urban Academy, a private alternative school. He is also co-founder and executive director of The Joseph Fund, a foundation devoted to orphan care education and placement in Eastern Europe that is affiliated with the global Home for Every Orphan movement. 

Paul Zhdan

Treasurer

Paul currently serves as Treasurer for AFFEO. Over the past decade, Paul has been passionately engaged in student development, special needs care, and orphan ministry. After graduating from Wheaton College with majors in Philosophy and Business/Economics, Paul spent time volunteering with summer camps and orphan care organizations in Ukraine. This international trip solidified Paul’s desire and commitment to make a difference in the lives of orphans in Ukraine and around the world, both on a personal and systemic level. He now resides in the Bay area working as a financial analyst for a local college endowment.

Anita Deyneka

Voting Board Member

Anita has been involved as a leader in non-profit work in Russia and Ukraine for many years. In 2010 she retired as President of Russian Ministries (now Mission Eurasia)—a non-profit organization that she co-founded with her late husband, Peter. She continues to serve as an emeritus board member with Mission Eurasia. Anita has devoted her life to advocating for orphans through strategic partnerships. She holds a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, an M.A. from Mundelein College in Chicago and an honorary PhD from Seattle Pacific University. Anita is the mother of two adopted children from Colombia and grandmother to five grandchildren and lives in Wheaton IL.

Anthony Ritchie

Voting Board Member

Anthony serves as a voting member on the board. He graduated from Grove City College in Pennsylvania in 2014 and now resides in Big Rock, Illinois.  Anthony works as a project manager at Fox River Foundation where he is involved in a myriad of projects including many that support orphans and vulnerable children in the U.S. and abroad, primarily with the strategy of mobilizing government, the faith community, and the business sector around the goal of permanency and belonging for every child.

He is passionate about helping vulnerable children and believes that a permanent family is the most effective way of solving the world orphan crisis, making him a perfect match for the team. The youngest of ten children, Anthony’s upbringing and core values are based strongly on the idea of family, and that every child needs a loving home to help them truly reach their full potential.

Anthony and his wife Kelsey (the eldest of ten children, 7 of whom are adopted) just welcomed their first child, Amos into the world in April 2017.

Oriah Longanecker

Chair

Oriah served over two decades as an Officer in the U.S. Air Force where he led Joint Military units in several countries, a variety of combat activities, and served in leadership positions throughout the United States. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he and his family enjoy all things outdoors, being involved in various local and international ministries, and baking (and eating!) delicious things.

He helps lead a startup company in the risk and security industry which develops and enhances safer, more effective organizational environments for clients around the world. His undergrad was in Management Studies, with graduate work in Military Art and Science, Homeland Security Studies, and cybersecurity.

Dr. Natalya Ageyeva

Natalya Ageyeva has dazzled audiences throughout the United States and internationally, including Italy, Austria, and Israel, as well as on tour in her native Russia. She has appeared at a broad range of venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York, Benaroya Hall in Seattle, and the Rachmaninoff Hall in Moscow.

Her artistry has earned her awards and recognition around the world, including the Young Artist Competition in Moscow, Rotary Club Scholarship in Chicago, Brechemin Scholarship at the University of Washington, Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition in New-York, and the Zinetti International Chamber Music Competition in Italy. Read more about Natalya’s esteemed career here.

Natalya is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Russian Chamber Music Foundationof Seattle. Natalya has a heart for the orphan cause and has graciously shared her gift of music with A Family for Every Orphan through private benefit performances.

Chelsea Elizabeth

After leading AFFEO’s programs in Asia and Africa from 2014 to 2020, we are thrilled to have Chelsea continue to provide excellent program strategy insight as an Advisory Council member. 

Chelsea became involved in the orphan crisis while serving in Southeast Asia. She became known locally as the “orphan lady” as she connected hospitals with local orphan care NGOs, often rescuing abandoned children and finding placements for children with special needs.

In addition to her work in the field, Chelsea studied at Peninsula Community College, Seattle Pacific University and completed a Communication & Design course through the University of Nations in Switzerland. Chelsea will continue pouring her energy and heart into Amma’s Umma, her online fair trade boutique that also raises funds for adoptions!

Chelsea and her husband Amith currently live in the Pacific Northwest with their two sweet sons.

Karmen Friesen

Principal Coordinator, World Without Orphans

Executive Director, CoMission for Children at Risk

Karmen has led CoMission for Children since 2001, networking, resourcing and equipping Christian leaders, organizations and churches globally to minister more effectively to orphaned and vulnerable children. In 2007, CoMission began equipping Russians and Ukrainians for adoption and foster care, and later helped to develop the Russia Without Orphans Alliance and to support Ukraine Without Orphans. Both of these movements are engaging the church in their own countries for family-based care as part of the World Without Orphans (WWO) movement. Currently, Karmen serves as the Principal Coordinator for the WWO Executive Team. He lives with his family in Pennsylvania.

Richard T. Moore, Esq.

Richard is an attorney with a background in health technology and consulting, and is currently the Lead Consultant in the Strategy and Innovation division at Premera Blue Cross, a not-for-profit healthcare organization. He was previously the SVP of Operations and In-House Counsel at Array Health, a health IT software company. Richard served as a founding director of A Family For Every Orphan and is active with the Washington Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He holds a Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law and an MBA from the Seattle University Albers School of Business and Economics.

Allison Pinkham

After serving on the Board of Directors for two years, Allison is now a valued member for the Advisory Council. Allison Pinkham has over 20 years experience in business and HR and is currently the Head of HR for a consumer products company. Before that she was a Vice President of Human Resources for a large multi-national pharmaceutical company based in Germany. She provides a broad range of business and HR experience which includes her previous work as an IT systems consultant at Accenture and as an Organizational Development and Change Management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. She has also worked previously in Marketing and the majority of her experience is comprised of HR leadership roles at MasterCard, Darden Business School at the University of Virginia and currently at Boehringer Ingelheim.

Allison has always had a passion for helping children, especially children in vulnerable situations, which includes her previous volunteer work with the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Charlottesville, VA; as a Counselor for at-risk youth in Annapolis, MD; a summer camp counselor in NJ; and a Sunday School Children’s teacher in Wilton, CT. While on an expat assignment in Germany, Allison was seeking out opportunities to help specifically support orphans and learned about the organization “A Family for Every Orphan”. Upon learning about the amazing work the organization was doing, Allison wanted to volunteer where she could and was eventually led to join the board to contribute her business and HR experience where needed to further realize the goal of finding a home for every orphan. In 2020, she transitioned to serving on the advisory council to continue providing business and HR support. Allison feels strongly that every child deserves a loving home and she will work to use the gifts that God has given her to try to make that passion a reality.

Allison currently resides in New York with her husband and two children. She enjoys various travel adventures with her family including hiking, biking, boating, swimming, experiencing different countries and cultures and seeing the beauty of the world that God created.

Karl Scheuerman

Karl Scheuerman has been involved with A Family for Every Orphan since its inception.  He currently an Advisory Council member after having served as both the board’s Secretary and board Chair.

As a child, Karl’s family was involved in foster care. He spent a year during his college studies to serve students and orphans as a missionary in Russia, which further developed his heart for the fatherless.

Karl is a distinguished graduate of the United States Air Force Academy whose military service included tours in Turkey and Afghanistan. He later earned a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Maryland and now works as a principal analyst for a global cyber security company. Karl also serves as Squadron Commander for an Air National Guard squadron.

He lives with his wife and three daughters in Richland, WA.

Elena G. Shipping

Elena is a cross-cultural business professional with a background in commercial lending, franchise development, market research, and business consulting.

She is passionate about the cause of vulnerable children, which began in the 1990’s when Elena had the opportunity to work with a Christian non-profit mission serving the children from orphanages and foster homes in her hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia.

Elena was a Senior Strategist and Commercial Lender with Wells Fargo Middle Market Banking serving a wide range of financial needs of commercial and non-profit clients. She also worked in the franchise restaurant development industry with Bojangles’ Restaurants, Inc. supporting expansion of the organization’s international and domestic footprint. Elena holds an MBA in Business Finance from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Master’s of Science in International Business from Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University.

Heather Dyer

Executive Director

Heather’s journey and passion to see children in stable and loving families began when she first accompanied her father on a work trip to Central America as a young girl. Heather’s eyes were opened to the impact of poverty and the vast and deep needs of children and families who care for them. After attending graduate school,

Heather began volunteering with vulnerable youth in West Dallas and as a youth ministry group leader at her church for eight years. During that time, she helped lead mission trips ministering to impoverished children alongside a local church in Guatemala. These experiences deepened Heather’s empathy and love for vulnerable children and their families, and her passion to see every child in a stable and loving home.

Heather has over 15 years experience in finance, accounting, NGO work, leadership, and strategic planning. She most recently served as the CFO of a 110-year-old Chicago based non-profit which provides early childhood education and camps for children with special needs. Prior to that, Heather worked in multiple senior financial management roles at Southwest Airlines. Heather obtained a Master’s in Accounting from Southern Methodist University, her Bachelor’s in Accounting and Finance from Texas Christian University and is a Certified Public Accountant.

In an effort to provide the best care possible to vulnerable children she cared for and ministered to, she received further education in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), a holistic model in trauma-informed intervention. Heather is an active member of Park Community Church in Chicago, where she currently leads the Foster and Adoption Ministry.

Heather and her husband, Graham, recently completed a four-and-a-half-year international adoption journey and are so thankful to be the parents of a beautiful daughter. Through this adoption journey, the Lord opened Heather’s eyes to the complex plight facing orphans today. Heather sees the vital role the church plays in supporting family-based care and the great impact a supportive community can have in the lives of children. As a passionate adoptive mother, Heather is committed to helping children find loving families and understands the importance of taking a holistic approach to orphan care.

Sarah Wolfe

Director of programs and grants
Support Sarah

Sarah Wolfe served as a board member before joining the staff as Chief Operations Officer in 2011. She is currently the Director of Programs and Grants.

Her journey towards serving orphans and vulnerable children began right after college when she spent several years as a case manager working with high-risk children and families. During that time, Sarah recognized a growing passion for the language and culture of Eastern Europe, and became firmly convinced that every child grows best in a loving family.

In addition to nine years of financial and operations management as COO, Sarah brings experience in program development, grant writing, social services, and building international relationships.

Sarah holds a BA in Psychology from Huntington University and an MA in Russian and East European Cultures and Societies from the University of Manchester.

She and her husband Jared currently live in Steilacoom, WA with their dog Winston. Sarah enjoys hiking, reading, yoga, knitting and baking.

Stefanie Thornberg

Director of Operations

Stefanie Thornberg has always had a passion for serving. Her journey to care for at-risk children began when she spent a summer serving at an orphanage in Juarez, Mexico. It was there that she first recognized the complexities of caring for orphans. This complexity challenged her preconceived notions about what caring for orphans should look like. When she returned to the United States, she spent the next three years working alongside a nonprofit and living with low-income families and at-risk children. God taught her how much His love could impact a family, and how instrumental a strong family is for the lives of children.

Stefanie has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of New Mexico and comes to A Family for Every Orphan with an extensive background in operations management, communications, and human resources.

In her free time, Stefanie enjoys reading, hand lettering, and mountain biking with her husband. She and her husband Benjamen currently live in Tacoma, WA with their adventurous baby boy!

Anna Tufts

Administrative and Communications Assistant

Anna is a south Mississippi native, and she has always had a passion for caring for and working with children. She worked at Twin Lakes Summer Camp in Mississippi for 6 summers as a camp counselor and unit director, and she has served in various capacities within the children’s ministries at church throughout the years.

Anna graduated from The University of Mississippi in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. After college and an internship, she moved to Georgia to work within the realm of Higher Education. While working for the Georgia Institute of Technology, she completed her Masters in Public Administration from Valdosta State University. Her program and event management experience have greatly prepared her to transition into working with A Family for Every Orphan.

Anna met her husband in Georgia through church friends, and they now live with their daughters Susie and Annie in Decatur, Georgia. They enjoy traveling as much as they do being home together. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, pilates, podcasts, her women’s bible study, and spending time with family and friends.   

Raya Shelashska

Regional Program Director: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Raya started her journey serving vulnerable children in 2006 when she and her husband became foster parents right after she got a Bachelor’s degree in Management. Being a foster parent for a dozen of children who spent most of their lives on the streets made a drastic shift in her career. Later she became a director of Family Care Center, an NGO which provided children left without parental care with an opportunity to live in a family environment.

Being a foster and adoptive parent Raya was wondering why children from hard places have behavioral, social, and many other issues and how to help them to thrive, which led her to further education: she got her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in Ukraine and in 2018 her Masters in Developmental Trauma in TCU, USA. Raya is a director of Ukrainian NGO focused on post-placement support and education of caregivers and professionals in child welfare field. Her passion is to see children thriving in loving families and see a church playing active role in supporting at-risk children and families.

Raya is a proud mom of four children and lives in Ukraine with her husband Oleg who is also a national leader in Orphan Care ministry.

Shalini Gordon

Project Coordinator: Southeast Asia

Shalini Gordon has always been passionate about serving children as she sees every child as valuable and uniquely designed by God. Having traveled around the country, she has had the opportunity to interact with people from different cultures & backgrounds and sees the growing need for children who are in desperate need of love and care. It breaks her heart to see children abandoned, abused and hurting. Her experiences and interactions enabled her to lead a team of volunteers in a few rural communities educating women on the importance of children. She is encouraged to look at different ways in which children can receive the love and attention they deserve.

In her professional career, Shalini worked for several years as a teacher and has coordinated various events in the Church and in ParaChurch ministries. She studied History at University and holds a Masters in Religious Education as well.

In her free time, you will find her enjoying baking and sipping on a cup of tea. She finds it relaxing to stitch, play board games, and enjoy long runs. She and her husband live in Bangalore, India, and are waiting to adopt and welcome home a child in need of a loving family environment.

Ruth Sharon

Volunteer: Program Liaison

Ruth is from the UK, where she has worked as a lawyer specializing in cases of child protection, adoption, and domestic violence for over 20 years. During 2019 she travelled extensively in South America and Africa, where she was moved by stories of thousands of vulnerable and orphan children being harmed by the legal process that was supposed to protect them. She found the laws were not being implemented properly in many cases. In partnership with AFFEO, Ruth founded International Justice for Children, which works to support governments and the judiciary legal systems that ensure each child’s right to live in a safe, loving, permanent home.

Ruth also acts as our program liaison for Ghana, where she has enjoyed training judges and lawyers.

Ruth currently lives in Oxford and enjoys authentic connections, the outdoors, and creative projects, but nothing captures her heart more than her children and grandson!

Sarah Shaffer

Volunteer: Communications and Operations Support

Sarah Shaffer worked as the Operations Manager for A Family for Every Orphan from 2016-2020. We are delighted to have her continued support and insight as a volunteer!

Sarah’s passion for serving our world’s most vulnerable children was ignited at a young age through an international child sponsorship program. She traveled to Malawi, Africa in 2005 and Cap-Haïtien, Haiti in 2010 to work with at-risk children, quickly learning about the world’s international orphan crisis.  She has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations with a Communication Studies minor from Westminster College (PA).  Through her past work experience, ranging from Operations Manager for AFFEO, banking, operations at a small magazine publishing company, and working as a community outreach coordinator through AmeriCorps, Sarah provides invaluable insight into communications and operations.

Sarah is married to her college sweetheart, Jake, an Army JAG officer. She is a mama to three beautiful daughters and spends her free time reading, practicing yoga, volunteering at her church, and spoiling her crazy pit bull-lab mix, Mikan. She currently lives in Upstate New York.

Elaine Springer

Volunteer Coordinator of Pray for Every Orphan
Support Elaine

Elaine Springer has a BS in nursing and works as a registered nurse in community health. She spent 25 years as a missionary with Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) and Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries (PDRM) in several capacities including publications manager and editor/writer for a variety of radio programs and publications to English-speaking prayer partners and financial donors. She also taught English and practiced “friendship evangelism” for Soviet émigrés near Rome, Italy. In addition, she served as a liaison for exchanges between Soviet and American universities in the early ’90’s.

She has traveled to the former Soviet Union numerous times (twice with a music team!) and has written the biography of one of SGA’s entrepreneurial missionaries. One of Elaine’s favorite responsibilities was advocating prayer for The CoMission and its missionaries from the early through late ’90s as contributing editor for The Chariot, a quarterly newsletter for CoMission supporters. (The CoMission was a collaborative effort of more than 80 Christian organizations to take the love of Christ to those living in the former Soviet Union.)

Elaine is passionate about prayer and is thrilled to encourage prayer for the World Without Orphans movement.