Access of West Michigan adds to leadership team

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From left, McKenzie VanPatten, Alaina Dobkowski, Nikeyia Perkins and Christina Swiney. Courtesy Access of West Michigan

A local nonprofit welcomed a four-person co-executive director team. 

Access of West Michigan recently added a new co-executive director team: Christina Swiney, co-executive director of operations; McKenzie VanPatten, co-executive director of programs; Nikeyia Perkins, co-executive director of engagement; and Alaina Dobkowski, co-executive director of advancement. 

This is the nonprofit’s sixth year utilizing a co-leadership model and will be its first year moving from two co-executive directors to four. 

Emma Garcia and Swiney initially took on roles as co-executive directors in 2016. Garcia stepped down from her role this spring after over 12 years of service at Access, six of which were as a co-executive.

“Emma led with such focus, integrity and compassion that the preparedness for the organization is in great hands moving forward with a new leadership model,” said Julie Benson, Access board president. “The Access of West Michigan board is enthusiastic and excited as we look forward to a renewed, woman-led co-director leadership structure.” 

Last fall, Access staff began reviewing possibilities for future leadership structures, ultimately resulting in a collective vision for the nonprofit’s next evolution in shared leadership. This decision led to the creation of a four-person co-executive team. 

The staff also agreed they had the leadership within, affirming executive leadership roles for Swiney, VanPatten, Perkins and Dobkowski. 

“Innovative solutions are needed to address root causes of poverty and equity,” Dobkowski said. “We believe this leadership model will not only further the work of our mission, vision and values at Access, but we also hope that it will serve as an example to our community of an equitable organizational system. We do not pretend these changes will be easy, but we stand ready to continue to do the challenging work of implementing change together.”  

Swiney has a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Kuyper College and 10-plus years of administrative and program leadership in urban ministry. She has been with Access since 2015. 

Perkins studied psychology at Cornerstone University and has 15 years of social work experience. She previously served as a utility caseworker at The Salvation Army and supported at-risk youth through Bethany Christian Services. 

VanPatten graduated with a bachelor’s degree in medical case management. She sits on the board of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) and is part of its governance committee. 

Dobkowski has a Bachelor of Social Work from Calvin University, a Master of Urban Studies from Eastern University, and is currently a Master of Divinity student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.  Outside of her work at Access, Dobkowski is a member of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Service Agency Antiracism Transformation Team.  

Access of West Michigan will host an end-of-summer event inviting the public to meet the new leadership team on Aug. 30, at the Grant Pavilion at Millennium Park, at 1400 Maynard Ave. SW in Grand Rapids. 

Access of West Michigan was founded in 1981 as a faith-based nonprofit addressing issues around poverty in Kent County.

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