Staff


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Sandra Unger, Ed.D.

Executive Director and Pastor

Sandra moved to the east side with her family in 2003 and started The Lift in 2005. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies from Bethel University, an M.A. from Bethel Seminary, and an Ed.D in leadership from the University of St. Thomas. Her dissertation research was in the area of reciprocity in relationships that cross lines of race and class. She has worked at large churches in the areas of organizational development and community ministries. She has also served on the Board of Directors and finance committee of the East Side Neighborhood Development Company from 2008 through 2011. She has been married for over 25 years and has two adult children and a teenage foster daughter. Her hobbies are reading and playing tennis at St. Paul Indoor Tennis on the east side.


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Aaron Day

Youth Programs Director

Aaron has lived on and off on the east side for the past several years, and purchased a house in the neighborhood in 2012. He has been involved at The Lift for over eight years and has been on staff since 2008. He leads our Cash programs, mentors students, and generally engages teens on the things they are struggling with, whether it's learning to drive or opening their first bank account. He has a B.S. in education from U of M Duluth and taught fourth grade before working at The Lift. He is married and has a preschool age son and daughter. In his spare time you will find Aaron hanging out with friends and family, playing sports, or enjoying the outdoors.


Christopher Kirkwood

Program Manager

Christopher is involved in leading our Lift Up Kids program with a team of volunteers and assisting with our Tuesday night Cash In Program. He is passionate about social justice art, music production, and community engagement.

Christopher is a part of our Changemakers program. Learn more here.


Teli Veamatahau

Program Manager

Teli is a shift lead through our Cash Wise program at The Plaza Theater and acts as a liaison between The Lift and the theater owners. He’s a rugby player originally from Tonga, and now trains in Minnesota with Spearhead Rugby Academy. He likes to play volleyball, travel, and camp.

Teli is a part of our Changemakers program. Learn more here.


Alec Alanis

Program Manager

Alec is an east side resident who has worked at the Plaza as a Cinema Associate for the past two years. He’s passionate about music and loves to write songs and perform.

Alec is a part of our Changemakers program. Learn more here.


Cortez Warren

Program Manager

Cortez has been a part of The Lift for over ten years. In his free time, he says he likes to try new things—anything outside the norm will do.

Cortez is a part of our Changemakers program. Learn more here.


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Connor Unger

Operations Director

Connor has been involved with The Lift since the beginning and started on staff in 2015. He's a graduate of New York University, and when he's not working at The Lift he writes novels. He loves to read, play board games, and explore state parks.


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Ginny Ruzicka

Program Coordinator

Ginny grew up on the east side and graduated from Harding High School. She's been living in the community and been a part of The Lift since 2006. Ginny has A.A. and Nursing degree from Inver Hills Community College. Most recently, she's been working in home infusion and dialysis. In 2015, she got married to the cutest guy she knows. She loves working in the garden, biking, and dancing.


Julie Wright

Resource Coordinator

Julie has lived on the east side of St. Paul since 1998. She has been a part of The Lift since its beginning, first serving as a volunteer, and then working on staff starting in 2008. She serves as our Resource Coordinator, making sure all of our programs have needed supplies, managing our Lift Store, and coordinating seasonal projects. She also manages shifts at The Plaza Theater as part of our Cash Wise program. She has been married for over 20 years and has two sons. In her spare time, she loves to watch movies and go to art fairs.


Board


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Mari Bongiovanni, President

Jeremy Iwaszkowiec, Vice President

David Unger, Secretary

Dianna McCartan, Treasurer

Deynn Hampton

Dr. Paul Eddy