STRiVE's Leadership Team

Leadership Team Our leadership team is always available to answer questions and provide quality feedback and advice. To learn more about what services STRiVE can offer to you or your family members, please contact our main branch at 970-243-3702. If you are looking for specific departments, please use the directory below for contact information.

Grant Jackson | | President/CEO
Christopher Bergquist | | CFO
Douglas Sorter |  | Senior Vice President
Adele Avolio |  | Human Recourses Director
Khristina Kukus |  | Residential Services Director
Sarah Bonnell |  | Vice President of Resource Operations
Mary Burdick |  | Director of Nursing
Christina Cruz |  | Director of Behavior Health
Mary Anne Lawrie | | Executive Assistant

Grant Jackson

Born in New York, Grant Jackson received a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from Plattsburgh State University.  His course work had an emphasis on medical anthropology specifically related to disabilities across cultures.  

Grant started his career in Western Alaska as the regional coordinator for an agency similar to Strive called Hope Community Resources.  His first position there was as a Direct Service Provider intern at a group home. He was eventually hired as the Regional Coordinator for the organization.  He gained a tremendous amount of experience with both case management and direct services. In his role there he was fortunate to be able to travel all over Western Alaska visiting different Yupik Eskimo villages.  

Just before coming to Strive Grant worked for the Mesa County Department of Human Services as Director of Adult Services.  He oversaw adult protective services, long term care Medicaid case management, as well as the area agency on aging and the Aging Disability Resource Center (ADRC).

One of the driving forces behind Grant’s move to Strive was his desire to get back to working on behalf of people with developmental disabilities.  Growing up his best friend’s sister had Down syndrome and he saw the difficulties and injustices she faced at school and in the community. He knew then, that he wanted to be in a helping profession.  

In both Alaska and Colorado Grant has worked on different governor-appointed committees addressing issues related to traumatic brain injury, vocational rehabilitation, special education, and aging issues. Grant considers himself a good collaborative problem solver. He’s able to do this by building trust and confidence within organizations.  

A father of two young children Grant enjoys the Grand Valley for being a home base for activities such as mountain biking, skiing, and hiking.  He also enjoys digging up fossils, rockhounding, and plays drums for several bands in town.

Something people might not know about Grant is that he is obsessed with synthesizers and effects pedals and really likes to make weird noises with them.

Khrustina Kukus

Khristina Kukus has spent most of her life in Grand Junction except for a few years when she was taking in new beginnings in Montana. She is a graduate of Colorado Christian University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration.  Prior to joining Strive she was a home healthcare provider and worked in Assisted Living.  

When a nurse friend of hers told her about Strive she got excited about the work Strive does and applied for a job with the agency. She fell in the love with what we do and has spent the last ten years at Strive. Khristina is passionate about helping our clients reach their life goals.  She enjoys teaching, mentoring, and recreating with them.  

Khristina describes herself as outgoing and always available to people in need of help.  She’s good at problem-solving and likes the opportunity to find creative solutions to multi-faceted issues. She recognizes that often this takes more than a day but she’s patient about the process.  

Khristina loves the mountains in the Grand Valley especially the beautiful fall season we enjoy.  She likes the open space and quietness. Spending time with her son is a priority. When the weather is warm they will hike, camp, fish, swim and enjoy the outdoors with their dogs. When it’s colder they will go to the movies. She also enjoys cooking, baking, and needlework.  

A fun fact about Khristina is that she calls herself a “Book Nerd”.  She is an avid reader with a very large personal collection of books.  

Christopher Berquist

Born and raised in Grand Junction Christopher Bergquist attended Colorado Mesa University back when it was called Mesa State College. He earned an undergraduate degree in psychology which led to his first professional job working as a Case Manager for Strive.  

After several years as a Case Manager Christopher went back to school and earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in finance from Colorado State University. While doing his coursework for this degree he worked in Strive’s accounting office. Right after graduating Strive’s CFO retired and Christopher applied for the position and was promoted into it. He’s worked for the agency for 11 years now.

Christopher says that he enjoys working with the developmentally disabled community because, “they’re good people.” He says that he’s met some of the best people he knows while working at Strive. He enjoys how genuinely appreciative our clients are for any assistance they’re given.   

One of the unique characteristics Christopher brings to his work at Strive is his analytical mind. He likes bringing the business-side of things to the non-profit world.  

Christopher enjoys being outdoors and likes the Grand Valley for its climate and four seasons. He plays on a traveling softball team in the spring and summer and snowboards in the winter. He is also a referee for high school basketball.

Sarah Bonnell

Growing up with an uncle with Down syndrome, Sarah has a personal connection with the developmentally disabled community. While her uncle was fortunate enough to receive the help he needed others in their community weren’t as fortunate. This inspired her to do what she could personally and professionally to help those who need supports.  

She attended, the University of Northern Colorado earning a Bachelor’s in Education Psychology with an emphasis on Early Childhood Development. She also has a Master’s Degree in Education Linguistics.  Her study of linguistics has helped her understand the underlying cause of the speech-language delays many developmentally disabled people experience.  

After finishing school, Sarah began her career working in schools as an intervention specialist for children who were struggling learners. This included students who were second language learners. She also worked as an outside consultant/advocate for families helping them access the school and community-based interventions they needed.  

Sarah’s desire to expand her reach and serve more people led to her working at Strive. When she first applied, there was no particular job post—she just asked to meet with the Director of Human Resources and told them she wanted to make a difference in the community. She knew MDS was a great place to do that. That eventually led to her employment as a Case Manager.  She went on to head up the Early Intervention Program and now oversees both Children’s and Adult Services. Her official title is Vice President for Resource Coordination. Sarah considers herself to be equally as passionate as her colleagues at Strive and challenges herself to think outside the box and find creative solutions for clients.  

Sarah was born on the East Coast in New Jersey.  Her family moved quite a bit because of her father’s job. She’s lived in New Yok, Chicago and abroad.  Some of the countries she’s lived in/traveled to are Portugal, Turkey, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Scotland. She still loves to travel. 

Outside of Strive, Sarah is an avid mountain biker.  She coaches the middle school mountain biking team and spends as much time with her daughter Belle as possible, enjoying other outdoor recreation like hiking.  A fun tidbit about Sarah is that she has a younger sister who is the lead singer and ukulele player of the California band The Sound of Ghosts.

Douglas Sorter

Douglas Sorter joined STRiVE in May 2012 as a part-time DSP after a 30-year career as a UPS executive but soon realized the organization’s mission and dedication to the community deserved his full commitment and engagement.  

He is an enthusiastic and unwavering advocate for enhancing the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Douglas was born in Newfoundland Canada into an Air Force officer family, allowing him the opportunity to travel the world and grow an appreciation for diverse cultures and people.  He first worked with individuals with an intellectual and developmental disability while completing his undergraduate degree and soon realized their amazing capacity and potential for success.   Douglas earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 1980 from Colorado Mesa University and a Master’s in Social Science from Bridgewater University.    

He has served on several community Boards, including Board Chair for Habitat for Humanity, President of the Community Impact Council and President of the Colorado Mesa University Alumni Association.   

Outside of work Douglas enjoys gardening, college sports and hiking/skiing/rafting with his wife, four children, six grandchildren and black lab – Lady Bug.

Mary Burdick

Mary Burdick has been a nurse for over 40 years and has had the good fortune to have had vast and varied nursing experiences including Skilled Long Term Care Charge Nurse, Public Health Nurse, EMT, Hospice Nurse, Home Health Program Supervisor, Certified Nursing Assistant Trainer, Personal Care Assistant Trainer, Nursing Sales/Census Development, Assisted Living Director, Occupational Health nurse,  CPI instructor, Inpatient Psychiatric nurse, Insurance- Prior-authorization, Immunization Consultant, School Nurse High School/Middle School/Elementary and Hospital Quality Assurance.

Mary loves to take on challenging work projects, define goals and make good things happen for patients/clients/residents/individuals. When asked if she wanted to be a part of developing a nursing team at Strive the idea sounded like a wonderful and rewarding challenge. She says she was pleasantly surprised when in addition to the wonderful work challenges, she became absolutely passionate about serving the wonderful individuals at Strive. Additionally she feels very privileged to be a part of the Strive leadership team with their vast experience and knowledge.

Mary describes herself as outgoing and her best coping skills are laughter, faith and fun. She believes that living a good life is most important and nursing should support good living and not get in the way of it. In addition, she says that most things are a process and not an event, so gather good people around you, be persistent and work to do good things.

Mary grew up in Gateway, at that time a town of about 300 just south of Grand Junction, before it was a resort destination. She is beyond grateful that she had that experience and her wonderful parents because it grounded her and taught her many lessons in self-reliance. She graduated twice from Mesa; she got her Associate Degree in Nursing when it was Mesa College and her BSN when it was Mesa State. She has lived in the Grand Valley for most of her life but spent some wonderful time in Walden and Craig CO and in Justin and Rhome TX.  She loves animals of all types but especially dogs. She adores her 12-year-old granddaughter who is in Ft. Worth TX. She likes to knit, crochet, sew, cook, read, and crafts, but mostly she loves to have adventures and make memories with family – both those she was born into and those who are bonus family.

A little known fact about Mary is that she was very involved in 4-H growing up and she was the first Mesa County Fair Queen to not own a horse.

Adele Avolio

Born in Ontario, Canada Adele later moved to Florida where she earned her Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management. 

She eventually became the Human Resources Director for a non-profit organization similar to Strive. After living in Florida for many years Adele was looking for a change and Colorado’s climate appealed to her.  Adele likes our mountains, elevation, and air quality. 

Because she enjoyed her work in Florida she looked for a similar position in Colorado and Strive was a great fit.  She’s been with the organization for nine months. While she doesn’t get to directly work with clients often when she does she enjoys it. She finds our clients fun to work with. Her job is a perfect fit because she’s passionate about helping people achieve their full potential.

Adele enjoys hiking and loves rocks so the Grand Valley is ideal for her. She likes that it’s geographically diverse and very family-friendly. Outside of work, Adele enjoys do-it-yourself projects, gardening, and working out. Being physically and spiritually fit are priorities for Adele because she believes that a holistic approach to life where mind, body, and spirit are treated as one leads to greater overall wellness.  

Mary Anne Lawrie

MaryAnne Lawrie has been working here at Strive since 2001. Through all that, she’s been a rock-solid source of organizational expertise. MaryAnne says she learned everything she knows on the job and through workshops and a variety of training she’s been fortunate to attend. Prior to coming to Strive she worked as a paralegal and did transcription on the side.  

MaryAnne likes working with people with disabilities because she says it feels genuine and real. “It pulls on your heartstrings when you see them achieve their goals.”  She considers her honesty as one of her greatest assets on the job. She describes herself as an open book.  

Although she was born in Michigan MaryAnne has traveled the world because of her father’s work. She considers North Carolina home because that’s where she’s lived the longest.  However, she does love the Grand Valley for the people and the community itself.

Outside of work, MaryAnne enjoys a lot of hobbies such as canning, cooking, arts and crafts, hiking, and spending time with her family. Her activities vary depending on the season and weather. 

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