Our Staff

Larissa Ruffin, House Manager

After graduating from City High in Iowa City in 1996, Larissa ended a long period of what she describes as bad life choices with a prison sentence from 2004 to 2006. Upon her release, she started on a new path, earning a degree in criminal justice at Kaplan University in 2008, followed by jobs at the Willis Dady Emergency Shelter and AmeriCorps, and volunteer work at the Catholic Worker House. When the CWH lost their house manager, she applied, and started working in September 2009. She lives at the house with her husband Carl, along with one of his four children and a niece.

Because of her background, she’s able to connect with and help people that are where she was – just out of prison, facing eviction, homeless, or in a similar hardship situation. “Being able to show compassion and listen with empathy – that’s huge for me and for them. My goal is to help them find a way out and see that the current situation is not the end – that even prison can be just a step to making life better, not the end of the road.” She loves being able to help people of all religious beliefs and backgrounds. Her biggest reward is when a client is able to go home.

Larissa spends her days leading a staff of three, coordinating numerous volunteers, working with current, new, and past clients to make sure their needs are met, writing grants, and doing presentations at churches to share the CWH mission.

Jasmine Conwell

Jasmine first came to us in the fall of 2016. When Jasmine joined us she was working with the Kirkwood program-Creating Futures. Jasmine was also just returning to work after having her son Kaiden that summer. Jasmine not only completed her internship, she also completed the work study portion and then was hired on as a CWH employee in 2017. We are very thankful for Jasmine and Kaiden and glad they have joined our staff and family! Jasmine plans to continue her education and go on to study Social Work in the near future.

Our Board Members

The Catholic Work House (CWH) Board of Directors is made up of a dedicated team of community members that work passionately to support families in getting their lives back on track.

“I am proud to be associated with the Catholic Worker House because of the helping hand up it offers families in times of great need. The Catholic Worker House is so much more than just a homeless shelter! The most rewarding aspect of being on the Board of Directors of the Catholic Worker House is to continually relearn just how much of a difference providing shelter and food for a family can truly be in restoring hope to all that the future can and will be better.” – Robert B. Callahan, Former Board Member

Jim Podgorski, CHAIR
Jim Podgorski, CHAIR General Mills, Retired
Jim is a member of the St. Joseph parish. He started with CWH as a house sitter in 2006 and has been on the board since 2008. Jim has been Board Chair since 2009. He and his wife Marilyn have thirteen grandchildren. Jim retired from General Mills in 2004.
Karen Volz, VICE CHAIR
Karen Volz, VICE CHAIR Ackley, Kopecky & Kingery, Partner
Karen has been a volunteer board member for over 20 years, which she finds highly rewarding. As an attorney practicing family law, she helps the board find advice on legal matters. Through her association with CWH, she realizes that the family stability she enjoyed growing up is only a dream for many kids and their parents. She especially loves the fact that CWH tries very hard not to be institutional, but welcoming, caring and understanding of the various circumstances that cause a temporary lack of housing. A native of Cedar Rapids, Karen is the oldest of seven children. She is married to Lance and grateful for daily blessings.
Bea Rethwisch, SECRETARYCommunity Volunteer
Bea is married to Pete and has two children, Kayla and Peter. Bea has been a member of All Saints parish for almost 23 years and a board member for CWH since 2012.
Dawn Barrett, TREASURERCRBT, Senior Loan Administrative Assistant
Dawn was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, attended school at St. Ludmila’s Elementary and LaSalle High School, and is a 1994 graduate of Mount Mercy College. She is a lifelong member of St. Ludmila’s parish. Dawn has worked at Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust Company since 2005 as a loan administrative assistant and has been on the board of CWH as Treasurer since 2006.
Andrea Reed, FINANCE CO-CHAIR Rockwell
Andrea has served on the CWH board for two years. After graduating from Loras College with a BA in Accounting in 2008, she went on to receive her masters of Accounting from UNI in 2009. As an auditor for the last seven years with the Department of Defense, she brings a strong sense of detail to the board.
Carol Steiner, SPIRITUAL CHAIRCommunity Volunteer
Carol has been on the CWH board for more than a decade. She also provides a monthly meal to the house and delivers food baskets for us. A member of St. Ludmila’s parish, Carol and her husband Leonard participate in the church band and love to travel.
Kristin Schaefer, FINANCE CO-CHAIRTransamerica, Actuary
Kristin is an actuary with Transamerica where she has been employed for over 20 years. She is a member of St. Jude parish where she volunteers as a lector. She also co-chairs a Sweet Corn Festival Committee with her husband Jeff. They have two daughters and two grandsons. Kristin has been on the board since 2012.
Becky Picard, PUBLIC RELATIONS CO-CHAIRCommunity Volunteer
Becky is a former high school teacher of German and French. After leaving teaching, she spent 15 years as Vice President of US Bank Milwaukee, working out of the Cedar Rapids area. She then became a Senior Vice President for Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust and its holding company, Quad City Bank and Trust. Now retired, Becky has two sons, four step-children and four grandchildren. She is married to Denny and both are members of St. Pius X parish.
Steve Determan, FACILITIES CHAIRRockwell, Senior Electrical Engineer
Steve was born in Clinton, IA and moved to Cedar Rapids 35 years ago to take a job at Rockwell. He met his wife Jo Ann and married her in 1983 at Saint Joseph’s parish in Marion, where they are still members. They have two children. Since 2008, Steve has been involved with CWH and organizing semi-annual work days with the Knights of Columbus.
Colleen Russell, BOARD MEMBERGeneral Mills, Financial Operations Manager
Colleen graduated from Eureka College and is currently a financial manager at General Mills. She’s a member of St. Ludmila’s parish and has two children, Taylor and Andrew. She been a board member since 2010. She’s also a busy soccer mom.
Rosemary Hays, BOARD MEMBERCommunity Volunteer
Rose lives in Hiawatha with her husband Rick. They are blessed with three children and four grandchildren. Rose works for the Cedar Rapids School District in special education as a facilitator/coach. Rose and Rick are long time members of St. Patrick’s parish in Cedar Rapids. Rose has been on the CWH board since 2004.
Jody Randall, BOARD MEMBER Community Volunteer
Jody is originally from Dubuque, IA. She and her husband have been married for 27 years and have three wonderful children. They are parishioners of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and have lived in the Cedar Rapids area since 1995. Jody loves her work as the Guidance administrative assistant at Regis Middle School.
Bob Buschette, FACILITIES CO-CHAIRRockwell
Bob is employed at Rockwell Collins here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Bob and his wife Jacquie have two children. They are both members at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Hiawatha. Bob has been on the CWH board since 2008.
Paul Gamez, BOARD MEMBER Simmons Perrine, Member
Paul is an attorney with Simmons Perrine. He and his wife Delvina have three children, Maria, Isabel and Lee, and are members of St. Patrick’s parish. Paul joined the Board in 2012 in response to a posting about the Catholic Worker House in the St. Patrick’s Sunday church bulletin.
Bob Bevenour, HONORARY CHAIRRockwell (Retired)
When Bob retired from working at Rockwell, he wanted to continue with the philosophy of serving others. In 1994, he volunteered to mow the lawn at CWH, and that led to him serving on the CWH Board and editing the Reflections newsletter for 13 years. Bob officially retired from the CWH in 2007 so a smooth succession could evolve, but he remains an honorary member and good friend.