Our Co-Executive Director Leadership Team: McKenzie VanPatten, Alaina Dobkowski, Nikeyia Perkins, and Christina Swiney
Co-Executive Director of Operations
Christina joined the Access of West Michigan team as the Senior Caseworker with the congregation network in the fall of 2015. The following Spring, she moved into the role of Co-Executive Director. Christina comes to Access with a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Kuyper College and 10+ years of administrative and program leadership in urban ministry. Christina is a follower of the Christian Community Development Association, having worked in member organizations throughout her career. Over the years, she has practiced radical welcome and proximity in neighborhood ministry.
Christina lives in the Northern Wyoming/ Southwest Grand Rapids area with her husband and four boys, who attend The Potter’s House Christian School and Grand Valley State University. Christina has loved working with the amazing staff at Access, supporting the work of system change to build thriving communities. Outside of work, you can find Christina at many different sporting events connected to her boys’ schools or hosting a bonfire to bring neighbors and friends together.
Co-Executive Director of Programs
Nikeyia has been with Access for the past five years. She began her career as the caseworker and quickly moved up to the roll as Congregation Casework Director, managing program staff along with supporting casework and training needs for congregations. She has been a visionary team member at Access for the past five years. Nikeyia has spearheaded bringing together congregations via geographical networks, creating pods for them to work together and alongside their neighbors for positive change. She meets with outreach teams and church leaders to train them on best practices of benevolence, understanding poverty, as well as anti-racism and social justice.
Nikeyia sits on the Essential Needs Task Force Energy Committee as well as the Coalition to End Homelessness. She studied Psychology at Cornerstone University and holds 15 years of social work experience, some of which include serving as a Utility Caseworker at The Salvation Army as well as supporting at-risk youth through Bethany Christian Services where she created a respite care program for youth on the weekends. This work led to her passion for creating more equitable and just systems for the community. Other passions that you’ll find Nikeyia advocating for include anti-racism, mental health, self-care, and world peace.
Co-Executive Director of Advancement
McKenzie has been a part of Access of West Michigan’s team since 2017. She has called West Michigan home her entire life. McKenzie began at Access in our Good Food Programs, coordinating our vegetable prescription program and becoming the program manager for all Good Food Systems programming, ensuring that all partners were supported in our best practice work. In her current role she supports all Access programs with strategy, vision, and team development. McKenzie serves as strategic support of Access’ board, and specifically the governance team of the board. McKenzie has worked to support Access’ Anti-Racism journey as a co-chair of the Anti-Racism Team.
McKenzie was a student athlete at Davenport University, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Case Management. She sits on the board of Grow and is a part of their governance committee. McKenzie has a strong network as one of the Urban Core Collective’s Transformational Leadership Program Alumni. She is extremely passionate about holistic health (mind, body, and spirit), anti-racism, and growing relationships with the beautiful people of this world. In her spare time, you can find her doing something active, loving her friends and family, reading a book, or cooking a delicious meal.
Good Food Systems Director
Gratia joined the team in January of 2022. She looks forward to engaging with the community around shared goals of increased health equity and improved food access. She is passionate about the environment and sees food as an important entry point to connect people to one another and our planet. She sits on the Essential Needs Task Force Food and Nutrition Coalition in Grand Rapids.
Gratia holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in French from Denison University, and a Master of Science Degree in Environmental Education from Antioch University of New England. Prior to Access, Gratia worked in the education field for the past fifteen years. Most recently, she was the Director of Sustainable Agriculture at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut, where she also taught environmental science. Outside of work, Gratia enjoys reading, gardening, cooking, and spending time with her family.
Good Food Systems Manager
Cam joined the Access team in September of 2023. He got into food justice work through his journey as a chef. This is largely inspired by his love for food sovereignty and the autonomy and self-determination that comes with identifying your cultural heritage through traditional food systems.
“By restoring that independent relationship between person, land, and water, we celebrate the resiliency of our ancestors. Access provides an environment that aligns with these sentiments in their work to move away from the toxic charitable food concept and engage in more sustainable models to addressing food insecurity that engages the community in a culturally competent way.”
Office Manager and Bookkeeper
Tinley has been with Access since November of 2022. She was born in Nepal and raised in India, which shaped her worldview and her desire to work at an organization that promotes equity. Tinley is also a single mom, which has shown her firsthand the importance of creating a home that is happy, healthy, and has access to good food, resources, and support.
“Seeing the lack of resources for food and health care in the countries I grew up in compared to the plethora of resources and abundance here in the states has given me a lot of perspective. I cannot unsee the disparity in how those resources are allocated or almost deprived for certain groups of people and work toward something different. Access without a doubt holds these same values and beliefs and I am so glad to have found them and to be a part of this organization.”
Poverty Education Manager
Amani got connected to Access through her mom, Niki, one of our co-execs! She began volunteering and was able to provide hands on assistance with the Poverty Education program, allowing her to see areas of growth and step in as the manager of the program in July of 2023.
She has always been passionate about racial equity and civil rights, and is grateful to work at an organization that centers anti-racism where the staff challenge each other to encourage growth.
Advancement & Communications Manager
Madison joined Access in July of 2023. She is from Grand Rapids and has worked and volunteered in a variety of nonprofit organizations for over a decade. She received her Bachelor of Social Work from Cornerstone University and went on to pursue a Master of Social Work with an emphasis on Human Services Management and Leadership from the University of Toronto. Additionally she has built up human-centered design skills through the pursuit of finding innovative solutions that are accessible for all people in various diverse spaces.
Her previous experience ranges from case management for refugee families to providing graphic design and communication support to the United Way of Greater Toronto. She has always been passionate about addressing poverty from a systems perspective and collaborating with others who have a similar goals to make a larger impact. When she’s not at Access, you can find her traveling, bartending at her weekend job, cooking new types of food, or practicing Pilates.
Congregation Casework Manager
Natasha joined the Access of West Michigan team near the end of October 2023. She began doing nonprofit work in 2013 as a manager at one of our Good Food partners, SECOM. “It warms my heart every day when I can help a neighbor or build relationships. Over the years, I learned that this is my purpose.”
Natasha works alongside our Co-Executive Director of Programs to facilitate congregations meeting the needs requests of community members. This involves anything from utilities to rent and other resources. When a neighbor reaches out to a local church for assistance, the church can reach out to Access to collaborate on supporting that individual or family member.