Contact Us

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County
3109 Old Hwy 218 South Iowa City, Iowa 52246
Phone: 319-337-2145
Fax: 319-337-7864


Daleta Thurness | Executive Director |

Daleta (Christensen) Thurness grew up and currently resides in West Liberty, Iowa.  A graduate of the University of Iowa, Daleta moved to Miami, Florida and worked for over 20 years in child welfare as Assistant Director of the State of Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program and then as Director of Lawyers for Children America.

She moved back “home” in 2007 and worked as a Youth Program Specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H, and in December 2016 became Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County. Daleta is married to Andy and have been a “Big Couple”.  They enjoy supporting Hawkeye athletics, camping and golfing.

“I value partnerships, teamwork and a philanthropic spirit so working at Big Brothers Big Sisters is a wonderful fit," says Daleta. "I am honored and privileged to work alongside passionate staff and hundreds of volunteers who are Defending the Potential of youth and making Johnson County a better community.”

“You can move big rocks by yourself. You can move mountains with a team." -Janet Godwin

Chanel Meredith | Program Director | 

Chanel has lived in Iowa for most of her life and graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Human Relations. She has been with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County for almost 19 years – the first 17 years as a Mentoring Specialist and the past two years as Program Director. What Chanel loves most about her job is being able to watch the relationships between Bigs and Littles grow and develop over time – sometimes over many years.  She always loves seeing matches at events and having the opportunity to catch up with them, especially now that she is Program Director. Chanel is married with three children (including twins!) and a dog who all keep her very busy.   In her “spare time,” Chanel loves to watch her daughter perform in dance and Show Choir, and her sons compete in their many athletic activities. 

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

Dina Bishara | Program and Outreach Specialist |

Dina is originally from Iowa City, but has lived all over the southern and eastern reaches of the country.  She has her B.S. and M.S. in Policy Analysis from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  Since graduating, she has worked in the non-profit sector with a focus on child and community development.  Dina is active in the community, advocating for autistic individuals and improved mental health supports in our schools.  In 2019 she was awarded the Stephen Tsai Award for Excellence in Autism Education by the Autism Society of Iowa. She loves practicing yoga and sharing tea with her co-workers.

"Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Marcelina Ceniceros | Community-Based Mentoring Specialist |

Marcelina Ceniceros was raised in Muscatine, Iowa. She graduated from Iowa Wesleyan with a BA in Business Administration Marketing and Management. Marcelina joined Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Johnson County in September 2020. Previously she worked for the Iowa City Community School District and 4-H; she enjoys working with young people! She believes helping make a difference in a young person's life’s can create memories whose impact lasts forever. Marcelina has three children and a new puppy, a Yorki pom mix. Marcelina enjoys making crafts with her children. Her hobbies are swimming, reading and going on nature walks. She enjoys cooking Mexican food... especially enchiladas with rice and beans!   

Kristen Elting | Community/Site-Based Mentoring Specialist | 

Kristen Elting has been with the agency since 2017, first as an intern, and now in her role as a community/site-based mentoring specialist. A native of Burlington, Iowa, Kristen received her undergrad degree from Western Illinois University in Social Work. She is also a 2017 graduate from the University of Iowa where she received her master's degree in social work. Kristen enjoys working closely with children, families, and volunteers. Seeing the kids grow and build strong bonds with their Bigs makes the work she does so enjoyable. Kristen enjoys spending time with friends and family, she has a big love for her dog, Rosie, loves cooking and has a heart for good food!

Molly Gilroy | School-Based Mentoring Specialist |

Rumor has it Molly was born and raised a Hawkeye, but details are sketchy. All we really know about her is she loves Harry Potter and there's a strong possibility she is an undercover secret agent. We could tell you more, but not without risking your safety. Just return Molly's calls, and we're fairly confident you'll be okay. ;)

Addie Martinez | Mentoring Coordinator | 

Addie was born and raised in eastern Iowa and hasn’t left yet! A native to Iowa City, she attended Iowa City Community Schools and continued her education at the University of Iowa. Addie recently graduated from the University of Iowa with her Masters degree in Social Work. Addie completed her Advanced Practicum at Big Brothers Big Sisters in addition to serving in AmeriCorps. Previously Addie worked at Four Oaks in the Foster and Adoptive Family Connections program where she followed state guidelines to license potential foster and adoptive homes. When she is not working, Addie enjoys spending time with her three children and husband, drinking coffee (lots of coffee!), and practicing yoga.

Mindy Paulson | School-Based Mentoring Specialist |

Mindy is originally from Keystone, Iowa. She was an Iowa public school educator for 32 with roles as a teacher, special education coach and principal. Mindy served as principal in three different Iowa school districts, the last one in Iowa City. Before retiring from ICCSD in 2015, she switched from her principal role to the role as a Special Education coach for two years.

Mindy started with the agency as a community-based mentoring specialist in July, 2017. Beginning in August, 2021 she switched to the school-based program. She enjoys working with our volunteers and families. She sees our volunteers “defending each child’s potential” in many ways and appreciates all that they do for their Littles!  She is a former Board member of BBBS and while a principal at Roosevelt and Garner Elementary Schools the BBBS School Based Mentoring program supported students there. She enjoys the support of her coworkers and the Board at BBBS and loves being able to continue her life’s pursuit of serving families and children in her role with the agency.

Zoe Trager | Programming and Marketing Coordinator |

Zoe is originally from Council Bluffs, Iowa. She is currently a senior at the University of Iowa, majoring in Journalism and Political Science. Zoe handles all things marketing, including social media, graphic design, newsletters, ads, and more! She hopes to continue working in the non profit sector after graduation. 

Zoe doesn't get much free time between classes, two jobs, and helping with a student organization, but when she does she enjoys cooking, thrift shopping, and listening to music.