Meet Our Staff

Mark Vander Vennen
Mark Vander Vennen MA, M. Ed, R.S.W., [email protected]

Mark is our Executive Director. He has been a marriage and family therapist since 1988 and came to Shalem in 2004. He has worked in child welfare (Northumberland Children’s Aid Society) and in children’s mental health (Kinark Child and Family Services). Until 2004, he served for almost 15 years as the Coordinator of what was then called Children’s Case Coordination Services for Northumberland County, an advocacy position which that involved him directly in the child welfare, children’s mental health, health, adult mental health, youth justice, developmental, medically complex, and education systems. Throughout that period he maintained a private practice in marriage and family therapy. From 2004-2008 Mark served on the Inter-Ministerial Provincial Advisory Committee of the Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy at Queen’s Park.  He is the Board Chair of Wrap Canada and Co-Chair of Wrap Canada’s Training and Technical Support Institute.  He is a certified Restorative Justice Facilitator trainer.   He has worked extensively with both perpetrators and victims of violence, and is the co-author of Hope in Troubled Times:  A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises, Foreword by Desmond Tutu (Baker, 2007). Mark loves camping with his family in Algonquin Park, baseball, and his environmentally friendly, waste vegetable oil-powered car.

Danielle VandenAkker, BA, [email protected]

Danielle is our Managing Director. She has been with Shalem since 2005. She graduated from Redeemer University College with a business major and missions minor. Most of Danielle’s work experience has been with non-profit organizations. Previously she worked at Mission Services of Hamilton, organizing children’s programs, and providing financial management for individuals on the Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program.

Danielle provides administrative support to Shalem, and manages our print and web communications. Danielle manages the intake process for the Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) and the Hamilton Clinic.

Danielle enjoys camping, biking and hiking with her family.

Jennifer Bowen, MDiv, RMFT, [email protected]

Jennifer is our Clinical Director and a registered marriage and family therapist. She brings a wide range of experience to Shalem from both Christian and wider community settings.

Jennifer has worked with clients through many concerns, including abuse, trauma, addictions, depression, grief and anxiety. Her clinical approach focuses on supporting clients through their difficulties and equipping them to address their challenges by building new stories of hope and health in their lives.

Jennifer completed her undergraduate degree at University of Toronto, studying psychology and religious studies, and completed a Master of Divinity in Marriage and Family Counselling degree at Tyndale Seminary. She balances her days with family walks and camping trips, a healthy pile of novels waiting to be read, and time spent in her garden.

Betty updated again
Betty J.B. Brouwer, MSc, RCAT, RP, [email protected]

Betty is our Director of the Linking Lives/Building Attachment program and the Artistic Director of Shalem’s RE-create Outreach Art Studio.

A registered art therapist and a certified play therapist, Betty has worked with adults, children, teens and their parents for over 18 years at Shalem. 

Betty is a registered art therapist with the Canadian Art Therapy Association and the Ontario Art Therapy Association, and she is a certified play therapist with Play Therapy International. Betty holds a Master’s degree in Child and Adolescent Studies from the University of Guelph. She also completed the Masters-level program at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute. Betty has completed the advanced-level training with Dr. Daniel Hughes, the leading North American practitioner and trainer in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), and is certified as a practitioner, consultant and trainer in DDP. Betty is the chair of the Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy Institute.

Marg Smit-Vandezande, MSW, RSW, [email protected]

Marg is the Director of our Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) and the Clergy Care program.

For most of her career in social work, Marg has worked within the Family Services Ontario network, both as a family therapist and as a Clinical Program Manager with the Family Counselling Centre of Brant. She is experienced in the delivery and development of Employee Assistance Plans (EAP), a type of counselling program widely offered by companies to their employees as a health care benefit. Shalem’s CAP program is modelled on the EAP.

Marg has a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of Western Ontario and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Calgary. In her free time, she enjoys travelling and canoeing with her husband, as well as gardening, knitting, connecting with extended family, and participating in volunteer activities with her church and neighbourhood.

Anne Martin, [email protected]

Anne is the Director of Restorative Practices. Anne holds a M.A. in Religion and Culture and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. She is trained in Restorative Practices and a founding member of the FaithCARE steering team, an ecumenical organization supported by Shalem that offers a restorative response to conflict and a process to become restorative congregations.

Anne’s work experience includes volunteer coordinator with the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, lecturer in Religious Studies and Women’s Studies, and program coordinator in the areas of small group ministry and spiritual formation for the United Church of Canada. Anne is a skilled small group facilitator and workshop leader. She is the author of Rooted in the Divine: Nurturing Our Faith Through Small Group Ministry, Toronto, United Church, 2004 and Exploring Faith Questions: Journeys of Faith and Spirituality, Toronto, United Church, 2004. Anne has two terrific children. She loves to travel, write, and learn about just about anything.

Elske de Visch Eybergen, [email protected]

Elske de Visch Eybergen is our Director of WrapAround Services and has worked in Social Services for over 30 years. Elske is an experienced WrapAround facilitator and, as the former Coordinator of WrapAround York, successfully helped to pioneer the use of the WrapAround program by churches.

She began her career in Young Offender services and has served in managerial positions within Child Welfare (foster care), developmental services and adult mental health. She has also worked as a Child Advocate at the Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy at Queen’s Park. Elske has been the Co-chair of the Board of Directors, North York Women’s Centre and has facilitated within the Levels Program (Separated and Divorced Network), Hamilton Catholic Diocese.

Elske is a graduate of Mohawk College’s Social Services program and the Ontario Management Development Program.

Michelle DeBoer, BA, Grad. Dipl., RP, [email protected]

Michelle is an art therapist who has worked with clients of all ages and needs. Prior to joining Shalem, she worked with children with behavioural difficulties in the school setting, elderly persons in the end stages of dementia, and adults recovering from brain injury and lengthy hospitalization.

At Shalem Michelle has worked with children and families with issues of addiction, divorce and separation, those experiencing grief, anger issues, and children with behavioural difficulties at home and school. Michelle enjoys working alongside parents and families of these children throughout the therapy process and includes them in the art-making experience.

Michelle completed her undergraduate studies at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. with a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in psychology and criminal justice. She completed her graduate studies at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute.

Susan Winter Fledderus, M. Ed, RP, R.S.W., [email protected]

Susan has more than 20 years of experience in the field of couple and family therapy, and worked for 13 years as a family counsellor at Family Services Durham prior to joining Shalem in 2011. Susan has extensive experience in working with individuals, couples and families. She offers support to those who are dealing with a variety of presenting issues, including abuse, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, grief, family transitions and conflict, and trauma.

She completed her undergraduate degree at Redeemer University College and a master’s degree in counselling psychology at McGill University. She has additional training in couple and family therapy, and is a registered marriage and family therapist (RMFT) as well as an approved supervisor with the American and Ontario associations of marriage and family therapy (AAMFT and OAMFT). Susan is also a Registered Psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) and a Registered Social Worker with the Ontario College of Social Worker and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW). She offers clinical supervision for therapists working toward their CRPO or AAMFT certifications or other professional designations.

Susan also loves reading, photography, and playing games with her family.

Elisabeth Di Francesco, BA, [email protected]

Elisabeth is our Intake and Administrative Support staff person.  She graduated from York University with a major in Geography and, after a few years of travel and mission work, began administrative employment.  At Shalem she provides administrative support to various programs, including the intake process for the Hamilton clinic and Congregational Assistance Program (CAP).  Prior to coming to Shalem, Elisabeth was the Assistant to the Vice-President (Academic) at Redeemer University College.

Elisabeth still enjoys international travel and mission work, alongside her husband and children, but more regularly indulges in family games of UNO and Monopoly.

Meghan Hers
Meghan Hers, [email protected]

Meghan is the Studio Coordinator for REcreate Outreach Art Studio.  Meghan’s studies were at OCAD University in Art Criticism and Curatorial practice, as well as the University of British Columbia.  Meghan coordinates REcreate’s open studio time.

Meghan has a passion for social justice and the issues surrounding urban poverty, and she is striving to learn how the arts can facilitate healing and restoration.

AB photo for website
Adam Burgess,

Adam Burgess is REcreate Outreach Art Studio’s Studio Assistant.  Adam is working with and mentoring other young people during studio time. Adam began as a participant at REcreate. Adam found that RE-Create is a place to spend an hour to draw a little bit, sketch, piece something together, or just sit there and talk about issues you’re having, or your day-to-day life. Adam has done projects using scrap pieces of wood, miscellaneous objects, photo projects.

Beradine for website
Bernadine Togeretz MSW, RSW, [email protected]

As a counselor and registered social worker, Bernadine has enjoyed working with individuals, couples and families in a variety of settings. She provides a supportive and safe space for people to work through the hurts and difficulties they are experiencing and move towards healing.

Bernadine has completed her undergraduate degrees in Social Development Studies and Social Work through the University of Waterloo and has completed her Masters in Social Work. Bernadine is a Family Group Decision Making Coordinator and is registered with the George Hull Centre for Families in Toronto. Bernadine is registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW). Bernadine has recently completed an externship in EFT (Emotion Focused Therapy) and has joined the ICEEFT (International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy) network. She is continually engaging in opportunities for growth.

Bernadine enjoys spending time with her family, disappearing into a great book or walking a golf course with a good friend. Bernadine is also an active member of her church community.

Matthew Penman, MSW, RSW, [email protected]

Matt’s work at Shalem includes counselling children, youth, families and individuals with issues of anxiety, depression, family conflict, self-harm, grief and loss, anger issues, emotion coaching and children with behavioural difficulties at home and school.

Matt is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University with his Masters of Social Work specializing specifically in the area of clinical social work practice. He is currently working toward designation as a registered marriage and family therapist through the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

Matt is energentic and easy going, when not at Shalem he enjoys rock climbing, fly-fishing and sharing meals with friends.

Shawn Groen, [email protected]

Shawn is part of the clinical team as a therapist. Shawn has a broad range of life experience that has added to his empathy, knowledge and spirit. He is a graduate of Tyndale Seminary with his Masters of Divinity in marriage and family counselling, and is working toward designation as a registered marriage and family therapist.

Shawn has a warm, calm and inviting presence. Shawn’s degree in Theology at Redeemer University College has been formative in developing his welcoming pastoral bent, which compliments his professional counselling training. Shawn enjoys helping people through a variety of life challenges and celebrates growth and positive change. His areas of counselling interest include: anxiety, depression, relationship struggles, pornography, life transitions, grief and trauma. Shawn is also a trained Prepare and Enrich facilitator for premarital and marital counselling tools.

Outside the office Shawn pursues many interests like producing maple syrup, cycling, exploring Hamilton’s trials and waterfalls, reading and fixing lawn mowers.

Melanie pic for website
Melanie Vaartjes, [email protected]

Melanie provides administrative support for the Congregational Assistance Plan program (CAP) as well as intake services support for the Hamilton clinic.

Melanie has worked in the developmental services sector for over 10 years where she was Regional Administrative Assistant at Kerry’s Place Autism Services in Peel Region. She has a heart for supporting those with mental health challenges and developmental needs. She has also worked for Christian Horizons as an Administrative Clerk and Direct Support Professional.

When she is not in the outdoors exploring a new hiking trail, she enjoys spending her time with family, researching the various community supports/programs in the region and passionately advocating for those with exceptional needs.

Stephen Doucet Campbell, MA, RP, [email protected]

Stephen completed his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Winnipeg and a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology at Providence Theological Seminary. He is a registered psychotherapist.

He has worked with youth, individuals and families in a wide variety of settings including child welfare, schools, hospitals, community health centres and outpatient treatment programs for addiction and mental health. His areas of practice include anxiety, depression, addiction, anger, grief, emotional dysregulation, mindfulness, couples therapy, and parenting. Stephen works from the philosophy that counselling often results in growth by seeking a fine balance between change and acceptance. Healing and increased awareness can be achieved out of a collaborative relationship of trust between a counsellor and their clients.

Beyond the office Stephen explores the outdoors with his young family by bicycle, canoe and on foot.

Emma Silverthorne, [email protected]

Emma is the Studio Coordinator for RE-create Outreach Art studio. Emma has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Psychology from McMaster University and has worked with youth for over 6 years in a variety of settings. Emma started as a volunteer with Recreate the summer of 2015, ran the “Growing up Queer in the Hammer” project from January 2017-June 2017 and previously worked for 2 years as a personal support worker with adults with developmental disabilities.

Emma is pursuing a Masters of Arts in Psychotherapy and Spiritual Care at Laurier’s Lutheran Seminary and can often be found hiking the bruce trail, making ink and water-colour drawings, wearing glitter and learning how to foster healing and growth for the people she holds dear in her life. Emma has an interest in enriching the lives of the dying, and reframing our perceptions of death in Western society, and would like to open a palliative care centre in the future.