Meet the YES Team

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Katrina Bitar

Director of YES and Local Initiatives

Katrina has been the YES Program Director since May of 2009, following her graduation from St. Vladimir’s Seminary. She has been involved in youth ministry for almost 20 years. She served as a full-time parish youth director for 6 years, St. Nicholas Camping Program Director from 2003-2021, OCF (Orthodox Christian Fellowship) College Conference Advisor for 5 years, and has been involved with the YES Program since 2004. Katrina feels incredibly blessed to be part of a program that changed her own perspective on homelessness, poverty, and youth ministry. She is grateful to be able to create opportunities for YES participants and those in need to be known and filled through encounters with each other.

Wadeed Fakhoury

YES Program Manager, YES Leader, and Ministry Team Member

Wadeed Fakhoury, born and raised near Washington D.C., just graduated from George Mason University. He attended his first YES Trip in 2016 at the age of 16, where he fell in love with their mission to love and serve everyone. This led to him attending more trips in his city and beyond. Being a part of YES for 6 years motivated him to become a camp counselor and the youth advisor at his parish. YES taught Wadeed that service is more than a weekend trip; service is love and you can love anyone and everyone in small, yet meaningful ways. By equipping and entrusting us all to be our organic selves, YES spreads acts of kindness that can create ripple effects of joy and love in the world. He realizes this ministry is so important and wants to help it prosper because YES empowers anyone to make a difference in any way they see fit.

Sarah Blevins

Community Engagement Coordinator, Ministry Team Leader, and YES Leader

Sarah became involved in YES her freshman year of college by attending a YES College Day in Norman, OK in 2016. She felt instantly connected to the mission, vision, and values of YES and since then has attended trips, as well as become a YES leader, sower, series small group leader, intern mentor, and ministry team leader. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2020 with a business degree and a minor in nonprofit organizational studies, and now serves as the Community Engagement Coordinator on the YES staff. YES is important to her because it transformed her heart: it matured her ideas of who God is, who people are, and who she is. It taught her the true meaning of service, how to love and dignify her neighbor, and to see the face of Christ in everyone. It continues to affect her thoughts, interactions, and hopes for our communities and our world.

Ellie Fall

Administrative Coordinator and YES Leader

Ellie became involved with YES in 2020 through online Trips and Series and felt an immediate connection to the YES community. She was overjoyed by the unconditional love, compassion, and other-centric nature of YES, and continues to be deeply grateful for the space YES provides herself and participants to cultivate these things. Ellie was trained as a YES leader in 2021, as well as served as a YES Intern in Spring 2022. She has also had the blessing of serving as the YES Program Assistant and now the Administrative Coordinator. Ellie grew up in Western Wisconsin and has been living in St. Paul, MN since completing her BA in Theology from St. Catherine University in 2023.

Elizabeth Ayoub

Local Initiatives Coordinator and Advisory Board Chair

Elizabeth is currently a stay-at-home/homeschooling mother to her seven-year-old daughter in Grand Rapids, MI. She also directs the Church school at her parish and coordinates a homeschool group in her community. In the past, she has been the Teen SOYO advisor for her parish and diocese. She also worked as a child life specialist at her local children’s hospital for 10 years. Elizabeth went on her first YES trip as a Teen Advisor, and her outlook on serving others has forever changed. Because of YES, she has found greater awareness of the needs of every person around her, and how Christ uses each of us to fill those needs. She is so grateful to have the opportunity to help support YES through her role on the advisory board.

Ruby Pendergraft

Program Assistant and YES Leader

Ruby’s involvement in YES began at a YES Family Day in 2016. That experience and the numerous trips to follow shifted her perspectives on homelessness and poverty. She fell in love with their mission, and it nurtured within her a heart of service. YES has been foundational in her passion for and understanding of youth ministry. She feels especially blessed to share with others the program that has transformed her own life and brings the light and love of Christ to so many. Ruby was trained as a YES leader in 2019, and she is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Letters at the University of Oklahoma.

The Ministry Team

Meet our Ministry Team Members!

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Michelle Hourani

YES Leader and Ministry Team Member

Michelle has been involved with YES since 2010, when her Youth Director encouraged her to go on a trip. She fell in love with the ministry of YES immediately and became trained as a YES Leader in 2012. Michelle graduated with a BA in Fine Arts with concentrations in Painting and Graphic Design. She worked for YES full-time and part-time for four and a half years as the Trip Planning Manager, then the Event Planning Manager, and finally the Program Coordinator. Michelle is excited to get married at the end of August 2023 and pursue a Masters’s in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University. She hopes to use her gifts to show the world the stories that lie within the homeless community. YES has shaped how Michelle looks at the world and instilled in her to meet Jesus Christ in every person she encounters. The joy she experiences with YES convinces her that she will be a part of this program for a long time.

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Kinda Callas

YES Leader and Ministry Team Member

Kinda graduated from college in 2022 with a major in economics and a minor in global systems. She is about to start her first job in Washington DC. Her first YES trip was in 2016 in Washington DC, where she left with a new perspective on life and realized how we could serve our neighbors every day with small and big acts. Kinda met the most incredible people on this trip while immersed in her city and heard many impactful stories from her neighbors in DC. After attending a few YES trips in DC, Kinda participated in the Servant Leadership Conference in Detroit and then was trained to be a leader. She led a trip in Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and then served on YES staff for a year. Kinda has worked with Best Buddies and Special Olympics for eight years in her free time. After her first YES trip, Kinda was very calm and full of excitement to adapt all she had learned that weekend to everyday life! She learned how to leave her comfort zone and interact with people. Kinda believes that all the orientation activities and interactions with beautiful souls opened her eyes to be more positive and intentional. YES gave her a joyful spark that she carries with her. YES changed her way of life, and she is forever thankful for YES and all the people she has met along the way.

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Rose Ansara

YES Leader and Ministry Team Member

Rose was born in Beirut, Lebanon, but grew up in Grand Rapids, MI. She attended her first YES trip at her home parish in 2014 and hasn’t lived her life the same since. She has been blessed to serve as a participant and leader in the YES community. She believes that YES has been a pivotal part of her getting to know Christ and His people. Rose has served in youth ministry as a counselor at five different camps across the U.S., as well as teaching Sunday School for four years. Rose recently graduated from George Mason University as a Human Development and Family Sciences major with a minor in American Sign Language. Rose has worked with three different nonprofits in the DC area, including her current occupation as an ASL fluent case manager for those with intellectual disabilities that are Deaf & Hard of Hearing. YES is important to Rose because it has been an intimate, warm community cultivated to learn, serve, and love. YES fully articulates through the powerful words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

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Anna Spencer

YES Leader and Ministry Team Member

Anna is from Wichita, Kansas, and experienced her first YES trip in 2014. Since then, she has served as an intern, YES leader, member of YES staff, series discussion leader, and now ministry team member. She has other youth and ministry experience through serving on camp staff in Oklahoma, California, South Carolina, and Arizona and as a student leader planning formational service opportunities for Orthodox Christian Fellowship. She graduated from Kansas State University in May 2021 with her degree in nutrition and will be starting Physician Assistant school in May 2022. She is very passionate about seeing Christ in every person and accompanying them where they are in their struggles. YES has empowered her to trust herself more and to be more intentional in her interactions with others. Much of how she sees the world has been influenced by this community centered on unconditional love.

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Virginia Farley

YES Leader and Ministry Team Member

Virginia, from Colorado, currently lives in Guatemala and has been involved with YES since she was 13 years old. As a teenager, YES provided an incredible experience that allowed her faith to grow and showed her how to have a servants’ heart. Since then, she has led trips, worked for YES as a part-time trip planner, and is currently on the YES ministry team. YES has been a way to actively connect with other humans and live life on a deeper level. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and she loves to get to know and understand people. She loves the opportunity to explore new cities, create community, and laugh along the way.

Robert Neda

YES Leader and Ministry Team Member

Rob has been involved with YES since 2012. He has played an integral part in planning and executing numerous trips. He also has youth ministry and nonprofit experience in countless areas. Rob has had the opportunity to serve in various countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras, Nepal, South Africa, Tanzania, the Philippines, Peru, and more. Rob is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Health Educator. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. in Community Health and his Masters in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. Witnessing fellowship and service spark compassion and desire for social justice in the youth is transformative. YES trips are a refreshing reminder of our call to serve one another.

The Advisory Board

Meet our Advisory Board Members!

Elissa Bjeletich Davis

Advisory Board Member

Elissa Bjeletich is an author and podcaster who loves Orthodox youth and family ministry work. She’s involved in various curriculum projects, teaches Sunday school, and volunteers at summer camps. She’s been a part of YES trips in her Austin, Texas parish for seven years, and has been a member of the YES Advisory board since its inception. To Elissa, “YES is absolutely the best youth ministry in the Orthodox church, because the program immerses kids in the Kingdom of God, empowering them to bring the joy of the Kingdom and their love of Christ into every human relationship. It’s a course in practical Christian love, and it transforms everyone it touches.”

Laila Tokatli

YES Leader and Advisory Board Member

Laila has been involved with YES since 2011 and has attended countless trips across the country both as a participant and a leader. YES has become a huge part of her life and has ultimately helped her find her passion, which is serving and loving every person she encounters. She is able to do this both personally and professionally in her role as a Physical Therapist at a local Rehab Hospital near her hometown of Worcester, MA. She is extremely blessed and humbled to continue to serve YES and her own home community through her work for years to come.

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Pano Constantine

YES Leader and Advisory Board Member

Pano has been involved with YES for over 13 years in various capacities as a trip participant, leader, ministry team member, and now advisory board member. He was first exposed to it through his church’s GOYA and thought it would be a “fun service trip.” Within the first two trips, he knew it was a program he needed to remain involved with. The transformational mindset through which YES educates people to view others as has had a huge impact on his experiences both personally and professionally. Becoming involved with YES helped Pano expand his breadth of experience to other forms of servant leadership, including being a summer camp counselor, Special Olympics coach, and various forms of volunteering for his alma mater and local parish. Pano works as a health and benefits consultant assisting companies in strategically designing their benefits plans and implementing programs to attract better and retain their talent. He lives outside NYC with his fiance, Chantalle, and their beagle Lily.

Nicholas Juzdan

Advisory Board Member

Nicholas Juzdan is currently pursuing his masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Montclair State University to create some meaningful change in his community. Professionally, Nick works in marketing, is a media producer, mental health advocate and has worked for many organizations, including the Ashley Stewart, Montclair Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Miss Universe, Power 2 Inspire Foundation, West Indian Day Carnival Association, and several others. Nick was introduced to YES as a teenager attending trips in Philadelphia and other cities. Nick volunteers for the Crisis Text Line, creates programs for non profits, and hosts a podcast called “You Are Seen: The Untold Stories.” Yes is an organization that has always been close to Nick’s heart because it has forever changed his perspective on marginalized communities and shined a light on what each of us can do to make a difference in our communities. 

Tim Farha

Advisory Board Member

Tim is from Wichita, KS and is an advocate and supporter of the YES mission!  Tim can usually be found wrangling one or both of his beautiful and full-of-energy children when he is not working on his property management company.  Tim has served on the NAC SOYO executive board, loves going to Camp St. Raphael during the summer, and is honored to be able to chant at his home church of St. George Cathedral in Wichita. Tim is a supporter of YES because it is a very active organization that creates avenues for Orthodox Christians to serve God through serving others.  This is all done through an organization that is organized and structured, which has allowed it to grow over the past, and makes it sustainable for the future. 

Rena Ajalat

Advisory Board Member

Rena Ajalat is a parent to three children (Lucas, Hannah, and Emma) with her super fun husband, Larry. She is a High-School Teacher doing Reading/Writing Intervention and a Sunday School Teacher at St. Simeon Antiochian Mission, Santa Clarita, CA. Rena learned about YES when her son asked to attend a trip to Skid Row, Los Angeles. He came back with stories that both alarmed and moved her. After seeing the impact it made, Rena wanted to be involved in sharing YES with everyone in her family and community. YES plants the seeds of awareness, compassion, and service in the hearts of youth and matures them into life-long leaders. Rena is honored to be a part of the team!

George Bezzerides

Advisory Board Member

George’s professional experience includes providing internal audit and consulting services to national and international companies in numerous industries, with the last 11 years dedicated exclusively to healthcare. Before his current role, George was also responsible for the day-to-day operations and bottom-line performance of a national snack food company. He worked at a big four firm providing assurance and advisory services to national and international companies in numerous industries. His volunteer experience includes six years serving his local parish (Treasurer and Parish Council President) and fifteen years serving the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkeley, CA (Treasurer and Board Chair). While he has only recently been involved directly with YES, his wife Irene is one of YES’s earliest trip participants and most vocal advocates. George lives with his wife and three children in El Dorado Hills, CA.

Other Advisory Board Members:

  • Sarah Cetra
  • Fr. Michael Arbanas
  • Jacob Corbin

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