Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support

MCDES Board Members

Eunie Alsaker, MSSW, LICSW, CT, has been counseling students at Winona State University since 2003. Her specialty areas include grief and loss, treatment of anxiety, and relationship and transitional issues in emerging adults. Eunie facilitates the campus grief support group and provides educational presentations on bereavement. In prior positions, she coordinated a support and education program for children of divorced parents and served as a community mental health therapist in rural Wisconsin.

Diane Bauer, LICSW, is a Licensed Independent Social Worker with 36 years of psychotherapy experience. Prior to starting at the Center for Human Development 12 years ago, Diane worked as a therapist at the Hennepin County Mental Health Center doing group, individual, and couple’s counseling. Her areas of expertise include: depression, stress and anxiety, relationship issues, women’s and GLBT issues, and issues related to the aging process. A particular area of passion and expertise for Diane is in the area of grief and loss. She has had specialized training in this area and has taught graduate level courses on grief therapy and done numerous professional presentations on the subject. In addition to her clinical work, Diane has spent the past 16 years teaching as Clinical Faculty in the St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas School of Social Work, St. Paul, MN. She has used her experience in the clinical field to teach graduate students the essence of ethical and skilled clinical practice. Diane received her MSW degree at the University of Minnesota, is licensed through the Minnesota Board of Social Work (#2107), and carries advanced accreditation of ACSW through the National Association of Social Workers.

Jan Bergman, MSSW, LISW. Jan began her social service career supporting people diagnosed with degenerative memory loss in a variety of community based and long term care settings. She was introduced to end-of-life care in 1989 when her mother entered a hospice program with lung cancer. Over the past eighteen years Jan has worked as a medical social worker in home care and hospice, and as a hospice grief counselor. A longtime proponent of equal access to quality health care, she served on the Board of Directors of Fremont Community Health Services in Minneapolis from 1993 to 2000. At present Jan is a hospice social worker for Allina Health in the Twin Cities.

Allison Chant, MS, LMFT has been working in the field of grief and loss for almost 20 years. She is currently in private practice in Minneapolis and also is independent contract therapist with the Center for Grief, Loss and Transition in St. Paul. Allison was a grief counselor with Allina Hospice for many years and spent the last four years on a palliative care research project as the team’s marriage and family therapist. She is a MN Board Certified Supervisor for those completing licensure in Marriage and Family Therapy. She has a passion for working with individuals, couples and families experiencing chronic illness as well and grief, loss and bereavement.

Sharon Dardis, RN, BSN, is the MCDES Newsletter Editor. She was the Children's Bereavement Coordinator with the St. Croix Chaplaincy Association and Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, MN. Her background includes nursing in medical/surgical units, ICU, CCU in the 1960's and 70's in numerous hospitals in North Dakota, Mississippi, and South Dakota. From 1982-1987, her various roles at Hospice of the Red River Valley in Fargo included volunteering, staff nursing, fundraising, and bereavement follow–up. From 1987–1993 Sharon designed and directed a Kids Grieve, Too program in Fargo for the hospice program and served as the Children's Bereavement Coordinator during that period. She gave community education talks regarding kids and grief also facilitated grief support groups for children. In 1993 Sharon moved to the Twin Cities and began volunteering with Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. She helped design the Kids In Grief Program there which led to a part–time position in 1996 as coordinator and lead facilitator of the Kids in Grief program at Lakeview Hospital. She is the co–author of a book on meditations for end–of–life, As I Journey On: Meditations for Those Facing Death.

Edward Holland, MDiv, BCC, LMFT, served as the Coordinator of Spiritual Care and Grief Support for Park Nicollet Methodist Hospice in Minneapolis, a program he’d been with since 1979. Ed is a United Methodist minister, a board certified chaplain (BCC-APC), a certified Gestalt therapist and a state licensed marriage and family therapist (MN-LMFT). He has served in a number of leadership positions within Park Nicollet, the Minnesota Network for Hospice & Palliative Care (MNHPC, formerly known as the Minnesota Hospice Organization & Hospice Minnesota), the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), and his denomination's Health Ministries Action Team. Now retired, Ed and his wife, Mary, are pleased to be owned by their black cat, Shadow, and their white Schnauzer, Oliver.

Kay L. Johnson, LSW is employed at Ecumen Hospice as the Manager of Market Development. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Colorado State University in Human Development and Family Studies, with a concentration in Adulthood and Aging and an emphasis in Death, Dying and Grief. She has practiced social work in the areas of: long-term care, subsidized housing, hospital and hospice.Seventeen years of her health care experience includes either direct bereavement related work or providing supervision/management of the work. This work has included: providing support and education to all ages via phone calls or home visits, facilitating grief support groups and providing grief education presentations. Kay has served on the following boards: MN Coalition for Death Education and Support, Struthers Parkinson’s Community Advisory and the Minneapolis Area Senior Workers Association. Published in Holiday Hope; Remembering Loved Ones During Special Times of the Year. She and her husband have three children..

Kelli Kinney, MSW, LICSW holds a Master of Social Work with an Area of Emphasis in Aging from St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas. Kelli's interest in working with the aging population began during her undergraduate career as a research associate with the University of Northwestern, St. Paul's psychology department. Kelli assisted in conducting and presenting research on the topic of spirituality in the elder population at Stanford University in Stanford, CA and Macalester College in St Paul, MN. More recently, as a hospice clinical social worker for Allina Health, Kelli works with individuals and families in home, nursing home, assisted living, and hospital settings. She specializes in end-of-life care, grief and loss support/counseling, as well as assisting with providing community resources needed at end-of-life. Through her career she has promoted and provided education on end-of-life not only to clients and families, but to others in the community including undergraduate nursing students.

Christine Lewis is certified as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) in adult mental health, and is also certified in Thanatology (CT), which indicates credentialing as a grief counselor. For thirty years she worked for Hennepin County providing crisis intervention, therapy, and medication management. Chris also has a private psychotherapy practice, specializing in grief and trauma therapy and offering public speaking about related topics.

Amy Shaleen, LICSW, is currently a Social Worker with Fairview Lakes HomeCaring and Hospice in Chisago City, Minnesota. She works with individuals and families in home care, palliative care and hospice, serving people (and families) on a care continuum from temporary medical issues to those nearing the end of life. She is a former Child Protection Worker (Chisago County, Minnesota) where she worked for over 10 years with children and families facing numerous issues including abuse, neglect, chemical dependency, mental illness and physical disabilities. Grief and loss are pervasive in this population and impact all facets of the lives of these families. Amy is the MCDES Board secretary.

Peter Thoreen lives in Eagan, MN with his spouse Janet Marshall-Thoreen. He is a retired Healthcare Executive who led Hospitals and Healthcare systems over the past 35 years in the Twin Cities, Fargo ND, Spearfish, SD and most recently in Sioux City, IA where he retired at the end of 2015 from UnityPoint Health after 13 years. Peter is a founding member of MCDES having worked with Howard Bell in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s; and with Howard staffed the Minnesota Coalition for Terminal Care the predecessor organization to MCDES. Peter has helped develop and support Hospice and Palliative Care programs in the Healthcare Systems and communities he has worked in over the past 35 years. He has a degree in Business and Master’s degrees in Public Policy and Healthcare Administration all from the University of MN. Both Peter and Jan, a retired Speech and Language Clinician moved back to the Twin Cities in 2015 where they grew up and started their careers. They have two married sons one that lives in St.Paul and one in Washington state. In his spare time, while not volunteering, Peter can be found in Northern MN at the cabin he and Jan have owned for 30 years, playing golf, attending Gopher basketball games, hunting or chasing two granddaughters around the house in Lake Stevens Washington. He states it is great to be back in Minnesota after a 28 year absence and being able to attend MCDES events and support this organization

Tim Thorpe, is the executive director of Pathways Health Crisis Resource Center, a non-profit volunteer-sustained organization that provides programs and an environment designed to provide complementary therapy services and programs for people with life-threatening illness. Along with staff of three, he oversees community relations and outreach, program & services development and funding sustainability. Thorpe’s career includes experience in for-profit business planning, marketing and advertising executive with strong strategic, media and communications planning background. Throughout his career, he has built strong non-profit expertise through experiences with various organizations focused on social services, arts, education, youth and elderly. This includes the development and monitoring of organization guidelines and governance, organization expansion, community relationship building, site visits, and marketing planning.

Ben Wolfe, M.Ed., Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, Fellow in Thanatology, is a grief, loss and trauma trainer and consultant who previously served for 28 years as the founder and Program Manager/Grief Therapist of the St. Mary's Medical Center's Grief Support Services in Duluth, Minnesota. At the medical center Ben provided life-threatening illness and bereavement counseling for ages that ranged from pre-school to senior citizens through individual and family counseling, and support groups. He has given over 2,000 presentations at the regional, state, national and international levels, taught university graduate courses for over 25 years, and a course on life-threatening illness at the University of Minnesota, Duluth School of Medicine for 23 years. He is an active mental health member of the Northern MN CISD team. Ben is a former president of the 2000 member ADEC (Association for Death Education and Counseling) and since 1995 has served as Chair of MCDES. In addition to chapters in books, he has authored numerous articles related to grief and loss and served for ten years on the St. Mary’s Medical Center’s Bio-Ethics Committee. Ben has received a number of awards, including the ADEC Service Award in 1994, in 1999 the MN School Social Workers Association’s “Friend of School Social Workers Award” for his work with schools throughout the state regarding crisis intervention, in 2002 the “Community Service Award” presented by the International Women Teachers Association, the first-ever U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone Legacy Award presented by the Minnesota School Counselors Association in 2004 for his work with schools and communities in crisis, the ADEC International Death Educator of the Year Award in 2011, and in 2005, was selected as “Employee of the Year” by St. Mary’s Medical Center. In January, 2013, Ben received the “Friend of EMS” Recognition Award for Northern, MN.

Florence Wright, MSW, LICSW, CAPSW is a clinical social worker and palliative care specialist who joined the MCDES board of directors in 2015. Florence earned her Master’s Degree at the University of Saint Thomas/Saint Catherine University School of Social Work where she was an Area of Emphasis in Aging Scholar. She is a graduate of the two-year palliative care clinical social work fellowship program at the University of Minnesota Medical Center/Fairview. As a fellow Florence served on both the inpatient consult service and in the outpatient clinic. She has co-authored published research on attrition in psychotherapy, developed patient/family educational materials and created a model for psychosocial care of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) patients and families. She enjoys teaching and has provided education to patients and families, medical staff, community members, and has presented at the state and national level. Florence’s clinical interests include palliative care integration in the ICU setting, children’s adjustment to a family member’s illness, and behavioral interventions for symptom management.










P.O. Box 50651 · Minneapolis, MN 55405 · 763-391-3051