Back Bay Mission is blessed to have a dedicated staff and board of directors.

Our Staff

Administrative Staff

Rev. James Pennington | Executive Director

Rev. James Pennington, is our Executive Director.  Rev. Pennington, a Mississippian, has most recently served as Senior Pastor at UCC churches in Phoenix, Arizona, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.  His accomplishments in these two ministries included providing extensive services for feeding people experiencing homelessness; being an advocate for migrants at the border; and  conducting recovery groups, transgender support groups, and racial reconciliation groups.  He was recognized by the Minnesota Conference Office for exemplary leadership. Particularly notable in his body of work is merging Spirit of the Lakes, a predominantly LGBT congregation with a historic church of mostly older members, and Minnehaha UCC to create a new church, Living Table, which became wildly successful and provided ministry to a diverse congregation.

To learn more about our Executive Director, please CLICK HERE

Ms. Shawn Sullivan | Chief Financial Officer

Ms. Shawn Sullivan is our Chief Financial Officer. Shawn is a graduate of The University of Mississippi with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. Before joining our Back Bay Mission staff, Shawn was the Chief Financial Officer and Office Manager at Premier Craneworks in Biloxi, Mississippi. Shawn was raised in Ocean Springs, where she currently resides. She has one child. Kade is a graduate of The University of Mississippi with his Bachelor’s Degree in IMC. Shawn enjoys spending time with her family and friends, watching the Saints play football, riding her golf cart, boating, and traveling.

Mr. Jonathan Briggs | Director of Client Services

Mr. Jonathan Briggs is our Director of Client Services. “While I was born in Houston, TX. I moved to Austin, Texas at age 11 and grew up in the United Church of Christ Congregational Church of Austin. With my parent’s and sister, we went on many coastal fishing trips in Rockport, TX and Biloxi, MS with family friends.

Both of my parents were best friends with David and Karlyn Stephens with Back Bay Mission. We attended many Back Bay Mission Shrimp Boil events with our Mississippi Friends. The highlight of my college experience was the opportunity to be a Back Bay Mission summer volunteer with the housing rehabilitation program under Bruno Schrader in 1987. 

As the Director of Client Services for Back Bay Mission my focus will be on supporting each partner staff member, volunteer, and community member with the resources to be able to have an enjoyable and rewarding experience with our guests in each of our programs. All our partners should have the knowledge and resources to best serve our Back Bay Mission guests. I hope to be able to support our service partners and guests with having the tools needed to learn and grow toward constructive changes for each individual involved in our program ministry.”

Mrs. Amanda Roberts | Bookkeeper

Mrs. Amanda Roberts is our Bookkeeper. Before joining our Back Bay Mission staff, she was a Customer Service Representative at Cable One and Administrative Assistant at the IP Casino. She is currently attending Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and plans to transfer to USM to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Marketing. She was raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She currently resides in D’Iberville with her husband Chris and their two sons, Hunter, and London. Chris is a Police Detective, Hunter attends Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and will transfer to USM to obtain his degree in Construction Engineering, London is a sophomore at D’Iberville High School where he is the running back for the football team and is pitcher and plays 3rd base for the baseball team. Amanda attends church at CenterPoint Church in Ocean Springs. She loves spending time with her family and friends, singing, boating, fishing, going on cruises, and traveling.

Program Staff

COMING SOON | Home At Last Caseworker

NEW BIO COMING SOON. 

Mrs. Rachel Cawley | Emergency Assistance Case Manager

Mrs. Rachel Cawley is our Emergency Assistance Case Manager. Rachel lives in Gulfport with her husband and two children. She is a graduate of Harrison Central High School Rachel enjoys reading, fishing and thrift shopping. She is passionate about working with the less fortunate and criminal justice reform. Rachel is excited to be working at Back Bay Mission and hopes to be able to make a difference in as many people’s lives as possible. 

 

Mr. Darren Michael Rowan | Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Case Manager

Mr. Darren Michael Rowan is our ESG Case Manager.  Mr. Darren Michael Rowan graduated with his bachelor’s in psychology from LSU. Shortly after graduating with his bachelor’s, he began working towards his master’s in social work (MSW) through LSU online.

He started as a social work intern at Back Bay Mission during his graduate studies. He is set to graduate with his MSW in May of 2024. Michael previously worked in the field of addiction recovery for 6 years before joining the mission. He is originally from the New Orleans area, but now resides in Ocean Springs with his French bulldog (Olive Sage), his miniature schnauzer (Juniper Willow), and his Maine coon (Frito).

Mrs. Kirsten Hebron | Day Center Case Manager

Mrs. Kirsten Hebron | Day Center Case Manager. Ms. Kirsten graduated from University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Master’s Degree in Social Work.  She worked for Gulf Coast Mental Health Center for 4 years until she moved to California in 2005.  In California, she worked for a non-profit agency as Director of Social Services. She also worked at a mental health agency as Clinician. Kirsten moved back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2017 with her husband and two dogs to be with their families.  

Mrs. Raysha “RayRay” Harvey | Micah Day Center Coordinator

NEW BIO COMING SOON.

Mr. Craig Steenkamp | Director of Housing Recovery

Mr. Craig Steenkamp is our Director of Housing Recovery. Born and raised in Durban, South Africa, Craig came to the United States on a soccer scholarship in 1992. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, with a minor in education, from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Before coming to Back Bay Mission, he worked with a real estate investment company development high-end real estate. He joined the Mission staff in 2007. Back Bay Mission is his church and where he belongs.

Ms. Sandra Nimmo | Day Center Assistant

Ms. Sandra Nimmo is the Micah Day Center Assistant. Sandra was born and raised in Germany. She has been living in the United States since 2007. She moved to Biloxi in 2019 with her husband Derek, who is a paralegal in the United States Air Force. Together they have two children, Michelle and Chloe. Sandra went to college at Geshwister School and graduated with her Registered Nursing degree. Sandra has worked as a preshcool teacher, barista and as a nurse. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, stained glass, and spending time with her family & friends. Sandra always wanted to give back and Back Bay Mission ws the perfect place to do so.

Mrs. Carlin Duncan | Administrative Assistant

Mrs. Carlin Duncan is our secretary. A Biloxi native, Carlin was born and raised right here on the Coast. Carlin graduated from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelors in criminal justice and a minor in psychology. She is a wife and mom of 4, and loves serving in her community. 

Ms. Samantha “Sam” Bell | Housing Recovery Program Manager

Ms. Samantha “Sam” Bell is our Housing Recovery Program Manager. Samantha “Sam” Bell is a graduate of Biloxi High School and Virginia College Biloxi.  Sam has her Associates in Human Resource Management.  Before joining Back Bay Mission, Sam was a Legal Assistant at Davis and Crump Law Firm in Gulfport. 

Sam is the proud mother of three daughters, Shanice Johnson, Angel Ainsworth, and Nikel Bell.  She also has two chihuahuas, Scooter and Hoss, that are great family additions.  Sam loves spending time with family and caring for her mother and her disabled daughter who has Cerebral Palsy nonverbal and non-ambulatory.  Sam knows that each of her daughters are a gift from heaven.

Sam enjoys riding her bike, reading a good spiritual book, and eating delicious foods that is when she can find some spare time.  She is a member of the First Missionary Baptist Church of Biloxi.  She has a deep desire to be a servant in her community and has the highest hopes of being able to do so through the amazing programs offered at Back Bay Mission. 

Ms. LaChonda Halbert | Housing Recovery Associate

Ms. LaChonda Halbert is our Housing Recovery Associate. 

Mr. Todd Pigg | Housing Recovery Construction Supervisor

Mr. Todd Pigg is our Housing Recovery Construction Supervisor.

Ms. Shemiko Brown | Community Health Worker

Ms. Shemiko Brown is one of our community health workers. A native of Mississippi, Shemiko “Miko” Brown graduated from William Carey University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and her Master’s in Counselor Education. She’s worked for the Harrison County School District as an alternate interventionist and aspires to advocate for the community. 

Ms. Chloe Bush | Community Health Worker 

Ms. Chloe Bush is one of our community health workers. BIO COMING SOON.

Fundraising and Communications Staff

Mrs. Dhiana Skrmetti | Development Director

Mrs. Dhiana Skrmetti is our Development Director. A native of Biloxi, Dhiana grew up loving life on the beautiful MS Gulf Coast and has always had a natural thirst for learning. Her first-ever “big-girl” job was being fortunate enough to work for the 403d Wing Air Force Reserve on Keesler Air Force Base and getting to share our local military members’ stories through journalism. From then on, she was hooked on giving a voice to untold stories, making new friends, and promoting our wonderful area. Shortly after leaving Keesler Air Force Base, Dhiana fell into the nonprofit realm, serving as the Programming Coordinator for the MS Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, and later went on to serve as the Executive Director of the MS Gulf Coast Symphony. She’s lived a few careers since then until she finally found her home at Back Bay Mission. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing and has her Institute for Organization Management certification, a designation provided by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In her free-time, Dhiana can often be found in her Gulfport studio where she is a female-empowerment photographer, eating tacos, being a soccer mom and spending quality time with her family. There’s a 99% chance that she’ll throw in a movie or tv quote in any conversation. She lives in Gulfport with her husband, two kids, three dogs, and seven bunny rabbits..

Mr. Kevin Kotula | Development Associate

Mr. Kevin Kotula is a Development Associate. Kevin assists with branding, content creation, and community outreach for Back Bay Mission. He has an associate’s degree in graphic design and obtained a bachelor’s degree in film with a minor in marketing from the University of Southern Mississippi. A lifelong resident of Biloxi, Kevin is excited to help build the community from within. He also has a dog & a cat and in his spare time he enjoys cooking, traveling and sports.

Our Board of Directors

Officers

Rev. Dr. Bella Brown-Winters | Maryland | President

Rev. Dr. Bella Brown-Winters received her bachelor’s degree in Business (BBS) from the University of Maryland University College; Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a Doctor of Management (DMgt) from Webster University, St. Louis, MO. Moreover, Bella’s call and belief in the inherent truth of the Bible inspired her to receive a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri.

Bella’s passion for justice has led her to become an active member of Empower Missouri, Jobs for Justice, Metropolitan Congregations United and Mothers Against Violence. Bella is a member of Epiphany UCC where she actively teaches Christian Education and actively preaches to the congregation. Also, Bella is a part-time supply pastor to Bethany-Peace United Church of Christ while they await transition. She is married to Rev. Rodney E. Winters, an Eden Seminary graduate, and they have a son, Jamaal, who ministers in the Washington, D.C. and Maryland area.

Shelia Schutte | Missouri | Vice President

BIO COMING SOON.

Ms. Joyce Bathke | Missouri | Immediate Past President

Ms. Joyce Bathke was the Chief Administrative Officer for the American Red Cross until her retirement in 2014. She has a BS in Liberal Arts from Washington University and Nursing degree from St. John’s Mercy Hospital. Joyce served on the United Church of Christ’s Wider Church Ministries and Common Global Ministries Boards and later the newly formed United Church of Christ Board. She served as Moderator for the United Church of Christ Missouri Mid-South Conference and currently serving on the United Church of Christ AIDS Network Leadership Team.

 
 

Mrs. Sue Earl | Texas | Secretary

BIO COMING SOON.

Mr. Eric Kravette  | Mississippi | Treasurer

Mr. Eric Kravette is President at The First, A National Banking Association in Harrison County. He was born in Dallas, TX, and grew up in Baton Rouge, La. Eric graduated from Bishop Sullivan H.S. in Baton Rouge and attended college at William Cary University, where he  received a BS degree in Business and an MBA. He moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1988 and has called it home since. Eric has held a variety of jobs in the banking industry in his career, and has spent much of his time getting involved in his community, serving as a board member for a variety of local organizations and chambers of commerce, being recognized as “outstanding” or “volunteer of the Year” multiple times. 

Members-at-Large

Kim Wood | Alabama

BIO COMING SOON.

John Oropesa | Mississippi

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Felix Carrion | Texas

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Cindy Martin | Mississippi

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Cade Rouse | Mississippi

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Jennifer Young | Mississippi

BIO COMING SOON. 

Charles Johnson | Mississippi

BIO COMING SOON. 

James Pennington | (Ex-Officio)

Rev. James Pennington, is our Executive Director.  Rev. Pennington, a Mississippian, has most recently served as Senior Pastor at UCC churches in Phoenix, Arizona, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.  His accomplishments in these two ministries included providing extensive services for feeding people experiencing homelessness; being an advocate for migrants at the border; and  conducting recovery groups, transgender support groups, and racial reconciliation groups.  He was recognized by the Minnesota Conference Office for exemplary leadership. Particularly notable in his body of work is merging Spirit of the Lakes, a predominantly LGBT congregation with a historic church of mostly older members, and Minnehaha UCC to create a new church, Living Table, which became wildly successful and provided ministry to a diverse congregation.