Staff


Kelly B. Brill

Senior Minister

pastor@avonlakeucc.org

It has been my privilege and joy to serve this phenomenal congregation since January of 1995.  Before coming to Avon Lake, I was the Associate Minister at Lakewood Congregational Church (Lakewood, Ohio).  Previously I served churches in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Henry, Illinois and Waco, Texas.  I also worked one year at the Waco Rape Crisis Center.  I received my B.A. in Religion from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, my Master of Divinity with a concentration in Theology from Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee) and my Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from the Chicago Theological Seminary (through the Association of Chicago Theological Schools D.Min in Preaching program.)

My husband Doug and I live in Avon; we have a blended family of five children.  We enjoy traveling, hiking, exploring Cleveland’s restaurants, going to plays, concerts, and movies.  I’m currently challenging myself to learn to do a headstand in yoga, to keep up with an ever-growing pile of books-to-be-read, and to curb my addiction to word games (my latest is the New York Times spelling bee.)

Beau Dansizen

Minister for Children and Families

beau@avonlakeucc.org

I joined Avon Lake United Church of Christ in May of 2017 as the Associate Minister, with a primary focus on children and families of the church. I have served both in the Presbyterian church (PC(USA)) and the United Church of Christ in various roles, including Director of Youth Ministries, Director of Christian Education, and Director of Contemporary Worship. Both denominations are very similar, and although most of my work has been in the PC(USA), I feel right at home here in the UCC.

I graduated from Avon Lake High School in 1995 and I did my undergraduate work at Kent State University, first in Musical Theater and then Computer Science. I felt the call to ordained ministry in 2011, and began attending the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in 2013. In May of 2017 I finished my Master of Divinity degree. My primary focus in ministry has been in the area of mission and missional churches, and I am excited to be part of a church that is so mission focused.

I have two children, Bowen and Parker, and I married my Avon Lake High School sweetheart, Amy, back in 2000. You will find me just as much at home working on my Harley as I am in front of my sewing and embroidery machine! We are a family of a million hobbies, always seeking new ways to have fun together.

I consider it such a blessing to be a part of such an amazing congregation doing wonderful things to show the love of Christ to the world.

Nate Taylor

Director of Youth Ministries

nate@avonlakeucc.org

My name is Nate Taylor and I serve as the Director of Youth Ministries at Avon Lake UCC. I began my ministry here in April of 2007. My primary responsibilities include overseeing and developing our youth ministries programs for students in grades 6-12. That includes our JH Youth Group, our Confirmation program and our SH Youth Group. Along with all of this I am responsible for overseeing our Adult Volunteer Team, our SH Student Leadership Team, two summer mission trips, several fundraisers including our Annual Cabin Fever Cornhole Tournament and Dog Wash, countless games of ping-pong, the extremely rare overnighter and many high-level meetings at Las Cazuelas. I am very active in the Ohio Conference’s Outdoor Ministries programs. I have attended camp for the past 25+ years.
I am originally from Toledo, Ohio and first came to the greater Cleveland area in 1999 when I was a student at Baldwin-Wallace College. I graduated from B-W in 2003 with a degree in Sport Management and Business Administration. I live in Lakewood with my wife Lisa and our three children – Max, Nora & Brooke. I am a big fan of Cleveland – especially the Metroparks, Cavs, Indians, Browns, Lake Erie, Fatheads Smoked Chicken Wings, Las Cazuelas’ salsa & concerts at Blossom Music Center. I enjoy antiquing, hiking, golfing, camping, photography, canoeing, stargazing & smoking ribs, pig butts, briskets and atomic buffalo turds in my spare time. I am an avid Star Wars fan. I think recycling should be a law. I think sunroofs and the windows down is the only way to drive. I believe that love wins. I think that everyone is awesome. I think falling in love with yourself is the most important gift you could ever receive. I think we should play more and worry less. I have a hard time with bad drivers, clutter is my kryptonite. I do not believe you can put a price tag on having peace of mind. I look forward to meeting you!

Tim Schulz

Director of Membership and Media

membership@avonlakeucc.org

I joined the ALUCC staff in April 2011 as Membership Coordinator. One year later, my title was expanded to include my work with media and technology.  We have added many multi-media aspects to our worship and communication in the past few years.  Not only is it a blessing, but a necessity in our media connected world and was one of the strengths of our church during the pandemic.  On the membership side, I oversee classes and communications with prospective and new church members.  I look forward to meeting new guests on Sundays and introducing them to our faith community.  I work closely with our Ministry Teams and other staff members to not only develop programming, but to also keep the ALUCC family informed of events and happenings.

Church has always been a strong part my life, in education, volunteering and employment.  I grew up in Cleveland and attended St. Ignatius HS and the University of Dayton.  Katie and I have two boys, Alexander and Nicholas.  We joined ALUCC in 2005.  I am also (the whole family has been) actively involved with our Youth Ministries through Sr. High Mission Trips, Confirmation, and our annual Cabin Fever Cornhole Tournament.  In my time away from church, I enjoy fishing, traveling, photography and playing or watching sports with my family.

Scott Ewing

Director of Music Ministries

music@avonlakeucc.org

I have enjoyed an active career in church music for the past ten years. Before arriving at ALUCC, I held positions as organist and director of music at various churches in central and southeast Ohio. In addition to my work in church music, I have also been active as a teacher and performer. I hold degrees in music performance and pedagogy from Ohio University in Athens, where I studied voice, piano, organ, composition, and conducting. When it comes to church music, I strongly believe that everyone should be welcome to participate, and I strive to create an environment that ensures all members feel valued and important, while still being challenged and learning new musical concepts. 

I live in Fairview Park with my partner Kristen, and our two dogs Dolly and Dexter, and cat Sheldon. In my spare time, I’ve been enjoying exploring the Cleveland area, cooking and baking, attending concerts and plays, or traveling to visit family and friends. It is my delight to have found a musical and spiritual home here at Avon Lake UCC, and l look forward to continuing to share wonderful music with the community here.

Lynn Miller

Office Manager

office@avonlakeucc.org

I’m very grateful for the chance to serve the church as Office Manager, having joined the staff in June 2018.  My family and I have been members at ALUCC since July 1999, and I have served on many boards and teams, as a Stephen Minister, in the Handbell Choir, and on the AV Team.  I came to the Office Manager position having worked over the years as a law librarian, a cataloger at public libraries, and having volunteered for many years at Avon Lake School PTAs and for other non-profit groups.

We have two grown children – both of whom found the youth program at the church to be life-changing – and my husband, Bob, served as church moderator 2017-19.  We are all grateful for the opportunities to worship here, to serve local and international missions, and to grow our faith.  Bob and I are die-hard Cleveland fans – sports, culture, and food – even though I grew up in Steeler country!

Kelly Smolik

Business Manager

business@avonlakeucc.org

I am so excited to be part of the Staff at ALUCC, as Business Manager. I grew up in Westlake, Ohio and graduated Westlake High School in 1995. I continued my education at Cuyahoga Community College where I transferred all my credits to Cleveland State University earning my Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting in 2001. All while working full time for a Westlake property management company.  Throughout the 24+ years I was with the company my roles changed and grew with what the company needed, and what my family life needed.  You might recognize my face around the sanctuary as I have played in the bell choir for many years.  What started as a substitute roll to help the director, Sharon Dixon (who just happens to be my MOM!), has become a wonderful way to enjoy music at the church.

My husband Jim and I were married in December 2000 and live in North Ridgeville where we raise our 3 wonderful kids, Christopher (16), Samantha (13), and Michael (13) (yes TWINS!!).  We enjoy the family life, whether it be on family vacations or in our backyard pool oasis, with our extended family and friends.  We host almost all the holidays at our house, as we have a huge table with 16 leaves that seats 30 people, it extends from our kitchen through our family room, it is quite a sight.  I have recently started working with the North Ridgeville Band Boosters, as our 2 boys are involved in band.  I am enjoying watching these kids become young adults, and it fills my heart being able to give back.

 

Cheryl Updegraff, RN, B.S.

Parish Nurse

parishnurse@avonlakeucc.org

I began serving as the Parish Nurse for our church family in 2004; I love being a part of our church staff and the Caring Ministry outreach.  The goal of our Parish Nurse Program is to meet the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of the individual by utilizing the resources of our church family (Doorstep Dinners/ Heavenly Helpers/ Stephen Ministers), the health care system, and the community.  I spend most of my time responding to the needs of our church members by visiting hospitalized members, nursing home visits, and home visits, availability on Sunday and Tuesday mornings, Wednesday afternoons and other times by appointment; and providing support and education of availability of services, programs, and health screenings.  I am a Stephen Minister Leader and remain involved in the outreach and caring ministry programs.  Our Parish Nurse staff position is a part time position (10 hours per week).

I received my diploma in nursing from Lutheran Hospital and have a bachelor’s degree in Health Care administration.  My prior work history was Practice Manager for an Otolaryngology three office practice for many years and a staff Pediatric nurse at both Lutheran and Lakewood Hospitals.  My husband,  David, and I have been members of the church for > 40 years.  We have  three children who were baptized, confirmed and married in our church.  The church family has always been a large part of our lives.  Our children and grandchildren all live out of state so we travel often and also enjoy our Lake Home and summer activities in Marblehead.

Eileen Zakel

Christian Education Coordinator

christianed@avonlakeucc.org

I am excited to serve the children of ALUCC! I have been a member of ALUCC since 2007 and have served as a Sunday School teacher, Nursery volunteer, VBS volunteer, and served 3 years on the Faith Formation Team before becoming Christian Education Coordinator.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and Education of the Handicapped from the University of Dayton and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Bowling Green University. I am currently an Intervention Specialist in North Ridgeville City School District. I have three children who keep me very busy. In my spare time I enjoy reading and relaxing. 

Kim Rose

Outreach and Connections Coordinator

outreach@avonlakeucc.org

I begin my work as the Outreach and Connections Coordinator at ALUCC in April 2016.  Our family joined the church in February 2015.  I am primarily responsible for finding where our members are best connected with each other by ways of small groups and our various ministries.  I have also been active in our Mom’s Small Group and our annual Day of Service project.  I feel that people value the sense of being a part of something and I want to help make those connections here at ALUCC.  Our Outreach and Connections Coordinator position is a part-time position (10 hours per week).

I am originally from Springfield, Ohio and moved to the Avon Lake area in October 2011.  I have been married to Kyle for almost 10 years and we have two children, Lincoln and Ella.  We absolutely love Northeast Ohio and have really grown deep, strong roots here.  I have been a proud stay-at-home mom and have enjoyed this precious time with our children.  I am also a registered nurse with a background of nursing in critical care and computer programming and teaching.  I earned my diploma of nursing from The Community Hospital School of Nursing in Springfield, Ohio and then also my bachelor’s degree, BSN, from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.  Our family lives a pretty active lifestyle, and we enjoy exploring new places together, traveling, cooking and just spending time with the people we love. 

Dinah Hunt

Special Projects Coordinator

dinah@avonlakeucc.org

I have been a member of Avon Lake UCC since 2011. I first served on the Worship Team as a Deacon assisting with the coordination of worship services and the operation of our church coffee hours enjoyed by members as an opportunity to connect on a personal level to others in this community over a hot beverage or two. These two ministries were and still are an integral part of my worship experience. In 2013, I became part of our Audio Visual Team responsible for creating the visuals that enhance the Horizons Worship service. It was a perfect outlet for my talents, education and technology skills.

In 2019, I was blessed with two wonderful opportunities. First, I joined the ALUCC staff at the Good Neighbor Thrift Shop. It has been a pleasure getting to know many of the patrons who support the church’s mission. Second, I became the Staff Support for Special Projects at church. In addition to assisting wherever there is a need, my primary focus and privilege is creating visuals for both services that reinforce the weekly message for our congregation. My background that allows me to successfully assist in these church efforts includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education; teaching Kindergarten for several years; and serving as a Media Specialist for more than 19 years supporting teacher education students with their technology needs that they use in their classrooms.

My husband (who loves being a choir/band/bell member) and I have been married for over 40 years. We have three amazing children, (the youngest being my coffee hour buddy), a daughter-in-law and one outgoing granddaughter, who live nearby and bring true joy to our lives.

Jim Kotora

Staff Soloist

jameskotora@wowway.com

Hi! I’m Jim Kotora. I earned my bachelors and masters degrees in vocal music education and choral conducting from Bowling Green State University and my doctorate in music education from Case Western Reserve University.

Currently, I also work as an elementary music specialist for the Bay Village Schools.  I am also a proud husband and father. My wife Cynthia and daughters Katherine and Elizabeth are also members of the church and we reside in Bay Village. The ALUCC has become such a blessing in our lives and I hope it will be the same for you!

Sharon Dixon

Director of Bell Choir – “Celebration Ringers”

sdixon0714@sbcglobal.net

I’ve been involved with church work most of my life – both paid and volunteer.  I worked as a choir/bell director for children/youth at Westlake United Methodist Church. I also worked as the youth director for Jr & Sr High. I am a retired Administrative Assistant from Westlake United Methodist Church.

My husband, Al, & I have 3 married children and 6 grandchildren. I play horn with the Bay Village Community Band, Patriots Symphonic Band, and the North Wind Brass Quintet. I also play in the Monday Morning Handbell group at WUMC. Over the years I played competitive tennis and coached the Westlake High School Girls Tennis Team.  I’ve given up my tennis racquet for quilting and knitting.

Dave Witzigreuter

Physical Plant Supervisor

dave.plead@gmail.com

I have over 60 years of experience in the building trades and am happy now to use my skills and experience to manage all of the church property.  I began serving as consultant and supervisor in August of 2018.  I oversee all of the property issues (inside and out), supervise the custodial staff, and serve as liaison to the Trustees.  I have been a member of the church since 2000 and have been active as a Stephen Minister, member of the Personnel Committee and the Trustees, and was General Contractor when the new sanctuary was built.  My late wife Jan and I helped with the construction of the Buoy Youth Center.  I am the father of three, the grandfather of eight, and the great grandfather of two.

My passion is to help educate and train youth in the building trades.  The highlight of my year is going on the Senior High Mission Trip where I help youth learn building skills.

Diane Velez

Custodian