OUR TEAM

Meet the hardworking experts who bring The SOAR Initiative’s work to life. From students to peer recovery specialists, our team is diverse and skilled.

Administration

Sydney Sauer (she/her)

Director of Operations
Sydney is a senior studying sociology at The Ohio State University. She manages SOAR's finances, day-to-day operations, and organization. Sydney sees harm reduction as an important tool to enhance public health and move towards a racially equitable society. After graduation, she plans to continue engaging with communities of PWUD and pursue her PhD in Sociology.

Kim Maximovich (she/her)

Strip Club Program Manager
Hi there! My name is Kim and I’m the project manager of our fentanyl test strip by mail program. I am a recent graduate from Ohio State University with an undergraduate degree in Public Health and a specialization in Sociology. I work full-time at Covermymeds here in Columbus, and spend a lot of time outside of my 9-5 doing work here at SOAR. My love and passion are helping people while showing them compassion and commitment to their journeys towards better health and making informed choices. I am honored to play such a small role in YOUR life and in keeping Ohioans safe.

Andrea Hefferan (she/her)

Marketing Manager
Andrea is a second-year Marketing major with a minor in Design Thinking. She is interested in outreach and making harm-reduction resources accessible to as many people as possible. She is also excited to work with community members and help expand SOAR.

Lydia Bentley (she/her)

Assistant Program Manager, Strip Club
Lydia is a Molecular Genetics major at Ohio State University with hopes to attend graduate school to become a Genetic Counselor. Though her passion lies in genetics, she has always had a special interest in public health and how harm reduction can help the overall well-being of others. Through her role in SOAR, Lydia assists in the analysis and distribution of fentanyl test strips. She’s looking forward to spreading SOAR’s mission and helping those who need it most.

Technology

Pranav Padmanabhan (he/they)

Senior Data Analyst and Program Evaluator
Pranav co-founded The SOAR Initiative in 2019 and graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Geography and Disease Modeling. He hopes to become an epidemiologist specializing in substance use, utilizing community-driven research and interventions to improve the health of people who use drugs. As a Data Analyst, Pranav spends his time thinking about how to improve SOAR's operational efficiency and ensure that SOAR's programs are meeting the most prioritized needs of the communities we serve. Pranav joined SOAR to use his skills to help fill a crucial gap in Ohio's response to the overdose epidemic. He hopes to empower people who are often invisible to public health services with the resources and knowledge they need to stay alive and healthy.

Joseph Esposito (he/him)

Director of Technology
Joey is a Data Analytics Major and Mathematics Minor in the OSU College of Arts and Sciences, who would like to become a Data Scientist upon graduation. He is responsible for maintaining the technology behind SOAR's Deadly Batch Alert System, and working with the developers behind the SOAR app. He also has an active role in determining the technological future of the organization. He joined SOAR in order to make a difference reducing the harm caused by the opioid epidemic, a cause he has personal connections to. Joey looks forward to helping provide the resources and infrastructure for communities to better understand the problems caused by opioids and help keep themselves safe through a modern, people-centered approach.

Kate Luckerman (she/her)

App Project Manager and Frontend Developer
Kate is studying Computer and Information Science and pursuing a career in software development. She manages, develops, and maintains the SOAR Columbus app for iOS and Android using React Native. Kate joined SOAR to follow her passion for using technology for good. She looks forward to seeing the mobile app empower and connect communities and expand SOAR’s reach.

Community Relations

Jessica Mitsch (she/her)

Director of Community Relations
Jessica is a Neuroscience major and Pharmaceutical Sciences minor at The Ohio State University. She is interested in pursuing a career in medicine and making healthcare more inclusive. As Director of Community Relations, she would like to share SOAR’s resources and mission with more of the drug-taking community throughout Ohio and beyond. She focuses on fentanyl test strip distribution and creating connectedness and accountability by enrolling people who use drugs, their friends, and their families in the text alert system. She works to increase awareness of the overdose crisis, especially among college students.

Tonja Catron (she/her)

Community Outreach Worker (Troy, OH)
Wife, Mom, Grandma, AoD Therapist, Harm Reduction Ohio chapter director for Miami County, person in long term recovery, student at Indiana Wesleyan University studying for my Master's in Social Work, favorite quote "There is no room for EGO in outreach"

Sharona Bishop (she/her)

Community Outreach Worker (Findlay, OH)
I am a mother of 4 and a new grandmother of 1. I will be celebrating 8 years of recovery on September 15th this year. I have been working in mental health and substance use since 2018, as a peer support, case manager and harm reduction advocate. I work at Hancock Public Health with the health promotion and planning team and I am excited to be a new member to the SOAR team.

Ashton Rose (she/her)

Community Outreach Worker (Toledo, OH)
Ashton is a community outreach worker with a personal passion to help educate and provide resources to people who use drugs. Due to personal lived experiences Ashton pursues the harm reduction field with first hand knowledge and provides views from both sides of this battle. Ashton is currently pursuing all levels of her CDCA and plans to attend college for public health. She would love to continue fighting for safety in the community. Her sole belief is that harm reduction and ending prohibition will truly help cure the overdose crisis. Providing a judgment free environment while promoting safe use is her objective. Building resources, funding and networking with other outreach programs is a main goal of hers.

Holly Woodruff (she/her)

Community Outreach Worker (Wooster, OH)
Holly started her outreach journey because she lost her brother and bestfriend in March 2022 to a fentanyl overdose. She decided someone was going to live because he died. She gathered a couple of friends and started Dale‘s outreach. Going door-to-door sitting at the local parks giving out Narcan and harm reduction kits, feeding the hungry and educating people about overdose awareness!

Jessica Collier (she/her)

Community Outreach Worker (Cleveland, OH)
Jessica is a member of our outreach team in Cleveland. She has lived experience with substance use disorder and has been in recovery for 8 years. She is a naloxone distributor in Cuyahoga county as well as an educator in her community, teaching folks the importance of practicing safety and how to respond & prevent overdoses. Much of her time is spent volunteering with multiple non-profit organizations in Cleveland, like Project White Butterfly and Thrive for Change. Jessica has a passion for harm reduction work and her experience gives her a unique opportunity to connect, collaborate, and advocate for our community.

Executive Board

Larkin Cleland (he/him)

Board Member
Larkin Cleland is a current student at Ohio State and a SOAR co-founder. He served as Director of Operations before transitioning to the Executive Board. In addition to his interest in harm reduction in Ohio, he is broadly interested in global public health, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Brittany Carter (she/her)

Board Member
Brittany is a graduate of Ohio State University’s College of Public Health and has worked in the field of harm reduction since 2018. During her time at Equitas Health’s Safe Point syringe service program, she has launched linkage to care programming, coordinated overdose prevention and response activities, and led initiatives for continuous quality improvement. Brittany’s passion for harm reduction best practices is grounded in person-centered and data-driven programming, with a strong belief in The SOAR Initiative’s mission to reduce harm and save lives through peer-led approaches.

Varshita Chirumamilla (she/her)

Board Member
Varshita is a first year medical student at Ohio State University College of Medicine. She is interested in the overlap of public health practices in medicine, especially as it pertains to addiction and maternal medicine, with hopes of becoming an OB/GYN after graduation. Varshita served as a Director in SOAR, working with community partners such as Faith Mission and Project DAWN, and joined SOAR because of her experience growing up in central Ohio and seeing how substance use without proper resources can negatively impact many communities. She hopes to combine her non-profit work and medical practice by specializing in addiction medicine and caring for the maternal population who use substances in a holistic way.

Dana Lavender (she/her)

Board Member
Dana Lavender, native of Columbus Ohio has over 5 years of community engagement experience. Dana currently serves as the Opioid Awareness Program Manager for The African American Male Wellness Agency, helping to serve thousands of Franklin County residents in spreading awareness regarding the opioid crisis in the African American community. She is effective and efficient in executing a successful grassroots strategy. Dana possesses a strength in building relationships and has a strong reputation for high performance and exceeding expectations. Dana exudes commitment and drive and will go above and beyond to provide community members with the information and resources needed to make a difference.

Dennis Pales (he/him)

Board Member
Dennis Pales is a SOAR co-founder and is currently a medical student at The University of Colorado School of Medicine. He graduated from Ohio State in 2022 and served as the Director of Community Relations from SOAR's inception through his graduation.

Anne Trinh, MPH (she/her)

Board Member
Anne is the Senior Program Manager at the Addiction Innovation Fund and an Evaluator and Community Engagement Specialist at The Center for HOPES at The Ohio State University. Anne has almost two decades of experience in public health practice and research in different settings, including local and Tribal governments; nonprofits; and universities. She is passionate about implementation and translational science within the context of population health improvement and believes that focusing on prevention, equity, and the social indicators of health can create and sustain thriving communities.

Suzanne Plymale (she/her)

Board Member
Suzanne is a peer recovery support specialist at Community Medical Services in Columbus, OH and a grassroots leader at Central Ohio Harm Reduction. She also works part-time for SOAR as a community outreach worker.

Evan Robinson, MSW (he/him)

Board Member
Evan works for Equitas Health in Columbus, OH, where he presently serves as the Community Relations Manager of Harm Reduction. He received his MSW from The Ohio State University.