About Our Team

Grant Identification | Writing | Submission | Management | SAM Registry | Federal Procurement | Business Plan Development

 

National Grants Management AssociationThe National Grants Management Association (NGMA) is recognized throughout the grants management industry as the membership association leader providing tools and resources for grants professionals to support and maintain high levels of grants management competency and to establish standards of excellence for grants managers.

Aspire Grant Writing Consultants are members of the NGMA, receiving the latest in education on grant compliance, submission and financial reporting. So, before you hire a firm to write your state or federal grants, ask yourself:

  1. Does the firm specialize in grant writing or something different?
  2. Are they members of the NGMA with graduate level education?
  3. Can the firm cite numerous awards that have been made to a mix of clients, and paid out, with no audit flags?
  4. Does your firm have economic impact software comparable to that used by the state/federal governments? We use IMPLAN Professional, and our studies have been cited by national media.
  5. Can you say that your contractual agreement supports an all-female team who loves to create energy and impact in the communities in which they work?

If not, Aspire to contract with a different type of firm (one that’s making headlines)!

Michele Miller Beener, MS

President, [email protected]

Michele R. Beener is the President of Aspire Grant & Development, LLC, a full service Federal, State and private grant research/management company. Aspire is a nationally certified diverse vendor, accredited by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Additionally, the firm is a certified Women Owned Small Business, consistent with guidelines from the United States Business Administration.

When starting Aspire, Michele noted a trend – fewer and fewer projects were competing for public grant funds. Why? Arguably, with the loss of traditional “earmarks” federal and state monies were allocated to agencies. Only a true grant writer, with agency review experience, can understand how to write in the top 5%, which is required. Raised with a father as a business partner, Michele took a risk, leaving a comfortable and incredibly rewarding senior position with Somerset Hospital to form Aspire. Now four years later, she’s proud to have nearly forty clients across the Appalachian Region and employ a group of highly educated, strong grant professionals. So, whether you choose Aspire or another firm, inquire as to the number of grants and the success rate of the firm in overall wins. You may be surprised!

Unlike traditional government affairs firms who may claim to offer grant writing services, all Aspire employees are members of the National Grants Management Association, NGMA, and are trained grant writers with a strong record of success. The National Grants Management Association, formerly the National Assistance Management Association, is a professional association, based in Washington D.C., dedicated to the profession of grants management. 

Michele specializes in business plan writing and development for nonprofit firms and public/private partnerships. Aspire uses IMPLAN modeling to develop a compelling economic impact model for each proposal. In 2017, Michele’s study on the Acosta Mine, the first new coal mine to open under President Trump, received a $3 million economic development grant, opening to employ nearly 90 individuals. The groundbreaking event was attended by President Trump (via video message) and Governor Tom Wolf.

Michele earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Waynesburg University and a Master of Science in Business Ethics from Duquesne University. Ironically, she is proud to be the grant writing professional for Waynesburg University, where both she and daughter Ashley attended undergrad. She is also happy to serve the United States Health Resources and Services Administration as a registered Federal Grant Reviewer. She’s written over 120 grant applications, with over 75% resulting in an award.

Over the past ten years, Michele has served various nonprofit boards, including Past President of the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, Children’s Aid Home of Somerset County, and the Rotary Club of Somerset. In 2007, Beener was honored by the YWCA of Greater Johnstown’s Tribute to Women Award Program as Educator of the Year. In 2014, she was honored by the Boy Scouts of America, Penn’s Woods Council, with their annual “Salute to Women” award. She enjoys raising funds for the benefit of local community organizations and serves on both the Board of Directors and the Somerset County Distribution Committee for the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. Michele operates a 300-acre beef farm in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, selling locally grown products to Highlands Market, Seven Springs Mountain Resort. She is also the Vice President of Miller Antique and Restoration, LLC, a national leader in the preservation of steam railroad and farm equipment. She is a proud member of the "Ladies of Steam” community (check it out on Facebook and you can see her Gaar Scott).  Michele enjoys the arts and is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Mountain Playhouse, a historic summer equity theatre program located in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania. In August of 2017, Michele was nominated for the Athena Award of Greater Pittsburgh, a prestigious nomination for women who support other women and community projects.

Sarah E. Russell, Office Manager

Sarah joined our staff in November 2018. She has been a huge asset to our team. She helps to keep our office running smoothly on a daily basis.

Sarah moved to Somerset County in the fall of 2018. However, she is not a stranger to the area. She visited the area frequently from 2004 through 2011. She even did an internship with the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center. As well as working as a typist for Sargent’s Court Reporting in Johnstown. She is originally from the Gettysburg area.

She holds an associates degree in Graphic Design and Printing Technologies from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology inLancaster, PA. She also has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Central Pennsylvania College in Harrisburg, PA.

Since graduating from college she has worked as a Review Technical Associate for SRA International, Inc. in Frederick, MD, an IT company. SRA is a subcontractor who does grant work for the government and educational systems. As well as a Travel and Entertainment Administrator with Voith Holding Inc. in York, PA a German engineering company.

Her knowledge of Microsoft Office, Graphic Design, grant compliance, and office dynamics has been helpful. In her spare, time Sarah enjoys the outdoors, spending time with her rescue dog Bandit, and traveling to new areas with her husband Austin. She also volunteers with the Shade Creek Watershed Association and Graef’s Lutheran Church in Cairnbrook, PA. Sarah can be contracted by phone at 814-701-2787 or emailed at [email protected] for all scheduling purposes.  

 

Brooke L. Sheeler, M.S., Senior Grant Associate

Brooke joined the Aspire team in 2015 as an intern while pursuing her undergraduate degree at Slippery Rock University. After graduating with a B.S. in Communications – Public Relations, Brooke came back to Aspire full time and received her M.S. in Integrated Marketing & Communications from West Virginia University in 2018. She has now been promoted to Senior Grant Associate, working to oversee a junior grant writing team and a growing list of large-scale development projects. Some of her main accounts include: Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, LCT Energy, Laurel Arts, Adventures in Training with a Purpose, and more. To date, her application awards have totaled over $3 million in state and private funding. 

In her spare time, Brooke enjoys hanging out with her rescue dog Tito while having animal welfare at the top of her priority list. She is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan and will never turn down the chance to watch the Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers. Brooke is honored to serve Laurel Arts as the Vice President, Board of Directors.  To talk to Brooke about your next project, you can email her at [email protected].

Kate Colligan, M.S., Ph.D. (ABD), Senior Associate

Kate recently joined Aspire, adding considerable talent in the fundraising and development space. Ms. Colligan served as the Director of the Elsie H. Hillman Archives from 2010-2014, where she managed all aspects of a large private archive – one that captured the incredible lifetime service and contributions of Mrs. Elsie H. Hillman. Additionally, Kate served the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Information Science from 2000-2010, winning over $300,000 in grants to support collections development. In her role as Assistant Professor and Archivist, Kate taught a variety of graduate courses for the Departments of History, Sociology and Women’s Studies. Kate holds a Doctor of Philosophy (ABD), Master of Library Science and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh.

Kate is proud to have offered volunteer board or professional consulting to a variety of Pittsburgh area organizations, including Chatham Baroque, the Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Cares, Kelly Strayhorn Theatre, Insisterhood Project: A Multimedia Documentation project of the Women’s Movement in Pittsburgh. Ms. Colligan also enjoyed a consulting experience with former Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack, where she researched policy and legislative issues, important across the Commonwealth. Kate started with Aspire on April 1, 2019 and continues to grow the depth and breadth of her professional client base, which includes the Mary S. Biesecker Library, Pittsburgh Film Office, Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and more! To talk to Kate about your next project, you can email her at [email protected].

 

 

 

Ashley G. Beener, Grant Associate

In November of 2016, Ms. Ashley Beener joined the Aspire team after employment as a Field Representative for United States Congressman Bill Shuster. Ms. Beener develops competitive grant proposals at the private, state, and federal level. She has experience working with a range of non-profit projects involving environmentally friendly initiatives, fire departments, the Arts, and community centers. Ms. Beener has experience and success across the following funding sources: Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance, the Laurel Highlands Tourism Grants, the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, PA Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant, FEMA, Firehouse Subs, Gaming and Economic Development Funds, Multimodal projects, the Mellon Foundation, the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Recent awards include a $500,000 grant from the R.K. Mellon Foundation towards expansion of Twin Lakes Center for Drug & Alcohol’s rehabilitation and detox services. Ms. Beener also specializes in applications to the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program with 2017 round $1 million awards for two economic development projects in Allegheny and Fayette Counties. Ms. Beener received her undergraduate degree in History and Political Science from Waynesburg University and is currently furthering her education at Widener Commonwealth Law, expecting to receive her Juris Doctorate in 2021. To start your next project, feel free to contact her at [email protected].

Brooke Kroon, M.Ed., Education and Youth Grantwriting Consultant

Brooke recently joined the Aspire team as a consulting grant writer. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Saint Francis University in 2011. The following year, Brooke received her master’s in education as a Reading Specialist from California University of Pennsylvania. For the last seven years she has been an educator in both the Rockwood Area School District and the Somerset Area School District, where she currently teaches. Brooke has a passion for education, and youth advocacy, which is reflected in her writing style. Since joining our team in May, she's worked with Mom's House, Inc., Pittsburgh Technical College and Children's Aid Home Programs. To talk to Brooke about your next project, you can email her at [email protected].

 

Lindsay Pyle, Grantwriting Consultant

 

Lindsay recently joined the Aspire team as a consulting grant writer. She received her bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental studies from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 2014. Lindsay was previously employed with Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission. Since joining our team, she's assisted Michele on several federal grants. To talk to Lindsay about your next project, you can email her at [email protected].

 

 

Erin Howsare, Grantwriting Consultant

 

Erin is a Somerset, Pennsylvania native. She graduated cum laude from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology, minor in Political Science, and a concentration in Pre-Law. She has worked in the human service field her entire career where she has written and co-wrote many grants. Erin resides in Somerset County, PA with her husband and son. Erin enjoys playing sports, the beach, a good book, and the outdoors. Consistent with Aspire’s standards of practice, Erin strives to serve clients with high scoring, customer focused writing! To talk to Erin about your next project, you can email her at [email protected].

 

 

Suellen Lichtenfels, M.S.N., RN, Grantwriting Consultant

 

Suellen recently joined the Aspire team as a consulting grant writer. She received her Master's of Science in Nursing degree in leadership and education from Carlow University, and holds certifications in Lamaze, Bereavement counseling, and the Association of Forensic Nurses. Suellen has served as a Chief Nurse Officer, where she was a member of an Executive Leadership team administering and coordinating objectives, and analysis of nursing services to improve quality care and the strong working relationships with staff, while nourishing communication between nurses and physicians. The patient satisfaction rating improved through hands on approach, which took the Emergency department, Behavioral Health, and other departments to a higher level of professional care.

Suellen served as Director of Women's Health over several years offering excellence in care to every mother and infant ensuring a healthy start to life. This excellence in care for a rural community hospital rivaled and was equal to the care extended at any intercity hospital. One of Suellen's proudest achievements was starting a Child Advocacy Center in Somerset County associating with the local hospital. Suellen served on the Advisory Board of the Child Advocacy Center and was an integral part of working with the multidisciplinary team as an examiner and adviser regarding assault cases.

Suellen lives in Hidden Valley, PA with her family and enjoys skiing, the beach, and of course, football. To talk to Suellen about your next project, you can email her at [email protected].

 

 

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