Steve Brong, MS – Founding Partner, President & CEO, Family Worker
Steve began his venture in social services while attending graduate school at Shippensburg State College pursuing his Master’s degree in counseling. He holds more than 35 years of experience working in the areas of drug and alcohol, mental health, as well as providing directorship of several children and youth organizations. Steve has dedicated his career to helping adults, children and families in managing stress and crisis by guiding them to stability.
As a founding partner of Lehigh Valley Families Together, Inc., Steve continues his commitment to children and families through his everyday work. “Just as the original concept of helping parents build a family that will be stable, emotionally and physically safe continues to guide my efforts, my direct involvement with clients as a family worker and team leader shapes my decisions as the chief administrator of LVFT. There is no question in my mind that continuing to provide direct services helps me stay in touch with the needs of our families and the counties we serve, and has made me a more effective administrator.”
Allyn Benech, M.Ed. – Founding Partner, Vice President, Program Director
Starting out to be a business manager, Allyn decided towards the end of her undergraduate work that the counseling field was the direction she was headed. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and subsequently a Master’s of Education in Rehabilitation Counseling from Penn State, she now sees her life took her down the perfect path because she uses both of her degrees in her current position.
Allyn has held several positions in the area of social services from mental health and intellectual disabilities services to working with children in foster care and seniors in a nursing home setting. Her experiences brought her together with President Steve Brong to create Lehigh Valley Families Together.
Throughout her work, Allyn has learned that every person has a story that deserves to be heard and honored, and there is hope even in the direst of circumstances. Allyn holds true to a saying her father would tell her, “Everything happens for a reason.” She works to help clients see beyond their immediate struggles to what may lie ahead.
In addition to holding the positions of Vice President and Program Director, Allyn is also certified in Family Group Decision Making and Family Development Credentialing. She enjoys spending time with her sons, dog and cat and when she’s not reading a good book you may be able to talk her into taking a sky dive!
Laura Gross – Office Manager
Laura has been working 11 years as Lehigh Valley Families Together’s office manager. Laura holds substantial management experience prior to joining LVFT and holds a degree in Computer Programming. Throughout her years with LVFT, Laura is inspired to see families who have so much going against them become success stories.
She enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Loves to laugh!
She believes you need to “enjoy the little things because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things!”
Laura is a longtime volunteer and loves to be outdoors especially on a beach somewhere.
Bethany Brown, M.Ed. – Director of Resource Family Care
Bethany began her career in social services in 1997 and has worked with for profit and non-profit organizations, small to mid-size companies, all of whom focused on client-centered, asset-based, solution-focused informed care. From private practice to a university setting, Bethany brings a well-rounded professional experience to her role. Seeking to reenter the field of foster care, Bethany came on board at LVFT in 2013. Bethany has this to say about her current role, “It might sound cliché, but I have learned that it takes a certain kind of person to be a foster parent, especially a good one (which ought to be the only kind). During the Home Study process, I get to become personally familiar with individuals who will be caring for children in need of placement. A lot is asked of them, and a lot they deliver. We are not in the field of making widgets but molding human beings, thus there are only generalizations regarding what to expect and how to respond. Each Resource Parent has to learn their foster child and accommodate that child’s needs. And, the needs of each child may vary slightly to significantly. I am proud to be affiliated with people capable of doing this.”
In addition to her work, Bethany is a constant student holding an Associate’s degree in Education (Northampton Community College), a Bachelor’s in Psychology (Cedar Crest College), a Master’s degree in Special Education (Lehigh University) and is currently a Student of an Ed.D. in Counseling Psychology (Argosy University). She is also the President of the Greater Lehigh Valley Foster Care Coalition. And, when she can find a little spare time Bethany loves to read, write and is teaching herself how to play the piano!
Amanda King – Family Worker
Amanda joined the team at LVFT after relocating from Austin, Texas to the Lehigh Valley. Her background is in psychology and counseling receiving her Master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. She is also certified in the Prepare/Enrich assessment for premarital and marital therapy. She has a passion for helping parents improve life skills and parenting skills and believes in the power of building the bond between parent and child.
In her spare time, Amanda loves spending time with her family and her boyfriend, listening to music and working out. Something not many know, but Amanda loves making costumes and going to renaissance festivals, comic, and anime conventions!
Michele Keays (AKA Chelby) - Family Worker
Chelby recently joined the team at LVFT and has previous experience working with children at a Residential Treatment Facility in the Lehigh Valley. She graduated with honors from West Chester University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Chelby enjoys working in an in-home setting because she is passionate about reunifying and preserving the family unit and offering support for the family to obtain the necessary resources to be successful.
Chelby enjoys music, movies, and spending time with her friends, family, and pug Rocco. She also loves to travel and especially to Costa Rica.
Ashley Liriano - Family Worker
Ashley graduated from Moravian College in 2016 with a Bachelor's in Sociology.
Her passion for wanting to help people and trying to find solutions for the problems they are experiencing is what drew her to being part of Lehigh Valley Families Together. After being with the organization for a short period she realizes that LVFT is a group of people with their heart in the right place.
She looks forward to supporting the families and creating a stable family environment where they can be happy!
In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with family and friends.
Rebecca Gowarty - Family Worker
Becky is currently working toward her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at Rosemont College after receiving her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Moravian College. She joined the LVFT team after working for KidsPeace in the BHRS Autism Program.
When she’s not at work or in classes, Becky is the proud mother of two young boys. She is an avid runner, singer, and enjoys going to concerts with her husband.
A people person by nature, Becky hopes to gain experience working with families, and to help them achieve their goals and live fulfilling lives. Becky is empathetic to the struggles of others, and strives to make those struggles more manageable.
“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” – John Lennon
Kimberleigh Burgess - Family Worker
Kimberleigh graduated from Moravian College in 2016 with a Bachelor's in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Spanish.
She has completed internships at multiple non-profit organizations. Her time at Buxmont Academy was the most impactful. During that time she developed a desire to work further with families.
She has a strong passion in adolescent and family development. Kimberleigh loves conducting research in the areas of development and behavior. She also loves music and can usually be found with earbuds on and music playing almost 24/7.
Kimberleigh's own experience during adolescence drew her to wanting to help people in similar situations. She feels that working at Lehigh Valley Families Together will give her the opportunity to gain experience working with families.
Her ultimate goal and hope is not only to aid and help reunify families but also help cultivate love and an environment for the family to succeed.
Anthony Orlando - Family Worker
Anthony is a recent graduate from Moravian College with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology.
He completed his internship at Northampton County Juvenile Justice Center.
In the past Anthony has worked as a landscaper, a lifeguard at Bethlehem Public Pool, at Cigar International and as a data analyst for a credit card company.
Anthony enjoys reading and watching movies. He also enjoys hiking outdoors or taking day trips to the beach with his friends.
A few influential college courses drew Anthony to this field of work. He has a strong desire to help others.
He is hopeful that through his actions and efforts he can help successfully reunify all families.
Renee MacKenzie - Home Study Coordinator
Renee graduated from University of Alaska with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology. She received her Master's degree in Transpersonal Studies (thesis on Transpersonal Psychology and the Family) from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.
Renee has lots of experience in many fields. She has been a Training Coordinator, Home Study designer and Supervisor in Foster Care, mobile therapist, private practice in counseling, family worker, FGDM Coordinator, Hospice and Rape Crisis Center volunteer and a counselor in adolescent treatment facility.
She loves reading, writing, bird watching, fishing, gardening, traveling, music, politics, belief systems, social justice. Renee likes anything new that takes her someplace she's never been...a thought, a new place, a new road, a new family!
All families are fascinating and everyone has an amazing story. Renee has a passion for justice/fairness and a deeply held belief in the importance of families and their individual paths.
Renee hopes to accomplish a positive change in a person/family/system through deeper understanding and insightful compassion: For what has been, what is, and what might be.