our staff

our staff

Christy Buck

Christy Buck

Executive Director, Founder of be nice.

Christy Buck is the Executive Director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. With more than 33 years of experience in the mental health field, Buck’s passion for transforming and saving lives through mental health education led her to develop two classroom programs, ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ for middle and high school students, and ‘be nice.’ Since 2006, she and her staff have passionately presented to over 200,000 people in West Michigan on mental health awareness, bullying and suicide prevention. Buck regularly delivers speaking engagements to community and business groups on mental health awareness. She is certified in Question Persuade and Refer and Mental Health First Aid, which she has been recognized as one of the top 100 in the country.

Christy serves on the Grandville School Board and is involved with numerous community organizations and coalitions. Most recent honors include 2017 American Red Cross Hometown, 2017 Athena Finalist, 2017 Art Van Charity of Hope Award, 2018 50 Most Influential Women In West Michigan, 2019 Daughters of the American Revolution Women In History and most recently finalist for Brilliance Award Woman of the Year.

Christy enjoys spending time with her family - hubby Tim, and kids - Demetrios, Katerina, Isabella and granddog, Riggins and the community of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church! She is a proud graduate of Michigan State University.

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Larissa Payton

Larissa Payton

Executive Assistant

Larissa has been working with the Mental Health Foundation since 1999. She is a graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design with a BA in Visual Communications. Larissa was responsible for the creation of the original be nice. design on merchandise and printed material for the Foundation. In addition to creating cool stuff, she is the staff liaison with the Board, arranges meetings, takes minutes, and manages corporate files. She triages calls from the community and assists with our events. Larissa and her husband Joe protect their mental health by camping and spending time with family!

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Kandice Sloop

Kandice Sloop

Program Coordinator

Kandice works closely with schools on implementing and delivering our education programs: be nice. and be nice. extension. In addition, she serves as an Instructor for Mental Health First Aid and helps plan the MHF’s Annual Stomp Out Stigma Walk and Shining Through Art Show and Auction. Kandice graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2007 and received her Masters in Social Work from Western Michigan University in 2013. Kandice lives in Hudsonville with her husband, Patrick, and 2 daughters, Adeline and Blakely. Kandice protects her mental health by walking her golden retriever Rosie, spending time with family, shopping, and binge-watching tv shows with her husband.

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Catherine Lanting

Catherine Lanting

Program Director

Catherine (Cat) started at the Foundation as an AmeriCorps member in 2011. With her passion for the be nice.action plan, and belief that four simple steps can change someone's hour, their day, and/or their life, she has stepped into the role of Program Director. Seeing its potential and setting goals for be nice.programming to be accessible to any individual is her priority, but instructing all of the MHF's offered programs (including the be nice. action plan to kindergartners through senior citizens, be nice.extension, Mental Health First Aid, and QPR) is still where she finds much joy.

Cat is a native Grand Rapidian who graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies - Health Studies and is so excited to be educating young people and the community about a topic that she needed information about in her own youth. She currently resides on the lakeshore, and in her free time, Cat skis, feeds chickens, races sailboats, and hikes the North Country Trail with her family and 3 canines to protect her mental health.

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Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

Communications Director

Jessica started working for the Foundation in 2016. She is responsible for all things communications. She manages the website, handles the social media accounts and media presence, writes those jazzy newsletters our subscribers love, and creates compelling content to support the MHF's programs. She also assists in the coordination of the smaller community-curated fundraisers and seeks out community partnerships to promote the be nice. education program. She is a graduate of Grand Valley State University with a degree in communications and a background in journalism and broadcasting. Jess protects her mental health by being outside and she always has a book she’s reading. She's hiked 365 miles along the Appalachian Trail, trekked deep into the Grand Canyon, topped mountain peaks of the Canadian Rockies, spent four days traversing the Dolomite Mountains of Italy, hiked her then six-month-old baby boy to see the 360° view atop Cloud's Rest in Yosemite Nat'l Park and most recently hiked her 6-week-old baby girl into the clouds of the Smoky Mountains to take in the views of Chimney Top Mountain.

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Isabella Buck

Isabella Buck

Program Coordinator

Isabella (Bella) Buck has been involved with the foundation in many capacities, and loves working with the Program Department! As a Program Coordinator, she creates content for be nice. Programming and connects with liaisons throughout the year to ensure they are confident in implementing be nice. School and be nice. Team. A graduate of Aquinas College, she studied English, journalism & communication, and played Women's Soccer and Women's Tennis. Bella protects her mental health by taking long walks, calling friends, enjoying local coffee shops, and playing tennis!

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Rachael Braginton

Rachael Braginton

Program Coordinator

Rachael grew up with the be nice. program and was a part of the be nice. Leadership Group at Grandville High School for four years. She then attended Hope College where she studied business with a background in psychology and neuroscience, and also played Women’s Soccer. As a student-athlete, Rachael had her own struggles with mental health and became a survivor of suicide in 2018. Her personal understanding and passion for mental health awareness and suicide prevention in young athletes is what brought her to a position with the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan as a Program Coordinator, working with the be nice. School and Team programs. Rachael protects her mental health by playing rec soccer and volleyball, enjoying a good meal with a friend, and playing with her dog Tucker.

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Erin Aldrich

Erin Aldrich

be nice. Business Coordinator

Erin first became familiar with the Foundation when her high school became a be nice.School, and her many years of participating in the Stomp Out Stigma Walk. Now, in her role as Business Program Coordinator, she helps to onboard new be nice.Businesses and works with existing be nice.Businesses facilitate programming within their company. Erin has seen the amazing work be nice.has done in schools, and is excited to help bring this education to another demographic!

In her free time Erin is a dance coach and even takes a few classes herself to protect her mental health! She is passionate about understanding how exercise, being a part of a team, and expressing oneself through art and movement can be extremely protective to someone's mental health.


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Mary Aldrich

Mary Aldrich

Program Finance Coordinator

Mary began working in the mental health environment in 2012 at Network180 as an Accounting Clerk after being a stay at home mom for many years. During those years she volunteered in a variety of ways at her children's school, dance studio and other fundraising events. In 2017, she started at the Foundation as a volunteer organizing apparel. Now, she is responsible for the bookkeeping. She and her husband John have two children, Erin and Steven. She enjoys keeping the Foundation staff supplied in sweets, and chilling by the lake with family and friends and a good book!

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Therran Hines

Therran Hines

Office Assistant

Therran has been both a volunteer and an employee at the Mental Health Foundation of WM. He started with the MHFWM in 2006. Therran studied finance at Michigan State University. His most recent employment, prior to being with the Foundation was in building maintenance (volunteer) with the Food Bank of East Michigan. Therran has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and has had great success with his recovery. He is a very thoughtful guy who protects his mental health by not expecting more than what's reasonable.

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Jessica Stranz

Jessica Stranz

Office Ambassador

I have been involved in the be nice. program in 2017 and 2018. I also enjoy helping people with their mental health. I protect my mental health by bowling and hanging out with my family and friends.

Contact the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan

160 68th St. SW Suite 120
Grand Rapids, MI 49548


info@benice.org | 616.389.8601

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