Management Team

Gene Howell

President & CEO

Gene, President/CEO, is in his 26th year of service to Riverbend Head Start & Family Services. Gene started his career with the agency as a case manager and after serving many roles throughout the agency was promoted to President/CEO in December of 2017.

Gene is actively involved in community service currently Chair of the Illinois Head Start Association Board of Directors, active member of the Rotary Club of the Riverbend, active in his faith community and coaches his son’s baseball team. Gene and his wife have previously been foster parents and have proudly adopted five children who they are blessed to have as a part of their lives.

Gene received his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and is a graduate of the School of Management at UCLA, Head Start Management Fellows Program.

Gene’s responsibilities include working closely with the agency’s Board of Directors, providing strategic leadership and planning to set a vision for the future of the Agency and overseeing fiscal, personnel, fund development, facilities and communications for the agency through close work with agency directors.

Judy Gann

Executive Assistant to the President & CEO

Judy came from a hard-working family and continues this with the work that she does every day. She credits her parents for instilling this in her at a very young age. Judy enjoys helping people and strives to pitch in, where and whenever needed. Judy has been with the agency since her senior year in high school when she began as an office education student in the Finance department. Over the years, she’s worked in many of the agency’s departments and landed in administration in the mid 80s as the Executive Secretary to the President. Now with the agency for more than 40 years, she continues to enjoy the work she does. “I must be doing something right because they haven’t gotten rid of me yet,” Judy jokingly says.

Tim Warren

Finance Director

Tim Warren joined Riverbend Head Start & Family Services as the Finance Director in August of 2022. He graduated from SIUE with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accountancy and brings over 15 years of accounting and finance experience to the agency.  Tim has worked in both the for profit and non-profit sectors. He also has previous experience working in Head Start. At RHSFS, Tim works to oversee, implement and provide financial analysis on the annual budget. He also prepares financial reports for the agency. Him and his team work hard to keep all finance-related functions running smoothly. In his spare time, Tim enjoys cooking. His two favorite foods to prepare are chicken parmigiana and cheesecake. 

Lori Bostick

Human Resources Director

Lori Bostick is the Human Resources Director at RHSFS. Lori oversees all HR systems, handles employee relations, ensures compliance with regulations, assesses staffing needs, monitors hiring practices and training programs and implements compensation plans. Prior to working at RHSFS for the past 12+ years, Lori was the Human Resources Manager for Onarga Academy located in northern Illinois. In 2007, she returned to the Alton area to be able to assist with the care of her parents who resided in Bunker Hill.

Lori and her husband Mike live in Bunker Hill where they were both raised. Together they enjoy what used to be called “antiquing” but, is now referred to as “picking.” Their goal is to begin the process of reselling some of their treasures at local pickers markets. Lori and Mike’s son, daughter-in-law and two oldest grandchildren also reside in Bunker Hill. Their daughter, son-in-law and youngest grandson live in Springfield, Illinois. Having their children and grandchildren close to them means the world to Lori and Mike.

Lori holds her BA degree from Governor State University located in University Park, Illinois. Lori states that the most rewarding part of her job at RHSFS is being a resource to staff whether they are needing assistance with their career path, implementing new ideas or just want to talk.

Connie Paruch

Information Systems Director

Connie is the Information Systems Director for RHSFS. She oversees the data and technology portions of the program and manages a team of four dedicated data and IT professionals. Connie says that the favorite part of her job is seeing data used to facilitate decision making that guides the program in a direction that makes the most impact in the community. Connie spent several years working as an Early Childhood Teacher followed by a decade of working as a pediatric RN before transitioning into the area of Information Systems.

Connie loves a good movie, fishing, reading and thrifting. She loves eBay and has been a power seller for over 20 years. She says “there is nothing like finding a $1 book at a garage sale and then selling it for $50 on eBay.” Connie has worked for RHSFS for over 20 years and considers her co-workers to be her second family. Having lived in poverty herself for many years, she understands how excellent agencies like RHSFS can be a lifeline for a family. Connie has lived in Madison County her entire life and presently resides in Alton with her loving husband Richard. She has two children whom she adores. Connie holds an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Nursing, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Computer Science.

Cathy Blevens

Operations Director

As the Operations Director for Riverbend Head Start and Family Services, Cathy has 25 years of experience in social services, dedicating the past 20 years to Head Start programming. Throughout her career, Cathy has provided direct service to families and supervised Home Visitors in the Home-Based Head Start/Early Head Start program option for over 15 years working collaboratively with local school districts. In Cathy’s current role, she is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Riverbend Head Start & Family Services, ensuring that programming meets both federal and state regulations, while focusing on providing high quality comprehensive services to 507 three-to-five-year-olds and 286 birth-to-three-year-olds and their respective families. Additionally, Cathy oversees the effectiveness of community partnerships and the agency’s collaboration with Illinois State Board of Education through Preschool for all Expansion funding to provide full-day, full-year services to 214 children.

A graduate of Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, Cathy is a certified Parents As Teachers Home Visitor and Supervisor. In 2017, Cathy completed the UCLA Head Start Management Fellows Program; strengthening management and leadership skills at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. For the past 25 years, she has been active in her community serving on Advisory Boards for local school districts and colleges, youth sports and Easter Seals. Currently, Cathy serves as an active board member of the Illinois Head Start Association. In her spare time, Cathy spends her free time with family and friends enjoying traveling, outdoor activities, refurbishing a 37’ foot sailboat and completing sewing projects. Cathy resides in Alton, Illinois with her husband, Rick. They are the proud parents of 5 children and 7 grandchildren.

Jim Severine

Facilities & Transportation Director

Jim Severine has been employed with the agency for over eight years. He has a great deal of experience in facility operations. Before coming to Riverbend Head Start, Jim spent 26 years at Washington University in St. Louis as the associate director of housing department, overseeing 49 buildings, day to day operations and construction and taking care of student needs. Most recently, Jim received his Facility Management Professional (FMP) designation from the International Facility Management Association. Severine’s vision, expertise and strategic leadership has allowed him to contribute to the bottom line by reducing facility costs, improving productivity and the agency’s image through facility renovations and compliance with Head Start’s performance standards for health, safety and transportation.

Jim says he believes in the Head Start program because he sees it as a ministry to help families and understands how it benefits the community at large. Throughout each year, Jim has led his team for donation pick up’s and deliveries which have included refrigerators, stoves, sofas, beds, washers and dryers to families without anything. Each day, Jim is able to impact the lives of families by helping maintain center gardens and its supplies, and in the safety of each building that children and staff occupy.

A man all about family and safety, Jim is married with adult children and grandchildren who he adores. During his spare time, Jim loves to travel and visit his grandchildren and enjoys working with his hands whether in the garden or some other handy project.

Melanie N. Steen

Public Relations & Fund Development Director

Melanie Steen joined RHSFS in November 2022 as the Public Relations & Fund Development Director.  She brings a wealth of experience in media relations, broadcasting and crisis communications. 

In her previous role, Melanie served as the Executive Producer of a daytime talk show in the Ozarks. She has many years of producing high-quality content for television and supervising young journalists. Prior to her role with the NBC affiliate, she worked as a contract employee with the School District of University City. In that position, she handled all media pitches for the District, wrote press releases and web articles, and oversaw the production of their student newscast for the high school.

Melanie greatly enjoys mentoring young journalists. She previously worked as an Adjunct Instructor with Maryville University where she taught Introduction to Writing and Issues & Crisis Management classes to undergraduate students. She is a proud graduate of Lindenwood University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication and a Master’s Degree in Communications with an emphasis in Promotions. 

Melanie is looking forward to exploring ways to help increase donorship at the agency and bring widespread attention to our mission through her local TV/radio contacts. Currently, she and her husband live in Alton along with their two dogs. She is also the proud parent of a son who works in healthcare in the San Francisco area.  

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