BeFriender Ministry Executive Director – Barb Schwery
Barb Schwery leads BeFriender Ministry with over 40 years of Pastoral Care ministry experience. She joined the BeFriender Ministry National Office staff in 1995 and was named Executive Director in 2009. Barb was a member of the charter group of BeFriender Ministry Leaders trained in 1981. She is a Certified BeFriender Ministry Workshop Leader.
Before joining BeFriender Ministry’s National Office, Barb served for 13 years as a church-affiliated Pastoral Minister. Her ministry encompassed the many dimensions of pastoral care including: training, volunteer support, outreach to hospitals and senior living communities, home visits, and implementing and sustaining BeFriender Ministry programs.
Barb holds a Master of Ministry from Seattle University and a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the College of St. Catherine, Saint Paul, MN, currently St. Catherine University. She has served on the Hopkins Health Care Center board and is a member of the National Association of Lay Ministers and the Association of Pastoral Ministers.
BeFriender Ministry Board of Directors
William Pederson, Board Chair, is a retired attorney and mediator, and was appointed to three terms as a judge with the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals. A BeFriender since 2010, Bill is drawn to the Ministry’s simple mission of being present for someone in need.
“Indeed, BeFrienders strengthen lives and change the world, one heart at a time.”
William Fitzgerald, Treasurer, brings a wealth of experience in accounting, finance, and operations. He worked for Control Data for over 30 years, retiring as the VP and GM for their US operations in the military sector. He then joined Factory Motor Parts in Eagan Minnesota and was the Operations VP until he again retired. He continues to provide periodic consulting support for Insigniam.
“The BeFrienders ministry is a sorely needed way to reach out and become that listening person who enriches the lives of others.”
Jeanne Perkins, Secretary, brings professional experience working with patients in the medical field and proficiency helping businesses discern their insurance needs. Jeanne helped to establish a BeFriender Program and subsequently served as a Program Leader for many years. She has been on the National Board since 2013. Jeanne brings a lifetime of experience caring for and listening to people.
“Faith, service, and ministry are an integral part of BeFriender Ministry”.
Reid Johnston is the Founder of TechGen Consulting, Inc., a Technology Service Provider serving hundreds of small businesses’ technology needs around the country since 2000. Reid has a life-long passion for entrepreneurship, helping people and solving problems. He has been involved in multiple startup organizations and is an aspiring Private Pilot.
“I believe strongly in the benefits of compassionate listening and want to help the BeFriender Ministry succeed.”
Melanie Rettie worked for a mid-sized engineering firm for 29 years, retiring as an EVP in 2018. Her responsibilities included business development, client/project oversight in management consulting, IT, and customer service. Melanie was a BeFriender at the Basilica of St. Mary’s Emmaus program for 10 years, and on the program leadership team for 9 years.
“The caring connection created by BeFrienders deeply enriches the life of both the person being BeFriended and the BeFriender.”
Kathy Rosenberg has 35 years of experience as a Registered Nurse. This includes 20 years at Abbott Northwestern Hospital/Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, overlapping with 22 years as a Faith Community Nurse. Kathy also served as a Wellness Nurse for Presbyterian Homes through a grant called SASH (Support and Services at Home) funded by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.
Kathy brings an extensive patient care perspective to the Board along with 25 years of being a trained BeFriender and program leader. “Being trained as a BeFriender has made a huge difference in my personal life and in my nursing practice as a Faith Community Nurse. It’s been such a gift to see so many lives being blessed because of the BeFriender Ministry in our church communities and beyond.”
Gary Solomonson holds a Master of Divinity from Luther Theological Seminary where he focused on parish development. After serving as an adjunct parish pastor for five years, Gary transitioned into a 45- year career in senior living management and development. Gary retired in December 2021, and now devotes his time to writing, consulting and supporting environmental reclamation for watersheds and rivers.
Gary has “witnessed the power and gift of someone simply taking time to listen to residents’ stories. Whether the stories are sharing their joys, challenges, or loneliness, the healing power of a loving and listening spiritual presence is absolutely magical.”
Chaplain Kay Sorvik serves as Lead Chaplain at Covenant Living of Colorado, a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Before becoming a chaplain, Kay served for over 12 years as Executive Pastor at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, MN, where she also led the BeFriender Ministry Program.
“I have seen many lives touched by this listening, caring, nonjudgmental ministry that relies on God’s presence. “
Chuck Waletzko brings more than 30 years of fund-raising and nonprofit management experience, including stewardship and fundraising for the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, and the Normandale Community College Scholarship Foundation. Chuck has managed dozens of church and school capital campaigns throughout the Midwest. He believes
“the active listening and mission of BeFrienders is perhaps the most valuable gift one human being can give to another.”