Meet Our Team

The professional team at Tanager Place is made up of compassionate care advocates, nurses, family support specialists and trained social workers. We’re 100% family-focused and driven to meet the unique needs of every child and family who walks through our doors.

Okpara Rice

Okpara Rice

Chief Executive Officer

Okpara Rice joined Tanager Place of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as executive director in July 2013, and assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer July 2015. Okpara is the first African American to hold executive office at Tanager Place in its more than 140 year history.

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He brings leadership experience to Tanager from his work at the Jewish Child Care Association in Pleasantville, New York, the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago, the Youth Campus in Park Ridge, Ill and Starr Columbus in Columbus, Ohio.

Okpara is active in the field and his community and currently serves on a wide number of boards and advisory committees locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The issues that fuel his passion and involvement include juvenile justice, access to services, health equity, education and leadership development. Most recently he was appointed to Governor Kim Reynolds’ Children’s System State Board, formed to innovatively create solutions for youth in Iowa. Okpara also led the more than 60-year old Association of Children’s Residential Centers as its first African American Board President.

Okpara has presented internationally in Europe and Canada on issues that affect children. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, and a Master of Social Work from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, where he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the Brown School in 2018. He also holds an Executive Management certification from Georgetown University, Washington DC, and an Executive Scholar Certificate from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

Okpara lives in Marion, Iowa with his wife Julie and sons Malcolm and Dylan.

Mike Hines

Deputy Chief Executive Officer

Mike Hines has worked at Tanager Place since 1986. Before becoming a full time caseworker for the sexual abuse program, he worked in the PMIC unit for two years. He soon became supervisor for the Community Based programs.

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Mike has been part of the Executive Administration team since 2010 and was named Senior Vice President of Programming in 2015.  He is also involved with many projects throughout Tanager Place, YouthPort, the Cedar Rapids School District, Mental Health Resource Committee, United Way Reading into Success, and other community organizations.

Bradley Thatcher

Vice President of Finance

Brad Thatcher joined Tanager Place in January 2016. Prior to starting at Tanager Place, Brad served for 4 years as the Controller for Four Oaks Family and Children’s Services, a year as the Controller for the University of Iowa Foundation, and 8 years as an …

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auditor of not-for-profit and governmental organizations at McGladrey & Pullen, LLP.

Brad graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Master’s of Accounting degree in 2003 and became a licensed CPA in 2005. Brad was born and raised in Cedar Rapids and is committed to helping Tanager Place successfully navigate financially.

Tonya Hotchkin

Vice President of Clinical Services

Working with children and families is inspirational to me. Passion is defined as any powerful or compelling notion or feeling.  …

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Denis Diderot once said, “Only passions, great passions can elevate the soul to great things.” In my soul I feel that children and families are the most beautiful creatures on the earth. I believe that it is through human relationships, connections, nurturing and love that we open the door to inspire greatness; inspire
potential in the soul. I love being a part of a system that focuses on strengths, hope, well being and resiliency. I hope to be a stepping stone, a planted seed, a part of someone’s journey that invites them to see their reflection and feel their greatness.

Jessica Kelly

Jessica Kelly

Vice President of Operations

Jessica joined Tanager Place in March 2015 as Director of Quality, and has held several titles during her tenure with our organization. …

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Most recently she served as Quality and Performance Director, but has also been a Lean Engineer, Data Analyst, Medicaid Specialist and Social Worker. These roles follow her academic accomplishments at the University of Northern Iowa, where she earned a bachelor’s in social work and later, at Upper Iowa University, a master’s in public administration with an emphasis on health and human services.

Jessica is a native of Marion, and currently lives with her husband and two daughters in Atkins.

Jenn Draper

Director of Advancement

Jenn joined Tanager Place in November 2021. Not only does Jenn’s personal story align with Tanager’s mission, but her…

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professional background is also a testament to her penchant for results and success.

Prior to joining the Tanager Place team, Jenn served as the Executive Director & Events Manager at Hawkeye Downs. She has a background in volunteer management and event planning and has produced community events including the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market, Market After Dark, Uptown Friday Nights and more. Jenn is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa.

She has been a member of the Cedar Rapids Jaycees, the Cedar Rapids Junior League, a graduate of the Leadership for Five Seasons program and a CBJ 40 under Forty recipient.

Jenn lives in Marion with her husband and daughter.

Melissa Walker

Director of Philanthropy

Melissa joined Tanager Place in March 2020, but has long held the mission and work of the agency in high regard. …

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From a very young age Melissa knew she wanted to serve children and families, and has long held a particular passion for children’s mental health access and services. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bethel University, she discovered a love for nonprofit work as a professional avenue toward her personal goals. In the summer of 2020 she completed a master’s degree in management and leadership to further support this work.

The Tanager Place mission is near and dear to Melissa’s heart. She was initially introduced to Tanager Place while speaking with children at Camp Tanager as part of her work with the Area Substance Abuse Council. Ongoing as part of that role, she worked with Tanager Place to develop and co-facilitate training sessions on trauma-informed care, coordinate therapeutic partnerships and collaborate on community-based projects.

Her experiences with Tanager Place don’t end there. Melissa and her family have directly benefited from services Tanager Place provides. She was inspired by the hope and healing offered to her family, and appreciates an opportunity to help secure the mission for other children and families for many years to come.

Melissa lives in Marion with her husband, Todd, and two teenage sons.