Our Staff

Eileen Saffran, LISW-S, Chief Executive Officer
The Gathering Place is the realization of a dream for Eileen. In 23 years as a clinical social worker, she envisioned a place for people touched by cancer to find the services and resources, integrated with their medical care, focusing on enhancing quality of life with dignity and hope. Through a grassroots movement, Eileen followed her dream to create The Gathering Place, a community of sharing and support that promotes healing and wellness. She recognizes that the cancer experience touches us all and by pulling together as a caring community and family, we enhance learning, comfort, and healing.
Cheryl Apisdorf, MBA, Outreach Coordinator
Cheryl brings years of non-profit experience to The Gathering Place. She has worked in several administrative capacities at the Jewish Community Center and has been a volunteer with many local organizations including The Gathering Place. She is delighted to now be a member of the staff.
Kristina Austin, MSEd, LSW, Chief Marketing Officer
Kristina has more than 15 years of experience in counseling, community outreach, and marketing. Her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Master’s degree in Counseling is a great combination for the work she is doing to help us educate the greater community about the programs and services of The Gathering Place. She is also a part of the clinical program staff and facilitates support groups and retreats.
_DSC0248 copy Beth Bennett, PT, MA, MS, RDN, LD, Program Staff
Beth is a licensed physical therapist and a licensed registered dietician who joined our staff to enhance our programming and services around exercise and nutrition. She worked most recently at Cooper Cancer Center in Akron. Her goal is to be an active part of our participant’s healing process, helping them “put the pieces back together.” Having done internships with school children on a Navajo reservation and with women and children in Kenya, Beth hopes to continue her interests in cultural and economic diversity around the topics of food and exercise.
_DSC0048 copy Stephen Cerne, BS, NSCA-CPT, ACSM/ACS-CET, Program Staff
Stephen is the newest member to join The Gathering Place staff but he has been a part of the team for the popular Moving Forward program for the past three years. Stephen brings his expertise as a fitness trainer and strength and conditioning coach and his own personal family experience with cancer to his role at The Gathering Place. He is looking forward to using his knowledge to empower others who may be mentally and physically fragile, providing encouragement, hope and imparting upon them an ‘I can do this attitude.’
Eileen Coan, MA, MLS, Medical Librarian
After a decade in the nonprofit mental health field, Eileen obtained a degree in Library Science to address the need for relevant, credible information for people in crisis. She started the first consumer health cancer library in Cleveland at Fairview Hospital’s Moll Center and has been with The Gathering Place since it opened in 2000. Eileen works to overcome the stereotypes of librarians! She also teaches guided imagery, journaling, and craft activities at The Gathering Place and has a special interest in bioethics.
Beth Darmstadter, MPH, Chief Development Officer
Beth comes to The Gathering Place after 12 years providing support for grantseekers and donors at The Cleveland Foundation. With a background in nonprofit management and public health, Beth received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan and her Master’s degree in Public Health from San Diego State University. As Chief Development Officer, Beth is excited to share The Gathering Place story with the corporate, philanthropic and volunteer-minded community as well as ensure that all who need the services of The Gathering Place take advantage of all we have to offer and can do so without any concern about the cost of services.
_DSC0173 copy Casey Durkin, MSSA, LISW-S, Director of Children’s Programming
Casey Durkin comes to The Gathering Place with over 30 years of clinical social work experience.  Most recently, Casey was director of a school based mental health program in a local public school system.  Additionally, Casey has maintained a private clinical practice serving ages 3 – 93! In all of these diverse settings, Casey utilizes an individualized, practical and sensitive approach.  Casey is delighted to now be a part of The Gathering Place’s warm, supportive, and highly skilled team.  durkin@touchedbycancer.org
Mary Fisher-Bornstein, LISW-S, Program Staff
In Mary’s 35 years of practice in mental health and oncology social work, she has worked with many persons who have been touched by cancer, both as individuals and in groups. Mary served as Director of Mt. Sinai Medical Center’s Social Work, Home Health Care and Geriatric Departments. She has been facilitating groups and counseling individuals and families at The Gathering Place since it opened in 2000. Recently, Mary has been studying many healing art modalities and is a Reiki Master.
Ellen Heyman, MSN, RN, CS, Chief Program Officer
In her 17-year career as a clinical nurse specialist, Ellen has led numerous cancer support groups. She understands the varied needs of people living with cancer and their support network. At The Gathering Place, Ellen develops programs that build skills which promote wellness and quality of life. Ellen is committed to support individuals in being better-informed and active participants in their care and wellness.
Betsy Kohn, MA, PC, Program Coordinator/Program Staff
With many years of experience in supervisory roles, Betsy came to The Gathering Place when it opened in 2000. Her organizational and communication skills provide guidance and support for those on the cancer journey. Betsy facilitates support groups, leads workshops, coordinates educational experiences for students and provides individual counseling.
Liz Krantz, Volunteer Coordinator
Liz attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and George Washington Law School and has experience in healthcare law. Volunteering in the community has always been a part of Liz’s life.
Ben Light, BA, MA, Chief Operating Officer
Ben came to the non-profit world in 2002 after eight years as a marketing and strategy consultant. His first position in the non-profit world was with the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland where he worked for two years before joining the staff of The Gathering Place in July of 2004. Ben originally joined the staff as the Director of Development and was in that role for four and a half years before taking on this new position.
Ben is thrilled to be part of The Gathering Place family. light@touchedbycancer.org
Lynn Lubben, Operations & Volunteer Coordinator
Lynn is the full time administrative staff person at The Gathering Place West, which also includes coordinating the Westside volunteers. She has held various administrative and counseling positions over the past 30 years, most of which were in the field of alcoholism and drug abuse. Most recently, Lynn came to us from Southwest General Health Center, where she coordinated health center information dissemination at the information desks and volunteers. She is a Reiki Master and lives in the southwest suburbs with her husband.
Susan Marinac, LISW, MT-BC, Program Staff 
Susan is a clinical social worker with oncology certification and a board certified music therapist. She has over 16 years of professional experience in the areas of hospice, bereavement, end-of-life and oncology. Susan often incorporates the creative arts into her practice. In addition to seeing individuals for short-term counseling, Susan leads several groups including a group for caregivers and a group for young women with breast cancer. She works full time at The Gathering Place West.
Kathy Maxwell, LISW-S, Program Staff
Kathy has a background in child life and social work. She is a member of our clinical program staff. Kathy leads groups for adults, children and teens. Prior to her time at The Gathering Place, Kathy served as a hospice social worker at Hospice Maui in Hawaii. She also maintained a private practice and has many years of mental health experience with children and families. Kathy is a Veriditas certified labyrinth facilitator.
Maureen Paez, BA, Development Coordinator 
Maureen worked for many years as a software engineer. After taking time off to raise her children, she has found a supportive community to be a part of here at The Gathering Place. As the Development Coordinator, Maureen is responsible for acknowledging every donation made to fund our free programs and services.
Erin Rafter, PhD, CCLS, Program Staff
Erin is a Licensed Psychologist and completed her doctorate in 2006 from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. During her training and six years working in community health, she provided care in multiple areas with children and adults including grief & loss, pediatric palliative care & hospice, and family therapy. Erin began with The Gathering Place in 2000 as a volunteer and then as a facilitator with Children’s programming before joining as a full time program staff member in July of 2011. In addition to currently leading groups for children and providing support to families, Erin works with adults and children individually to aid in coping with the stressors of cancer at both the East and West locations.
_DSC0025 copy Sue Shane, BS, Administrative Coordinator
Sue joined The Gathering Place because of her desire to use her skills to serve people. Her diverse background includes work as a dog trainer and 20 years of secretarial experience at various organizations. Outside of her administrative duties at The Gathering Place, she enjoys practicing tai chi and meditation.
_DSC0128 copy Beverly Soggs, MA, CCLS, Program Staff
Beverly has been with The Gathering Place as a contract employee, working with children’s groups, for 8 years. She spent 6 years as a child life specialist at Rainbow Babies hospital, working in various departments including pediatric oncology and pediatric intensive care. She is now in charge of coordinating the Bridges bereavement support groups at The Gathering Place. Beverly serves as a supportive presence to children and families and is grateful to have the honor and privilege of meeting and working with individuals who come through The Gathering Place.
 _DSC0315 Andrea Sonnie, LISW, Program Staff
Andrea started out at The Gathering Place as a front desk volunteer in 2002. In 2008 she joined the contract staff, working as a clinical staff member. Andrea has other work experience in behavior health teaching Dialectal Behavior Therapy. Currently Andrea serves as a link between The Gathering Place and the Breen Breast Center of University Hospitals Seidman Center. She assesses patients as they complete treatment, and directs them to appropriate programs and services at The Gathering Place. Andrea is a welcoming source of information, encouraging goal setting for participants as well as helping with any changes a participant may want to make in their life.