The Power of One... The Strength of Many

Board of Directors


JoAnn Harvey


Education and Programs Committees, Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations Representative

JoAnn Harvey is a native of Idaho and a member of the Nez Perce Tribe. Ms. Harvey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Eastern Washington University and a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. She has since attended various universities to further study diversity, human and civil rights, and the issues of American Indian/Alaska Natives. Ms. Harvey was employed by the Coeur d’Alene Public School District from 1986 as a Physical Education/Health Specialist until retiring. She is the Secretary-Treasurer for the North Idaho Retired Chapter of Educators, an affiliate of IEA and NEA, and serves on the U.S. Selective Service Board for Region 3.

She is the immediate past president of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations and served as a board of director member of the Coeur d’Alene Education Association, State Board of Education Professional Development Committee, National Education Association, and the Idaho Education Association, where she received the Minority Service Award. She has also served as a board of director member of the Museum of North Idaho, and was the chair of the National American Indian/Alaska Native Caucus. She was the Select Attendee to Education International in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Cape Town, South Africa, and Berlin, Germany.

JoAnn has received multiple awards and accolades for human and civil rights from organizations here in in North Idaho. In 2009 she was awarded the Civil Rights Volunteer of the Year Award by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations (KCTFHR.) The University of Idaho satellite in Coeur d’Alene honored her as a commencement speaker for the 2013 graduating class. Most recently, in 2015, she received the Hayden Chamber of Commerce Civil Rights Award.

JasonTapaniJason Tapani

Vice President

Marketing and Communications Committee

For Jason, human rights have always been heavy on his heart. He believes there should be love, respect, dignity, and equality for all. Jason is a graduate of Lewis-Clark State College and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts. For 3 years at North Idaho College he worked on filming the Public Forum with Tony Stewart. Tony was an advocate of human rights and Jason worked with him to bring human rights awareness to the community. As an undergraduate student he worked with the HREI to update our website years ago, and that served as Jason’s first exposure to the HREI.


Frances Lepinski


Fundraising and Finance Committees


SShayHeadshotSara Shay


Marketing and Communications Committee

Sara Shay has been involved and exposed to the importance of education of human rights from an early age and credits her family for raising her to have an open mind and to embrace, honor, and respect all. With a family history in the Silver Valley, she has had the great fortune to come of age and raise her two daughters in our beautiful area. After graduating from Coeur d’Alene High School, Sara went on to study business and has developed a professional community presence helping people from all walks of life create stability and confidence with home ownership. She has a strong passion for helping others and insuring that Coeur d’Alene is welcoming to all.

ConniePic Connie Anderson

Administrative Committee

Connie Anderson is a Human Rights guardian and practitioner. Whether traveling or living life at home, treating people and the natural world with respect is the guiding force of her actions. She joined HREI in January 2019 shortly after relocating with her family to the area. Connie believes supporting each other ensures a peaceful community. “When complacency settles in, we loose sight of the needless suffering of others. Giving a voice and energy to issues surrounding human rights to uplift others starts with me and extends to you. Pass it on.”

LindaPic Linda Deffenbaugh

Resource Development Committee

Linda Deffenbaugh has a BA in Education and worked in the Spokane Public Schools. She moved to the private sector and worked for Fireman’s Fund Insurance and Communications Officer for the Spokane Sheriff’s Department and retired from the U.S. Postal service. Deffenbaugh volunteered for IESC (International Executive Service Corp) with her husband Jim Deffenbaugh in Kenya Nairobi and Nigeria to create opportunities for women using Micro Finance. She plans to use my passion, work and volunteer experience along with life’s learnings to make a difference in the lives of children and diversity within our community. Inclusion is intentional and exclusion is painful, whether it be for race, gender, socioeconomic status, disability, age, etc., the impact is the same.

Nadeen Elshorafa

Marketing Committee


VirginiaPhotoVirginia Mesenbrink

Resource Development Committee

Virginia’s interest in celebrating diversity and promoting inclusion, kindness and compassion for all people began during her formative years and developed over the years into a lifelong commitment to promote equality and support opportunities for marginalized individuals and communities to participate fully in their broader community. She grew up in a culturally diverse area of southern California, and later attended Coeur d’Alene High School. She attended North Idaho College and University of Idaho to earn her Bachelors degree in engineering which was then applied to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport where she became the first Hispanic female engineer, and served on the Hispanic Employment Program Committee to improve cultural awareness of Hispanics and increase their representation in the Navy. Virginia’s chief goal is to take an active role in educating and transforming the community.

Zoë O’Brien

Student Representative


Lita - Picture

 Lita Burns

Past President

Education and Programs Committees

Lita Burns has been a resident of Coeur d’Alene since 2001. She moved to Idaho from her home state of Wyoming to accept the Director of Health Professions and Nursing position at North Idaho College, she currently serves as the Vice President for Instruction at NIC.  Lita earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Wyoming, a Master of Science degree in nursing from the University of Colorado, and a PhD in Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University.

For more information, please stop by our location (414 W. Fort Grounds Dr., Coeur d'Alene), call 208-292-2359, or email
Hours: 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday
Special Events

Fourth Annual Diversity Symposium

We would like to invite the North Idaho community to the 4th Annual Diversity Symposium at North Idaho College on Tuesday, April 16

Thank You

Special Thanks
to All Donators

We would like to thank all of our donors
for their contributions. Please see our
donor-listing page.

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