In recognition of Women’s History Month, The Christmas Box International recognizes our female leadership.

Celeste Edmunds
Celeste Edmunds

Read Celeste's Story

As The Christmas Box International Executive Director, I understand what the children we serve at The Christmas Box Houses are going through. I went through it myself. My biological parents were drug addicts, and my childhood was an ongoing cycle of police calls, fighting, and physical, sexual, and mental abuse. From the time I can remember, I was moved from place to place until finally, at the age of 8, I was taken for the final time from my “home” and placed into a child welfare system where moving every few months to a new environment was just normal. By the time I was sixteen, I had lived in more than 30 cities.

I view childhood as a difficult but important growing experience. There were terrible things, but there were also caring people along the way too who did what they could to protect and nurture me. I was author Richard Paul Evans’ assistant when he first founded The Christmas Box International and quickly became an integral part of its creation, helping to build and refine the original shelters for nearly a decade before taking a new position in Corporate America. Working in the corporate world gave me valuable knowledge of a different kind, with experience in marketing, public relations, community giving, and team management. Combining both my nonprofit and corporate experience, I feel uniquely qualified to guide The Christmas Box International team and am passionate about making a difference in the lives of youth and the child welfare system so that others may not have to go through the same experiences I had.

The Christmas Box International celebrates 27 years of defending more than 140,000 children. That’s enough to fill Madison Square Garden more than six times.

The Christmas Box International is more than a place–it’s a concept. A concept where community, government, and nonprofit come together to bring the resources to children that they need when they are removed from their home due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or facing homelessness. As a child who grew up in the system, I understand the importance of providing these youth the opportunity for a better life by providing them safety, dignity, and hope. It is my goal to provide these beautiful children everything I’d hoped for as a child.

I am a fan of all things active, especially when outdoors. When not with my team at The Christmas Box International I enjoy my time hiking, kayaking, and spending as much time with my family as possible.

Celeste has written her memoir titled Garbage Bag Girl with the hope to bring more awareness to the 500,000 children in foster care who are being raised in the child welfare system.

Kim Richardson
Kim Richardson
Ogden Christmas Box House Supervisor

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Picture this… a snotty teenager who thought she knew everything and didn’t need to go to school, so she dropped out her senior year. Who does that? This girl did! I dropped out of high school, got engaged, and discovered I was pregnant and scared. The relationship didn’t last, and I was a single 18-year-old pregnant high school dropout working a seasonal job. I knew I couldn’t raise a child on a seasonal job without education, so I swallowed my pride, applied for welfare, and returned to school. I received my high school diploma when my daughter was a few months old. My mom and her friend worked for the state and mentioned that the Division of Child & Family Services (DCFS) was looking for a temporary switchboard operator, so I applied and was hired permanently with DCFS. I got off welfare in December 1995, and I am so proud of myself!

 

In my 27 years at DCFS, I have supported many different program areas, including GRAMA (Government Records Access and Management Act), Child Protective Services, and the DCFS intake program, to name a few. In 2012, I was given the opportunity to become the supervisor at the Ogden Christmas Box House. At first, I had no clue what I was “getting into” by taking this job, and there were many, many nights I questioned if I had made the right choice. But it turns out I did! I get to be a friend, a mom, a grandma, and a mentor to the kids and staff. I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing children, some who didn’t think they were amazing and just needed a little TLC, a hug, encouragement, and some guidance. I am also the lucky recipient of some of the most beautiful bead necklaces, princess tiaras, colored rocks, and the most incredible drawings my Christmas Box House kids have made. I’ve seen situations come full circle at the Ogden Christmas Box House, with many of the youth we’ve had staying with us returning to work with us! When I asked why they wanted to work here, they stated that the Christmas Box House made such a big difference in their lives, and now they wanted to make a difference in a child’s life too! The opportunity to have our alumni return always makes my “mama bear” heart grow so big!

 

In 2016, I was asked to supervise an additional program in DCFS, so I began supervising the Northern Region GRAMA team and continue today to lead both program areas. In October 2022, I celebrated ten years as a supervisor at the greatest place in the world to work and was awarded Northern Region Supervisor of the Year!

 

Outside of the Christmas Box House, I am a wife of 23 years to the most patient man, a mom to 3 beautiful kids, a fur mama to 2 dogs, and a grandma to 6 adorable little ones! I love to read, laugh, talk, camp, sport funny/obnoxious t-shirts, flamingos, The Denver Broncos, and monthly road trips to Wendover!

Mackenzee Stebly
Mackenzee Stebly
Ogden Christmas Box House Supervisor

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Being a part of Christmas Box House has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life. Being an Ogden native, I take pride in knowing that my hometown has an amazing program to help its community and serve its amazing people.

 

I began my career with the Division of Child and Family Services as an assistant caseworker at the Ogden Christmas Box House in 2017. After two amazing years, I got the opportunity to work at the Clearfield DCFS office as a senior assistant caseworker, where I won support staff of the year in 2021 for assisting caseworkers, supervisors, admin, and clients in anything they needed to have a happy and successful experience in their DCFS journey. In January 2022, I returned to the Ogden CBH as a supervisor. Being at The Christmas Box House has brought me so much joy in helping children get the childhood they deserve. (And it doesn’t hurt that I get to act and play like a kid alongside them!)

 

Loving that I can work and play at the same time; laughing a lot has always been a strong suit of mine, so I love that I can laugh and make others laugh around me in a stressful environment. I have a strong passion for comedy and take the opportunity to crack a joke whenever possible. To find balance in my crazy work life, I love to be at home with my fur baby, Frankie. I also find time to travel when able. My parents live in Arizona, and I visit them as much as possible. I also have family in Wisconsin, Scotland, Texas, and many other places, so I have many opportunities to see the world.

 

Some would say, “Kenzee is the best!” but I try to stay humble. I love showing my creative side by listening to music, singing along, and showing that Beyonce has some competition, but I lay low because I don’t want to make her feel bad (totally, not even close). I have a heavy musical theater background, so breaking out into song and dance is familiar.

 

One of my favorite mottos to live by is “It’s a good day to have a good day” because you are in control of the day you want to have, so why not make it the best day ever!

Carolyn Hansen
Carolyn Hansen, Director of Salt Lake County Youth Services

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I have spent 26 challenging and fulfilling years working in the child welfare system serving at-risk youth and families. I started my career with the Division of Child and Family Services in 1996, shortly after I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Denver. While at DCFS, I held the roles of permanency caseworker, adoption caseworker, in-home family preservation therapist, permanency and CPS supervisor, Program Manager, and acting-in Director. In 2007, I moved to the County to work as the Program Manager at the Christmas Box House and also held the roles of Clinical Director and Associate Director at Youth Services. In August 2017, I became the Director of Youth Services. Though my career goal was not to be an administrator, as I loved working one-on-one with youth and their families, I had strong mentors along my career path who believed I could make a difference in a leadership role.

 

During my 26-year career, my husband and I raised our two amazing sons, Ethan and Seth. My husband, Larry, has always supported me in pursuing my education and career goals. As a result, I found a work/life balance to actively participate in my kid’s schools, sports, and other important events. Now that my sons are older and we are empty nesters, we have taken on the additional role of Health Coaching and are guiding others into healthier minds, bodies, and finances.

 

My goal has always been to provide safe spaces for youth and the adults serving those youth. Everyone needs at least one person in their life who believes in them. Having those adults in my life has impacted who I am today.

Diane Moore
Diane Moore, Division Director (retired September 2022)
Division of Child & Family Services

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Diane Moore has spent nearly her entire life serving the children and families of Utah.

 

She began her career as a DCFS caseworker in 1992 and has since served in numerous roles, including regional director for the DCFS Salt Lake Valley Region and Director of the DHS Office of Licensing. She was chosen to lead the Division of Child and Family Services in 2017 after more than 25 years at the Department of Human Services. A licensed social service worker and graduate of Brigham Young University, Diane holds a Master of Public Administration degree.

 

Her philosophy has always been to create safety and well-being by strengthening families. She strives to do everything possible to leave people and situations better than she found them. Diane is honored to be involved in this important work and grateful for the love and support of her husband and three children.

Mrs. Sharon Hall
Mrs. Sharon Hall
Granite School Teacher, Salt Lake Christmas Box House

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Mrs. Hall has been working at the Salt Lake Christmas Box House (CBH) School since it opened in 2000! She is a teacher with the Granite School District and a treasure to have at the CBH.

 

Mrs. Hall has worked with children in trauma for years, and when she began working at the CBH, Mrs. Hall noticed that the kiddos had heavy worries that they could not fix. Worries such as, “I wonder what the judge will say,” and “I wonder when I’ll be hit again,” so she decided to bring ‘The Worry Wart’ program to the CBH. A program that she had learned teaching before coming to the CBH.

 

Here is how it works.

 

If a child has a worry they cannot change; they can write it down or draw a picture of it and give it to the worry wart. “This helps keep the children from feeling sick and sad about their worries when coming into the classroom to learn, Mrs. Hall explains. When they place their worries in the worry wart bag, they also say “Goodbye worries!”, which allows them to let go of that worry.”When the worry wart bag is full, all the children have a stomping party. They put the worries on the floor, stomp on them, then throw them all in the garbage and, for the second time, say, “Goodbye worries!”

 

We are blessed to have Mrs. Hall at the Salt Lake CBH and want to share a few quotes fromsome of the kiddos about what they like about Mrs. Hall.

 

We couldn’t agree more!

 

Mrs. Hall is nice. Age 5
Mrs. Hall is nice to me. Age 6
Mrs. Hall makes me feel important. Age 8
Mrs. Hall is kind and loving! She makes me feel loved. Age 10
Mrs. Hall is the best teacher! She taught me military time! Age 12

Corylyn Ybarra
Corylyn Ybarra
Program Manager, the Salt Lake Christmas Box House

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I have been the Program Manager for 7 years but started as a youth worker with the Christmas Box House 25 years ago. Yes, that means I have been here since the beginning! I love the Christmas Box House. I stand behind the mission and love serving the youth. The shelter is truly my second home, and I plan on staying for as long as I am able. I completed a dual bachelor’s in psychology and criminal justice from Columbia College and completed my master’s in mental health counseling from Argosy University. I currently hold a license as a mental health counselor. This served me well when I was the therapist here at the Christmas Box House for several years.

 

One of the challenges I have had to work through constantly is managing my career and being a mother. I completed my college degrees while caring for my family. There were times when I didn’t know if I was coming or going but just knew in my heart that I needed to continue, and I would find a way to manage both. I needed to be there for my family, but I also knew I needed to be there for my Christmas Box House children. Whenever I doubt my abilities, I remind myself of my favorite quote, “she believed she could, and so she did,” and then keep progressing forward. When I started at the Christmas Box House 25 years ago, I knew right away I had found a lifelong career and wanted to move up within this great organization which meant I had to further my education.

 

Outside of being at the Christmas Box House, I am a wife to an amazing man who supports my career wholeheartedly and a mother of two-three wonderful adults and grandmother of seven beautiful children. They are the light of my life. I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling, playing video games, especially world of Warcraft with my husband, and snuggling with my 3 cats. I currently have a sphynx, Bengal, and the newest to the family is an oriental short-haired. I want to say I am done, but… I really want to add a lykoi to the family someday.