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

Julie Nieman headshot
Julie Nieman
Director, Grand County Family Support Center located at The Christmas Box House

Read Julie's Story

My professional expertise lies within the walls of a classroom. My teaching career began in middle school, and although it was surprising to most, I genuinely enjoyed my time educating and interacting with this age group! It quickly became my passion to implement best instructional practices and provide a safe and supportive environment for these young adults as they navigated through the fragile stages of adolescence. While raising four children, I earned a BS and MEd degree from Utah State University. I was a classroom teacher for 22 years. I have since realized an even more profound admiration for the profession and my esteemed colleagues’ ongoing educational commitment to our promising future leaders.


Making the career shift from educator to director of the Grand County Family Support Center located at The Christmas Box House in Moab has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and professional experience. An educator’s required responsibilities differ significantly from managing a functional and effective Family Support Center. However, the common thread is an overall goal to advocate for children and ensure their well-being. The courage, bravery, and resilience of children who are placed in our shelter as a result of situations that occur beyond their control is awe-inspiring. Their stories magnify the desire to further the mission of our Center, which is to strengthen families and protect children in our community. I now have a newfound passion for developing and promoting resources geared toward strengthening the family unit so children can enjoy the carefree life of being a child. I appreciate working with our dedicated staff here at The Christmas Box House, who share the same vision of creating a safe, caring, home-like environment for children during times of crisis.


There’s nothing that brings more joy to me than my own family. I have been married to my Mr. Incredible for 36 years. We have four amazing children who bless our lives daily, and we have added 13 grandchildren to our crew! The saying, “Grandchildren fill a space in your heart that you never knew was empty,” perfectly describes my love for them. We make every effort to spend as much time with them as possible. In my free time, I love being with my husband, exploring the outdoors, traveling to new places, learning about other cultures and their histories….and renovating houses!

Melissa MdDonough Director, Ogden Christmas Box House
Melissa MdDonough
Director, Ogden Christmas Box House

Read Melissa's Story

I have been employed with the Division of Child and Family Services since 2012, beginning my career as a Caseworker on the Transition to Adult Living Team. Working with “difficult teens” was something I enjoyed as I felt I could relate to them. Being a “difficult teen” myself, I know that sometimes it takes that one person to connect with to change directions down the right path. After becoming a teen mom at age 17, I knew I could no longer live on the wild side as I had my daughter to care for, which was the most important thing for me. After struggling to make ends meet, I knew I needed to educate myself if I ever expected to have a different outcome. At 22, I started attending Weber State University, where, in 2008, I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. I eventually returned to school in 2018 and received a Master’s in Criminal Justice and……. I have two semesters left to complete a Master’s in Social Work through the University of Utah. I am done going to college after this degree!

Although beginning my career working for Juvenile Justice Services at Millcreek Youth Center in Ogden, I transferred to DCFS in the summer of 2012. I worked as a caseworker for 3 1/2 years and in 2015 I was named Caseworker of the Year for the Northern Region . Later that same year, I became the Transition to Adult Living Supervisor, overseeing a team of six Caseworkers. Becoming a supervisor allowed me to have a more significant impact on an increased number of families through my staff mentoring, and in 2021, I was named Northern Region’s Supervisor of the Year. Working on the Transition to Adult Living team for 11 years gave me the opportunity to connect with so many amazing youth, and I was able to utilize my experiences and mistakes in life to help navigate many youth down the right path.

The world can be scary as you approach adulthood, which is why I enjoyed working with youth to prepare them for that transition. I experienced so many outcomes in that role, both unique and challenging. In 2023, I transitioned into a Child Welfare Administrator role, becoming the Director for the Christmas Box House in Ogden. I love every minute of my role at CBH, and I am so grateful that I continue to have the opportunity to connect with so many youth, ranging from infants to teenagers.
Outside of work, I love to garden, camp, be in warm weather, and hang out with my children and family every chance I can! I also have two dogs, who are like my kids, and an amazing spouse who supports all of my wild ideas!
Kristin Jensen
Kristin Jensen

Read Kristin's Story

I have always been passionate about helping others, but I could never quite find my perfect fit on how to do it. I tried volunteering in an African orphanage, as a mentor, and at a therapeutic preschool. I tried different jobs to match my skills with helping others; I worked at a daycare as a teacher and youth development professional. Working for The Christmas Box International, I have found my perfect fit for working and serving my passion to help.

I have been with Christmas Box International for five years. I started as The Community Outreach Representative and am now the Programs Manager. In my time here, I have been able to help thousands of kids have Merry Christmas mornings. I have opened ten new resource rooms all over Utah. I increased our number of community partners so we can help even more kids each year. None of these are as important to me as the little moments I have been fortunate enough to have with the kids staying at our Christmas Box House emergency shelters. I was able to get a teen the perfect pair of shoes to go with her prom dress. I have colored with toddlers and helped get babies down for naps. I experienced going to an ice cream store with the kids and staff and was amazed by the joy that came from each child. The simple act of getting to pick whatever ice cream and topping they wanted was the first time for most of them. The most significant impacts from my job are not the numbers (which, if you know me, I love numbers) but the ones that the kids have made in my life.

I am a crazy dog mom and try to spend as much time as possible with my dog-child, Blanche. We enjoy hiking, dog agility, paddle boarding, and swimming. I also enjoy riding horses and reading. I love to travel. I travel out of the country once a year to explore somewhere new (and try delicious foods).

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 28 years of defending more than 155,000 children. That’s enough to fill Madison Square Garden more than seven 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

Read Kim's Story

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

Read Mackenzee's Story

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

Read Carolyn's Story

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

Read Diane's Story

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

Read Mrs. Hall's Story

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

Read Corylyn's Story

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.