Monday - Friday From 8 AM to 5 PM
3535 W 13th, Ste 121 Grand Island, NE 68803

Our Team

First Light

Josie Lindell

Interim Executive Director

Josie Lindell has worked for First Light since December 2014 in many capacities. Josie obtained a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska Kearney and is currently enrolled in the University of Nebraska at Omaha to earn her master’s degree in Social Work. Josie has experience in working within the child welfare system and believes in advocating for children. Josie has been trained to forensically interview children and participated in team facilitator training where she learned how to effectively work with teams to accomplish objectives and goals. Josie also participated in the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training where she learned the skills and strategies to effectively address the mental health challenges of children and youth in foster, adoptive and guardianship families. In her free time, Josie participates in her local EMT squad and enjoys camping, gardening, and fishing with her husband, six children, and grandson.

Leah Smillie

Multidisciplinary Team Coordinator

Leah Smillie joined our office and was previously employed by Compass Nebraska, as an Intensive Family Preservation Specialist, working within Kearney and around the state of Nebraska to support families in crisis. Leah has worked with Sexual Assault victims both child and adult for over twenty-five years.  Prior to moving to Nebraska, Leah spent twelve years living and working abroad, settling in Scotland, but traveling all over Europe for work. As an expat Leah was able to learn about many other cultures, specializing in Global Projects and Implementations. Leah loves to learn about new cultures and thus living in the UK she was able to gain an extensive multicultural experience. Leah is currently obtaining her master’s in clinical Mental Health Counseling and is a member of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology whose purpose is to encourage and honor academic excellence in the study of psychology as well as to foster professional excellence among the members. She is also a member of NCA, Nebraska Counseling Association. In her spare time Leah enjoys spending time with her children as well as doing pencil art sketches and watercolor paintings. She also loves to travel and explore new places.


Julissa Cardoza

Julissa is our Bilingual Family Advocate. Julissa was born and raised in Grand Island, NE. She received her Associates Degree in Criminal Justice this past May, she is continuing her education to receiver her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with UNK within the next two years. Julissa is a mother to one boy and is expecting a baby girl in Feb 2023. Julissa enjoys spending time with her family and watch crime shows in her free time.

Scott Grafton (Chair)

Robert Pavelka (Vice Chair)

Keanna Leonard (Governance Chair)

Steph Connick (Secretary)

Kara Hutchison (Finance Chair)

Kellie Weyers (Fundraising Chair)

Connie Caldwell (Marketing Chair)

Cyndee Mann

Jason Bonnes

Sally Koepp

Karen Riley

Laura Hurley

Sarah Dankert

Paul Graham (Member-at-Large)

Sarah Cartensen (Emeritus Member)

Carole Denton (Emeritus Member)

Kristin Riedy (Emeritus Member)

Thank you to the Greater Grand Island Community Foundation and Hamilton Community Foundation with providing grant funds to ensure First Light fulfills our mission.