Melissa Gragg (Wisener): Executive Director
Melissa is a lifetime resident of Washington state, and resident of Whatcom county. Melissa joined the fight for homelessness and proper care services after suffering at the hands of a domestic violence situation. Leaving this situation made her homeless and penniless. Melissa reached out for help from every organization she knew of in Bellingham and was further traumatized by the lack of help and care she was shown. Melissa was lucky enough to have friends that invited her and her child to move into their home with them, this stability allowed Melissa to begin to rebuild her life. After experiencing the lack of services and help available to people in this position Melissa teamed up with Markis Dee and has been fighting for housing, mental health services, domestic violence victims, and human rights ever since. This was the birthplace of Serenity Outreach Services.
Louis Burrell: Director of Operations
Louis has been a resident of Whatcom county since 1999. For more than eight years Louis lived and worked in downtown Bellingham. Living downtown made Louis very aware of the homeless situation in Bellingham, and the dire straits the people on the streets faced every day. Instead of walking by his neighbors that lived outside, Louis talked with them and learned their needs on a one on one basis. After supplying food and supplies via outreach Louis took his help a step further and provided a number of his houseless neighbors shelter within his own home. Louis maintained his concern and interest in the houseless community of Bellingham and became especially concerned during the sweeps of 2020 when people were being moved from spot to spot with no additional services or supplies provided to them. Louis was asked to join SOS Bellingham after showing strong advocacy, and they are lucky enough to make use of his background in Operations, Regulatory Compliance, and Finance.
Markis Dee Stidham: Director of Civic Engagement
Markis has lived in Whatcom county since he was a teenager in 1983. Markis spent the first 17 years or so living on Lummi Island where he was a reef net fisherman. Markis spent many of his years on Lummi Island living in a tiny home community where he learned the true meaning of “community”. Markis began his advocacy in different areas in 2016. Markis was a strong volunteer and advocate for HomesNow, he built the shower truck with other volunteers, and ran the shower truck giving showers to people living on the street. In 2019 Markis was asked to sit on the board of HomesNow after HomesNow was rocked with a large scandal. He was able to work with the other volunteers of HomesNow to keep it afloat and moving forward. Also in 2019, Markis was appointed to the county’s Homeless Strategies Workgroup as Homeless Advocate. He was unanimously re-appointed in 2020 for this county position for a two year term. Markis has been heavily involved in outreach to our citizens on the street for several years, passing out food, supplies, warm clothing, and shoes. Starting Serenity Outreach Services was born from Markis’ knowledge of what Whatcom county needs to better serve his houseless neighbors.
Sanja Pisker Director
Sanja came to America and Whatcom county at the age of eleven. Sanja is a political refugee from her home country Yugoslavia. Her family relocated to Germany first, and then was forced to relocate once again, which brought her to America and Whatcom county. Sanja is a human rights activist, caring deeply for her unhoused neighbors and friends. Sanja is sensitive to keeping all parities safe whenever she participates in any group or relationship, often stopping and speaking her truth so others can understand her and her point of view more clearly. Sanja speaks for the underdog and relates to the struggles they might have. Sanja is spot on with her consistent empathy and helps keep SOS Bellingham focused in the right direction.
Lucien Loan Director
Lucien is a lifetime resident of Whatcom county. Lucien became a strong advocate for housing rights for all people as they struggled through finding a safe and affordable home for their family. Lucien is very familiar with the dynamics and struggles with housing in the area, knowing how few affordable or safe options there are available. Lucien and their partner rented several places that were unsafe, experiencing homes infected with mold, moisture, rats, and even ivy growing through their carpet. Lucien found themselves displaced while pregnant and couch surfing in order to keep a roof over their head. Lucient advocated hard for their family, writing letters, citing codes, getting law advocates involved, and even having a city inspector come to their home. None of these actions lead to any improvement in their family’s circumstances. Lucien joins SOS Bellingham with a strong sense of the problems people face trying to find affordable, safe housing options in Bellingham and Whatcom county, and they are tired of so many people falling through the cracks. It is their hope to help make affordable, safe housing options available to everyone.