board of directors

Books for a Better World has a very talented all-volunteer board of directors from a variety of different backgrounds, located all over the United States. We meet around a kitchen table and via webcam, and our unwavering focus is to bring books and school supplies to the deserving children in our partner countries. We invite you to learn more about us and what we do.


Kira Gartell 
President
Kira has volunteered for Books for a Better World since 2004, starting by helping her mom, Alice, with buying and organizing books, but continuing on to travel to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to deliver those books to rural areas. As a board member, she is excited about helping Books for a Better World reach more children.  Kira currently lives in Bloomington, Indiana with her husband, their two cats, and one dog. She teaches high school mathematics and also plays the French horn in a local orchestra.

  Kate Eaton
Vice President
Kate Eaton is a professor of Marketing in the W. P. Carey School of Business  at Arizona State University, where she also received her Ph.D. in 2012. Her academic research and interests include service design and healthcare innovation. Her passions include sharing the joy of reading with others and promoting cross-cultural understanding. Kate’s love of cultural exchange started at a young age, starting with a Hands Across the Border exchange during 7th grade. Since then, Kate has been an exchange student several times, and has traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, first volunteering with Books for a Better World in Nicaragua in 2004. Kate currently lives in Chandler, AZ with her husband and two children.


Jan McLaughlin
Treasurer
Jan joined the board of Books for a Better World in September, 2009.  Although she started out her career as a juvenile probation officer, she has worked full-time as an artist since 1987. She is a mother and grandmother and lives with her husband in Phoenix, Arizona. Jan has long been focused on childhood education, having previously served on the boards of Shadow Rock Preschool and a Stepping Stone Foundation (a privately funded program dedicated to family literacy).
  Jesse Brown
Secretary
Jesse joined Books for a Better World in a volunteer capacity in 2013. She initially joined after the passing of her father, to honor their shared commitment to literacy and community service. She has traveled to El Salvador with fellow board member Kira. When not traveling, she enjoys assisting Books for a Better World president, Alice Gartell, with book selection and organization. She holds a bachelor’s degree in literature. Outside of Books for a Better World, her other interests include wildlife rehabilitation and conservation. She is currently going back to school to pursue a veterinary technician degree.


Suzanne Perkett
Fundraising Chair
Suzanne began volunteering with Books for a Better World in 2012, traveling to Guatemala & El Salvador for the first time with her friend & co-worker, Kira. She had studied abroad in Chile previously and learned that volunteering with Books for a Better World was more than just an experience that would help her practice her Spanish again. Getting excited for helping the schools much in need in Central America, Suzanne has continued to travel to Guatemala in the summers, bonding with the Reyes family and bringing books to schools in their area. Suzanne graduated from Indiana University with degrees in Math, Spanish, and a Masters in Education. She taught high school math for three years, and has recently decided to pursue an actuarial career. Residing in Evansville, Indiana, she is currently studying to pass her first few exams while working at Deaconess Hospital as a finance counselor. Suzanne has been a member of the board since 2015 and plans on continuing to travel as a volunteer while preparing for internships and job opportunities.
  Allen Beach
International Relationships Coordinator
Allen got the itch to volunteer for Books for a Better World shortly after returning from a two-year church mission in Guatemala. He was introduced to the organization in Winter 2006 by Jose Mendez who was President of the Board and an Arizona State University Professor. After one summer of book deliveries in Guatemala he knew that Books for a Better World would become a big part of his life. Almost every summer since, Allen has enjoyed volunteering in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama. Allen resides in San Diego, California with his husband, Luis. After nearly twelve years working in retail banking, Allen is now a Customer Happiness Agent at GoFundMe. He currently serves as International Relationships Coordinator and enjoys facilitating volunteerism and involving himself in the community to fulfill the Books for a Better World mission of improving literacy and inspiring children in the countries it serves!


Wendy Finlayson
Education Chair
Wendy first became involved with Books for a Better World in 2007 and joined the board in 2009. A native of the Pacific Northwest, she moved to Arizona in 2005 to work in the social work field. While in Arizona, she discovered that she loved teaching and decided to go back to school and earn a Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language at ASU. Currently she works as an Instructional Support Specialist for the Mesa Public Schools Adult Education Program. As an undergraduate, Wendy studied Spanish at Brigham Young University and she continued her study of the language doing volunteer work in several Central and South American countries. Her first book delivery trip with Books for a Better World was to Guatemala in 2007 and she has since made several book delivery trips to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
  Alice Finn Gartell
Book Coordinator
Alice retired after 18 years as General Counsel of the Arizona Education Association. She graduated from Arizona State College of Law, summa cum laude, in 1989.  Alice’s passion is promoting literacy and reading. She loved to read as a child and is dedicated to bringing books to children who have none. In 1999, Alice began giving children’s books and raising funds for a small library in Akumal, Mexico, that had less than 50 children’s books. That library, Hekab Be Biblioteca, now has over 4,000 children’s books and a vibrant literacy program for children and adults.  Before her death in 2004, Books for a Better World Founder Kae Robb asked Alice to buy books for Books for a Better World so that its mission would survive.  Alice joyously agreed and has been buying thousands of children’s books for Books for a Better World ever since. With her daughter Kira Gartell, she has also helped deliver books for Books for a Better World since 2007. Although her official title is “President” of the board, Alice prefers her nickname “La Reina de los Libros” or “The Queen of the Books.”


Lisa Schuring
Volunteer Coordinator
Lisa first volunteered for Books for a Better World in 2014 when she and son Nick served as Books for a Better World ambassadors in El Salvador for Nick’s Eagle Scout project. The experience was transformative and she knew she had to make Books for a Better World a bigger part of her world.  Lisa served a service mission for her church in the Dominican Republic in 1987-1988 and graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in Spanish and a minor in International Relations in 1990.  Currently she is an ESL tutor at Sage Creek Elementary where she tutors and tracks 30 adorable K- 6th grade ESL students.  She has always loved children’s literature and uses it as an important tool in helping her ESL students become proficient in English. She and her daughter Aubrey traveled with Books for a Better World to Honduras and Nicaragua in 2015 where she fell further in love with this wonderful organization and the beautiful Central American children it works to benefit.  Lisa resides in Mapleton, Utah with her husband Dan and their five children.