Mary Durst - Director
Mary is the Director of Veterans Services and a Veteran of the Coast Guard. During her Coast Guard tenure she was a mechanic on the HH-65 helicopter and Flight Mechanic/Crewmember while flying. She holds a Masters in Management and a Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration. As a Veteran who has gone through the VA system herself, she understands the complexity and sometimes frustration, of dealing with government paperwork. Her goal is to make sure all Veterans who come into the office feel welcomed, receive quality services promptly and reduce the stress that accompanies dealing with a complex system. She is thrilled to be leading new and exciting projects with an AMAZING team that will add value to the office and allow us to reach more veterans in the community.
When Mary is not working on Veteran ventures, she is a self-described “homebody”. She enjoys kayaking and hiking. She also enjoys interior design and spending time working on projects at home with her husband, an Air Force Veteran, her daughter, one dog and a very noisy and entertaining parrot.
Ron Blackwell - Lead Veterans Benefits Counselor
Ron is our Lead Veterans Benefits Counselor. Ron is an Army veteran and retired Deputy Sheriff/Detective. Ron came to us as a volunteer with the American Legion back in 2019. After months of coming to our office every Friday, we finallwon him over and he accepted the position as the Lead Veterans Benefits Counselor. He is our resident expert on all things claims related. He truly is an asset to this office and has definately set the bar high. He is doing a wonderful job teaching us the claims process and we couldn't be happier having him here.
When Ron isn't imparting his infinite wisdome on us, he loves to travel and spend time with his wife, family and pets.
Dena Daher - Veterans Benefits Counselor
Dena is one of our Veterans Services Counselors. She brings with her 18 years’ experience of case management and holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Science in Health Administration. Dena grew up in a family of Veterans as her grandfather, uncles, brothers and husband are all veterans. She has known since she was a child that helping Veterans was what she wanted to do when she grew up. She truly cares about the well-being of the Veterans in Livingston County and her enthusiasm is evident in her everyday attitude. You will be hard pressed to visit us on a day when Dena is not smiling. She is excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to see what great things we can accomplish.
When Dena is not working or volunteering at the VA or the local Veteran home, she loves to spend time with her husband, a Navy Veteran, son and daughter. She has a fierce love for St. Bernard dogs and plans to soon add one to her family.
April Townsend - Veterans Benefits Counselor
April is our latest addition to the office team and some may recognize her. She is coming to us from OLHSA, which is right down the hall from Veterans Services and an organization we work with closely. April also has close ties with the Veteran community as her father, grandfather, and several other family members are veterans. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Human Service and has spent the last two years as a case manager working exclusively with the homeless population and Veterans through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. She will be bringing with her a wealth of knowledge and resources that will directly help the Veterans that come into our office.
When April isn't helping our Veterans she enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, and attending concerts.
Dennis Bieliskis - Veterans Services Officer
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Dennis was a volunteer through the Vietnam Veterans of America. They were gracious enough to have lent him to us in our time of need but we are now currently fully staffed. If you need further assistance from Dennis (or just miss his smiling face), he is now down at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital Monday through Friday.
Kelly Johnson - Administrative Specialist
Kelly is our Administrative Specialist and an all-around administrative ninja. She is known in the office for her ability to remain levelheaded and resourceful no matter the situation. This may be attributed to the fact that she came to us from the University of Michigan Health System and brings 20 years of medical and administrative experience with her; part of which was working in emergency surgery. Kelly comes from a family of Veterans as her grandfather and father are Army Veterans.
In Kelly’s off time she is a self-proclaimed, “sports mom” spending a majority of her time acting a chauffeur and cheerleader to her three sons in their various sports. When she is not acting as a chauffeur and cheerleader she enjoys golfing and watching NCIS with her husband.
Jon Hall - Lead Driver
Jon is one of our two part-time drivers. He has an impressive resume, but perhaps the most impressive is his patience as illustrated by his eight years as a school bus driver. He is
known in the office for his friendly demeanor, willingness to help and uncanny ability to be able to be in two places at once. He also has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Management and Organizational Development. We are so glad to have him as part of our team and so are the Veterans as we often receive compliments about him. When Jon isn't busy juggling transportation schedules he enjoys playing his guitar, eating chocolate chip cookies, watching movies and spending time with his wife.
Thomas Sidelko - Driver
Thomas is an Air Force Veteran and newest addition to the team. If you utilize our transportation, you may see him riding along with Jon learning the ropes (and hopefully that little trick of being in two places at once). Thomas is highly qualified as he has spent the last 15 years working as a personal aide and driver to an individual with Cerebral Palsy. His sweet demeanor and helpfulness will be sure to win you over. We are excited to have him on board and look forward to working with him.