Eugene Pedersen, President
The idea for Tools for Opportunity came during vacations Gene and his wife, Nita, took to Central Mexico, Honduras, Belize, the West Indies, and the Grenadines. Because woodworking is his hobby, he sought out local craftsmen when he traveled, and in many developing countries he met honest, hardworking, talented woodworkers in need of a few simple tools to build a viable woodworking business and provide a more secure income for their families.
Craig Ruegsegger, Vice President
A woodworker for over 20 years, Craig has been writing and producing woodworking content for print and video since 1999, first at August Home Publishing and currently at Meredith Corporation’s WOOD magazine, where he serves as deputy editor. Prior to publishing, he spent 17 years applying his radio/television degree in the radio industry as an on-air talent and production director.
He has taught numerous woodworking classes, volunteers to remodel and update low-income housing for Rebuilding Together. One of his proudest woodworking accomplishments is the design and construction of a pedestal for the Pleasant Hill, Iowa, fire department to display an artifact of the steel from the World Trade Center twin towers.
In addition to woodworking, Craig enjoys motorcycle touring. He and his wife, Barb, have one daughter.
Dale Schmitz of Clive, Iowa worked for two years with local communities in Honduras in the Peace Corps, organizing and assisting them in building eight rural schools, two potable water systems, two pedestrian suspension bridges and started a 4-H club with an agriculture agent. He and his Honduran wife, Frances, return each year to visit family plus work on projects such as electrical and plumbing installation in Honduran homes.
He has visited the countries from Mexico to Panama. He supervised VISTA Volunteers in central Iowa for three years. Most of his career was as a field manager for over 17 counties at the Iowa Department of Human Services where over 500 social workers and other staff provided services to Iowans in need. He believes self-help programs are effective in assisting people to improve their lives, with agencies providing start-up funds for communities and individuals, with individuals providing labor and community service.
Nita Upchurch, Coordinator
Nita Upchurch brings a diverse design and management background to Tools for Opportunity, including Interior Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Fine Arts, and Business Management. She owns and operates an interior redesign business, The Redefined Home LLC.
Because of her creative background Nita has a strong interest in supporting the arts and artisans. She understands how tools and education can empower craftsmen, helping them to achieve success for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Chris works as the Assistant Design Director for August Home Publishing. His project designs and inventions have been featured in ShopNotes and Woodsmith magazines. He also operates a small business and sells his woodworking and metalworking crafts through local galleries.
Chris’ design experience and practical problem-solving ability will be an asset for Tools for Opportunity.
John P. Marshall, Treasurer
John graduated from Creighton University (Omaha, NE) with a B.S.B.A in Accounting and Finance. John is a Certified Public Accountant that has been practicing in both Nebraska and Iowa since 2008. He works with small to medium sized businesses and their owners in the areas of financial reporting and taxation. John is a Business Advisor and Tax Services Supervisor with McGowen, Hurst, Clark and Smith, P.C. in West Des Moines, IA. John also works with several nonprofit organizations, assisting them with their financial record-keeping and performance evaluations.