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. 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.
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.
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.
Kelsey graduated from Drake University with a B.S.B.A. in Marketing and a minor in Graphic Design. She currently oversees the marketing department of a large, local certified public accounting and business advisory firm in West Des Moines and is working on starting her own business designing stationery for weddings and othercelebrations.
Kelsey is handier than you might imagine a millennial woman to be. In fact, she helped her dad build her own crib when she was just two years old and has enjoyed learning more assembly and construction tips from him over the years.
Becky joined the board officially in January 2018, although she has served with TFO since 2016. Becky has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Upper Iowa University. She works in association management and has a background in accounting, event planning, public relations and public speaking. Her event planning business specializes in both corporate and social events. She has served on several boards in Dallas County (Iowa).
J. Fritz Craiger
Fritz brings over 35 years of sales, marketing, and leadership to the board. He has served as an independent sales representative for Fine Woodworking magazine and was the Group Director of Marketing for Workbench magazine. His career his involved business leadership, ownership, and a solid track record of building revenue growth.
As a lifelong home improvement enthusiast, Fritz understands the benefits of using woodworking skills to benefit a community and as a profession. Fritz hopes to build awareness and a stronger revenue funnel for Tools for Opportunity to expand their benefits to more communities in Central America.
Mike was elected to the board at the February 2018 meeting. Mike currently works as the Project Designer for Kreg Tool Company. He has been designing and building furniture professionally for more than 20 years. The last 15 years, Mike has been in the woodworking and how-to publishing industry, designing projects for magazines such as Woodsmith, ShopNotes, and the former home improvement magazine, Workbench. Prior to taking a position at Kreg Tool, Mike worked as a Senior Project Designer/Producer for Lowe’s Creative Ideas Magazine.
In his spare time, Mike enjoys traveling with his wife and two children, mountain biking, and when weather permits, snowboarding.