Meet Our Team

Vic Gutman President

vgutman@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext:101

Since founding Vic Gutman & Associates in 1978, Vic—a native of Michigan—has played a major role in producing more than 100 events including the 300th anniversary celebration for the City of Detroit (Detroit 300), the Detroit Festival of the Arts, Omaha 15O! Omaha’s Birthday Celebration and the Holiday Lights Festival. Vic also founded the Omaha Summer Arts Festival in 1975 and the Omaha Farmers Market in 1994.

In addition to managing public events, Vic provides nonprofit management and consulting and has helped a variety of organizations achieve their internal and external objectives.

Vic received an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Creighton University.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT VIC

With VGA Since:  The Beginning!

What do you do?  Get out of my employees’ way!

What titles would your employees give you? Human encyclopedia. Marathon Walker. Dog Lover. VGA Historian.

If I weren’t so good at my job, I’d be… Broke!

Favorite Quote: This too, shall pass.

Three words that describe you: Idealistic, Earnest, Caring

What’s the coolest or most important trend you see today? Technology – It’s both a blessing and a curse.

What would you name your autobiography?  “An Eventful Life”


Lisa Winton Vice President/Senior Project Manager

lwinton@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext:105

Lisa Winton joined VGA in 2011 after having worked as the marketing director at The Rose Theater for many years. She continues to support The Rose’s development and fundraising efforts and outreach program in her role at VGA. As vice president, Lisa serves on VGA’s nonprofit management team and provides leadership for VGA staff. In addition, she has provided event planning, administrative, marketing and development services for the Tri-Faith Initiative, Girls Inc., MENTOR Nebraska, the American Muslim Institute and Inclusive Communities.

Lisa earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Piano with an Arts Management emphasis from the University of Colorado.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT LISA

With VGA Since: April 2011

What titles would your coworkers give you? Client organizer. Office sounding board. Zoo Keeper.

Three words that describe you: Optimistic, Sarcastic, Type A

What’s the coolest or most important trend you see today? Engagement of younger generations in politics and social justice to improve the country and world.

What would you name your autobiography? “It’s On My List”

Hidden Skill or Talent: I’m a Certified Scuba Diver, and I spent a month doing archaeological work in Israel

Guilty Pleasure: Reading gossip rags while exercising on the elliptical at the YMCA


Heidi Avalon Independent Business Manager

Heidi, owner of Avalon Accounting Services, LLC, has provided professional accounting services for VGA since 2004. She serves on VGA’s Management Team and is responsible for all aspects of VGA’s finances including payroll, client analysis reports, billing, processing disbursements and receipts and health insurance administration. In addition to her work at VGA, Heidi provides accounting services for several other small businesses and nonprofit organizations. From 2006-2013, Heidi served as an adjunct professor at Bellevue University teaching bachelor’s and master’s level accounting courses.

Heidi received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Kansas State University.

Contact Heidi at heidiavalon@cox.net or 402.639.7605


Elizabeth Balázs-Foxall Senior Project Manager

ebalazs@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext: 102

With more than 30 years in the events industry, Elizabeth Balazs has planned and implemented a wide range of community development, marketing, public relations and special events projects in Omaha, Detroit, MI, and Southern California. Elizabeth has played a key role in the development and management of high-profile events including Detroit 300 (2001); Omaha 150! (2004); Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo’s Zoofari (2007) and both Kiewit Corporations’ 125th Anniversary Gala and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild About Omaha Weekend (2009). Elizabeth also manages several annual events including the Omaha Summer Arts Festival and Girls Inc. of Omaha’s annual fundraising luncheon, Lunch for the Girls. In addition to her work with events, Elizabeth coordinates and administers the operations of the Omaha Police Foundation and implements the Foundation’s annual Officer of the Year Awards Luncheon.

Elizabeth’s educational background includes a bachelor of science degree in business/marketing from Arizona State University and graduate studies in communication and business education at University of Nebraska Omaha.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT ELIZABETH

With VGA Since: March 1993

What titles would your coworkers give you? Sponsor sweet-talker. Event guru. Natural Nurturer.

Three words that describe you: Mentor, Friend, Caregiver

Hidden Skill or Talent: I know all of the words to the Mr. Ed theme song.

#1 Bucket List Item: Visit my father’s village in Romania – Udvarhely.

If I weren’t so good at my job, I’d be… A teacher

Favorite Happy Hour Drink: Pomegranate Martini


Mary Hubl, GPC Senior Grant Writer/Development Consultant

mhubl@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext:108

Mary Hubl  joined VGA as a grant and public relations writer in 1999. As the number of nonprofit clients seeking grant writing services grew, Mary became a grant writing specialist. Working remotely from her home, she has extensive experience in writing grants, final reports, case statements and other fundraising materials for nonprofit organizations. She also assists with the development, implementation and tracking of year-round grants programs for her clients. One of six grant writers in the State of Nebraska who have earned Grant Professional Certification (GPC), Mary currently works with the Omaha Theater Company, Ollie Webb Center, Inc., DIBS for Kids, inCOMMON, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Youth Care & Beyond Inc., Omaha Summer Arts Festival, Holiday Lights Festival and the Omaha Farmers Market.

Mary earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French and International Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Master of Arts Degree in International Economics, Western European History & International Politics from George Washington University.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT MARY

With VGA Since: September 1999

What titles would your coworkers give you? Wordsmith. Wildlife-preserver. International Yogi.

Three words that describe you: Curious, Compassionate, Grounded

What would you name your autobiography? “One Woman’s Quest to Change the World”

Guilty Pleasure: Rocking out in my car to songs by Taylor Swift, P!nk, and Katy Perry

What’s the coolest or most important trend you see today? People realizing the urgency of climate change and taking action to heal the planet.

If I weren’t so good at my job, I’d be… Running a wildlife sanctuary


Kristen Beck Senior Project Manager

kbeck@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext:115

Kristen joined the VGA team in 2017 as an event project manager. Specializing in event management, she primarily works with the Omaha Farmers Market, Physicians Mutual & WOWT Holiday Market, Omaha Summer Arts Festival, and Latino Center of the Midlands Fundraiser Dinner (Destino Dinner).

Prior to joining VGA, Kristen worked as an Alumni Relations and Event Manager for Mercy High School where she worked on several fundraising and alumni events. She also spent time working in events and development at Autism Action Partnership.

Kristen earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications with an emphasis on Public Relations & Advertising from the University of Nebraska Omaha.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT KRISTEN

With VGA Since: February 2017

What titles would your coworkers give you?  Fun Committee President. On-the-Fly Problem Solver. Junk Food Supplier.

Three words that describe you: Sociable. Adventurous. Reliable.

What are the coolest or most important trends you see today? Being KIND, and people being supportive and encouraging of one another.

Favorite Quote: “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” -Dolly Parton

If I weren’t so good at my job, I would be… Co-owning a brewery with my friends

Favorite Happy Hour Drink: Any beer – the hoppier the better!


Diana Gleisberg Nonprofit Service Associate

dgleisberg@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext: 116

Diana Gleisberg joined VGA in 2019 after having worked in management and training at Pacific Life for 13 years. During her time there, she spent 11 years on the volunteer outreach leadership team, and was president for 6 years.  She continues to support nonprofits at VGA in working with the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands, Immigrant Legal Center, Rose Theater, YMCA, Girls Inc., Inclusive Communities, and the Nebraska chapter of the international Entrepreneurs’ Organization.  She has provided event planning, administrative, marketing and development services for these clients.

Diana earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, with minors in Economics and Political Science.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT DIANA

With VGA Since: April 2019

What titles would your coworkers give you?  Fearless socializer. Optimistic reinforcer. Crossfit QUEEN.

Three words that describe you: Optimistic, Sarcastic, Witty

Guilty Pleasure: Food – cheese or ice cream. Music – I’ll always have an inner tween who loves boy bands.

If I weren’t so good at my job, I would be… On a speaking circuit.

What would you name your autobiography? Comfortably Uncomfortable.

Favorite pizza toppings? The most unique, diverse, or interesting options on the menu.


Laura Paulsen Grant Writer/Development Specialist

lpaulsen@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext:109

Laura joined the Nonprofit Services team at VGA as a Marketing & Development Specialist in early 2015. She has provided communication, marketing and project management services for a variety of nonprofit clients including Immigrant Legal Center, MENTOR Nebraska, the Tri-Faith Initiative, American Muslim Institute, Inclusive Communities, EO Nebraska, and more.  Laura has provided public relations and marketing support for events including the Omaha Summer Arts Festival, Memorial Park Concert, Inclusive Communities’ Humanitarian Brunch, Girls Inc.’s Lunch for the Girls, and more. In 2019, Laura took on a role within VGA as a Grant Writer/Development Specialist, assisting clients such as Girls Inc. of Omaha, the YMCA of Greater Omaha, inCOMMON, and DIBS for Kids with fundraising and development.

Laura has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration from the University of Nebraska Omaha.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT LAURA

With VGA Since: February 2015

What titles would your coworkers give you? Master proofreader. Reality TV Gossip Queen. Cool as a cucumber.

Three words that describe you: Honest, Caring, Analytical

What’s the coolest or most important trend you see today? More women being completely fearless and speaking out for what they believe in and what they deserve.

Favorite Quote: “People forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

Guilty Pleasure: Trash reality TV – don’t get me started!

Hidden Skill or Talent: I played the flute for 8 years, and I’m really good at remembering song lyrics – although they’re rarely sung in tune!


Courtney Sklenar Event Project Manager

csklenar@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext: 107

Courtney Sklenar joined VGA in 2019 after having worked as an Event Planner at The University of Texas at Dallas, Campus Event Coordinator at Grand Canyon University and Marketing and Event Specialist at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Specializing in event management, she has worked with Omaha Summer Arts Festival, Immigrant Legal Center and Inclusive Communities. She has also worked on the 2019 Shine the Light on Hunger Campaign that takes place during the Holiday Lights Festival.

Courtney earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Studies from the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT COURTNEY

With VGA Since: June 2019

What titles would your coworkers give you?  Energizer bunny. Office cheerleader. Boss Multi-tasker.

Three words that describe you: Empathetic, Hard-Working, Honest

If I weren’t so good at my job, I would be… A volunteer baby cuddler at the hospital.

What’s the coolest or most important trends you see today? Watching women empowering other women, but also watching men empower women, too.

Favorite Quote: “Two things define you. Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.” -Anonymous

What would you name your autobiography? Sunshine and Wildflowers


Kylie Vonnahme Senior Project Manager

kvonnahme@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext:117

Kylie first joined the VGA team in 2013 as an intern for the Omaha Summer Arts Festival. She returned to the company in October 2014 as a project manager. Specializing in marketing and event management, she has worked with the Omaha Farmers Market, Physicians Mutual & WOWT Holiday Market, Turner Park Night Market, Holiday Lights Festival, Omaha Summer Arts Festival, and Latino Center of the Midlands’ Destino Dinner. Additional past projects included NUSA, Big Red Keno Science & Math Grant Program, and Girls Inc. of Omaha special events. Prior to joining VGA, Kylie worked as a marketing/event coordinator for Village Pointe Shopping Center.

Kylie earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism with an emphasis on Public Relations & Advertising from the University of Nebraska Omaha.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT KYLIE

With VGA Since: October 2014

What titles would your coworkers give you? Office Fashionista. Logistics Pro. Elvis Impersonator Wannabe.

Three words that describe you: Quirky, Smiley, Honest

If you could have any super power, what would it be? Time travel – I feel like my soul is stuck in the 50s… take me there!

Favorite Happy Hour Drink: Red beer with Busch Light and green olives

#1 Bucket List Item: Take a two-month trip to Europe

If I weren’t so good at my job, I’d be… An interior decorator, personal shopper, or stay-at-home dog mom


Kevin Grubb Senior Grant Writer/Development Consultant

kgrubb@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext:118

Kevin Grubb has 20 years of writing experience spanning two continents (North America and Eurasia). He specializes in writing grants for nonprofit organizations in the sectors of education, community development, human services, children and family well-being, adolescent development and food security. His current VGA clients include Completely Kids and the Latino Center of the Midlands.

Kevin’s grant writing skills are informed by his experience working in a variety of leadership capacities for nonprofit organizations including Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. He also worked as a program officer for two grant makers, the Vibrant Village Foundation and Mercy Corps, both located in Portland, Oregon. His international work includes global program oversight in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.

Kevin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Russian from the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT KEVIN

With VGA Since: October 2019

Three words that describe you: Fair, Funny, Empathetic

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Time Travel

Guilty pleasure: College Football

What is your favorite quote? “Fear is the path to the dark side…patience you must have.” -Yoda

If I weren’t so good at my job, I’d be… A Landscaper


Shane Pekny Senior Grant Writer / Communications and Development Specialist

spekny@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext:106

Shane Pekny joined VGA as a grant writer in January 2020, primarily serving the Latino Center of the Midlands and Inclusive Communities. A native of Norfolk, Nebraska, he has lived and worked in the Omaha area since 2003. His past employers include Boys Town, the University of Nebraska Omaha, Goodwill Industries, and Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. While most of his professional experience is in grant writing, he has also managed volunteers, taught English composition, led cultural immersion tours around Nebraska, and trained high school dropouts in construction. In his spare time, he coaches youth soccer and serves on the Bennington City Council.

Shane has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska Omaha. His creative nonfiction has appeared in Nebraska Life magazine, Vox, and planetary.org.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT SHANE

What’s the #1 thing on your Bucket List? Visit Lhasa, Tibet (with my family, if I can persuade them to join).

What is your favorite quote that you live by? “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Instant recall of every password I ever created.

Do you have any skills or talents that people don’t know about? I built a 14-foot cedar-strip kayak (which mostly just hangs in my garage).

Name 3 words that describe you: Helpful, resourceful, full of dad jokes.

What is the coolest or most important trend you see today? The persistence of basic human kindness.


Beth Kramer Development Consultant

bkramer@vgagroup.com
402.345.5401 ext:119

Beth Kramer joined VGA in 2019 as a development consultant. She specializes in fundraising strategy and identifying and cultivating new donors. She has extensive experience in development through her political consulting company, as executive director of the nonprofit At Ease and through numerous board and volunteer positions with Omaha community organizations.

Beth continues to serve as the executive director of At Ease, a nonprofit that provides mental health resources for active military, veterans and their families. Beth’s background also includes serving as the project manager overseeing a federal grant that enhanced Metropolitan Community College’s international business curriculum and provided on-site export counseling to Nebraska businesses.

Beth earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Illinois State University.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT BETH

With VGA Since: October 2019

Three words that describe you: Dependable, Busy, Organized

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Teleportation

Guilty pleasure: Wine

What chore do you hate doing? Ironing

If I weren’t so good at my job, I’d be… Laying on a beach


Heidi Walz Senior Project Manager

Heidi has been Project Manager or Operations Manager for numerous events since she joined VGA in 2003 including the Omaha Farmers Market, Omaha 150! Omaha’s Birthday Celebration, Detroit /Windsor CarTunes on Parade Public Art Project, the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff, Omaha’s Holiday Lights Festival and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild About Omaha Weekend.

Heidi now specializes in operations for special projects, acting as a senior resource for facility and logistics planning.

Heidi received a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication from the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Contact Heidi at hwalz@vgagroup.com or 402.345.5401 ext:104

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT HEIDI

With VGA Since: May 2003

Three words that describe you: Organized, Weird, Detailed

What’s the #1 thing on your bucket list? Visit all 50 states by the time my youngest graduates (I’ve been to 44).

Guilty pleasure: Books, cheese, olives. Repeat.

What is your favorite quote that you live by? Kindness can change the world. Bonus if it is random & anonymous.

What could we find you doing on a typical weekend? Reading and organizing. Occasionally that involves laminating something.


Kara Schweiss Independent Writer/Editor

Kara has over 25 years’ experience in various facets of the communications field, including public relations, advertising and marketing for both nonprofit and corporate entities. She also has extensive experience working with both sides of the media as a media relations representative and as a freelance editor, journalist and photographer.

Kara is a graduate of the University of Nebraska Omaha’s School of Communication.

Contact Kara at kschweiss@vgagroup.com

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT KARA

With VGA Since: April 2012

Three words that describe you: Forthright, Fair-minded, Curious

What’s the #1 thing on your bucket list? I would love to visit the various homelands of my ancestors, especially Greece, Germany, Ireland and Scotland

What is your favorite quote that you live by?  “The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.” -Hubert H. Humphrey

Hidden Talent:  I read palms… no joke!

Guilty Pleasure: Shameful for a freelance journalist, but I’ve always enjoyed tacky gossip rags.