Founder & Inspiration
Jeanne Fowler: 1947-2015
Jeanne Fowler founded Big Family of Michigan in 2002 in an effort to provide dignity, humility and love to Michigan’s 10,000 foster children whose emotional and physical needs are often overlooked. Big Family of Michigan has since impacted thousands of lives by raising funds for core programs, such as back-to-school supplies, Christmas and holiday gifts, birthdays in a bag, aging-out suitcases and college scholarships for Michigan’s foster children and teens.
The passion behind Big Family of Michigan started over 60 years ago in an abusive home, where at a very young age, Jeanne Fowler and her brother Peter experienced a horrific childhood. Beaten and tortured daily, the two clung to each other as their sole source of love and reason for living. Unfortunately, that bond was broken when Peter, age three, was beaten to death at the hands of their mother. Jeanne shared her childhood story in an autobiography entitled Peter’s Lullaby.
Jeanne’s work and dedication will live on in Big Family, which will continue its good works in her name.
Board of Directors
Big Family of Michigan would not be possible without the amazing people who work tirelessly behind the scenes. The Board of Directors come from diverse backgrounds but stand for one common goal: to help children. They honor Jeanne's legacy every day.
Sharon McCaughrin | President & COO
Sharon comes to Big Family with a long history working in postsecondary education management. She has held many positions starting as an allied health instructor. She moved into campus management running several campuses and was promoted to Corporate Director of Education and School Supervisor where she was responsible for curriculum design/development, program compliance and instructor development and training.
In addition to her role with Big Family, Sharon is also a Commissioner with The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. ABHES is a national accrediting agency and accredits schools and programs in post-secondary career schools as well as community colleges and colleges.
Sharon’s volunteerism began as a Peace Corps Volunteer serving as a community development volunteer in Lesotho, Africa. Sharon started volunteering at Big Family helping with Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Holiday party and gift wrapping at Christmas. In 2017, Sharon oversaw the Christmas Program and served as the Volunteer Coordinator as well as doing grant writing. In 2019, Sharon took over the day-to-day operations as the Director of Operations overseeing volunteers and all the programs. She was selected to assist John and once he was ready to step down, take over the role of President/COO.
Jennifer Hichme M.D. | Chairwoman
Jennifer has been a family physician in Sterling Heights since 1999. She is a graduate of Wayne State School of Medicine and Oakland University. She is married and has two wonderful children.
Jennifer has a special place in her heart for foster children. She has been involved in many children’s charities, but Big Family is her first board position. She loves that Big Family is a home grown Michigan charity started by a child abuse survivor. Jeanne Fowler has touched many lives and her vision of helping children should last forever
Cheryl D. Jackson, LBSW | Agency Liaison
Cheryl is a native Detroiter, born and raised in Detroit in an extended family setting, with her parents, grandparents, maternal aunt, and older brother. Cheryl remained in Detroit, until she went away to Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia . Cheryl graduated in May 1984 with a BA in Social Welfare. Cheryl Jackson remained in Atlanta until 1989, returning home to begin her career in Social Work. Ms. Jackson recalls wanting to be a Social Worker since high school. Having a love to help others this would be the right fit for her. Upon returning to Detroit, Ms. Jackson was employed by several Child Placing agencies. During her 25+ years as a Social Worker, Cheryl has been employed as a Group Social Worker II, for a secure lock-up program for female teens. She has worked as a Social Worker, Licensing Specialist, Adoption Worker and Supervisor. Currently, Cheryl is employed as an Adoption Specialist and Peer Coach with Homes for Black Children.
Ms. Jackson is truly a giving and caring person, while she has been a caregiver for several family members, she continues to find time to help others. Ms. Jackson is an active member of Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, where she serves on the Food Service Committee, The Commission of Family Life, Baber Floral Club and The Commission on Social Action.
Ms. Jackson enjoys her free time traveling, cooking, and gathering with family and friends. Cheryl is a Board Member and serves as the Vice President with Families on the Move, Inc. (FOTM). Cheryl is also an original board member with Big Family of Michigan. She has received several awards including Social Worker of the year, President’s Award through FOTM and other acknowledgements.
Cheryl is single and has lived her life on these principle God first, Family next and family includes everyone you meet. Her mission in life remains “If I can help somebody in this life, then my living shall not be in vain”.
Chris Loria | Community Liaison
Chris has a Bachelors in Electronic Engineering, a Masters in Teaching and an Educational Specialist in Administration. He taught in elementary and secondary educational settings. He was a middle school assistant principal for several years and an elementary principal for eight years. He served as a superintendent for eight years of a K-12 public school district with a student body of thirty-three hundred. In those years he arranged student exchanges with Italy, China, Germany, and. Spain. Presently, Chris is retired from education and sits on several non-profit boards.
He has worked with service organizations such as C.A.R.E., Macomb County Youth Home, St. Clair County Youth Services, and Families Against Narcotics.
Chris has been married to Elizabeth for twenty-seven years. They await grandchildren from there only child Lauren, recently married to David.
David Treadwell | Corporate Liaison
David has been the President and co-owner of Inovision, Inc. since 1994. Inovision is a robotics integration company with 50+ employees. He is a graduate from Wayne State Engineering School. He was married to a beautiful wife Janice also in 1994 (what a great year) and has been with Inovision for many years. They have two sons they are very proud of, Joey and Nick.
Dave has been involved with foster children for several years, as a board member for another foster care charity. David is also a board member of the Anchor Bay Community Outreach charity which helps people in the local Anchor Bay District. David and his family are members of their church at St. Isidore’s in Macomb Twp. David is a very proud member of the Knights of Columbus #7200 which serves the needs of all kinds of charities.
Theresa Jones | Community Liaison
Theresa Jones and her husband Frank Jones have owned and operated their family business, “Ultra Floors” since 1993. She supervises sales, customer service and public relations. Theresa has a passion for helping not only her customers- but she has a special place in her heart for helping children, especially those who have experienced neglect and abuse. Theresa respectfully accepted the honorable position as one of the board members of Big Family of Michigan... this is truly a dream come true for her.
Theresa loves her family, she feels so blessed to have her three loving children, their spouses and five grandchildren in her life. She hopes to spread her love throughout the Big Family of Michigan program as well. Theresa is also proudly a member of the Divine Mercy Prayer Ministry.
Theresa is so thankful for the opportunity to help others and become more active in the community. She is especially grateful for this opportunity because it is such an important and meaningful cause. Theresa will be utilizing her skillset to help make a positive change in the lives of others and influencing others to be the change they want to see in the world.
John Meesseman | Corporate Liaison
John Meesseman is the President of Real Living Kee Realty. John leads a fabulous team which has acquired six real estate brokerages and forms today's Real Living Kee Realty with six offices and over 300 agents. He is a strong believer in servant leadership, reads 45 business or personal development books a year and has a Bachelor's Degree in business administration. John's wife Debbie manages RLKR's mortgage division and accounting department and they have 3 teenage children. He loves boating, golfing and going to sporting events.
Jennifer Iras-Helminski | Community Liaison
Jennifer oversees EastBanc Technologies marketing and communications efforts to advance their portfolio of products and services. Prior to joining EastBanc Tech, she held marketing leadership positions at fortune 500 companies including Discovery Communications, National Geographic, Comcast/NBCU, Turner Broadcasting, and most recently Gartner where she was Vice President, Marketing & Communications. In her previous roles, Jennifer built programs from the ground up to ensure business to business and business to consumer engagement maximized profitability.
She is an active member of industry sectors and also supports her community. She has served on various boards including Women in Cable & Telecommunications, Girls on the Run, Dress for Success, Michigan State Alumni Club and her neighborhood association. She coached girls’ soccer in Washington, DC as well as a running group in Atlanta.
Jennifer is the daughter of John Iras, former director of Big Family of Michigan. She graduated from Michigan State University and was on the varsity rowing team. She mentors young professionals and loves to travel and exercise. She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and two young sons who keep her on her toes.
of John Iras:
John Iras took over the operations of Big Family of Michigan in 2012 as the President. He devoted his heart and soul to Big Family. He, along with Board Member Chris Loria, negotiated with South Lake schools to turn a shuttered school into a non-profit center (now the Pare Non-Profit Center). This lead to John moving Big Family from its Harrison Township location to Pare in 2017. This location served the organization better allowing a permanent home for the Christmas program - The Christmas Shoppe.
In addition, John grew our organization from serving about a dozen counties in Michigan to now serving 45 counties, including the U.P.! His hard work also brought in more money through grants, increasing donations and building relationships. One of his most important contacts was with Lisa Grodsky of OLHSA. (Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency). This agency has a program that supports grandparents raising grandchildren and Big Family has provided a Christmas party and Christmas gifts for these grandchildren. In 2020, 137 grandchildren were included in the Christmas program.
John has been described as a Big Man with an even Bigger Heart. He is missed by all who knew him. His legacy continues through the John and Lynda Iras Scholarship Fund and his family who continues the tradition of wrapping Christmas presents.