Milspo-Owned Powerhouse Reflects on Year of Empowering the Homefront

By: Julie Kirchner

On a stormy September morning in 2022, a group of Powerhouse team members gathered in a hotel hospitality suite high above St. Pete beach. Powerhouse knows how to have fun together as a team, and no amount of rain could dampen the spirits of this group. The energy in the room was as palpable as the humidity. The company’s 10-year anniversary celebration had brought together Powerhouse freelancers and their spouses from all corners of the United States to commemorate the important milestone together. For many, it was our first time together in person, even having worked together remotely for years.

The focus of the agenda this particular morning was rooted in a core part of Powerhouse’s team culture—our mission to “Share the Goodness”—and the room quickly filled with stories, ideas, and plans to launch a program to help lift up other military spouses with career support. It was then that an official volunteer committee was formed, and Powerhouse’s Empowering the Homefront program was born.

Empowering the Homefront is a pilot program designed by Powerhouse Planning to empower and provide career support to military spouses. Through the program, military spouses have the opportunity to be selected through an application process to receive career kick-start prizes, including free resume makeovers, mentorship, and other career tools and support.

As a Coast Guard spouse, Jessica Bertsch knows firsthand the sacrifices and unique challenges military spouses face, which led to her creation of Powerhouse Planning, a company devoted to providing clients with remote team solutions through employment of skills and talents of military spouses and other remotely located individuals. We have lived and seen the amazing skills military spouses possess that are often underutilized as they support their spouses’ military careers, which require them to be flexible and adaptive.



Overcoming Barriers – Babs Sefiane and Life’sWork

By: Meredith Flory

Business growth can come in a variety of ways. An organization can grow larger in number of employees as its client base increases, or it may offer more services or products and expand its mission. Businesses may grow into new territories or simply have the means to invest back into their employees, operations, and community.

Life’sWork of Western PA is a longstanding nonprofit that focuses on helping people overcome barriers to employment, such as physical and mental disabilities, substance abuse, or family crises. Babs Sefiane is their chief development officer, working with clients, businesses, and the community in all aspects of business growth.

Babs has worked at Life’sWork for over five years, but prior to that she had 20 years of employment success in the energy industry. Then she decided she wanted a change in her career. She says, “I knew I wanted to give back, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do; and then when I came in and toured Life’sWork, I was like, this is the perfect fit.”

She has a unique and personal perspective on the work they do. Babs shared how years ago she was in a car wreck, facing major injuries and a long recovery period. She says, “It gave me that personal connection that I realized at any point, I could have been an individual that was receiving services here at Life’sWork.”



Redefining Support for Military Kids

By: Julie Kirchner

With April being the Month of the Military Child, it feels significant to raise awareness of an incredible volunteer-run nonprofit organization providing experiences to help change military kids’ lives in a positive way.

Several Powerhouse team members recently had the privilege of meeting Sommer Houser, founder of Salute the Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing and supporting military kids through free weekend camping adventures.

What truly captivated our hearts was learning the story that inspired Sommer—a civilian—to begin a nonprofit journey that would impact so many military lives to come.

So often, we hear stories of incredible veterans and military spouses working in support of the military community. It is rarer that we take a moment to recognize civilian heroes who reach beyond the limits of their own experiences to help support and uplift military children and families.

What’s the inspiration behind Salute the Kids? What inspired your focus on military kids and families?

Since 1998, I worked in the nonprofit field focusing my efforts on issues including domestic violence, child abuse, mentorship, and youth leadership. In all of these efforts, I had the opportunity to work with the military community.

While working for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Fairbanks, Alaska, I had the opportunity to mentor a military child. While I had developed an appreciation for the military community through my work and personal friendships, this was the first time I personally got to know a military child and see life from her perspective. As a dual military family, her parents’ deployments overlapped by three months, and she was referred to the program for mentor support while her grandmother stepped in as her and her siblings’ primary caregiver.

As a civilian myself, with limited knowledge about the intricacies of military life, I was shocked to learn that both parents of a military family could deploy at the same time. I was inspired by this family’s grit, resiliency, and openness to reach out to their community for support, but I was mostly inspired by this incredible military kid. This sweet, brave girl was navigating middle school, enduring both her parent’s deployments, and preparing for an upcoming PCS (permanent change of station—or move to a new location) in the near future. Her load was heavy. She carried a lot at the tender age of 13. I wondered, does the civilian community know these kids exist and how they are truly serving our country too? Do people know what these kids and their families do for all of us? Do people know what they go through? From that point on, a passion and interest in military kids and the connection between the military and civilian community continued to grow in my heart, and Salute the Kids was born. (more…)


All Learning Begins with Connection

By: Julie Kirchner

Talking about building connections is a love of Jonnah Buchanan’s. “Truly, all learning begins with connection,” she enlightens. Jonnah is the executive director of Launch Learning Preschool, an innovative new nonprofit in Merritt Island, Florida, offering a unique whole-family education framework designed to strengthen families in raising happy, healthy humans.

“We know from brain research that connections on the outside—like when we physically connect with someone face-to-face—literally build the connections in the wiring of our brains,” explains Jonnah.

Brain-based research is at the heart of Launch Learning’s program design, including their monthly Parent Connect education classes for parents. “That’s why, from the beginning of the day, we get down eye-to-eye with our kids, and we are intentionally doing fun hand games and greetings with them . . . it’s because that first immediate connection with them actually helps strengthen the neural connections within their brains,” Jonnah says. These kinds of connections form a strong foundation for early childhood brain development and help build cooperation, impulse control, and other social-emotional skills like empathy.

For Florida’s Space Coast (home to the Kennedy Space Center), it’s probably totally appropriate for a preschool to sound like rocket science. This preschool has some serious local roots, too. Launch Learning is a legacy program modeled after the Eastern Florida State College (EFSC) Lab School founded in 1967, a program that served more than 7,500 children and 14,000 parents over 55 years. During the pandemic, the EFSC Lab School program closed, and a new opportunity came to light.



Camp Cranium Empowers Kids Living with Brain Injury to Enjoy Life to Their Fullest Potential

By: Julie Kirchner

Imagine a world where kids with brain injuries splash in a swimming pool and captain paddleboats around a lake. A world where they fly down the zipline one minute and create works of art the next. Where a kid in a wheelchair climbs a rock-climbing wall. A world where kids of all abilities can dance, ski, and play.

This is Camp Cranium’s fight song, and the impact made by the Pennsylvania-based, volunteer-led nonprofit organization founded in 2008 with a mission of empowering children with brain injury. Camp Cranium is dedicated to providing one-of-a-kind experiences for children ages 6-18 with brain injuries.



Gulfside Healthcare Services Supports Local Families When They Need It Most

By: Julie Kirchner

Founded in 1988, Gulfside Healthcare Services (Gulfside) is a community-based, nonprofit healthcare organization providing hospice, non-hospice palliative care, and skilled home health care throughout Pasco County and the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

Powerhouse was recently blessed with an opportunity to partner with Gulfside to support business growth and help expand Gulfside’s capacity for local community impact. When Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch first learned about the nonprofit’s work and mission, she knew she had to get involved with this amazing organization and its people.

Gulfside President and CEO Linda Ward speaks passionately about the team of nearly 400 staff and over 200 volunteers at Gulfside. She shares, “Our people are what make this organization magical. We can share story after story of the compelling effects that every single person makes on patients and families.” (more…)


Service Doesn’t End, It Just Takes a Different Form

By: Heatherlynn Akins

If you know anything about Powerhouse Planning, you know it’s got military ties. Our founder and president is a proud Coast Guard spouse who started Powerhouse because of her deep desire not only to have a portable career for herself, but also to be able to offer the same to other military spouses and veterans. You might say that supporting military families is a passion of hers. While not all of us are military spouses or veterans, we all love our military-connected coworkers. Which is why we thought April was the perfect time to shine some light on two of our Powerhouse freelancers, as April is Military Spouse Appreciation Month. Both are veterans and military spouses who have made service part of their lifestyles.

Sarah Zerr, one of Powerhouse’s project managers, and Crystal Toy, one of our social media strategists, have been with Powerhouse for less than a year after serving in the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, respectively. We recently sat down with both of them to reflect on their experiences and how they’re continuing a lifetime of service even after their active-duty time has come to an end.

PH: What branch did you serve in and for how long?


Sarah: I went to the Naval Academy and served in the Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot. All told, I spent over 10 years in uniform.


Crystal: I served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 14 years and 11 months. The majority of my work was concentrated in port security, federal law enforcement, and search and rescue missions.

PH: And both of your husbands are also military, correct?

Sarah: Yes, my husband Greg is also in the Marne Corps. We actually met at the Naval Academy and married on graduation weekend. Now he is in the reserves. Proud wife brag: He was recently named the Defense Logistics Agency field grade reservist of the year!

Crystal: My husband has been in the Coast Guard since 2006. He’s currently serving as the Armory Supervisor and Lead Firearms Instructor for USCG Sector Puget Sound.

PH: Congratulations to both of you. Sounds like you have both moved successfully on to being military spouses and veterans. What made you decide to serve in the first place?


Me Before Mom: How One Woman’s Desire to Help a Friend Led to Greater Outreach

By: Julie Clark

“There was a ‘me’ before there was a ‘mom.’” This statement encapsulates the lifestyle and message of Bert Anderson, creator of her lifestyle blog entitled Me Before Mom. Anderson is a wife as well as a mother of three, and her mission is to equip fellow mothers as they adjust to parenting and figure out how to keep a sense of self while in the throes of motherhood. We sat down with Anderson to get to know her better and to glean some of her wisdom.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your life, and how Me Before Mom (MBM) came to be.

My dad is retired Air Force, so that makes me a military brat. It’s a label I wear proudly because it dramatically defines how I view life, how I process problems and any kind of uncomfortable situation. I met my husband in college in Minnesota; he’s from Minnesota, and well, you can’t take a Minnesota boy out of Minnesota, so we’ve been here ever since. I have three kids, Brennan (13), Kendall (10), and Keira (7). I am a social media manager, that’s my consistent paying job. I like being able to figure out how to create a community for a brand without being the face of the brand. I have my website,; a podcast, Me Before Mom, with Matriarch Digital Media; and I’ve self-published a book, Me Before Mom: Putting Your Oxygen Mask on First.