We are excited to announce our Executive Director, Eric S. Lee!
Erics Mission To help others find inner peace, joy and purpose regardless of circumstances.
Erics passion for inspiring and uplifting others was sparked by his own challenges growing up in Detroit, Michigan. The unique trials and tribulations of urban life and witnessing the impact of those experiences by others in his community planted the seed of service that would eventually lead to his lifes calling.
In search of a higher path, he spent much of his young adult life in the hospitality industry. As a quick study he found himself in a position of leadership at 22 years old.
Prompted by moving to Colorado in 1989, he quickly began to build upon his leadership skills and as a self-taught chef opened three restaurants in Boulder County. Looking to be of greater service to his community he began volunteering for several youth-based initiatives, including Project Yes and Lafayette Youth Sports. Soon after Eric began his life coaching practice.
After transitioning out of restaurants he focused his energy on his coaching practice specializing in health and wellness with a focus on fitness, nutrition, and stress management. A common thread throughout Erics adult life is his passion for impacting others in a positive way. Through his coaching practice Eric supported his clients to overcome lifes invariable obstacles, find deeper levels of inner peace, align with their lifes meaning and purpose, and live healthier lifestyles. Often, simply by showing them kindness. As a reminder that, yes this still can be a loving and supportive world after all.
Along the way Eric has published three books. Adams Eve A Novel, Sweeping Her Off Her Feet with Food, a romantic cookbook, and 29 Degrees How to Live a Life of Inner Peace, Joy and Purpose Regardless of Circumstances.
Eric loves family life with his wife Trudi and his three children, Erica, Forrest, and Justin and his stepson Brock. He also loves working out and playing outside, mountain biking, hiking, off-roading, bowhunting and camping. When Eric is not recreating outdoors, he enjoys watching and playing football and basketball. Most recently, Eric comes to us from Longmont, Colorado where he has been serving his community as a Restorative Justice Facilitator with the Conflict Center in Denver and was also an integral part of the Professional Standards-Citizens Review Panel for the Police Division in Longmont. Eric brings a wealth of dynamic leadership experience from a multitude of fields and is a passionate advocate and activist for criminal justice reform. We are thrilled to welcome Eric to the team and excited for this new chapter for FCRJ!
Natalie Carmen Millis was born and raised in Denver, CO. She has a degree in Biology and studied community health at Hampshire College, where she wrote a thesis on the political history of the Indian Health Service. Originally focused on going to medical school, Natalie worked as an EMT during college and then at an inpatient psychiatric unit upon returning to Denver. After witnessing firsthand the way our medical system treats patients (especially youth) in crisis, she became very interested in finding out how people can learn to truly break cycles of trauma.
While working as a lead guide in a wilderness therapy program for teens in the backcountry of Utah, Natalie witnessed the truly impressive impact of both wilderness and a collaborative approach to helping young women heal. After a detour during which she worked as a project manager at a tech startup in Salt Lake City, Natalie then served as manager at the Volunteers of America Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City. One of her side projects was strengthening the program’s policies by facilitating regular feedback groups with clients. In addition, she supported the placement of Trauma-Informed Care principles into the Center’s policies around addressing challenging behavior from clients.
After moving back to Colorado for family reasons, Natalie worked at a large Federally-Qualified Health Center as a program coordinator, but during the pandemic she returned to the front lines as a Medical Assistant on a Covid testing and vaccination team in Denver. She is currently also a volunteer for the Blue Bench Project’s rape crisis hotline.
Although she grew up in the inner city, Natalie was fortunate to have a mentor who inspired her love of Colorado’s wilderness from a young age. Besides hiking the Colorado trail, Natalie has also done an 800-mile section of the Appalachian trail as well as countless trips throughout the Southwest. She is excited to use her spare time in the Salida area to work on connecting inner-city youth, BIPOC folks, and other “unlikely hikers” with the wilderness.
Cindy Merchant graduated from Adams State University with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies Sociology/Business with a focus in Criminology and Women’s Studies. She is National Victim Advocate credentialed through the Nation Organization for Victim Assistance. Cindy is passionate about social Justice issues and working to ensure those underrepresented and marginalized are served through restorative justice. She loves spending time in her garden with her family, hiking the trails with her dog Bear, and reading historical fiction. She’s known among family and friends for her homemade soup, random acts of kindness and making people laugh. She’s excited to share with others in this beautiful community the transformative power and compassionate opportunities that restorative justice provides for repairing harm and building healthy relationships.
Carey has spent the last 10 years working with youth in a variety of settings; health and wellness, experiential education, backcountry adventure programs, river guiding and wilderness therapy. Her path has taken her from her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Virginia, Florida, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and finally landing in Colorado. For the last seven years Carey has had the privilege of calling Salida home. Carey has served the community as FCRJ’s first Restorative Justice Care Facilitator and is now transitioning into the role of Programs Oversight Manager. She strives to provide a judgment-free and supportive space to ensure that every participant is successful in our program and beyond. Carey is currently working towards a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a focus on Adventure-Based Therapy at Prescott College.
"I am grateful to be a part of this organization and its mission for Central Colorado!"
"Here’s a little about me: My wife, Kylie, and I are both from Oklahoma, and we have three sons, Sebastian, Abraham, and Theodore, two dogs, Frankie and Bowie, and a lizard named Duke. Our boys attend Salida’s incredible public schools, and as a family, we love to hike, ski and snowboard, bike, go to concerts, and take cross country trips to the East Coast. I have a business and law degree from the University of Oklahoma–Boomer Sooner!"
"Although I started my career in public service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia, I’ve spent the last 15 years in the private sector in both law and finance. The time was right, however, to rejoin public service work, and now I find myself energized and ready to contribute to restorative justice practices with FCRJ for many years to come."