Our Team

Shanda BrabecShanda Brabec

Co-President and Founder

Hello! I appreciate you taking the time to learn a little bit about me and my heart for Bloom! My given name is pronounced like the first part of “chandelier,” and I am married to an amazingly talented man, who partners with me in raising our three fantastic children! With one daughter, two sons, two dogs, a hamster, and an unknown number of fish, life at our house is never boring! I am also very blessed to have some incredible women in my life to walk and serve alongside of. However, my most defining characteristic is that I am a daughter of the King. I grew up in the church, and came to know Jesus as my personal Savior at the age of 16, which was a life defining moment for me. As I reflect on my spiritual journey, I see that God has been my rock and my strength through the amazing highs and the deepest lows of life.

I am an educator by trade and have been privileged to work as a 1st grade teacher, as Director of a Huntington Learning Center, and as a Corporate Recruiter and Trainer. I have also loved voluntarily serving in various capacities within women’s ministries, led bible studies, managed local and regional MOPS International groups, and have been a Christian speaker for MOPS groups and events as well as local and regional women’s ministry events.

My passion for Bloom! Girls took root while I was serving in women’s ministry, as I have had a heart for encouraging women to live in freedom and power through Christ as long as I can remember. Having led several Bible studies and become deeply invested in MOPS International in multiple roles over the years, I personally witnessed the common areas that women struggle with. While I was leading MOPS, I saw my own daughter becoming more aware of herself outside of her role in our family and her relationship with Christ, and she began to question herself, her beauty, and her worth. The desire stirred within me to ensure that my daughter knew who she was in Christ while she was still young, and to instill in her a confidence that was rooted in more than what she could offer with her outer beauty or skills that she possessed.

While I was out to lunch with one of my best friends (Jennifer!), our conversation turned toward the need for us, as moms and women, to not just take a defensive stance against the culture of today, but to become proactive in the lives of our daughters and young girls. We discussed how we endured the challenging years leading up to and through middle school and high school and realized that a lot of it boiled down to our friendships and Christian influences, which helped us maintain a strong sense of self during those crazy and formative years. It was clearly a God-orchestrated conversation, from which Bloom! Girls was founded. At the time, we were hoping to find a handful of other girls to participate with our own daughters; we had no idea that God had much bigger plans! We often joke that we are just trying to keep up with Him as He leads this ministry. Bloom! Has been immeasurably more than I could have ever asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20!) and I am so grateful to be a part of it!

 

Bloom002Jennifer Connelly

Co-President and Founder

Hi! As Co-Founder of Bloom! Girls, Inc., I am extremely grateful to share a bit about myself. I am married to an incredible man (and I mean incredible!) and we have been blessed with four amazing children. My home is busy and very loud, but it is also bursting with love and laughter each and every day. God has gifted me with the best family and friends, and I am so thankful to be “doing life” with them. I absolutely love the Lord and am overwhelmingly thankful for God’s grace in my life. Because life is messy, I have had the opportunity to experience His grace and, in turn, to pour God’s grace into other’s lives. It is important to me that other women, especially young girls, understand God’s unconditional love and the importance of carrying out God’s plan in their lives.

Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I had the privilege of participating in many outstanding organizations: leading a counseling ministry to an outreach within my church; working for Concerned Women for America, a non-profit in Washington, DC; and serving as Scheduler, then Assistant to the Speaker of the House of Representatives under Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. I’ve had multiple opportunities to volunteer in children’s ministries and women’s ministries, most recently serving in leadership roles for Mt. Ararat MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) for seven years and Co-Coordinator for two years.

Over the years, I became increasingly aware of the ways that the media portrays beauty to very young girls. Using deceitful techniques, such as digitally distorting photographs, mass media conveys damaging messages to girls: they need to look or act a certain way to be beautiful; confidence comes from outer beauty, wealth, and fame; and acceptance is something to be achieved at all costs. These messages are deceitful and damaging to the youth of today.

By spring 2011, one of my best friends, Shanda Brabec, and I had developed the concept of Bloom! Girls Inc. Our primary goal was to find a new way to resonate with young 4th and 5th grade girls that they are “uniquely and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a). Middle school is a tumultuous time and girls need a solid foundation prior to entering these trying years. In four short years, 300+ girls have participated in the Bloom! program. I am humbled by the growth of the Bloom! program and I thank God for planting the seeds of Bloom! in my heart and for allowing them to grow. My prayer for Bloom! is that God would do great and mighty things to affect the hearts and minds of His amazing girls. I feel blessed just to be a part of it.

 

Bloom001Lisa Bast

Vice-President

Hi, my name is Lisa Bast, and I am a wife and mother of three wonderful boys! You might be asking, “With only sons, why is she part of this group?” To answer that question, let me tell you a little more about me.

I have been married to the man of my dreams for over 15 years. Although we didn’t know it at the time, God started working in our lives long before we were married. We began attending church together, became part of Bible studies, and started growing in our faith. I accepted Christ into my life in my late 20s, and continue to learn about Forgiveness, Grace, and Unconditional Love. It’s amazing to look back and see how God has worked in my life! At the same time, I am excited (and a little bit scared) to see what He has planned for me in the future!

As a part-time Physical Therapist at an outpatient clinic, I am able to help patients with their recovery, which I love! The blessing of working part-time has allowed me to participate in other ministries, including coordinating the hospitality team at our former church and helping to launch and co-lead a new MOPS group at our current church home. Most importantly, God has given me the opportunity to work with my best friends in Bloom!, first as an assistant leader and now as the leader of Bloom! Girls Inc. Horizons group in Stafford, VA.

I have been blessed to witness the growth of Bloom! from its very beginnings, as a participant in “brainstorming meetings,” serving as a sounding board for new ideas, and being a part of the development process. I have been able to see God grow this ministry and am excited to be a part of Bloom! leadership as this journey continues.

So, if you wonder why a mom of three boys would ever want to lead a group of girls, it’s because I was once a young girl, too! I understand the struggles that adolescent girls go through, especially in today’s society. I love teaching them about Modesty, Confidence, Friendships, Integrity, and Inner Beauty. And, for me, the best part is escaping my testosterone-filled home for an hour and a half each week and enjoying these girls that have been remarkably and wonderfully made!