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- TEAM - 

Connecting and Creating Meaningful Sustainable Relationships is Our Mission


Team members at Life Works contribute to connection, walking shoulder to shoulder with the people we support in building and co-creating communities that foster the good life we all seek. Everyone supported has a different vision for their life, a different vision of their own community. It is incumbent upon us to help people realize that vision and bring it to life. Meet the team...


Beth Gallagher is the founder, owner and CEO of Life Works. Life Works was founded in 2004. Her work with people with developmental disabilities began just weeks after graduating from California State University, Chico in 1986 with degrees in Child Development and Psychology. Beth has spent the past 3+ decades creating unique and specific support strategies for individuals who have been underserved within the developmental disability system. She shares her gift of curiosity when thinking “what more is possible?" for the stakeholders people supported by Life Works. How can we create opportunities for him to contribute? How can the community benefit from his gifts?


Because Beth has chosen to work with people that have been historically under-served or misrepresented, she has spent a great deal of time studying methods of design and strategy that allow people to be heard and understood as individuals. Beth is the co-creator of the planning method called Liberty Plan used as a facilitation tool for individuals, groups, families and agencies. Beth also collaborated with Kirk Hinkleman to write Intentional Teaming: Shifting Organizational Culture. This book takes a look at initiatives to appreciate the unique gifts of the people providing direct support.


Collaboration is entrenched in Beth's personal philosophy as well as the philosophy of Life Works. When asked what her mission is Beth says, "My hope for Life Works is that we can team with people to achieve unique, customized and fully realized lives. We want to do this one person at a time in a way that makes particular sense to that person."


Kirk Hinkleman is the Director of Creative Design and Well-Being at Life Works. Kirk met Beth Gallagher in 2007 and joined the team right away. Having worked in the human services field since 1998, Kirk now finds himself on a transformational path. Within the context of Life Works and the greater service system, Kirk is committed to dismantling archaic structures, systems and thinking as it pertains to people who experience disabilities finding valued social roles in neighborhoods. Kirk is convinced we need to view people through a citizen-centered lens if what we are looking for is real, lasting and sustainable relationships with people.


Co-author (along with Beth Gallagher) of “Intentional Teaming: Shifting Organizational Culture”, and Co-Creator of Liberty Plan, Kirk is committed to realizing the highest potential in people while asking Beth Mount and John O’Brien’s question “What More Is Possible?” When asked about his mission, Kirk says: “The first step is awareness. What do I see? What do I sense? What do I feel? From awareness comes our ability to see what is happening and make a choice. For myself, and Life Works as an organization, the choice is simple and important. What we see is a System designed to serve itself, perpetuating isolation and segregation. We choose not to become isolation and segregation. We choose not to replicate services precluding people from living lives of distinction and purpose. We choose to lead from an emerging future of possibility, while tapping into our inner source of knowing. Following our hearts, we co-create a world that works for everyone.”


My name is Lamika Thomas and I am the Associate Director for Life Works. I have been working with Lifeworks since September 2011. I have had the honor and privilege of working with a great team and with great people. I have had a passion for helping others since I was two years old. I graduated from Earlham College with a Bachelor's of Art in Psychology in 2003 and graduated with my Master's of Social Work from The Ohio State University in 2005. My journey started in my master's degree program, where I was provided an opportunity to intern in a residential treatment facility. From that internship developed a career and passion that continues to this day. My biggest joy is changing the lives of individuals; supporting families and individuals to live effective and healthy lives in their “own” homes and within their “own” community. Many people I encounter would characterize me as dedicated, sympathetic, great personality, but most of all committed. There have been bumps and bruises along my journey, but one thing always remains consistent, 100% will always be given because this is not just a career, but a part of my life.


Jere Wilson is from Tybee Island Georgia, where he grew up learning how to surf and skate as a young kid. He also studied at Savannah Technical college which guided him to work as a lifeguard on Tybee Island beach. After volunteering with an organization called Surfers With Autism, he saw the support and togetherness during the event which led him to be more involved with people with developmental disabilities. Jere has worked with Life Works since 2014 and loves how this organization feels like a family. He’s also excited to build relationships and to teach others that we all should have respect for each other on this spinning earth ball.


Ashley Valdiez was born and raised here in sunny San Diego as the oldest of five. Being the oldest taught Ashley a lot of patience and how to care for the needs of others. This early example of nurturing led Ashley to her first job as a special needs nanny. In this position Ashley saw how hard it could be for families and individuals to access quality services and be provided with opportunities to develop and nurture skills that would allow people to show up as their best selves. That experience drove Ashley to eventually become a school counselor and advocate for the rights of others. As a new Coordinator, Ashley is excited to build relationships that inspire people to be genuine to themselves. In her spare time, Ashley loves being outdoors. She prefers hiking, camping, and exploring new places, to sitting at home. She hopes to share her passions with the Life Works community!


I am Iris Ramirez. I grew up in Gardena, Ca, 20 minutes from Los Angeles. I moved to San Diego in October 2022. In my spare time, I like to get lost in books, spend quality time with my loved ones, and hit the gym to name several things. I have roughly 7 years of experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities. I began as a Registered Behavior Technician for four years and then later worked at the Regional Center for almost two years. My experience working as an RBT affected me on a deep and personal level, which caused me to want to become more involved with individuals with developmental disabilities. I am excited to continue my journey at Life Works as a coordinator assisting people to live in their own homes, in a community of their choosing, and advocating for their place in the world.


Sally has over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare services industry. Prior to delving into healthcare, Sally was an Interior Architect for over 20 years receiving her degree from Rhode Island School of Design. Sally’s experience as an Office Manager of a large Senior Care franchise, handling the day-to-day operations, was a perfect transition for her role at LifeWorks. Coordinating events, managing payroll and keeping the team organized is her main goal. Originally from Baltimore (Ravens fans!), Sally and her family lived in Florida prior to relocating to San Diego several years ago. In her spare time, she enjoys theater, cooking, traveling and crafts. Sally enriches the lives of her colleagues, LifeWorks friends and families with her kind demeanor and a warm smile.


My name is Josh Johanson and I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. Growing up, I always had a passion for people and helping others. During high school, I worked as a peer coach supporting classmates with disabilities. After high school, I attended Washington State University (Go Cougs!) and graduated in 2018. My journey brought me to San Diego and led to finding a career and company that I love. When I first moved to San Diego, I coached a flag football team through Special Olympics, and it reminded me how much I enjoy being involved in supporting individuals with disabilities. I started at Life Works as a Direct Support Professional and am now working as a Coordinator for those teams. I am so excited to continue exploring what more is possible for the individuals we support and advocating for a world of inclusion!

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