813-689-4597 Facebook
121 Carver Ave. Brandon, FL 33511

 

Elder Bios for Term 2023-2024

Elena LaRussa

Since 2000, I have been a member of FIRST Presbyterian church.  During this time, I have served as elder of mission and outreach, served on preschool board, served as usher, and kitchen coordinator and have helped Member care and preschool, etc. for many occasions and on Sundays.

I was born in Los Angeles and moved to Tampa when I was one year old so I consider myself a Florida native. Worked for the Hillsborough school board for 40 years as administrative secretary.  Randy Poindexter was one of bosses and he and his wife Janice suggested I come to 1st presbyterian.  Ever since I visited, I felt like I had come home.

My 2 dogs Max and Bailey are with me all the time and are my faithful companions. In fact, max was named the church and office dog.  I have 1 brother, John and his wife Kathy, sister Sue and her husband Joe, sister Cathy LaRussa.  Also, there are nephews and nieces and great nephew and a great niece

I love this church and members of our congregation and will help wherever I am need. You can always find me in the kitchen.

Served on greater Brandon meals on wheels for many years and currently help mow in our kitchen.

Member of Sunrisers prayer group.

Bill Ogden

My wife, Pat, and I have been members since 1989. We celebrated 56 years of marriage on September 10th and have been blessed with seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

I served on the session when Paul Reiter was pastor and again as worship elder when Rebecca Maul was our pastor. I also served on the nominating committee in 2004 when Tim Black became our associate pastor and in 2011 served on the building committee when the Campbell Discipleship Center was built.

I’m currently serving at the Presbytery of Tampa Bay level on the CPM (Commission on Preparation for Ministry) and on a Matthew 25 Initiative taskforce. My current passion is supporting our Mission and Outreach Ministry team.

Kim Pickens

I was born 60-some-odd years ago in Kansas, was raised in Missouri and went to college in Iowa.  So, very Mid-West upbringing.  It sometimes shows in my very practical, “get it done with as few words as possible” mentality.  Totally schooled in what was then the “United” Presbyterian tradition: active in my local church, spent many summers at what was then Mound Ridge Presbyterian Camp (now Mound Ridge Retreat Center), and active in my college (Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA) which was and is affiliated with the Presbyterian church.

After college, I worked for a year as Director of Christian Education at my local church before joining the Coast Guard.  I wanted to see the world – or at least some water!  I was commissioned an ensign in 1979.  Met another Coastie, Ernie Gibson, a year later and married him in 1981.  Ernie stayed on active duty, while I did the Reserve route for the majority of my 30-year career.  Together we had two sons,

 

Kurt and Todd, and also a number of foster children along the way.  We got to be stationed on both coasts and were overseas twice, and we wouldn’t trade any of it for anything!  Now we are both retired, and our main activity is being grandparents.  We have two grandkids in the local area, Alexia (8) and Connor (3), and one and a-half kids in Ft. Myers,

Miabelle (almost 2) and Derek (coming in December).  I also am an avid gardener, doing my best to promote native and/or ecologically-friendly gardening as much as possible.

 

JoEllen Preston

 

JoEllen Preston has been a member of this church since 1990, along with her husband Steve.  They have a blended family with three grown children, and three grandchildren. JoEllen is recently retired after 41 years as a school psychologist working with all ages of students in both public school and private practice settings.

JoEllen has served in several capacities over the years, including Sunday School secretary, Youth Sunday School teacher, member and Chairman of the Preschool Board, and facilitating the past Tutoring Ministry.  She and Steve were trained as Christ Care Small Group leaders, and have provided leadership for CUPIDS (Couples United Prayerfully in Devoted Service) for many years.  She also participated in POTS (Parents of Teens) and POGS (Parents of Grads) small groups during the years that their youngest daughter Kimberly was in Youth and growing into an adult. The importance of being involved in helping our young people stay connected to God and their church community cannot be overstated.  Most recently, JoEllen has also enjoyed participating in the First Ringers Bell Choir.  JoEllen is looking forward to serving on Session and working with the amazing Discipleship Ministry Team.

Rae Vinson

Rae Vinson is a native Floridian who settled in the Brandon area in 2000 and joined FCPB in 2001. She has been active in the music ministry since joining.  She has been a member of the First Ringers since 2001 and the Chancel Choir since 2006.  She has also been active with the children’s music having led the Second Ringers, Children’s Choir and helped with the Christmas Pageant.

She has been married to Darrell since 1999.  She has 4 children – Alex, Zoe, Evan and Dillon – who have been active in the life of FCPB in various areas at various times.  Her grandchildren are one of her greatest joys.  Rae works as a Lead Technical Support Engineer for UKG, Inc.   Her second “job” aka passion is volunteering with the FIRST LEGO League to help spread the love of robotics and STEM to children and youth.   She is excited and honored to be serving the church on the Music and Worship team.