Melissa Forrester, President

Upon joining the EVVPA, Melissa chaired the Public Relations Committee.  She went on to serve as  Vice President, and was recently elected as the organization’s President.

Melissa is the Community Engagement Specialist for United Food Bank in Mesa.  Through her work with United Food Bank, Melissa touches lives all over the East Valley and beyond.  From Chandler to Gilbert and Queen Creek, out to San Tan, Florence and Globe/Miami, she works to help nourish Arizona communities. She is an Ambassador for both the Mesa and Tempe Chambers of Commerce.  Her other volunteer activities include: For Our City Mesa/Care Inc. Committee; Mesa Community College Center for Community & Civic Engagement Board; and, Mesa Schools Service Learning Board.

When asked why she volunteers for EVVPA: “To honor those who gave me my freedom! … I am so very grateful… I have my freedom because of their sacrifice!!  Volunteering with EVVPA is my way of thanking and honoring our veterans and their families.”

Bob Burns, Vice President

Bob is a founding member of the EVVPA.  He has served as President, Treasurer, a Trustee, and as a Member of the By-Laws Committees.  Bob served his Country in the United States Navy during the Vietnam Conflict (1964 -1968, Active, EN3 SS/DV) as an engineman on diesel/electric submarines and was stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Subic Bay, Philippines.

Bob is retired.  He owned and operated Driven Solutions, a material handling sales and service company.  His other community activities include volunteering with American Veterans of Foreign Wars Dode Morris Post 1760 (past Quartermaster and current Trustee), and with the American Legion Post 26, both of Mesa.

Asked why he dedicates so many volunteer hours to the Parade: “I believe the East Valley Veterans Parade is a tremendous opportunity to celebrate results of the sacrifices the veterans and their families endured to create and maintain our way of life in this country under the guidance of our Constitution.”

Erin Sulzer, Secretary

Erin works for AmeriCorps and began as a Parade volunteer in 2013.  She joined the Board the next year and established the Social Media Committee, which she chairs.  In 2015 Erin established the Parade’s Facebook page, and she also manages the Parade Twitter activity.  She was elected to her current position as Secretary in 2016.

Her other community activities include volunteering with the USO Arizona. Many of Erin’s family members are veterans and when asked why she is part of EVVPA: “To say thank you to our veterans, retired, reservists, active duty and their families – so all of their sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

Janice Shaproski, Treasurer

Janice began volunteering with the East Valley Veterans Parade in 2009, along with the husband John.  She has served on the Parade Committee and as the organization’s Secretary.  Janice has filled many roles with the Parade over the years, including a Trustee position in 2014 and was elected Treasurer in 2017.  Her countless hours or volunteerism have made her an indispensable asset to the organization.


Barbara White

Barbara’s relationship with the military has truly been a family affair.  Pictured here with her son as they attended his grandfather’s interment in Arlington National Cemetery.  Barbara cared for his grandfather until he passed away in April 2014.  Lt. Col. VanGorder was a triple Vet having served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  During the years of caring for him, she met many other veterans and has been dedicated to serving them ever since.

Her son, U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Kyle VanGorder, is stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC and serves as Cyber-systems Chief for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.  He served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan since enlisting in 2002.

Barbara’s other community involvement includes recent service as president of the VFW Auxiliary to Post 1760 in Mesa.  She has been instrumental in building membership and providing volunteer opportunities to members, valuable skills she brings to her position as Trustee with EVVPA.

Paul Edwards

Paul was recruited as an EVVPA volunteer while attending an aviation event at Falcon Field.  In his four years of volunteering with EVVPA, Paul has taken on many volunteer roles and chores.  He was elected to serve on the Board of Trustees in 2016.  Also beginning in 2016, he served as Co-Chair of the Parade Committee.  He has agreed to continue this role for the 2017 Parade.

Paul is an Instructor Pilot and  management/systems consultant for CAE Oxford Aviation Academy in Mesa.  His other volunteer activities have included: U.S. Navy League (VP Naval Operations) and The Commemorative Air Force (XO – Executive Officer, Air Show planning, fund raising). When asked why he is involved with the EVVPA, he put it simply: “To serve…especially military personnel and their families; to recognize and celebrate service personnel sacrifices.”

Sylvia Richards

A founding member of the organization, Sylvia has been with the EVVPA since 2006.  She has served in almost every position including: Treasurer, Trustee, Member, Volunteer Coordinator — whatever is needed: photographer, historian, information booth coordinator at community events, fundraiser, and volunteer recruitment opportunities.

A few years before Sylvia became so involved with EVVPA, she retired after 32 years with Bell Telephone operating companies in California & Arizona.  Sylvia also volunteers with the Mesa Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association and serves as a Neighborhood Block Watch Captain.

Why does she works so tirelessly for EVVPA: “I think it is important to honor our veterans and their families for the sacrifices they make for our country and for all of us. AND, I love parades!”

Michael Thelen

Michael is one of the original founders of the East Valley Veterans Parade, and he has served as Parade Chair and Treasurer.  Michael served his Country in the United States Air Force for 14 years, from 1967 to 1981, as a Ground Radio Supervisor in Vietnam.  Awards and commendations include: Marksmanship, Humanitarian, Air Force Commendation, and the Vietnam Gallantry Ribbon.

Before retiring, Michael was a Communication Engineer for NASA and owner of Eagle Communications, LLC.  His other community involvement include active membership with the VFW, the Department of American Veterans, and The American Legion, as the Department of Arizona, Area “B”, Service Officer.  Through his work with Veterans Helping Veterans, Michael is committed to preventing homelessness among veterans.

On having been with the Parade since its inception:  “We started the Parade with all volunteers to honor our veterans on November 11th when the parade lost funding. Folks didn’t think we could do it, but you don’t tell a group of Non-Coms they can’t do something!”

Gerald Paulus

Gerald served in the United States Army and Army Reserves for 33 years, in conflict zones including Panama, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been a member of and served on the Board of Directors with the EVVPA for more than four years.

Gerald holds a BS in mechanical engineering and a master’s in public administration.  He is the President and CEO of ET/Energy Technologies, LLC.  Gerald and his wife, Elizabeth, have seven children and they have lived in Mesa for more than 20 years.  Together they founded College Bound, a local non-profit helping students aspire to attend and succeed in college.  Gerald’s other volunteer involvements include: the Mesa HoHoKams, Rotary International, the East Valley Adult Resources, and Mesa Sister Cities.



Lisa Sandoval, Co-Director

Paul Edwards, Co-Director

Esther Alger

Bob Burns

Bob Laubinger

Jhennicea Morrow

Michael Thelen

Janice Shaproski

John Shaproski

Public Relations:

Melissa Forrester, Chair

Sylvia Richards, Events

Janice Shaproski

Erin Sulzer, Social Media


Sylvia Richards, Chair

Janice Shaproski



Melissa Forrester

Theresa Carmichael

Tom Verplogen


By-Laws Review:

Bob Burns

Gerry Paulus

Michael Thelen



Bob Laubinger

Sylvia Richards