Meet the Team


Jon Berends, Executive Director

In 2018, Jon moved to Hamilton to develop and launch Act Five. He lives here with his wife, Aimee, and their three young children, growing to love this place and be loved by the community here. Along with a background in high school education and a Master’s in Theological Studies, Jon brings to Act Five a love for young people, creative approaches to education, adventures in the wilderness and all that community life has to offer.

Seeing Act Five grow in new directions these past few years has been amazing to witness, and Jon is grateful and excited to see what God has in store for more students, residents, and other communities inspired by what is happening here at Blake St.

You can contact Jon directly at

Alyssa Zilney, Program Manager

Alyssa moved to Hamilton in 2015 to complete a degree in Community Development and Environmental Studies, and quickly fell in love with the city. She joined Act Five in 2019, moving into the Act Five residence to welcome the very first cohort of students. Four years later, she oversees our gap year and residency programs.

Alyssa has seven years of experience living in various intentional Christian communities, and continues to live in Act Five’s neighbourhood with her husband, David. She is an enthusiastic lover of good food, growing vegetables, and living life in the city alongside others. Alyssa has a heart for Christian community and the place-based nature of Act Five. She loves learning alongside students and seeing them explore new perspectives while discovering their gifts.

Lena Scholman, Academic Lead

Lena Scholman first fell for Hamilton in 1997, looking out at the city from Sam Lawrence Park. She put down roots in the east end twenty years later and has been discovering the secrets of this evolving metropolis ever since. An educator, storyteller, wife and mother, Lena is committed both to the True City movement­ and New Hope Church, the faith community that has nurtured her faith for the past decade. Transformed by a gap year abroad years ago, she is thrilled to walk alongside young people at Act Five and bear witness to lives changed through intentional living — rooted in place and anchored in Jesus.

Abby Lobert, Admissions Manager

After 2 years of resident leading, Abby has continued with Act Five to lead the Admissions work and partnerships with youth groups, schools and camps. Abby came to Act Five in 2020 after graduating from the University of Waterloo with a degree in Social Development Studies. She is particularly interested in embodied education, community development, and restorative justice and finds that Act Five is a wonderful place to keep learning about these things. Abby has come to love the Blakeley neighbourhood and the people that are connected to Act Five, seeing God on the move in these places and people. She’s excited to continue connecting with past, present, and future Act Five gap year students!

Madison Eckert, Residence Manager

Madi moved to Hamilton in January 2022 and moved into the Act Five house a few months later. As she became embedded in the rhythms of the community, she began to be formed herself as a resident and is eager to step into a new role as Act Five’s first Residence Manager.

Along with her work with Act Five, Madi works for an organization called Hope Story, offering her a front row seat to how the Christian faith is lived out tangibly in other communities around the globe. Previously, Madi completed her own “gap year” at Bodenseehof in Germany (Capernwray), has served for 7 years in church ministry in London, and has completed her Masters in Theological Studies in 2022 from Tyndale Seminary. She will never say no to a walk or chat over a cup of coffee, and is committed to leading the community at Blake St for the next couple of years.

Jana Arnold, Resident Leader for 2024/2025 Gap Year

Jana completed her Bachelor of Arts in Theology & Fine Arts at Redeemer University (2023). She was born and raised in Haldimand County but has called Hamilton home for the past six years. 75 Blake St will be Jana’s seventh home in Hamilton! Jana has had many lived experiences as a disciple and a disciple maker, she is excited to see how God uses these past experiences to ignite faithful living in and amongst the 2024-25 Act Five cohort. She loves to read, spend time with her nieces and nephews, and is an avid Spikeball player. She also enjoys outdoor adventures, quality time and listening to good music. Jana is looking forward to the lessons and reflections that will come through adventuring with Act Five.

Evan Maxwell, Resident Leader for 2024/2025 Gap Year

Evan recently completed his Bachelor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Redeemer University. He is a camp person through and through, he loves the outdoors, basketball, canoeing, finding all sorts of adventures and anything fun to do with others. He enjoys community and is excited to practice the rhythms of life with the ’24-’25 Act Five cohort. He is interested in implementing spiritual practices into everyday life and seeing Jesus in the places where people call ‘home’ in Hamilton. He is a big reader and loves to talk over coffee with others, and having big meals with all sorts of people.

David Schuurman, Business Manager

David came to Act Five after a year and a half on staff with CityKidz. After three years as a Resident Leader and Program Manager, David continues in a small role supporting significant aspects of Act Five’s administration while connecting Act Five to life in the city. He is passionate about community organizing, learning from those in poverty, living in community, and walking alongside young people as they discover their callings.

Outside of Act Five, he can be found biking, hammocking, volunteering, reading – and now, teaching! – around Hamilton.

Arissa VandeBurgt, Program Assistant

Arissa recently completed her BA at Redeemer university in English Literature and Politics and International studies. She loves showing off Hamilton to new friends and can often be found visiting coffee shops, climbing the escarpment stairs, or exploring the places she hasn’t been to yet. Arissa is a big fan of just about every book, rock climbing, long porch conversations and a well made hot chocolate. She is also an Act Five alumni and is looking forward to re-engaging with the rhythms that shape daily life and walks with God at Act Five.

Act Five Board of Directors

Dave Witt Chair of Board

Keri Tabet Secretary

Allan Buist Treasurer

William Groot

Anita Plat-Kuiken

Karmyn Bokma

Rosanna Soh

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