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.

Alice Campbell, Resident Leader for 2023/2024 Gap Year

Alice recently completed her Bachelor of Music at Western University. She is a proud New Brunswicker but is excited to call Hamilton home. After spending the past few years living in community, Alice is looking forward to how she can bless and be blessed by the ’23-’24 Act Five cohort. She is interested in how faith is integrated in every aspect of life, including practices of creation care, slowing down, and missional living. Alice can be found most often outside or in a coffee shop. She loves hiking the woods in her home province and is eager to explore the escarpment and all that the adventures, meals and conversations to come through Act Five.

Ryan Snooks, Resident Leader for 2023/2024 Gap Year

Ryan completed his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Queen’s University (2022). He is joining Act Five after returning from a mission trip in Zambia where he worked at Sakeji Mission school for a term. Ryan enjoys working with and alongside young adults and encouraging them in their walks with Christ. He loves to travel, read, and study God’s word. He also enjoys board games, the outdoors, and play all kinds of sports, especially volleyball. Ryan looks forward to the opportunity to foster relationships and community at Act Five as the 2023-2024 cohort grows closer together, in their love for God, and the gospel.

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.

Act Five Board of Directors

Dave Witt Chair of Board

Keri Tabet Secretary

Allan Buist Treasurer

William Groot

Anita Plat-Kuiken

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