Central Exchange Staff
Courtney Thomas, President & CEO
Originally a native of North Carolina and a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Courtney moved to the Kansas City community in September of 2002. Courtney brings over fourteen years of executive leadership, innovative vision and strategic alignment to the Central Exchange.
Courtney’s arrival in February of 2017 coincides with the launch of a new strategic plan for the Central Exchange, outlining our path forward from now through 2020. Over the next four years, Courtney’s leadership and vision will shape the execution strategy to deliver on our goals to: Enhance Brand Equity, Grow Membership, Focus and Elevate Programming, Upgrade Technology and Improve our Financial Strength.
Most recently, Courtney served as the President and Chief Executive Officer at Great Plains SCPCA, Kansas City’s largest animal welfare organization. Serving in this capacity for over six years, Courtney led a staff of 160 and managed a budget of $7.8M, while growing the organization’s mission impact by over 350% and establishing new facilities on both sides of the state line. As the top executive, she set the vision and strategy for operations, marketing, fundraising and business development, while leading agency culture, human resources and finance activities. Prior to her most recent role as CEO, Courtney spent ten years in progressively responsible leadership positions in Marketing, Public Relations and Operations.
KC Magazine named Courtney one of Kansas City’s Top 100 influential people in Kansas City in 2013, and that same year Courtney received the 2013 Rising Star award from Nonprofit Connect. Courtney was also the Founder and President of the Pet Animal Coalition of Kansas (PACK) and represented the state of Kansas on the Companion Animal Advisory Council for the Humane Society of the United States. She is a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator, a prestigious designation of less than 100 across the country, acknowledging excellence in leadership, financial and operational acumen, public relations and veterinary medicine. Courtney is also is a member of the Lyric Opera Circle of Kansas City.
Courtney is the mother of three beautiful, young children and has been married to her husband Jeff for twelve years. She loves spending time with family, photography, supporting our hometown teams and participating in civic activities that make Kansas City a better place for all of us to live.
Courtney has a strong desire to get to know our membership on an individual basis and she welcomes the opportunity for members to drop by and say hello whenever onsite for programming.
Contact: Courtney@centralexchange.org, 816-389-8852
Vice-President of Membership and Experience
Kelly brings over 20 years’ experience in business operations. She has played a role with several companies building vision, advancing growth, managing teams, refining process, building operational efficiencies and creating exceptional service experiences. She has been successful in large part because of the relationships she’s developed with staff, peers, clients and organizational leaders. She firmly believes that by developing high performing teams, who understand how to perform as a team, it only leads to strong and sustainable growth. Others have described her as sincere, honoring servant leadership, having impeccable standards, being strategic-minded and unafraid (and always willing) to tackle what others will not.
At Central Exchange, Kelly is responsible for strategic growth and development in membership and programming and serves as a partner to the CEO in business development. She is a Kansas City native raising three children, Zack, Jake and Cali with her husband Jason. She has a passion for rescue animals with four dogs (all named after Kansas City): Kemper, Kauffman, Jackson and Millie as well as a rescued rabbit, named Winnie. She earned a Bachelor’s of Business from Baker University and is active in many Kansas City organizations.
Contact: Kelly@CentralExchange.org, 816.389.8863
Brenda Lowe, Director of Programs
Brenda comes to CX from Big Brothers Big Sisters where she worked as their administrative assistant for four years. She has worked in the public and private sectors including over 21 years for Sprint in multiple assignments beginning in Human Resources Planning and Development, transferring to State and Federal Regulatory Affairs and later as Manager of Public Affairs within Law & External Affairs. She also served on the board of SprintPAC.
Brenda attended Prairie View A&M University and has a certificate in paralegal studies from Rockhurst University. She has served on the board of the Kansas Paralegal Association as Public Policy Chair and served two terms as President of the National Association of Black Telecommunications Professionals formerly based in Washington, D.C. Brenda volunteered for over 15 years with Junior Achievement in various schools in the Kansas City area and is proud to have been a CPI and individual member of Central Exchange between 1993 and 2014.
In 2015, Brenda served on the Initiating Committee of the Gladstone, Missouri Community Visioning and Strategic Planning process. Currently, she is a third-term Commissioner of the Gladstone, Missouri Housing Commission. She is a member of Toastmasters and serves as Historian on the Executive Committee of Fishing River Chapter of the Missouri State Association of Parliamentarians.
In her spare time, she writes short stories, travels and resides in Gladstone, Missouri with her husband and best friend, Thomas.
Contact: Brenda@centralexchange.org, 816.389.8857
Peter Beffa, Executive Chef
Peter Beffa brings over 10 years of experience in the culinary and hospitality industries to Central Exchange. After completing his Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing Management at Missouri State University, Peter followed his true passion by attending The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. He began his professional career at Rosebud Steakhouse in Chicago, Illinois. After starting a family, Peter moved to Kansas City. He kicked off his KC career working as a Sous Chef for 40 Sardines. Peter climbed the culinary ladder by helping lead an opening kitchen staff for Makers Mark Bourbon House & Lounge and acted as a culinary liaison for Vinino and McFadden’s. For the past several years, Peter has worked as a Sous Chef at Bravo Cucina Italiana. Throughout Peter’s career, he has always believed in bringing people together through good, honest food.
Outside of the kitchen, Peter rocks it with his three kids and his beautiful wife. He enjoys family time, healthy exercise and watching his children’s various sporting events.
Contact: Peter@centralexchange.org, 816.389.8856
CX South & Strategic Communications Manager
Natalie initially joined Central Exchange in 2015 working as Facilities Coordinator for the South location. In 2016, she assumed the role of CX South and Strategic Communications Manager.
Prior to joining Central Exchange, Natalie spent 6 years in Bar & Restaurant Management, supervising 50+ employees. She was most recently the Marketing and Promotions Manager for Johnny’s Tavern, LLC. Under her management, Johnny’s Tavern was named KC’s Best Bar by Kansas City Magazine and was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records. Natalie was the featured Bartender in Esquire Magazines MLB All-Star edition.
Natalie attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City and earned a Bachelor of Business degree with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Contact: Natalie@centralexchange.org, 913.333.3921