Who We Are

With a name like Southshore Skipping Stones, early childhood cavity prevention doesn’t immediately come to mind. We also know that during pregnancy and before a baby has their first tooth don’t seem like critical times in the fight against childhood tooth decay, but yet they are.

Southshore Skipping Stones is an education foundation based upon the belief that tooth aches from cavities have no place in childhood, especially since we know how to prevent them. But far too many young children suffer from a severe form of tooth decay that causes extreme pain, life-altering complications, and requires extensive treatment. Our job as a dental education foundation is to provide parents and caregivers with the know-how of cavity prevention at times when it can make the most impact – during pregnancy and before baby’s first tooth.

We are not a dentist office and we are not looking for patients—we are dental professionals who provide free educational classes and counseling in locations outside of the traditional office setting. We want you, as a parent, to have every advantage in the fight against childhood tooth decay. That is the only reason we exist and why we are dedicated to healthful smiles for pregnant women, babies, and families.      

Meet Our Board of Directors

Dr. Gierke Button headshot

Dr. Tammy Gierke Button, DDS, MSD

Founder and President, Southshore Skipping Stone
Dr. Tammy Button has spent the last 10 years as a pediatric dentist treating and caring for hundreds of toddlers with early childhood caries, and working with their families to slow the progression of this disease. She earned her DDS from Indiana University and completed her specialty training and certification in Pediatric Dentistry from Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, earning an MSD. Dr. Button is currently in private practice in Michigan City, Indiana where she focuses on preventive pediatric dentistry. She also serves on the Health Advisory Committee of the Michigan City Head Start as well as the Indiana Oral Health Coalition, and the Early Oral Health Coalition of Northwest Indiana. Dr. Button was also recently named the Director of Community Based Dental Education for Indiana University School of Dentistry.

Dr. Caswell Evans, Jr. DDS, MPH

Board of Directors, Southshore Skipping Stones
Caswell A. Evans, Jr., D.D.S., M.P.H., is currently the Associate Dean for Prevention and Public Health Sciences at the University of Illinois, Chicago College of Dentistry. He is also on the faculty of the UIC School of Public Health. Previously, he served as the Executive Editor and Project Director for Oral Health in America: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General. For 12 years, Dr. Evans was Director of Public Health Programs and Services for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. He is Chairman of DentaQuest Foundation Board; a member of the National Academy of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences; and serves on the Chicago Board of Health, board of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago and the board of the Children’s Dental Health Project. Dr. Evans is a past president of the American Public Health Association, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry and the American Board of Dental Public Health.

Mrs. Gail Gierke, RDH

Vice President, Southshore Skipping Stones
Mrs. Gail Gierke is a native of northwest Indiana, having lived and worked in both Lake and LaPorte Counties.  Gail has served the LaPorte County community as a dental hygienist and active family dental health educator for over 50 years. She is also active in the Northwest Indiana Dental Hygiene Study Club. While raising three daughters, she presented dental health education presentations in their classrooms from preschool and after. Gail is a past board member of Meals on Wheels and past president of St. Joseph Home and School Guild. Gail and her husband, Gene, continue to serve the La Porte County community in positions of education and advocacy.

Dr. Lisa Leniski, DDS, MSD

Secretary, Southshore Skipping Stones
Dr. Lisa Leniski is a board certified pediatric dentist who grew up in Northern Indiana. She earned her doctorate from Indiana University and completed her specialty training and certification at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Dr. Lisa has 10 years of experience practicing in Northern Indiana. For seven years, she worked for a non for profit dental clinic in Topeka, Indiana providing dental care to the children of the community. During this time, she also had the privilege of serving as an adjunct faculty member for Indiana University School of Dentistry. Dr. Lisa has been in private practice for the last three years in Michigan City, in addition to serving on the Michigan City Head Start Board of Directors. She is also the President of the LaPorte County Dental Society. She and her husband, Anthony, have four daughters – Natalie, Claire, Vivian, and Elanor.

Mr. Trey Fankhauser, J.D.

Treasurer, Southshore Skipping Stones
Mr. Fankhauser earned a B.A. in economics from Wabash College in 2014 and a JD from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 2017. He is an attorney for the Law Offices of Brian M. Smith and heads a joint venture mortgage lending firm in Crown Point. Mr. Fankhauser is the Crown Point High School varsity wide receiver football coach and coach of a 10-and-under Crown Point all-star baseball team. 

Dr. Ellen Szarleta, PhD, JD

Board of Directors, Southshore Skipping Stones
Dr. Ellen Szarleta is the Director of the Indiana University Northwest Center for Urban and Regional Excellence and a full professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Northwest. As director of the Center, she works to create and advance community-university partnerships that improve the quality of life in Indiana. Dr. Szarleta holds a JD from the University of Iowa Law School and a PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Prior to working at the university, Dr. Szarleta served as a State of Indiana Superior Court Magistrate and prosecuting attorney. She teaches courses in public management economics, decision-making processes, and law and public policy in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Her research is focused in the areas of civic engagement, policy decision making, social impact analysis, and nonprofit capacity building.

Ms. Albertine Allen

Board of Directors, Southshore Skipping Stones
Ms. Albertine Allen has served La Porte County as the Executive Director of the Minority Health Coalition of LaPorte County/Community Advocates of Northern Indiana since 2002. As the Executive Director, she strives to provide informational workshops on health disparities that affect minority populations, and establishes collaborative efforts with other community organizations to develop and implement preventive health initiatives. Infant mortality is a current priority for her group, due to its prevalence among minority populations in LaPorte County.

Mrs. Maria Schwieter

Board of Directors, Southshore Skipping Stones
Maria was raised in La Paz, Bolivia. She holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and nursing and a master’s in mental health counseling. Maria has been working in the health care field since 1980. Her experience in nursing includes: emergency room, Level one trauma center, intensive care unit, cancer research coordinator, and diabetes educator. She has also worked as a sexual assault therapist at a women’s shelter and is trained as a child play therapist. She has worked as a medical interpreter and training medical interpreters since 2000. She developed a curriculum for and teaches an 80 hour medical interpreter’s course which is now accredited with distinction by the International Medical Interpreters Association. Maria was named executive director for the non-profit organization “El Puente Hispanic Community Center” in La Porte, Indiana from 2007 until 2013. She has served on the Board of Directors of Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (MATI), National Board Certified Medical Interpreters (NBCMI), International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), and is currently on the Board of Directors of the National Counsel Interpreters Health Care (NCIHC). Maria is the founder and director of Medical Communication Ambassadors (MCA). Dedicated to training medical interpreters, she is a nationally certified health care interpreter: CHI in Spanish. Maria won the “Las Estrellas” award in 2008 for her service to the Hispanic community, and received the “volunteer of the year” award from La Porte YMCA in 2018.

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