Meet the Team at
Each member of our team brings experiences from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, education and training. Collectively, we’ve acquired and developed skills and interests across a broad spectrum. We’ve invested in our families and homes, we’re involved in our community and we’re passionate about Keeping It Local. We know what it takes to operate a small business and we know the satisfaction that comes from staying connected to the people and businesses that stay connected to us.
Sandy Mislak-Kapinos, Publisher
Sandy utilizes her natural talents and flair, along with her business and corporate communication degrees from the University of Baltimore. She has been in the design and marketing industry for over 29 years, initially for other firms and for the last 22 years as the owner of Sonipak Design & Marketing, providing design, advertising and marketing services for regional and national businesses. She currently balances her agency work with the welcome demands of motherhood and assisting her husband Kevin with the operations of Kapinos Builders, a home improvement company. In addition to volunteering in the community, Sandy has served on several boards and participates in coordinating fund-raising events and assists in marketing for a number of local non-profit organizations. She’s a devoted friend and animal lover, passionate concert-goer, fascinated by medieval history and art, and an energetic decorator, gardener and cook. And when it’s time to unwind, you will find Sandy and her tribe somewhere on the bay enjoying family time on the boat.
Debbie Umbarger, Editor & Health Columnist, Staying Fit
Debbie has been a staff writer with HH since 2011 and has recently made the transition to the role of Editor. Her enthusiasm for helping others and a firm belief that excellence is achieved through commitment and effort are behind Debbie’s personal and professional life choices. The energy that she brought in her careers as a teacher at Homestead-Wakefield for over 24 years, personal trainer and group fitness instructor, field hockey coach, cycling instructor at Off the Chain Cycling Studio, Certified Rock Steady Boxing Coach and Advisory Board Member for the non-profit, Rally Against Parkinson’s is a testament to her passion for a healthy, active lifestyle. Her daughters and husband share her enthusiasm and readers are inspired by the recommendations and helpful tips in her regular column – Staying Fit.
In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, golf and traveling with her family.
Laurel Abell, KidLit Book Columnist,
AKA: Professor YaYa, the Anti-Critic
Laurel has loved living in Harford County since 1997. After raising and homeschooling her six kids, she returned to school herself in 2011, earning a BS (Towson University, 2014) and an MFA (Vermont College of Fine Arts, 2018) in writing. Since then, Laurel has spent most of her creative time composing & revising picture books and middle-grade novels.
When she’s not writing, Laurel is extremely distracted by her other two loves: her beautiful fairy granddaughters who inspire her writing (They call her YaYa!) and her students at Stevenson University where she teaches creative & critical writing (That’s Professor YaYa!).
Laurel also happens to be one of those eternal optimist folks, the kind who looks for and points to beauty in everything, especially picture books. As a Black-Eyed Susan Picture Book Award Committee member, Laurel LOVES to collect, read, talk about, & give away picture books. Because she truly believes all stories are important and have their very own audience, Laurel joyfully discovers the silver linings and hidden gems, the rainbows and miracles, the sunshine in the shadows; because . . . “no one likes a critic,” right? (So, that’s what makes her Professor YaYa, the Anti-Critic!).
As a columnist for Harford’s Heart, Laurel will discuss what’s new and fascinating in Kidlit. For more and to participate in Professor YaYa’s periodic book giveaways, check out her blog LaurelAbell.com.
Kelly Casalena, Kelly’s Hair Design, Inc., Columnist: Grace & Beauty . . . With You in Mind
Kelly opened the doors to Kelly’s Hair Design in April 2003 with the passion to help individuals who suffer from hair loss and teach other hairstylists this side of their industry. She became a cosmetologist in 1989 in Pennsylvania. Kelly moved to Maryland in 1992 and started working for a hair restoration company. She doesn’t feel like the typical hairstylist but a hair doctor. Her specialty is to prescribe a solution for any hair problem. She has had the opportunity to help young stylist begin their career and worked as an educator for Eufora teaching color.
Carol Deibel, History Columnist, Historical Harford
Carol Deibel served as the Director of Planning and Community Development for the Town of Bel Air for twenty-six years, developing the town’s first historic preservation program and overseeing development as the town grew from a small rural community to a major suburban center. This experience placed her in a unique position to document the history of this community. Ms. Deibel is co-editor of Marilynn M. Larew’s book, Bel Air: An Architectural and Cultural History 1782 – 1945; editor of the Historical Society of Harford County, Inc, bi-monthly newsletter; and author of several publications and articles for the Town of Bel Air, the Historical Society of Harford County and several local boards and commissions. She is currently working on an oral history project with the Harford County Historic Preservation Commission, collecting stories from Harford County residents about their lives and experiences in Twentieth-Century Harford County. She serves on the Board of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance and is the Vice President of the Historical Society of Harford County, Inc.
Chip Emely, IT Services, Advertising Sales & Distribution
The efficiency of our website and email accounts is due to technical support from Chip, through his firm, The Emely Group. He and his wife Mandie run the company, offering web solutions, Internet marketing and professional photography services to small businesses throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region, from their home office in Street. Their business shares their home with their two sons, Cameron and Max. Chip’s first-hand management experience, along with his considerable technical skills, enables him to find solutions that work best for other small business owners.
Greg Gerding, Advertising Sales & Distribution
Greg has been a Jarrettsville resident for 31 years and is married to Rhonda, a CPA, for 35 years. Greg boasts a lifelong career in printing that dates back 4 generations starting in 1899 when his great grandfather started a printing business in Fells Point. Greg is a passionate and talented woodworker! He inherited his love and talent from his other great grandfather who was a shipbuilder.
Greg loves to play golf, cook on his pellet grill, travel exploring old and new destinations and kicking back with a good cigar and a glass of bourbon.
Greg and Rhonda have two grown kids. Their oldest married his Clemson sweetheart and they recently blessed the Gerding family with their 1st granddaughter. Greg’s daughter is married to a 1st responder at the University of Maryland and they live downtown in Canton with their new puppy.
Howie & Dawn Hundley, Columnists & Fishing Enthusiasts, Fishing Harford’s Waters
Howard Hundley has lived in Harford County since 1968 and has been fishing Harford’s streams since he was 3. His first catch, on an overcast morning in May, was a 4″ perch and he became hooked on the experience, connecting with nature and the thrill of the sport. He has completed courses in fly casting and fly tying and is an avid fly fisherman. Howie has fished nearly every inch of the many streams in the county and has written about his adventures for Maryland’s Fisherman’s Annual. Dawn has lived in Harford County for more than 30 years. She has learned to fish fairly well from Howie and enjoys tying flies. Like Howie, she is a talented chef and enjoys creating new ways to cook their catch on the rare occasion that they decide to keep it.
Michelle Karczeski, Columnist, The Judicial Whistle
With her over 14 years of experience with the Maryland Judiciary, Michelle is the owner and President of SETA Consulting, LLC. The business is a small woman-owned Maryland-based business providing Project Management, Help Desk and IT Consulting Support Services to the Maryland Judiciary. Michelle believes in promoting positivity and giving back to the community. She has served as a volunteer supporting many local events and has had a life of active community involvement and fundraising.
A lifelong resident of Harford County, Michelle has two sons, Matt and Ryan, and resides in Bel Air with her husband Dave of 15 years.
Kristina Lopez, Staff Writer & Social Media Marketing
Journalism has always been a passion of mine. Being able to push boundaries, test limits and meet fascinating people who help change the world in what seems the smallest ways has been a life-changing experience. From North Harford High School to Towson University, I have been given amazing opportunities to pursue my dream of being able to give voice to a community that I have grown up in and cherish. I have the unique privilege to indulge in traveling to places I love and meeting new people and the stories that create the backbone of what I call home. With a Bachelors’s Degree in mass communication, my goal is to bring new and lively content to local publications as I navigate my way in the journalism field. When I am not working, I enjoy painting, reading and kayaking in the backyard of Harford County’s scenic attractions, and when the sun goes down you can find me by a bonfire with my family or at Poe’s where I have met life long friends with their own stories to tell.
Gwenivere Kapinos, Distribution
Gwenivere is a student at North Harford High School. She is on the yearbook staff and plays defense for their field hockey team. She has a passion for all things creative and has recently started her own boho jewelry line. Gwenivere is also employed with Off the Chain Cycling Studio. Stop by to see her and she’ll whip up the best Acai bowl or smoothie in town!
When Gwenivere is not working or in school, she loves spending time with friends, getting out in nature, creating healthy recipes, baking, concerts and boating with her family.
Marta Markline Kastner, Columnist, Happily Ever After
Marta Markline Kastner is the passionate owner of Affairs Extraordinaire by Marta. Combining over 30 years of experience in catering, baking, wedding and party planning, it is her goal to provide you with helpful wedding planning tips. Since 2015, Marta has dedicated her time to exclusively planning and coordinating weddings and events. She strives to create a stress-free wedding for her clients’ dreams with high-quality results that bring happiness for years to come. Through her column, Happily Ever After, Marta will be passing on some of her knowledge to help you create your dream wedding. When not working with a bride or planning a party, she enjoys time with her husband, three dogs and a cat, camping and her three beautiful grandgirls!
Larry Noto, Music Columnist, Harford Picks
After Larry’s father, Music Land founder Joe Noto, passed away in May 2015, Larry left his career in marketing to take over the store and keep his father’s legacy alive. Larry most recently served as Director of Marketing and Communications for the National Aquarium in Baltimore’s famous Inner Harbor. Before that, he was Director of Marketing for Harbor Magic Hotels and Travel Media Manager for Visit Baltimore. Noto is also a stand-up comedian on the side who has opened for such major headliners as Brad Garrett, Lewis Black, Richard Lewis, Paul Reiser, Brian Regan and many others. He’s the author of the book “The Opening Act: Comedy, Life and the Desperate Pursuit of Happiness” co-written by author and long-time Sun columnist Kevin Cowherd and a recipient of an EMMY Nomination by the Baltimore/DC chapter of the National Association of Academy Arts and Sciences for his work on WMAR-TV’s Rodrick’s for Breakfast Show.
Larry currently serves on the board for the Maryland Center for the Performing Arts and the Harford County Arts and Culture Advisory Board. Music Land has been named One of the top 100 music stores in the world by NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants), as well as being recognized for the ‘Best Store Turnaround” by NAMM.
Aleli Perez, Health Columnist, Healthy Choices
Aleli Perez is a Certified Nutrition Health Coach who received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s cutting-edge Health Coach Training Program. During her training, she studied over 100 dietary theories, practical lifestyle management techniques and innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and wellness experts. Aleli created Five Petals Wellness to help clients navigate through their own individual path to health by focusing on the Five Petals of Health: Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep, Stress Management and Thoughts. She understands the concept of Bio-Individuality – where each person has unique food and lifestyle needs. She provides personalized support, guidance and inspiration to those who are ready to make lifestyle changes. She is passionate about health and has applied the Five Petals to her own life, transforming her own health.
Jackie Fogler Reed, Staff Writer
Born and raised in Harford County (with family roots dating back to the Bush Declaration), Jackie has a unique appreciation for all things Harford. After obtaining a degree in secretarial skills and heading off to work, she soon realized her passion was for writing rather than typing and editing other authors’ works. She went on to obtain a degree in Information Management and pursued a career in technical writing, settling into the contracting world at Aberdeen Proving Ground. In her spare time, Jackie is an avid quilter and seamstress. She is also restoring a historic Victorian home in Aberdeen and becoming an active member of her community. When she’s not quilting, writing, sewing or working in her garden, she can sometimes be seen at local antique car shows sitting behind the wheel of her prized 1955 Chevy.
Denise Sawyers, Advertising Sales & Staff Writer
Denise grew up in the Churchville/Bel Air area and has been raising her family in Street with her husband David. Her love for Harford County and her passion for supporting local businesses stems from growing up in the area. Over the years she has built relationships with local business owners through past advertising and marketing roles. Along with volunteering at school, church, scouts, 4-H and sports activities for her three children, Patrick, Paul and Bridget, Denise has served on many boards to help with fundraising, marketing and coordinating events.
Denise is vested in her health and is committed to helping others reach their goals. From weight loss to increasing your natural energy – Denise is a wonderful ally and resource. (DeniseSawyers.Truvy.com)
She’s an avid DIYer who enjoys everything from crafts, decorating to cooking. Finding hacks to transform traditional comfort foods into healthier versions is a specialty.
Amy Smith, Online Calendar Coordinator
The attention to detail required for the production of our calendar of events – both online and in the bimonthly magazine – is matched by resourcefulness in researching and screening the many entries that we receive from community groups, individuals and businesses. Fortunately, as our “Calendar Girl”, Amy brings a natural level of organization that she heightened in her years of administrative work at Towson University’s Advancement Division and Foundation Offices. Like many of our staff, Amy is a “transplant” who quickly became a fan of Harford County after moving here from Parkville. “You feel like you’re out in the country, but you’re close to everything – which makes it easy to Keep it Local!” In addition to volunteering at school for her three sons and being involved with their sports activities, Amy participates in many community events. She’s always interested in finding more events to include in our calendar, which is updated online every week.
Bonike Wright, Sales Associate
Bonike has a wealth of knowledge in marketing and advertising to help you grow your business! She has an education in business marketing and over 15 years of experience in Business Media and Advertising with companies such as The Baltimore Sun, 95.1 SHINE-FM, I95 and others. She has seen and understands many of the marketing challenges that your business may face. Whether a one-time event, seasonal marketing or continual long-term visibility she will help you to create the best plan to meet your goal and reach the clients in Harford County that you desire. She wants her clients to enjoy success!
Bonike enjoys, exercising/dance, church fellowship, cooking and bargain hunting! She resides in Northern Baltimore County with her husband Marlowe.
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Fran Johnson, Our Founder
Fran founded Harford’s Heart Magazine in 2004. Her passion for connecting the community coupled with the need for a local platform for businesses to share their information gave birth to what is now Maryland’s Magazine for Harford County!
And just as Harford County has grown, Fran’s vision has continued to grow with it. HH started as a 2-person start-up publication distributing 10,000 4x each year to today becoming a household staple with a staff of over 15 reaching a growing population of over 255,000 with 30,000 printed copies 6x each year and the only live, interactive companion digital edition! Be sure to visit our archives page and take a step back in time, flip through our past editions and enjoy all that is great about Harford County!
A little about Fran:
Fran’s political idealism in her teens translated into specifics of community service during the years that she raised her daughters, taking roles that ranged from girl scout leader, choir mom and PTA volunteer to local political office, all while sharing management of a family-owned design/manufacturing business. A native of Baltimore County, she had lived in Philadelphia’s Main Line and in London before relocating to Harford County, where she and her husband Wayne renovated an 1890s shotgun house in Bel Air. Now enjoying retirement, Fran spends her time gardening, crafting, and visiting her children and grandchildren in San Francisco and NY. And of course, Fran remains committed to her community!