Meet Our Team
ELIZABETH HIRSH, OWNER AND DOWNSIZING MANAGER
After helping several family members with challenging moves, Elizabeth launched The Downsizers, the Triangle’s leading move management team specializing in serving the senior community and individuals in transition. Downsizing through a move can be mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. After speaking with senior communities and individuals going through a transition, Elizabeth realized the tremendous need for these services in the Triangle region and is now driven by a sincere desire to help.
Thriving on building teams who exude compassion, efficiency, and positivity, Elizabeth enjoys serving the Triangle community. Elizabeth and The Downsizers are members of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM), Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce, National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC), Health Affairs Roundtable (HART). The Downsizers are also a Business Partner of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), an Orange County Living Wage Employer and are certified as a Dementia-Friendly Provider through the Orange County Department of Aging.
Elizabeth is currently serving on The Board of Directors for (NAPO-NC) - the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers and won "Business Woman of the Year" through the Carolina Chamber in 2020.
JEN HARRIS, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
IBBY WOOTEN, PROJECT MANAGER
Four years ago, Ibby and her husband made the decision to downsize. After all, the kids were grown and the house seemed so big. They both were caught off guard by how much stuff had accumulated over the years, and how attached they had become to their cherished items. While they managed to overcome the mountains of stuff and their sentimental bonds, the move was actually a much larger “life event” and an emotional journey. They realized that letting go was freeing, liberating and could lead to new experiences and opportunities. Ibby enjoys offering compassion, empathy and encouragement to others throughout the moving process.
When she joined The Downsizers, Ibby’s professional life became a tale of three unlikely, but well-traveled career paths converging into one. With an 11-year career as an Activities Director at a local continuing care retirement community, a 10-year career with an antiques and auction firm, and a career as an event planner, Ibby brings strong project management skills to her clients. With her background, Ibby understands how the senior living industry works and is very familiar with retirement communities in the Triangle Area. She loves to help individuals with decorating projects and understands what it takes to turn a house into a home.
Ibby enjoys spending time with her husband and family. Healthy cooking, photography, antiquing and spending time at the coast are her favorite past times. Ibby is also an avid Carolina fan. Go Heels!
FULLER LANCASTER, PROJECT MANAGER
Fuller brings to the table a high visual-spatial intelligence, crafted as a professional photographer, but which was formed, she says, "because I had a daddy who could pack a trunk like no one’s business!” Her artistic eye is from her mama, whose uncle painted covers for Better Homes and Gardens prior to color photography.
A life motto for Fuller is “People are more important than things.” She understands: The Downsizers may be brought to the table to manage Things, "but it's only because. the Person, our client, matters most of all."
CATHY MEERBERGEN, PROJECT MANAGER
A lifelong series of moves, both international and domestic, has landed Cathy in the Triangle. This, with professional experience in sales and social work and leadership experience in a variety of volunteer capacities have made a perfect match for The Downsizers. She is gratified to work with a team of caring people helping clients clear beautiful paths for new experiences ahead.
While not on the job, she enjoys gardening, good food, interior design and the performing arts. Wife and mother of two adult children, she is proud of her dual Belgo-American nationality and will happily discuss her second home with anyone who asks.
SARAH RHYNE, PROJECT MANAGER
After spending over 15 years working at various non-profits and receiving her Master’s Degree in Public Health, Sarah realized it was time for a change. Her last position, Disaster Program Manager at the American Red Cross, was quite literally a 24/7 job that held a lot of responsibility with very high stakes. She managed 100’s of volunteers within 6 counties in NC during calm times and various local disasters.
But in every job the two aspects that she enjoyed the most were: 1) organizing and 2) working one-on-one with clients. Early on in her career, she spent 5 years working at The Container Store, where she got a lot of experience helping people organize, in particular helping to design their closets, but it wasn’t until she decided to embrace her love of organization that she realized buying all the cute containers in the world will not solve the real problem. Decluttering first is the key to creating a calming and lasting organizational system. This is also true when it comes to downsizing.
Sarah’s organizational skills came in handy after her dad died and she had to help her mom downsize from her 6,000 sq ft childhood home to a 2,500 sq ft home. And now 15 years later, she is helping her mom in the beginning stages of another downsize. It is with this knowledge and experience that Sarah wanted to help other individuals and families who are overwhelmed and stressed by the downsizing process.
MELINDA KIZER, OPERATIONS MANAGER
Working with seniors in many different capacities for over 20 years, Melinda has experienced first-hand how difficult transitioning can be for a senior. She has assisted seniors and their families with the moving process for years. Melinda has the drive, compassion, and patience to work with seniors during what is often one of the most frightening and difficult times in their lives. She has been an advocate for seniors and enjoys helping them achieve their desired outcome. Working with seniors is truly Melinda’s passion.
BRADLEY SCHMALING, SPECIAL PROJECTS COORDINATOR & WAREHOUSE/SUPPLY MANAGER
Originally a native of Wisconsin, Bradley moved to Chapel Hill with his family in 2015. Bradley and his family are very familiar with moving, having planned, sorted, packed and settled several times in the past 23 years for school and work opportunities, and finally to be closer to his in-laws and enjoy all that life in North Carolina has to offer. Having lost both of his parents as an adult, Bradley also has first hand experience with downsizing a family home.
Bradley brings a wide variety of skills and expertise to The Downsizers team. He graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a degree in Health and Human Services and Gerontology. His career path has included massage therapy and carpentry, professional photography and many years of work in retail. He was raised in a small town helping his father run the local Schmaling’s Piggly Wiggly and learning the value of service to the community. Bradley brings a hard work ethic and a caring heart to the team, along with a genuine love for working with seniors.
Bradley is married with two children, two dogs, and a cat. He enjoys spending his free time with his family, being outdoors, lake swimming and traveling. He will always be a Green Bay Packer fan, but he married a Carolina grad, so also says Go Heels!!
KRISTI LAMB, LEAD SPECIALIST
After her mother-in-law passed away, Kristi was faced with the challenge of going through many years of precious possessions and memories that had been lovingly collected and inherited over several decades. A short time later, she was faced with the same challenge when her mother had to leave her home due to Alzheimers. It was overwhelming having to find homes and useful places for practical, valuable and sentimental possessions accumulated over a lifetime, all while finding the best home for her mother and taking care of her mother’s needs as well.
With time and patience, she was able to care for both estates and settle her mother into assisted living nearer to Kristi’s own home. A few years have passed and now Kristi is excited to meet Downsizers, where she can apply the skills and knowledge she learned from her own experiences to help make the same journey a bit easier for other families. Her genuine desire to help each client she works with is seen as she treats each family’s possessions with the same loving care she had for her own families.
KAREN WATT, LEAD SPECIALIST
As a restless retired corporate project manager and baby-boomer who couldn’t sit home any longer, Karen completed organizational management training as her next career after downsizing and transitioning friends and family members.
Karen knows the importance to be able to make new surroundings uniquely represent what a home means and needs to be for each individual. She utilizes many ways to make a new home environment your own by working to help you establish and accept what needs are important for you to successfully move forward.
LINDA MERSEREAU, LEAD SPECIALIST
Linda joined The Downsizers after working several years as a staging manager and transaction coordinator for a local real estate firm. She knows firsthand, both professionally and personally, the steps it takes to prepare a home for sale and how much of an emotional journey it is moving to a new home. In 2011, she downsized her father from a large home on Florida to an assisted living facility in North Carolina. With an eye for detail, a skill for organizing and a love for meeting new people, Linda takes on every job in a joyful, compassionate and professional manner.
In her free time, she is the proud mom of two wonderful teenagers, and enjoys boating, kayaking, hiking and taking long walks with her 10-pound Havenese dog.
FELICIA COTHRAN, LEAD SPECIALIST
Felicia grew up in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. She moved to the Triangle area after receiving her Master's Degree in Psychology from Appalachian State University. She spent the next several years working with children and adults with special needs.
Later, as a stay at home mom, she valued her time as part of a senior adult ministry and spent several years helping to organize and sort donated items for annual ministry fundraising efforts. During these years, Felicia saw multiple family members go through the moving process. Now, as an empty nester, she enjoys helping clients as they make their own transitions.
In her free time, Felicia loves spending time with her family, reading, watching sports (especially baseball), and is learning to hand quilt.
KATE BARR, LEAD SPECIALIST
After an education and career in various aspects of business for many years, she longed for a change, and returned to college as an adult to earn a BA in Human Services. Kate worked in Recreational Therapy for a large long term care facility in New York. Seeking a fresh start, she moved to be the General Manager for an international Home Care Agency in Asheville. After nearly 15 years of supervising an administrative staff of 8, and overseeing over 100 caregivers working with older adults, Kate moved to the Triangle area to be closer to her family. She never thought that she’d be lucky enough to find a house less than a half mile away from where her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live, but much to her delight, her dream came to fruition. Once she was settled into her new home, Kate felt that she needed more or a sense of purpose in her new life. The Downsizers was the perfect fit!
Kate loves getting to know people, listening to their stories, and lending a hand where needed, especially when it comes to the senior population. Kate didn’t have the privilege of knowing or caring for her own parents as they got older due to them passing “before their time”, so when opportunities arise where she’s able to develop personal or professional relationships with elders, she is looks forward to it.
KATIE THORNBURG, LEAD DOWNSIZING SPECIALIST
BRIDGET HADDICAN, LEAD DOWNSIZING SPECIALIST
Bridget was born and educated in England where she worked in aviation and investment banking. She did her first transatlantic hop to New Jersey in the 90’s before moving back to England in 2002 with two small children. She qualified as an attorney there, specializing in family law, before making another transatlantic move to North Carolina in 2013.
Bridget worked in real estate locally and recently downsized herself to Hillsborough where she now lives with her retired partner and assorted pets. She has one daughter working in Ireland and another completing college in Washington DC.
Bridget plays pickleball for fun (maybe sometimes a little competitively!). She also makes the most of every opportunity to explore her adopted country. After managing multiple family moves she now enjoys harnessing her own experiences and enabling others to make smooth life transitions.
REGAN CUDJOE, DOWNSIZING SPECIALIST
When Regan saw an opportunity to work with The Downsizers she took it as a sign. She herself has had the experience of handling her mothers’ affairs, in the height of the pandemic, no less! With her ailing mothers’ ALS diagnosis in February of 2020, shutdowns and city curfews, Regan had to figure out how to “downsize” her mother’s life from two hours away and move her to Durham, all while working and raising a toddler. “I sure could’ve used a service like The Downsizers,” she thought when she came across an opening with the company.
Regan brings her empathy and compassion for families going through difficult transitions with their loved ones. Her 15 years of experience as a photojournalist benefited her the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and learn about their stories.
Regan lives in Durham with her husband and young daughter. She loves spending time with her family and a good book.
ANNE WISE, DOWNSIZING SPECIALIST
LORI RUKAMP, DOWNSIZING SPECIALIST
With 24 years in the financial services industry, Lori gained valuable customer service, project management and team based experience. Two years ago, she decided it was time to retire from corporate America to spend time with her family and determine the second phase of her career. She was hoping to utilize the skills acquired over the years in a more personally satisfying environment.
After purchasing an auction item from The Consignors, she saw the job opening with The Downsizers and felt like it was meant to be. She had relocated to North Carolina from Massachusetts 16 years ago for a work, so she understands the complexities related to moving. She loves planning and organizing, so she enjoys supporting individuals and families with organizing their current homes and/or planning for their future homes.
Lori currently lives in Cary with her husband and two Labrador Retrievers. She is a recent empty nester, with two children in college. Her son is a sophomore at UNC Charlotte, and her daughter is a freshman at NC State. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family, walking her dogs, cooking & baking, reading, going to thrift stores and estate sales, and traveling.
JEANNIE HICKMAN, FINANCE COORDINATOR
Jeannie began her career first in the business sector working with real estate agents and customers to secure mortgages for their new residences. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she specialized in Public Relations. With her attention to detail and project management skills, she managed special events and promotional activities.
As her aging grandparents faced health challenges, her heart moved toward health care, and she obtained degrees in Physical Therapy (UMAB) and Nursing (UNC-CH). She worked in health care for over 20 years, mostly with senior patients, and has seen firsthand the challenges that changing physical and psychological conditions can bring to families and other loved ones. In her lifetime, Jeannie has moved 16 times, not including seven short-term, second residence moves. She has confronted personal downsizing challenges and utilizes this experience to support others making these often difficult, emotion-laden decisions.
Originally born in North Carolina, Jeannie moved back to the area in 1998, where she lives with her long-time best friend and husband with her only child, Precious, a 14 pound, 14-year old Bichon. She and her husband enjoy experimenting with new recipes, hiking, movie nights at home, and spoiling their "baby." She loves to transform a disorganized space into an "I can find what I want, when I want" area. This is one of the may skills she brings in her contribution as part of The Downsizers.
HEATHER MAJOR, OFFICE MANAGER
Heather has always had a great love for working with people across all stages and journeys of life. Her heart and mission is to meet people exactly where they are and walk with them through the joys and pains that come along the way. She joins The Downsizers team with 15 years of experience working in the customer service industry and retail management.