The Moving Maryland Forward Network is made up of Leaders, collaboratively working on Campaigns to ensure fairness, equality and justice for all Marylanders. Our Network is growing, and we are always looking for new Leaders to join us. If you are interested in applying for leadership in MMFN, or would like to suggest a candidate for leadership, please let us know via the online application.
A. Adar Ayira has more than 25 years management and organizational development experience gained through her tenure in both locally- and nationally-focused nonprofit, community-based, social justice organizations. As principal consultant at Core Concepts, a nonprofit-specialist consulting firm, Adar and her team provided skills development, technical assistance, organizational and program development, and organizing TA to grassroots and other nonprofit organizations. Adar is also an experienced IED (Interim Executive Director) in the field of Interim Executive Leadership, working with grassroots organizations to provide effective leadership during times of organizational transitions. An experienced anti-racism/anti-oppression education / equity trainer, Adar co-founded the Agents of Change Collaborative, a predecessor of Baltimore Racial Justice Action network, for whom she is a facilitator, trainer, analyst, and Advisory Board member. For the past five years, Adar has been the project manager for Associated Black Charities’ More in the Middle Initiative, an economic development strategy that examines the racial barriers to wealth creation, develops equitable channels for opportunity and access, and strengthens the economic presence of the state by increasing the African American middle class in Maryland.
The 2011 recipient of the YWCA Baltimore's Racial Justice Award, Adar has been an invited speaker on college campuses in the United States, Canada, and in many other forums, to speak about the need and strategies for breaking down the walls of silence regarding the current implications and impact of this country's racial history. A popular Poet / Spoken Word Artist in the Baltimore-Washington DC area, Adar has performed at Center Stage, the Spotlight Theatre, and the Creative Alliance; has developed and facilitated poetry workshops at Catherine’s Hearth and the MD Correctional Facility for Women, Jessup; is a featured poet in the on-going poetry review “A Box of Chocolates”; and is currently working on her second CD.
Kimberly is the Local Policy Director for 1000 Friends of Maryland, a nonprofit organization that advocates policies and programs to support a healthy environment, a sustainable economy, and vibrant communities for people of all incomes. Managing the organization’s local campaigns to encourage investment in Maryland’s cities and towns, she works to curb the loss of open space, farmland, and forests to development that pollutes, destroys wildlife habitat, and drains resources from established communities, contributing to social inequity. Her job includes organizing at the grassroots level, educating the public, leading coalitions, and testifying before decision-makers. Prior to joining 1000 Friends, she held community planning positions with local and state government, including serving as Maryland’s Hazard Mitigation Officer. In that role, she led efforts to improve community safety and resilience to natural hazards. Kimberly received a Bachelor of Social Work and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Melissa is the Senior Policy Advocate for the Job Opportunities Task Force, a nonprofit workforce intermediary that develops and advocates policies and programs to increase the skills, job opportunities, and incomes of low-skill, low-income workers and job seekers. Melissa has significant knowledge and experience in government relations, legislative strategy, and coalition building, and is directly responsible for advancing JOTF's public policy agenda. Her duties include prompting public debate, testifying before the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates, meeting regularly with legislators and administration officials, and representing JOTF in the media and through her involvement in various statewide coalitions. She has been instrumental in successfully championing legislation related to workplace flexible leave benefits, the reentry of people with criminal records, unemployment insurance modernization, child support reform, adult education, and limiting the use of credit checks by employers. Melissa holds a Bachelor’s degree and MBA from Loyola University Maryland.
Rev. Brumfield is the Chair of Equality Maryland's Pride in Faith, an alliance of religious and faith leaders committed to LGBT equality and justice, and a Founding Member of the Maryland Black Family Alliance (MBFA). Larry is also a Licensed Minister in The Mid Atlantic District, where he has served in various interim positions including Interim Pastor of the Washington City Church of the Brethren in the District of Columbia, serves as Chair of the District Disaster Support Team, Westminster Church of Brethren is his home church where he is involved in several music ministries and enrolled in the TRIM program for ministerial training at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, IN.
Larry has enjoyed a distinguished business career. Serving in sales and management capacities with Corning Glass Corp. and Bausch& Lomb Optical. His past thirty years of corporate service was with PRAXAIR, INC. a large Industrial Gas & Chemical Concern as an engineer. He retired September 30, 2003.
Peter Bruun is an artist, educator, curator, and community activist in the arts. He received a BA in Art History from Williams College in 1985 and an MFA in 1989 from MICA’s Mount Royal School of Art program. His bringing educational, curatorial, and advocacy practice into his art can be seen in such projects as Conversation Piece (2000), Being Seen 1-2-3 (2001), Anonymous Requiem (2002), Reasons to Believe (2003), and Music, Art & Beautiful Things (2005). From 2005-2010, Bruun served as founding director of Art on Purpose, dedicated to using art to bring people together around issues and ideas. Other activities include traveling to Amman, Jordan (2007) Ramallah in the West Bank (2009) as a cultural envoy; serving as advisor for Innovators Combatting Substance Abuse’s Art & Addiction exhibition (2006-2009); and co-investigating youth arts programs in Baltimore (2012-2013). Bruun’s art practice currently operates under the aegis of Bruun Studios.
Cheryl Casciani is the Director of Neighborhood Sustainability for the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF) where she is responsible for the coordination of initiatives aimed at strengthening Baltimore neighborhoods and making Baltimore a more sustainable City. Between 1999 and 2011, Cheryl was the Director of Community Investment at BCF, where she was responsible for the development, articulation and management of the Foundation’s discretionary grants program. From 1996 through October 1999, Cheryl was the Executive Director of Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA), a longstanding membership organization committed to using citizen action to improve the quality of life in Baltimore. Cheryl came to CPHA after over seven years with the Annie E. Casey Foundation where she developed and managed the Children and Family Fellowship. Cheryl received a Master’s in Public and Private Management from the Yale School of Management in 1988 and a Bachelors of Science in Economics and Bachelors of Applied Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. She currently resides in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood and is involved in numerous civic activities, including serving as a member of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, Chair of the Baltimore Commission on Sustainability, Co-chair of the Climate Communications Consortium of Maryland, member of the Moving Maryland Forward Network, member and past-president of the Creative Alliance board, and member of the Healthy Neighborhoods board.
Charlie Cooper earned a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1969 and a Masters in Health Services Administration from Johns Hopkins in 1979. He worked in programs to advance the health and welfare of children starting in 1969. In 1980, he joined the staff of the Citizens' Review Board for Children, and served as Administrator from 1990 to 2008, working to improve the collection and analysis of data within Maryland’s child welfare programs and to develop performance standards. He also drafted and advocated for child protection legislation in the General Assembly. He was instrumental in the founding of the Coalition to Protect Maryland’s Children (CPMC), which strives to prevent and mitigate child abuse and neglect, and served on the Steering Committee for 10 years. He currently serves as Chair of the Maryland Education Coalition and has worked with that group since 1991 to enact and protect the Thornton education funding formula. He is active in youth development with the alliance to stop the youth jail and the Baltimore Algebra Project. Other organizational affiliations include the Fund Our Communities Campaign and the Baltimore Education Coalition. He is looking for ways to organize locally against income and wealth inequality and entrenched corporate power that blocks solutions in the areas of health care, climate stabilization, peace, and prosperity.
Patricia K. Cronin is the Executive Director of The Family Tree, a state wide child abuse prevention organization that serves over 15,000 people each year.
During her tenure at The Family Tree, Ms Cronin has continued her 25-year career as a child advocate. She has serves as Chair of the Governor’s State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, advancing the state’s efforts to launch its premier prevention plan; Ms. Cronin serves on Local Child Abuse Panels overseeing efforts to prevent unintentional and intentional child injuries, and fatalities. Ms. Cronin has served as a Board member and volunteer in various community organizations including the Charles Village Community Benefit District, the Maryland Association of Resources for Children and Families, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Church of the Nativity. Ms Cronin has presented at numerous state and national conferences and co-authored academic papers.
Through Ms. Cronin’s creative and innovative leadership, The Family Tree’s program accomplishments, resource development, and dedicated volunteerism reached goals unsurpassed in the organization’s prior thirty year history. During this time, The Family Tree completed a $3.75 million Campaign for The Family Tree to purchase and renovate a permanent headquarters facility as well as establish an endowment for the organization. Ms. Cronin’s strategic alliances with child serving government and non-government leaders impelled the Board of Director’s to adopt a bold strategic plan¾ a multidisciplinary, public health approach focused on providing resources before abuse occurs.
Prior to coming to The Family Tree, Ms. Cronin served the Woodbourne Center as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. In this capacity she oversaw child welfare, behavioral health, juvenile justice and special education services in addition to developing and shaping the strategic plan and operations oversight.
Ms. Cronin received her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. She has studied at New York’s Bank Street College of Education, Harvard University’s Executive Management and Leadership Program and participated in the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program
Vincent (Vinny) DeMarco is the President of the Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative, a coalition of over 1000 organizations seeking to insure quality, affordable health care for all Marylanders. The Initiative was the lead organization working for the Governor’s Working Families and Small Business Health Care Coverage Act of 2007 which expanded health care to over 100,000 uninsured Marylanders. He is also the President of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, which was the lead organization advocating for Maryland’s landmark gun violence prevention law enacted in 2013.
Mr. DeMarco’s efforts to reduce gun violence and teen smoking and expand health care coverage have been widely recognized. For example: the Baltimore Sun named him 1988 Marylander of the Year; the Washington Post described his advocacy work in a feature article in March of 1994; in August of 2000, the Baltimore Magazine named him Baltimore’s “Best Advocate” for his work on reducing gun violence and teen smoking; on May 6, 2001, the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council awarded him its Reverend Bryce Shoemaker “Ecumenical Leadership Award” for his work with the faith community on important issues; in January of 2007, he received Families USA’s Consumer Health Advocate of the Year Award; on January 14, 2010, he received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dream Keepers’ Award; and on March 26, 2010 he was named Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers – Maryland Chapter. He was also named one of Maryland’s “60 Most Influential” leaders for 2010 by the Daily Record.
Joanna Diamond is the Director of Environment Maryland. Prior to this position, she was the Public Policy Associate for the Maryland American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU), and the ACLU's Marriage Equality Director for the Question 6 campaign (Maryland’s ballot question to approve marriage equality). Joanna was also a policy consultant for a Maryland legislator and served as a regional field director in Central Virginia for Organizing for America (OFA). Joanna received a J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law and a B.A. degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Since July 2005, Kristine Dunkerton has been the Executive Director of Community Law Center, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services for community associations and nonprofit organizations throughout Maryland. She has been a staff attorney at Community Law Center since 1998. Kristine has been involved with nonprofits since high school when she co-founded a chapter of Amnesty International. Kristine has since worked or interned for many nonprofits including The National Organization for Women, Greenpeace, The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, The Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Metropolitan Baltimore, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Legal Aid. Kristine graduated from The American University with a B.A. in International Studies and Environmental Science and earned her J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She also took a sabbatical to be the Acting Director of the Community Development Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law for the Spring 2011 semester. Kristine has also taught individual courses at the University of Baltimore School of Law and the Baltimore City Community College. Kristine is currently a Board member of Civil Justice, Inc. She is also a registered beekeeper in Maryland and is active with the Baltimore Backyard Beekeepers Network. Kristine lives in Dickeyville with her wife, Elsa, and two cats, Gwynn and Parker.
Jessica Emerson is an Equal Justice Works fellow at the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, where she is focused on implementing Maryland’s “vacating convictions” law allowing survivors of sex trafficking to set aside their prostitution convictions. Jessica is a 2013 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law. During her time at UB, Jessica served as President of the University’s Students for Public Interest student group, helping to raise money to provide grants to law students seeking unpaid legal internships from public interest organizations. Prior to attending law school, Jessica was a social worker at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York City, where she provided intensive individual and family mental health counseling and case management services to HIV-positive and sexually high-risk adolescents, as well as group counseling and HIV testing services to adolescent survivors of domestic commercial sexual exploitation and LGBTQ youth at partnering community agencies. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Rhode Island, and her Master of Science in Social Work degree from Columbia University, with a focus on health, mental health, and disabilities. She is a licensed social worker in New York State.
Lea is the Director of Network Coordination for the Moving Maryland Forward Network. A former deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and program director for the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, in addition Gilmore has testified before local, state and federal commissions on issues ranging from immigration laws to the civil rights and liberties of women of color. Appointed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, she served for several years as a member of the Maryland Advisory Board to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
Lea has been recognized as one of 25 women shaping the world by ESSENCE Magazine, one the Top 100 Women by The Daily Record for 2014, and 2013 Advocate of the Year by the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.
Khalilah Harris, Esq. is a social entrepreneur and education reform activist working to eradicate factors causing and results of the educational opportunity gap for African American children. While working with Community Law In Action, a Baltimore-based youth advocacy non-profit, Ms. Harris led a team comprised of parents, community members, and public and private school educators to develop a Baltimore City public charter school in 2001 focused on social justice and activism. She worked with Baltimore Freedom Academy for over ten years before transitioning to her current work in college readiness programming with the University of Baltimore. Khalilah is also honing her skillset, network and knowledge base in national education policymaking and advocacy as as a Fellow with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
Ms. Harris is a graduate of the 2007 class of Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Fellows, a non-profit executive development program, and the 2010 class of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Leadership program. She is presently a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education where her research is focused on perceptions of the role of Black leaders in the national education reform social and political landscape.
Khalilah is a native of Brooklyn, NY, moving to Baltimore, MD to attend Morgan State University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Ms. Harris received her Juris Doctorate from the University of MD School of Law in 2001. In addition to pursuing her passion through work and public service, Khalilah is the proud mom of three daughters.
Fanon Hill is no stranger to community service. Recognizing a need for youth cultural organizing in Baltimore City to confront the issues surrounding isolated community and youth programming that could not sufficiently address issues of violence, generational trauma, inadequate educational attainment and unemployment, he sought to create a movement, a way of life that could effectively and permanently create change for children, youth and their families. As co-founder of the Youth Resiliency Institute, Hill provides community-centric programming to vulnerable populations through a performance and creative arts-based rites of passage process that has at it core the ideals of collective responsibility, artivism and philanthropy that will lead to civically engaged intergenerational teams of community-based advocates working to form a healthier and stronger Baltimore.
Hill continues to organize and strategize for community and youth equality in Baltimore City and throughout the country. His work has been featured in the Justice Policy Institute’s Bearing Witness Report, the national newspaper, Youth Today and a 2010 documentary funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, which highlights the role of rites of passage in urban communities. Hill has been featured on the nationally syndicated Michael Eric Dyson radio show, published by the National College Board, and has received a Congressional Citation from the U.S. House of Representatives for his work as a cultural organizer dedicated to the application of Resilience Theory in Baltimore’s most disinvested communities. Hill serves as community practice lead for the National Rites of Passage Institute and is a Case Western Reserve University Treu-Mart Fellow.
In 2011, Hill successfully co-launched and executed The Black Male Identity (BMI) project, which used the arts to create more positive imagery, ideas, and narratives around black boys and men who are barraged with negative stereotypes. During the year, more than 200 participants created art during the summer art workshops held at various community locations, while more than 1000 Baltimore City Public School and Independent School students engaged in BMI art making projects.
Most recently, Hill secured half-a-million dollars in funding for cultural organizing efforts led by black families residing in public housing in Baltimore City. Equally important, in July 2014 Hill was invited to the White House’s Symposium on Transformative Family Engagement where he introduced a micro-documentary focusing on the Youth Resiliency Institute’s cultural organizing efforts in Baltimore City.
Hill is author of the forthcoming book, “The Autobiography of 1001 Baltimore City Youth: Organizing With Black Youth in the Valley of Dry Bones.”
Hill lives in Baltimore City and is happily married.
Larissa is the Coordinator for the Maryland Climate Coalition, a coalition of Maryland environmental, faith, business, and other community groups who have joined together to help spur the development of offshore wind energy off of Maryland’s coast. The mission of the Coalition is to educate and mobilize Marylanders in support of innovative and effective solutions to combat climate change. Our broad Coalition utilizes public education, grassroots organizing, and innovative public policy to promote solutions to protect public health, safeguard our environment, and strengthen our economy.
For the last ten years, she has dedicated her life to working with and for communities; helping people create sustainable, walk-able, bike-able, healthy neighborhoods that cultivate hale and hearty children and invigorate the communities’ livelihood. Prior to receiving her MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs she worked predominately in the field of nutrition, physical activity, and chronic disease prevention and what she gleaned through her work is that the environment is at the center of literally everything we do in life. Without clean air to breathe – how do we stay healthy and combat preventative illnesses? Without clean water – how do we grow nutritious, locally produced food? And without green spaces – how do we learn to play and enjoy the outdoors again the way it was intended?
Larissa is a huge proponent of working smarter, not harder and the only way to accomplish big things with limited funds and limited time is through partnerships. As a leader with the Moving Maryland Forward Network (MMFN), she hopes to cultivate meaningful relationships that will benefit Marylanders from the mountains to the coast of this fine state and across political and socioeconomic subgroups.
Since December 2005, Virginia Knowlton Marcus has been the Executive Director of Maryland Disability Law Center, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services for people with all types of disabilities, of all ages, throughout Maryland. She has been advocating for people with disabilities on an array of significant issues for nearly 20 years. Before coming to Baltimore, Virginia was the Executive Director of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation in Washington, DC, where she interacted with national public policy makers and managed international development projects in Africa and Central America. Before relocating to the East Coast, Virginia worked for a decade at Disability Rights California in capacities that include Director of Public Policy. Other previous experience includes a California Assembly Legislative Fellowship, staffing the Ways & Means Committee. Virginia earned her J.D. and B.A. in International Relations from the University of California, Davis. She has lived and studied German and Spanish abroad. Her current board service includes the National Disability Rights Network, the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council and the Citizens Planning and Housing Association. Other activities and honors have included Governor O’Malley’s Disability Transition Team (Olmstead/Institutions Subcommittee Co-chair), the GBC Leadership Program, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Fellows Program, Leadership Maryland, and Maryland Daily Record’s Top 100 Women. In addition, she volunteers at Everyman Theatre and Moveable Feast. Virginia lives in Bolton Hill with her husband, Michael and dog, Jackson.
Megan Leschak is a 2013 Open Society Institute-Baltimore Community Fellow. Her fellowship project supports clients represented by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender who have been victims of Baltimore City street violence and may be suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result. The intention is to highlight for the courts the impact of living in traumatic environments via the intersection of institutional racism and oppression, poverty, environmental toxins, and community violence.
Megan has worked in the social service and non-profit industry for 17 years. Before moving to Baltimore to attend the graduate social work program at the University of Maryland Baltimore, she coordinated a twelve agency collaborative working to address the systemic causes of gang violence in Western North Carolina. Since moving to Maryland, Megan has been involved in LGBTQ, death penalty repeal, and anti-racism social justice movements. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, in particular addressing the influence of the prison industrial complex. She lives in Baltimore with her wife, Patty, and cat, Maceo.
Ingrid Lofgren is an attorney at the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc. in Baltimore. Ingrid joined HPRP as a Skadden Fellow to launch the Homeless Youth Law Project, which serves youth and young adults aged 13 to 25 who are homeless or at-risk, with a particular emphasis on youth who are unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. She conducts outreach and facilitates educational workshops; represents youth in housing, public benefits, and expungement matters; and leads HPRP’s systemic advocacy efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness. Ingrid is a graduate of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where she was Editor in Chief of the University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender, and Class. Following law school, Ingrid served as a law clerk to Judge Andre Davis on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Judge Susan Gauvey on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. She also holds a Masters of Social Work and a B.S. in Family Science from the University of Maryland.
Rev. Mother Merrick Moise is an ordained minister, writer, community activist and teacher living in Baltimore, MD. This native New Yorker is a graduate of Morgan State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a minor in Spanish language. Rev. Merrick was one of the first Black women ordained within the Old Catholic Movement in Baltimore. She was also the first Black field organizer for Equality MD, MD's LGBT civil rights organization. Rev. Meredith was a co-chair of Creating Change 2012, the National Conference on LGBT equality founded and produced by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. She was vice chairperson of Baltimore Black Pride in 2012, the first woman to hold that position in the 11 year history of Black Pride in Baltimore. Rev. Meredith is currently a climate organizer for the MD League of Conservation Voters, an environment centered advocacy organization.
John Nethercut joined the PJC as the Executive Director in 2002. In addition to program direction, fund raising, public relations, and administrative duties, Mr. Nethercut’s substantive contribution to PJC’s work is in the Tenant Advocacy Project and in directing its legislative advocacy. Notable achievements included founding the Rental Housing Coalition in 2004 and the Tenants in Foreclosure Initiative in 2008.Mr. Nethercut serves on Maryland’s Access to Justice Commission and the board of the Francis D. Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellowship. He was a member of the commission that formed Baltimore City’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. Mr. Nethercut is a 2005 graduate of the Leadership, Baltimore City's regional leadership training program, and a 2008 Weinberg Fellow, an executive director training institute. He received an award from the Weinberg Fellowship in 2010 for outstanding leadership in nonprofit management.Prior to joining the PJC, Mr. Nethercut served for 14 years as Deputy Chief of the Consumer Protection Division, Office of Attorney General of Maryland, where he led complex litigation involving consumer fraud, appeals, legislation, and media and community relations. Government service was preceded by 7 years in legal aid organizations in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and upstate New York, where he represented farm workers, employees, tenants and tenant unions, and community organizations. The root cause of this life time in social justice advocacy began in 1975 in Los Angeles, where Mr. Nethercut was a boycott organizer for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.Mr. Nethercut was raised in northern Michigan, and then received a B.A. in 1978 in Anthropology/Sociology from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. His anthropology field study was with a Zapotecan village in Oaxaca, Mexico. Mr. Nethercut graduated from Harvard Law School in 1982.
Benjamin Orr is the Executive Director of the Maryland Center on Economic Policy. From 2011 to 2013 he was Interim Director, Transition Coordinator, and Policy Analyst for the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute. Mr. Orr also spent three years with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, where he worked on policy issues affecting the greater Washington DC region. Prior to his time at Brookings, Ben worked for the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research, the New York Census Research Data Center, and the John Jay College Center on Terrorism. Mr. Orr holds a Masters in Public Administration from Baruch College, City University of New York.
Carl Pelton, BS, GradCertEM, NREMT-P
Founder & CEO of Our Heroes Network
Carl Pelton founded Our Heroes Network in 2013 after recognizing the existence of a complex and potentially deadly combination of disabilities that is claiming the lives of veterans and first responders at an alarming rate. Through discussions with physicians, doing his own research, and by observing the behavior of others whose lifestyle patterns were similar, Carl came to the conclusion that three common disabilities — ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and addiction — form what he terms the “Lethal Triad,” a syndrome that can be devastating and often deadly to the lives of those afflicted.
A non-profit organization, Our Heroes Network is dedicated to assisting veterans and first responders and others who suffer from ADHD, PTSD, addiction, and other emotional and cognitive brain-based disorders, identify, understand, and successfully manage their conditions and get the help they need. We work with those afflicted, along with their families, friends and employers, to develop and implement personalized plans for success, to improve their quality of life and productivity, to restore their confidence and dignity, and to help them become fully engaged in their community.
Our Heroes Network is poised at the forefront of research, education, and expertise for assisting individuals with disabilities, workforce re-entry, reducing homelessness caused by disabilities and the reduction of the veteran suicide rate. Our vision is that all adults with learning disabilities, and facing any other challenges, can lead happy, productive lives, with confidence and dignity, achieve their personal goals, and reach their fullest potential.
Carl holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College in New York, a graduate diploma in Disaster Management from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and a Master of Science degree in Emergency Health Services from UMBC (anticipated December 2014). Carl also holds multiple certifications in adult learning and education and served as the clinical coordinator/instructor for Anne Arundel Community College’s Paramedic Program. He has served as a New York City Paramedic and Maryland State Police preceptor, educator, and master instructor.
Carl has more than 20 years of professional experience in emergency management planning and response for military, health care, emergency medical services, and law enforcement agencies. He has extensive experience in planning, implementing, and facilitating emergency management programs for international and national agencies and the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Most recently, the US Army recognized Carl with the Achievement Medal for Civilian Service for reestablishing the Emergency Management Program for the US Army and for coordinating the plans for Bavaria, Germany, and Italy, as well as the surge capacity for wounded veterans of overseas conflicts.
Carl resides in Baltimore with his wife and three children, a K9 rescue dog and other wildlife that they can’t seem to turn away.
Jennifer Pelton joined the Public Justice Center in December 2003 to lead its fundraising and development efforts. She works in close partnership with staff and board to raise the required annual budget each year. Jennifer holds the international credential as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE.)
Prior to joining the PJC, Jennifer was the Executive Director of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and a founding member of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. She has raised funds for the Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound program, and the House Of Ruth (Baltimore). She is an accomplished fundraising and organizational development consultant, serving clients including the Single Carrot Theatre, Earl’s Place, Marianist Social Justice Collaborative, Ignatian Volunteer Corps, Greater Homewood Community Corporation and a number of other organizations. Jennifer teaches frequently on topics ranging from building successful boards, developing fundraising skills and managing work/life balance in the nonprofit sector. She has published several articles related to similar topics. Inspired by the spirit of collaboration at the PJC, she co-founded the successful Small Shop Roundtable to foster a learning community among fundraising professionals. She was certified as a Master Teacher for the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2010 and she serves on the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Maryland Chapter.
A native of upstate New York, Jennifer spent three years managing Safe Against Violence -- a domestic violence and sexual assault victims' assistance program in Delhi, NY before finding her way to Baltimore in 1994. She graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Political Science from Wells College. Jennifer lives with her husband Carl and their teenagers, Kateri, Lucas and Cameron in Baltimore’s Lauraville neighborhood.
Catherine (Cathy) Raggio retired in April 2014 after a lengthy career as an administrator and advocate for people with disabilities. Cathy was appointed by Governor O’Malley as Secretary of the Department of Disabilities in 2007 where she led successful interagency efforts to address the affordable housing shortage for people with disabilities who rely on Social Security benefits as their sole source of income. While at the Department, she collaborated with the Shriver Center at UMBC to create MD’s first program at a four year college/university for students with intellectual disabilities.
Prior to joining the O’Malley-Brown administration, Cathy was the founder and for twelve years the CEO of Independence Now, Inc., the center for independent living (CIL) serving Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Under her leadership, Independence Now was the pioneer organization in MD in assisting non-elderly people with disabilities to move from nursing facilities to homes of their own in the community. Cathy also launched and managed the MD Youth Leadership Forum, an intensive experience for high school juniors and seniors that emphasizes leadership, independence and personal and career goal setting.
Much of Cathy’s career has been devoted to supporting people with developmental disabilities. While Executive Director of the MD Developmental Disabilities Council during the 1980’s, she established innovative services across the State, including supported employment and family support services. Following her work at the DD Council, Cathy consulted with numerous nonprofit organizations to enhance the quality of services provided to people with developmental disabilities. Her most notable work during this period was to establish the statewide self-advocacy group, People on the Go, comprised of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Cathy received her B.S. and M.Ed. in Speech Pathology from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania and spent five years as a speech and language therapist prior to becoming Executive Director for United Cerebral Palsy in Wilkes-Barre, PA. In 1979, she relocated to Maryland to become Executive Director for United Cerebral Palsy of Prince George’s County.
Throughout her career, Cathy’s mission has been to advance the independence and personal power of people with disabilities.
Jacqueline Robarge is the founder and director of Power Inside, a harm reduction and human rights program in Baltimore that serves women who are impacted by incarceration, street life and abuse. Since 2001, Power Inside has offered street and jail outreach, groups and drop-in services, and court advocacy for 300 women per year. As a feminist, survivor and activist, Jacqueline has spent the past 21 years working to end gendered violence and create spaces for safety and healing for and with other survivors. She is a recipient of the Petra Fellowship, the OSI Community Fellowship and the Soros Audacious Individual Award. She is an appointed member of the Maryland Statewide Prisoner Reentry Task Force, the Department of Public Safety's Female Offender Workgroup, and the Baltimore City Mayor’s Reentry Advisory Council.
Camilla Roberson is a staff attorney at the Public Justice Center, concentrating on juvenile justice and health rights. As part of the Just Kids Partnership, she is part of a campaign to end the automatic prosecution of youth as adults in Maryland. Roberson has represented children with the Legal Aid Society-Juvenile Rights Division in New York as part of the Safe Families Domestic Violence Project, interned at the National Center for Youth Law, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, and Human Rights Watch-Children’s Rights Project, and volunteered as a CASA. She spent 3 years at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, a home for orphaned and abandoned children in Honduras. She is a former Skadden Fellow and graduate of Columbia Law School, the University of Virginia, and the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore.
Doug Rose got his start in forward-leaning advocacy efforts in the early 1990s, when he edited and produced legislative updates and other policy-related publications for American Council for the Arts (now Americans for the Arts). Doug supported the ACA’s campaign to protect funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and to defend the individual artist grant recipients known as the “NEA Four” (Karen Finley, Holly Hughes, John Fleck, and Tim Miller).
After being diagnosed with HIV in 1990, Doug became engaged in HIV/AIDS activism, participating in actions produced by AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP)-New York and other advocacy organizations. Disabled by AIDS-related conditions in 1997, Doug returned to Baltimore to be close to his family. Since then, as his health has allowed, he has been an active volunteer for LGBT and HIV community advocacy efforts in Maryland.
For nearly two decades, Doug has produced effective print and digital communications campaigns, public events, and fundraising efforts for organizations, including AIDS Legislative Committee (ALC), Black Educational AIDS Project (BEAP), Communities Advocating Emergency AIDS Relief (CAEAR) Coalition, Equality Maryland, GLCCB: Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland, Johns Hopkins AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), Maryland Community Planning Group (CPG), Maryland DHMH AIDS Administration, People Living with HIV/AIDS Coalition (PWAC) Baltimore. Stonewall Democrats of Maryland, and Transgender Action Group. He has served on several state and federal policy workgroups, including the National ACTG Community Advisory Board Re-competition Working Group (2002) and the Maryland State AIDS Administration HIV Testing Counseling and Consent Policy Work Group (2007).
For more than a decade, Doug was a member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. His work has appeared in numerous local and national community publications, and his communications team at AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition (ATAC) won an ADAP Working Group Award for 2002′s nationwide “Save ADAP” campaign, which successfully prevented de-funding of the federal AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
Doug’s activism has earned an Executive Director’s Award from Black Educational AIDS Project, a Hero Among Us Award from the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council, and recognition by Maryland’s Free State Legal Project. He was also recently appointed to the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange Standing Advisory Committee.
Doug holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Drama from Washington College. His academic awards include a Sophie Kerr Prize, a Fulbright scholarship, fellowship from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and an internship at the Royal National Theatre (London). In recent years, Doug has participated in trainings offered by the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training, National Press Club, and the New Organizing Institute.
Sharon Rubinstein is a lawyer and former journalist with extensive communications and advocacy experience in the non-profit world. She is Communications Director for New York non-profit Teaching Matters, Inc. For nearly a decade, she was Communications Director at Advocates for Children and Youth in Baltimore, where she was also a lobbyist. She has been a communications consultant for numerous clients, including Medicaid Matters Maryland, Health Care for All, the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, and Teaching Matters. In 2012, she was certified as a Licensed Consultant by the Standards for Excellence Institute, and she was named one of ten "leaders" by the Moving Maryland Forward Network.
Some of Ms. Rubinstein's writing credits include BusinessWeek Magazine; Newsweek International; CNN; CBS News, and the Baltimore Sun. Much of her writing has concerned social issues. She has been active in academia as well, and was a Senior Fellow at the University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for Families, Children and the Courts, which operates a Truancy Court Program that addresses student attendance problems. Ms. Rubinstein taught child advocacy courses at the University of Maryland's College Park Scholars program, and taught law and education policy for the George Washington University Graduate School of Education. Much earlier in her career, she was a federal law clerk. Ms. Rubinstein has a J.D. from the University of Michigan's School of Law, and a B.A. from Cornell University.
Rebecca Ruggles is co-founder in 2012 and Director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network. In 2013, she edited and co-authored the MdEHN publication Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Progress Report. For twenty years, she held successive leadership positions with Baltimore Medical System, Maryland’s largest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), which provides community health services to medically underserved people in the Baltimore area. Rebecca consults to the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers as the coordinator of the Green Funders affinity group. She sits on the Board of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (formerly Chesapeake Covenant Community).
Marceline brings more than 20 years of management, fundraising, advocacy, research, and organizing experience to her position as Executive Director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC). In addition to consumer issues, Marceline has written and advocated on international trade, gender and development, labor rights, environmental justice, and reproductive rights. She is a contributing author to Trading Women’s Health and Rights? Trade Liberalization and Reproductive Health in Developing Economies (2006) and Women and Justice (2004) and has authored numerous policy reports, journal and media articles. She has presented her work before Members of Congress, U.S.Trade Representative (USTR) staff, and US Agency for International Development (USAID) officials. Marceline's research and advocacy on fair trade has been presented to government officials in Bangladesh, Kenya, Peru, and Jamaica. Marceline developed research and led trainings for USAID Missions in Bangladesh and Peru on gender and trade issues that led to changes in the Mission's programming. Marceline has been interviewed on national radio programs and interviewed by local, national, and international media including The Washington Post, Foreign Policy in Focus, and The Utne Reader. She holds a Masters of Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.