Board of directors

William Blackerby is president of Arise's board and an at-large board member from Homewood. He teaches Latin and Greek at a small private school outside Birmingham. A graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, he worked as a community organizer at Greater Birmingham Ministries from 2009 to 2013 before serving as Youth Ministry Coordinator at Church of the Nativity, Episcopal, in Huntsville from 2013-2016. He is an active member of All Saints' Episcopal Church.

Rev. Carolyn Foster is vice president of Arise's board and an at-large board member from Birmingham, where she was born, raised and educated. Rev. Foster has worked on behalf of people living in poverty and homelessness, on behalf of people with HIV/AIDS, and in both ecumenical and interfaith relations. She has served as executive director of the Alabama Faith Council and now serves as faith in community coordinator at Greater Birmingham Ministries. She was ordained in the Episcopal tradition and serves at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. She studied education for ministry from Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. She is co-chairwoman of the Episcopal Diocese Commission on Race Relations and teaches workshops on anti-racism within the Episcopal Diocese, with diverse faith communities, and with social and civic organizations. Rev. Foster is the mother of one son and enjoys spending time with her family, reading and listening to music.

Sara Wood is secretary of Arise's board and an at-large board member from Montgomery. She is an outreach paralegal on the Economic Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she works on reforming systems that punish and exploit people living in poverty. Sara is a Mobile native who graduated summa cum laude from Auburn University with a B.S. in social work and a B.A. in psychology. She previously worked as an HIV/AIDS prevention educator in east Alabama. While in college, Sara taught algebra in Alabama state prisons, worked as a health care counselor helping people get coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and interned with Alabama Appleseed and the Federal Defenders in the Middle District of Alabama.

Kathy Vincent is treasurer of Arise's board and an at-large board member from Montgomery. She works as a consultant on public health issues. Prior to her retirement from state service, she served as staff assistant, or senior deputy, to the State Health Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health for 18 years. Kathy was active in the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), was a past chairwoman of the Public Health Leadership Society and the Public Health Foundation Board of Directors, and was a member of the National Academy of State Health Policy and the American Public Health Association. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Montevallo, holds an MSW from the University of Alabama and is a Licensed Certified Social Worker.

Susan Ellis is a Vestavia Hills resident and represents People First of Alabama on Arise's board. She was set on the path to disability rights activism when her son, Matthew, was born with Down syndrome. She saw that Matthew and others with developmental disabilities faced lives with limited opportunities for employment, community involvement or social justice. A former teacher and coal miner, Susan was hired in 1999 by the Arc of Shelby County to create its adult programming. People First of Shelby County was created in 2004. As executive director for People First of Alabama, Susan supports Alabamians who have developmental disabilities with self-advocacy and leadership training as they learn to advocate for their own interests. This includes learning about civil rights and relevant state and national legislation. People First provides assistance with social services, including resources for employment and understanding health care and Social Security benefits. Susan was a recipient of the Community Service Award from the Arc of Shelby County in 2013.

Sister Marilyn Graf, RSM, is a Mobile resident and represents Sisters of Mercy on Arise's board. She has been a Sister of Mercy for 63 years and an Arise member since 2001. She is a convener and facilitator for several Sister of Mercy Committees and the Mercy Associates. She volunteers at Mercy Life of Alabama and serves on the Board of Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy. She holds B.S., M.E.D. and M.F.S. degrees and has been an educator, therapist and administrator in health care facilities and senior housing. She designed, developed and directed a program/residence for homeless women from jails, mental institutions and shelters in Baltimore, Md., which continues to blossom after 36 years of good leadership and growth.

Benga Harrison is an at-large Arise board member from Birmingham, where she has worked in the nonprofit sector for 16 years. She is executive director of Hands On Birmingham, a volunteer development program. She previously worked with Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba and with Leading Edge Institute, a leadership development program for young women. Benga has been married for 38 years to James T. (Tom) Harrison, who is an engineer at Southern Nuclear. Before starting her work in the nonprofit sector, Benga was privileged to work full-time at home, helping to raise two daughters, Walker and Kennedy. Benga received her B.S. degree in psychology with a minor in sociology and a concentration in leadership studies from Birmingham-Southern College. She enjoys scuba diving and time with family.

Kenneth Tyrone King represents Church of the Reconciler on Arise's board. He grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., and now lives in Birmingham. Kenneth is a husband, a father and an advocate for people who are homeless and formerly incarcerated. He has volunteered with groups including Greater Birmingham Ministries, Ban the Box and ACT: Action Changes Things. Kenneth was trained in print production and now works in landscaping.

Roger McCullough is an at-large Arise board member from Columbiana. He retired in 2004 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he served as assistant vice president for human resource management. Following retirement from the University, he worked with the Personnel Board of Jefferson County as part of a federal consent decree until 2010. Most recently, he served as administrator of Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, a multi-specialty health care clinic for low-income and economically challenged residents of Jefferson County. He stepped down from that position in 2017 and continues to act as a consultant in HR, health care and government. Roger also serves on the board of Greater Birmingham Ministries.

Gary Moore is an at-large Arise board member from Fairhope. He is a husband, father and a retired lawyer from the U.S. Department of Justice with an emphasis on civil rights enforcement and education. Gary has always had a passion for social justice or justice ministries. He is a current member of the Standing (Governing) Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast and co-chairman of the Diocesan Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation.

Vera Moore represents the Women As Strength Program (WASP) of Birmingham on Arise's board.

Benard Simelton represents the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP on Arise's board. He is a Harvest resident who graduated from Mississippi Valley State University with a degree in sociology and served 23 years in the Air Force before retiring in 2000. After retiring from the Air Force, he worked for COLSA Corporation in Huntsville for 16 years, working on the Missile Defense Program before retiring from COLSA in 2016. He is active in the community and his church, where he serves as a deacon. He is president of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors. He also serves on various other boards and community-based organizations. Benard is married to Elaine Simelton, and they have two children.

Dianne Steele represents Bay Area Women Coalition of Mobile on Arise's board. She is the founder, owner and director of operations at Shackle Free Marketing. The founder of the “I AM Brand,” she mentors, motivates and consults on entrepreneurship, marketing and branding. Born Tchlyndria Dianne Steele in Mobile, she grew up the youngest of two in a military family. Dianne is a wife, mother, business owner, leader and giver. She has been recognized with the Community Action Award and as Business Woman of the Year.

Judith Taylor represents Grace Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa on Arise's board. Judith recently retired from full-time employment in pharmaceutical development to focus on contract research monitoring part-time. Her commitment to activism on economic and social justice issues has been demonstrated over the years by events she has hosted or organized for the community. She is actively involved in the organization of the People's Loan Program, Move to Amend, The Sisters, Tuscaloosa's International Friends Program, MOMS Demand Action-Tuscaloosa and many other civic and economic causes.        

Ana Delia Valeriano is an Alabaster resident and represents the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA) on Arise's board. She is the director of the Community Engagement and Education program at HICA. In this role, she coordinates community engagement and education initiatives in Jefferson and Blount counties. She also serves as board chairwoman for the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice. Ana previously worked at the Arc of Shelby County.

Dr. Carole Zugazaga is an at-large Arise board member from Auburn. She is an associate professor and chairwoman of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at Auburn University. She holds a BSW from Florida State University and an MSW and a Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida. Her research interests include homelessness, poverty and health care. Dr. Zugazaga was named a Fahs-Beck Fellow in 2007 and was the recipient of a research grant for research and experimentation to support her study of the fastest growing subgroup of the homeless: women with children. She served as a consultant to the Governor of Alabama’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives regarding issues related to homelessness and also served as an inaugural member of Gov. Bob Riley’s statewide Interagency Council on Homelessness Academic Advisory Group. Dr. Zugazaga was the recipient of a grant from the Alabama Women’s Commission to study the issues that affect women in Alabama with children age 1 and below. She was also the recipient of the College of Liberal Arts Engaged Scholar designation for 2008-11.

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