31, Incoming Executive Director, Families of Autistic Children in Tidewater (FACT), Virginia Beach
Business and Civic Involvement
Families of Autistic Children in Tidewater (FACT) Board Member; disAbility Law Center of Virginia (dLCV) Foundation Board Member; Virginia Beach Forum Board Member; Chesapeake Special Olympics Basketball Coach; Norfolk & Portsmouth Bar Association (NPBA) Member
What is something that makes you stand out professionally?
I am currently in the process of switching careers, moving from the private practice of law to a leadership position with a local nonprofit that seeks to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families, in Coastal Virginia, through various social and recreational programs. One thing I believe will make me stand out in my new role is the unique experience and skills I developed over the past five-and-a-half years practicing law. I learned so much during my time at the law firm Poole Brooke Plumlee in Virginia Beach and am eternally grateful to them for helping me develop important skills such as problem solving, advocacy, leadership, management, dispute resolution, researching and persuasive writing, which will provide me with a unique skill set in the nonprofit field.
Who or what keeps you motivated or inspires you?
My brother Brian was diagnosed with autism when I was very young and my relationship with him, my family and the amazing local community, which supports individuals with intellectual disabilities, is one of my biggest inspirations. I have always been very involved in the intellectually disabled community, whether it was coaching Special Olympics, working as a summer camp counselor at FACT’s Camp Gonnawannagoagain or joining the boards of multiple nonprofits which provide services to individuals with intellectual disabilities. My love for my brother and the amazing community he helped me become a part of is what motivated me to move into the nonprofit sector.
Tell us about an accomplishment that you’re proud of.
When I was a sophomore in high school my best friend and I were the first two student volunteers for Chesapeake Special Olympics. I also joined my first nonprofit board that year at the age of 15 and, after I graduated from high school, the Chesapeake Special Olympics Student Volunteer of the Year award was named after me.
How do you feel your industry can best respond to the effects of COVID-19?
COVID-19 presents a difficult challenge for nonprofits, especially those like FACT which rely heavily on in-person fundraisers such as our yearly Party Under the Stars which we were forced to postpone from May until October 2020. Such events may prove difficult to put on in the new normal established by COVID-19 and one of the best ways nonprofits can respond is by embracing technology and new virtual methods of fundraising. While I am hopeful in-person fundraisers will be able to return in the near future, I believe virtual fundraisers and an increased emphasis on social media will be important moving forward.
What new idea or development are you excited about in Coastal Virginia?
The new development I am most excited about in Coastal Virginia is the Wave VB at the old Dome site. It sounds like a very promising mixed-use development that will provide fun, recreation and additional tourism to the area. It also works out well with my recent decision to learn how to surf.
What’s the most important aspect you look for in a workplace?
The people and their passion for the work they do to make the world a better place.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current position?
Asking myself this same type of question led me to my recent decision to leave the private practice of law for a leadership position with a local nonprofit. I worked for Poole Brooke Plumlee for four years and it was a great experience working with such sophisticated and caring local attorneys. However, when my new position with FACT became available, I knew I had to take it because the idea of sustaining and growing an organization I love, and that has meant so much to me and my family, is my dream job. FACT makes such a big difference in the lives of individuals with autism and their families, and I want to do all I can to make sure it continues to succeed.
What’s your favorite spot to relax in Coastal Virginia?
The Shore Drive area around the Lesner Bridge. I love relaxing on the beach, going for runs on the bridge and in the surrounding neighborhoods, exploring the trails back in the inlets around the Brock Environmental Center and eating outside on the water at many of the amazing local restaurants.