Our Staff

Contact our Office  |  raleigh@ncbegin.org


MS. DIANE E. DOAK – Executive Director  |  ddoak@ncbegin.org

Diane has been with BEGINNINGS since August 1998.  Prior to serving as executive director, she was the director of programs and a parent educator serving the western region of North Carolina for 15 years.  She was a member of the board of directors for Disability Rights & Resources from 1998 to 2014, serving as president, vice president and chair of programs and advocacy.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation from West Virginia University, and is a Therapeutic Recreational Specialist and a North Carolina Infant-Toddler Specialist. Prior to joining BEGINNINGS, she was a developmental disabilities senior counselor, providing early intervention services for families of children ages birth to 5 with developmental delays and diagnosed disabilities, including children with hearing loss.  She has 10 additional years of combined experience as a recreational therapist and an early intervention teacher while employed in Texas. Diane and her husband, Doug, have 2 adult sons, one of whom is hard of hearing.

MS. JOANNA D. CHANTEMERLE – Director of Programs | jchantemerle@ncbegin.org

Joanna joined BEGINNINGS in November 2003. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UNC-Wilmington. Joanna earned her Master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling/Evaluation from East Carolina University. Prior to BEGINNINGS, she was employed as a Hard of Hearing Services Specialist and Specialist-In-Charge at the Asheville Regional Resource Center for the Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Joanna also has four years of experience as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for teens with disabilities in Greenville. Joanna and her husband, Don, have a grown daughter and son.

MS. ELLEN FORT – Director of Development & Marketing | efort@ncbegin.org

Ellen joined BEGINNINGS in August 2021. A native of Nashville, TN, she has an extensive background in nonprofit and corporate communications, marketing and fundraising, having served SAFEchild, Salem Academy & College, The North Carolina Symphony, Lucy Daniels Center and most recently North Carolina Opera. She graduated from Agnes Scott College with a degree in English/Creative Writing, and is active as a volunteer with the College and with the Raleigh Professional Women’s Forum and the DAR. She has a daughter and son-in-law who live in  New York City and a son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter who live in Frankfurt, Germany. She resides in Raleigh.

MS. KELLEIGH BLAND – Lead Parent Educator  | kbland@ncbegin.org

Kelleigh joined BEGINNINGS in November 2014. Kelleigh spent 9 years teaching children who are deaf and hard of hearing, from ages 3 to 20, in Union County and Cabarrus County public schools, in both the classroom and as an itinerant teacher.  She graduated from Lenoir Rhyne College in Hickory with degrees in Early Education and Deaf Education.  Kelleigh and her husband, Steve, live in Charlotte.

MS. JOAN BURTON – Parent Educator  | jburton@ncbegin.org

Joan joined BEGINNINGS in August 2018. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Deaf Education and a Master’s degree in Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 2017, she earned an additional Master’s degree of Science in Instructional Technology from East Carolina University. She has 17 years of teaching experience in Randolph County Schools. She taught children who are deaf or hard of hearing in a self-contained setting as well as on an itinerant basis. She served students from preschool through 10th Grade. She resides in Randolph County with her husband and teenage son and daughter.

MS. ALEJANDRA CASAPIA – Parent Educator  |acasapia@ncbegin.org

Alejandra joined BEGINNINGS in June 2021. She has a Bachelors of Science in Biology/minor in Psychology from UNC-Wilmington and is bilingual in English and Spanish. Previously she worked in long-term care as Director of Community Relations (Outreach), serving as the first point of contact for families while they were making the tough decision of placement, ensured their rights under law, and coordinated services for them.  She is residing in Western N.C. and serving BEGINNINGS clients there.

MS. MELANIE LOWEK – Parent Educator  |  mlowek@ncbegin.org

Melanie joined BEGINNINGS in January 2020. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University, a JD from the University of Minnesota Law School, and a Master’s of Social Work degree from New York University. Prior to joining Beginnings, Melanie has worked with children and families in various therapeutic and advocacy roles. She has over 20 years of experience supporting families and children within criminal and family court systems, as well as in education and community mental health settings in North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York City. Melanie resides in Raleigh with her family.

MS. ERIN M. LUCAS – Parent Educator  |  elucas@ncbegin.org

Erin has been a Parent Educator with BEGINNINGS since June 1998. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Deaf Education and Regular Education from Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory. Prior to working with BEGINNINGS, Erin taught middle school students who were deaf and hard of hearing in a resource classroom and then served as an itinerant Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She has spent her career working with children and adults who are deaf and hard of hearing and their families as a teacher and volunteer.

MS. JOHANNA LYNCHParent Educator  |  jlynch@ncbegin.org

Johanna joined BEGINNINGS in September 2012. She has many years of experience working within the community. She has worked to improve educational outcomes for children with hearing loss, and to ensure parents understand their options. She and her husband live in Wake County with their children.

MS. TONI T. MALONE – Parent Educator | tmalone@ncbegin.org

Toni joined BEGINNINGS for the second time in August 2021. She has a Bachelor of Education/Special Education-Deaf Education from Converse College and her Masters of Education/Special Education-Deaf Education from San Jose State University. She has taught deaf and hearing-impaired children in numerous school systems, including those in Rock Hill, S.C.; California School for the Deaf; and most recently in Greenville, S.C. Toni was with BEGINNINGS as a Parent Educator from 1997-2000 and is happy to return to the organization. Toni is based in western North Carolina.

MS. GHEYDIS PAREDES – Hispanic Outreach/Parent Educator | gparedes@ncbegin.org

Gheydis joined Beginnings in September of 2020.  She has a Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology with a minor in Psychology from Columbia College of Missouri.  Gheydis has over 15 years of interpretation experience in the Medical Field and Social Services serving the Hispanic Community.  She resides in Cabarrus County with her husband and son.

MS. WILMA G. RIVERA  Hispanic Outreach / Parent Educator  |  wrivera@ncbegin.org

Wilma joined BEGINNINGS in October 2015 after working as a Parent Educator with parents of children with special needs at Durham Early Head Start.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Masters in Public  Health from the University of Puerto Rico. She has over 15 years of community outreach experience with the Hispanic community.  She resides in Orange County.

MS. MARY BETH SHOLAR Office Administrator | mbsholar@ncbegin.org

Mary Beth joined BEGINNINGS in October 2019. She has several years of administrative work experience with the North Carolina Justice System, a private law firm, and other corporate businesses. She and her husband reside in Wake County with their three sons.

MS. DEBORAH STROUD – Business Manager  |  dstroud@ncbegin.org

Deborah joined BEGINNINGS in November 2012 after volunteering with the organization for several years.  She lost her hearing as an adult and is a bilateral cochlear implant user and is very passionate about helping others with hearing loss.  Deborah previously served on the NC Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, is the State Treasurer for the North Carolina chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and is an active member in the Wake Chapter of HLAA.  She brings many years of experience both in corporate and non-profit organizations.  Deborah, who lives in Raleigh, has two grown daughters and five grandchildren.

MS. KAREN THOMAS – Parent Educator   |  kthomas@ncbegin.org

Karen joined BEGINNINGS in April 2017. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology, an Associate’s degree in Deaf Studies/American Sign Language Interpreting, and earned a Graduate certificate in Child and Family Studies/Early Intervention from UNC Charlotte. Previously, Karen worked as an Early Intervention Service Coordinator with the Mecklenburg County CDSA for 9 years, where she worked primarily with families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Karen was an ASL Interpreter in Iredell-Statesville and Charlotte-Mecklenburg school districts. Karen and her family, including twin boys and a loving dog and cat, live just outside of Charlotte.