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Who We Are

Staff & Board of Directors


Our Board of Directors represents a cross-section of our community and has a passion for our organization and those we serve. The members work hard to ensure long-term sustainability of the organization and oversee that the funds raised directly affect those in need.

Wade Monroe, President 

Matt Peterson, Vice President

Mark Appleby, Treasurer

Kelly Day, Secretary 

Matt Archer

Denni Haywood

Cayt Kirkman

Joe Patterson

Oktawian Rybinski

Dr. Thomas Young 


MS. DIANE E. DOAK - Executive Director  |

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 - Associate Executive Director |

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 |

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. She is president of the Raleigh Professional Women's Forum and on the Board of Raleigh Village East. She resides in Raleigh.

MS. KELLEIGH BLAND - Director of Programs  |

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  |

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. In addition to teaching deaf and hard of hearing, she also taught 3rd and 4th grade for a few years as well as English as a Second or Other Language. She resides in Randolph County.

MS. ALEJANDRA CASAPIA - Parent Educator | |

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. CHELSEA CASHION - Parent Educator | 

Chelsea Cashion joined BEGINNINGS in September of 2023. She has a Batchelor's degree in Deaf Education and Elementary Education from Barton College. She earned her Master's degree in School Administration from Barton College. She was a teacher of the deaf prior to being a parent educator at Beginnings. Chelsea has 2 school aged children and a dog. 

MS. SHERI LITTLE - Parent Educator  |

Sheri joined BEGINNINGS in February 2023. She graduated from East Carolina University with both a B.S. and M.A in Health Education and Promotion. Prior to working with BEGINNINGS, Sheri spent 6 years teaching middle grades science in Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson  County public schools. Sheri and her husband, Eric, live in Nashville, NC. with their 3 school-aged children.

MS. ERIN M. LUCAS - Parent Educator  |

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. TONI T. MALONE - Parent Educator |

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 |

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  |

Wilma joined BEGINNINGS in October 2015 as a Hispanic Outreach Parent Educator. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Masters in Public Health from the University of Puerto Rico.  She has over 20 years of community outreach experience with the Hispanic community. She is experienced and knowledgeable of underrepresented communities. She serves on the Latinx Support Group quarterly meetings and as captain for the annual Walk4Hearing fundraising event. She also volunteers for the local community in Orange County. 

MS. MARY BETH SHOLAR – Program Administrator/ESSERF Coordinator |

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 Duplin County with their four children.

MS. DEBORAH STROUD – Business Manager  |

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   |

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 resides in Mecklenburg County. 

Our Impact 2022-2023

  • Total Families Served


  • Home Visits Provided


  • School Meetings Supported


  • NC Counties Served


© 2024 NC Beginnings

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