Tom Barkin (President & CEO of Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond)

Tom Barkin

President & CEO of Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

Tom serves on the Fed’s chief monetary policy body, the Federal Open Market Committee, and is also responsible for bank supervision and the Federal Reserve’s technology organization. He is “on the ground” continually in the Fed’s Fifth District, which covers South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, D.C., West Virginia and Maryland. His engagement in the region has brought real attention to areas facing economic challenges.

John Simpkins (President at MDC Inc.)

John Simpkins

President at MDC Inc.

John works with the entire MDC team to set strategy, shape their portfolio of work, and engage with partners and the public around the urgent challenge of eliminating disparities to build a South where all people can thrive.

Before joining MDC in 2020, John held various leadership roles in efforts to promote equity, access, and inclusion at the state, national, and international level. Most recently he was Vice President of the Aspen Global Leadership Network at the Aspen Institute, where he mobilized the more than 3,000 Fellows around the world to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant economic effects.

Calvin Allen (Vice President of Partnership and Programs at MDC)

Calvin Allen

Vice President of Partnership and Programs at MDC

Calvin Allen serves as MDC’s Vice President of Partnerships and Programs where he hones MDC’s programmatic vision and direction and cultivates key state, regional, and national partnerships across the South.

Calvin joined MDC in 2021 as the Senior Program Director for the Rural Forward program, which he co-founded in 2014 after serving three years with the Golden LEAV Foundation as a community grantmaking program officer. He also served as deputy director of the Southern Rural Development Initiative, director of the National Community Forestry Service Center at the Conservation Fund, and associate director at the Dispute Settlement Center of Orange County.

Michael Anderson (Founder & CEO of Michael Anderson Consulting)

Michael Anderson

Founder & CEO of Michael Anderson Consulting

Michael Anderson leads Michael Anderson Consulting in helping nonprofits explore, define, and build new models for mission delivery and social impact. He believes that nonprofits are critical community infrastructure that can change the underlying conditions at the root of social inequities for stronger, healthier, and more equitable communities. Michael consults with nonprofits in the areas of strategy development, partnership and merger exploration and negotiations, financial strategy, and business planning. He has led consulting engagements with nonprofits across the country for the better part of the past decade. Michael has previously served as staff at Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, La Piana Consulting, and Propel Nonprofits. He currently serves on the board and executive committee of Family Tree Clinic, and in the past has served on the finance committee of Open Arms of Minnesota and as board chair of PRG, Inc. Michael has a Master of Public Policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Rebecca Blackburn Hines (Special Initiatives Program Manager at SC SCBDC)

Rebecca Blackburn Hines

Special Initiatives Program Manager at SC SCBDC

Rebecca Blackburn Hines is a former small business owner that has a passion for small businesses, especially within local communities. Rebecca is the immediate past President & CEO of the Greater Chapin Chamber of Commerce and is currently the Special Initiatives Program Manager with the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers. Rebecca has served on several community organizations and committees, including the Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce, the Irmo Community Coalition, the Chapin Community Engagement Council, the Midlands Business Leadership Group’s Coordinating Council – Board Diversity Task Force, Leadership Lexington County and the Rotary Club of Chapin Sunrise. She is the current chair of the School District 5 of Lexington & Richland Counties Board of Trustees. Rebecca graduated from the College of Charleston with a B.A. in Mass Media Communications and received her Juris Doctor from the Charleston School of Law. Rebecca resides in Chapin, SC with her husband and their three children.

Jerry Blassingame (Executive Director of Soteria Community Development Corporation)

Jerry Blassingame

Executive Director of Soteria Community Development Corporation

Jerry Blassingame is founder and CEO of Soteria Community Development Corporation. He endeavors to empower individuals and the community as he advocates for economic and social justice through community and economic development. His passion is assisting individuals who have been incarcerated and helping them to become productive citizens.

Jerry is a certified reentry specialist through the Institute of Prison Ministry at Wheaton College who advocates for systemic change nationally. One of his greatest accomplishments was to help pass Expungement Bill H3209 in South Carolina in 2018.

He served as President of the Correctional Ministries and Chaplain Association at Wheaton College from 2019 - 2022, is a 2022 International Leaders of Color Fellow, a 2019 Aspen Institute Healthy Communities Initiative Fellow, and a 2016 JustLeadershipUSA Fellow. He received the United Way Spirit Award in 2023 and the Greenville Chamber of Commerce Buck Mikel Award for Community Development in 2019.

Chantelle Broughton (Program Coordinator at South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development)

Chantelle Broughton

Program Coordinator at South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development

Chantelle Broughton, LMSW, serves as the Community Navigator Program Coordinator for the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development (SCACED).
In her role with SCACED, Chantelle serves as SCACED’s point of contact for the SBA’s South Carolina Community Navigator Program, coordinating all services and activities among the 8 community-based partners, called “Spokes,” including resource referral, outreach, technical assistance, data collection and reporting. Alongside SCACED teammate Roberto Stewart, Chantelle monitors the day-to-day delivery of the Navigator Program’s services and outreach, ensuring the SC Navigator Program meets the guidelines and expectations of the SBA. Launched in Fall 2021, the SC Community Navigator Program is designed to reduce barriers that underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs often face in accessing the programs they need to recover, grow, or start their businesses.

Nick Correa (Vice President/Small Business Community Officer at Bank of America)

Nick Correa

Vice President/Small Business Community Officer at Bank of America

Nick works with internal bank partners and community organizations to provide access to capital, resources, and financial education to small business owners, with a heightened focus on underserved communities. He sits on both the Charleston and Savannah Market Presidents’ Leadership teams for Bank of America. During his 20 years in financial services Nick has held leadership positions in various sectors of banking with a successful track record of leading teams and building strong partnerships. Currently Nick serves on the Committee for Economic Development for the Greater Savannah Area Black Chamber of Commerce, the Steering Committee for Ignite Advantage Minority CO-OP in Savannah, the Lowcountry Minority Business Partnership, and a Financial Advisor for Lowcountry Minority Business Accelerator.

Dr. Darlene Deberry, DBA (Economic Development Manager at NCGrowth - SmartUp, UNC Chapel Hill)

Dr. Darlene Deberry, DBA

Economic Development Manager at NCGrowth - SmartUp, UNC Chapel Hill

Darlene is the Economic Development Manager for NCGrowth, a nation center within UNC Chapel Hill's Kenan Institute. NCGrowth’s mission is to build an economy with opportunities for all to prosper. Prior to joining the NCGrowth team, Darlene's career has including working with number of CDFIs in support of providing access to capital to minority and women-owned businesses. As a former Edible Arrangements franchisee, she spent twelve years gaining firsthand knowledge about the rewards and challenges of business ownership. In May 2023, Darlene completed a Doctor of Business Administration degree from UNC Charlotte’s Belk School of Business, where she researched entrepreneurship, digital marketing capabilities and the female firm. Darlene resides in Durham, NC and is married to David Deberry. They have two adult children (David Jr. and Danielle) and enjoy traveling the world. Recent trips have included travels to Iceland, Israel, Spain, and France. Darlene is a recreational runner and lover of chocolate ice cream.

Trevor Flanery (Partnership Manager at MDC Rural Forward)

Trevor Flanery

Partnership Manager at MDC Rural Forward

Trevor Flanery is a Partnership Manager for MDC Rural Forward where he is responsible for supporting projects that build community-led capacity to plan and partner with local government toward long-term recovery and resilience including efforts with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), long-term disaster recovery, and environmental justice. Trevor has worked in development and resilience planning, field organizing, issue advocacy, election communications, policy research, and higher education roles. He was a founding member of Defenders of Wildlife’s State Environmental Resource Center collaboration with NRDC and served as executive director of Forsyth Futures. He holds a doctorate in Urban & Environmental Planning & Design from Virginia Tech and an MS in Geography from Virginia Tech. Additionally, he has also completed the Charlottesville Neighborhood Leadership Institute, Leadership Winston-Salem’s (2019) flagship program, and served on Madison, Wisconsin’s Sustainable Design & Energy committee.

Monroe Free (President & CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County)

Monroe Free

President & CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County

Monroe Free has worked as Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County since 2009. Under his leadership, this mission driven non-profit organization has become a leader in affordable homeownership issues servicing hundreds of community members and advocating at the local, state, and national levels.

During his tenure as CEO and President, Habitat Greenville has reached significant milestones like the construction of the 400th Habitat house, the preservation of over 300 single-family homes, and the establishment of a neighborhood revitalization program that operates in eight neighborhoods including special emphasis neighborhoods. Under Monroe’s guidance the organization follows a holistic service approach, has expanded its housing typology while maintaining high quality standards, and has increased its capacity to better serve all Greenvillians. His work has also included establishing bridgebuilding opportunities within the community and across stakeholders.

Dr. Bryan Grady, PhD (Assistant Executive Director for Labor Market Information of South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce)

Dr. Bryan Grady, PhD

Assistant Executive Director for Labor Market Information of South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce

Dr. Bryan Grady serves as the Assistant Executive Director for Labor Market Information at the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. In this capacity, he oversees the production of data and analysis on employment, wages, and related topics in collaboration with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and Employment and Training Administration. Prior to his arrival at DEW in January 2022, he was Chief Research Officer at the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority for three years. Dr. Grady holds a Ph.D. in planning and public policy from Rutgers University and degrees in economics from the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Charlotte Grant (Community Engagement and Events Coordinator at South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development)

Charlotte Grant

Community Engagement and Events Coordinator at South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development

Charlotte Grant is the Community Engagement and Events Coordinator for South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development (SCACED). She is currently pursuing a Community Engagement Certification from NeighborWorks America. She attended Columbia College (Columbia, SC) and completed her degree in Business Administration from Limestone University (Gaffney, SC). Charlotte began working with SCACED in 2016 as the Executive Assistant and Office Manager.

Nat Green (Senior Vice President and SSBCI Lending Officer at Business Development Corporation of SC)

Nat Green

Senior Vice President and SSBCI Lending Officer at Business Development Corporation of SC

Nat Green is a Senior Vice President and facilitator of the two SSBCI Loan Participation Programs. Having joined BDC in October 2016, Nat has more than 29 years of banking experience and funded more than $75 million in commercial loans.

After graduating from Murray State University, he moved to Louisville, KY, where he worked for Fifth Third Bank.

In 1997, Nat moved to Hilton Head, SC, and worked for four different banks as a loan officer. In January 2013 prior to joining BDC, he moved his family to Aiken, SC, where he worked for Vista Bank, which is now Coastal Carolina State Bank.

Dr. Sarah Griffin MPH, PhD (Professor and the Interim Department Chair at Department of Public Health Sciences in the College of Behavioral, Social, and Health Sciences, Clemson University)

Dr. Sarah Griffin MPH, PhD

Professor and the Interim Department Chair at Department of Public Health Sciences in the College of Behavioral, Social, and Health Sciences, Clemson University

Sarah F. Griffin, MPH, PhD is a Professor and the Interim Department Chair in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the College of Behavioral, Social, and Health Sciences at Clemson University. Dr. Griffin has over 30 years of experience in public health. Dr. Griffin’s research focuses on dissemination, implementation, and effectiveness of evidence-based approaches for prevention and treatment of obesity and other chronic diseases. Currently she is the Co-Principal Investigator for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 5-year High Obesity Prevention (HOP) initiative in focused on increasing access to healthy food access and improving walkability in three rural SC counties.

Giany Guedjo (Executive Director of Carolina Human Reinvestment)

Giany Guedjo

Executive Director of Carolina Human Reinvestment

Giany Guedjo was born in Benin, West Africa. One of eight children, both his parents were teachers. In 2009, Giany moved his family to the US through a diversity visa. Although he has a Master's in Accounting from Benin, his first job in the US was at Subway. In 2011, he earned a Master’s in Business, graduating as Student of the Year at Webster University, Myrtle Beach. Over the last 2 years he received the Melvin Jones Fellow Award from Lions Club International. Giany was also featured as a "Hidden Treasure '' of the Waccamaw Neck, a program highlighting influential leaders of our community at the Waccamaw Branch Library. Giany is a graduate of the Waccamaw American Leadership Forum, and the Georgetown Leadership Program. Giany recently graduated from the first Cohort of "Investing in Leaders Of Color.'' He was 1 of 12 selected from 438 candidates across North and South Carolina. Giany received the Distinguished Huntington Exemplary Service Award, established to recognize individuals working to improve race relations in Georgetown and Horry Counties in 2022-23 Giany Is Married to his beautiful wife Lisette Guedjo, a Registered Nurse at Waccamaw Community Hospital. They are proud parents of Mael, 15 and Jessica, 13.

A'Netra Hardy (Outreach Coordinator at South Carolina Legal Services)

A'Netra Hardy

Outreach Coordinator at South Carolina Legal Services
Sally Ingles (Communications Director of South Carolina Legal Services)

Sally Ingles

Communications Director of South Carolina Legal Services

Sally Ingles is a one-woman marketing and communications department for South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS), a statewide non-profit law firm. After graduating from Clemson University in 2015, she taught high school for 7 years, gaining valuable experience in simplifying, while keeping things interesting and engaging. After completing her MBA at Clemson in 2020, she began partnering with SCLS, eventually coming on full time in 2022.

Susan Ingles (Senior Staff Attorney and Consumer Law Unit Head at South Carolina Legal Services)

Susan Ingles

Senior Staff Attorney and Consumer Law Unit Head at South Carolina Legal Services

Susan Ingles is a Senior Staff Attorney and Consumer Law Unit Head for SCLS. As Consumer Law Unit Head, Susie has collaborated with many groups to educate, inform, and represent low-income clients, older Americans and other special populations.

Before coming to SCLS in September 2004, she was in private practice in Greenville, S.C. since 1982 and was founder of the Ingles Law Firm. Susie graduated from Clemson University in 1979 and is a 1982 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law. A member of the South Carolina Bar Association since 1982, she is a member and past Chair of the Bar’s Consumer Law Section.

She is the creator of the Level Up Law series, a live weekly webcast by SCLS that has become a cornerstone of the YouTube channel and SCLS’ long-form video content.

Robert Jenkins (CEO of Renaissance Equity Partners)

Robert Jenkins

CEO of Renaissance Equity Partners
Zachary King (Consultant at DellaRe Consulting)

Zachary King

Consultant at DellaRe Consulting

Zack King specializes in supporting organizational and collaborative efforts to advance the health and well-being of communities. Zack has a background in community health development, with a specific focus in advancing intersectional opportunities between healthcare organizations, public health, and community-based organizations. Throughout his career, Zack emphasized equity-oriented approaches that mobilize collective action, build authentic relationships, and grow the strengths of communities and organizations. Zack has a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Georgia and is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist and Certified Diversity Professional.

ReZsaun Lewis (Executive Director of Lowcountry Youth Services)

ReZsaun Lewis

Executive Director of Lowcountry Youth Services

ReZsaun Lewis is a veteran, leader, and community advocate who serves as Executive Director of Low Country Youth Services. This non-profit organization empowers young people to achieve their full potential through youth empowerment programs, and community workshops. He is passionate about creating positive change for the next generation and ensuring "Every Child Wins."

ReZsaun has also held various leadership roles in the non-profit sector such as, Chair of the IDEA Committee for the Association for Fundraising Professionals Board of Directors, a 2022-2023 Investing in Leaders of Color (ILOC) Fellow, and a co-creation partner with the E3 Foundation. He has a wealth of experience and expertise in youth development, non-profit management, fundraising, diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

ReZsaun resides with his wife and their five children in Summerville, South Carolina. He is a respected and influential voice in youth development and non-profit management.

Lee McElveen (Bilingual Business Consultant at SC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce)

Lee McElveen

Bilingual Business Consultant at SC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Lee Marie Serralta McElveen was born in Mexico City to a Puerto Rican father and a South Carolinian mother. She was raised in Puerto Rico and had the benefit of experiencing childhood in a bicultural and bilingual home. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Southern Wesleyan University and has had a rich background in her professional life, having worked at the South Carolina Department of Social Services, USC Center for Developmental Disabilities at the School of Medicine, The ALPHA Center-Kershaw County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services serving as the Region II Hispanic/Latino Program Coordinator for a 9 county area (Kershaw, Lee, Chesterfield, Lancaster, York, Fairfield, Richland Lexington, Chester) and is currently employed with the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs as the Hispanic/Latino Coordinator for the State of South Carolina. Ms. McElveen has also taught conversational Spanish at ATEC in Kershaw County and taught at a private school in Puerto Rico. The SC State House presented Ms. McElveen with a Senate Resolution for her years of service and dedication to our state.

Although Ms. McElveen is currently retired from the State of SC, she is a consultant for the ALPHA Behavioral Health Center and is a Bilingual Business Consultant for the SC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Ms. McElveen has dedicated her professional and personal life to the betterment of people cross-culturally. She has worked in the Human Service field for the past 20 years and has been actively involved with the Hispanic community for many years, strengthening her role as advocate for the Hispanic/Latino population. She has found commonality among people of all races and cultures, bringing her unique perspective to the world around her.

Ms. McElveen was happily married for 28 years to the late Donald “Donnie” I. McElveen, Jr. and is the proud mother of two wonderful sons. She resides in Kershaw County, South Carolina, and commutes all over the State to lend a helping hand.

Deborah McKetty (President at CommunityWorks)

Deborah McKetty

President at CommunityWorks

As President of SCCLF, Deborah plays a complimentary leadership role to the CEO to ensure highly productive day-to-day management, internal operations and execution of organizational priorities. Deborah has over 30 years of experience leading community development organizations and programs. She brings a depth of knowledge and experience in the CDFI industry having founded and served for 12 years as the President and CEO of Greenville Housing Fund, which later became CommunityWorks Carolina. Deborah holds a Master’s degree in urban planning from Texas Southern University and a bachelor of arts in English from the University of South Carolina. She is also an alumna of Furman University’s Diversity Leadership Institute. Deborah serves on the boards of the SC Community Capital Alliance, SC Association for Community Economic Development, the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce and the Greenville Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors.

Contact: Deborah McKetty, President, S.C. Community Loan Fund, (843) 548-7524

Dr. Kirsten Naomi Chapman, PhD (Vice President of Systems Change and Innovation at United Way of Greenvilly County)

Dr. Kirsten Naomi Chapman, PhD

Vice President of Systems Change and Innovation at United Way of Greenvilly County

Dr. Kirsten Naomi Rogers Chapman (she, her) is a tenacious creative obsessed with redesigning complex social systems to better support our children and youth. From teaching 12-year-olds, to building statewide school accountability systems, to developing strategy for and sparking innovation in nonprofits, she considers herself a lifelong educator and learner. She enjoys stoking her curiosity by learning about the intelligence of plants, quantum physics, and lessons on feminism from marine mammals. These days, you can find her finishing puzzles and debating strategy with her partner, Scott, at their dining room table. One day, she hopes to fulfill her childhood dream: hunting (and finding!) a real dinosaur fossil.

Don Oglesby (CEO of Homes of Hope)

Don Oglesby

CEO of Homes of Hope

Don Oglesby is the President & CEO of Homes of Hope, Inc., a not-for-profit organization based in Greenville serving all of South Carolina. Homes of Hope is comprised of a staff of 25 and an annual operation/construction budget in excess of $10,000,000. Don has led Homes of Hope in the development of over 700 affordable and energy efficient homes for low-to-moderate income families - and the residential workforce development program of over 330 men overcoming drug and alcohol addictions. Now 25 years in, Don continues to lead Homes of Hope's expansion to greater impact across South Carolina. Homes of Hope is the leading developer of single-family affordable housing in the state. Don has also written a book telling the story of Homes of Hope titled "Still Desperate in the Promised Land."

Davion Petty (Director of Admissions & Recruitment at SC State University)

Davion Petty

Director of Admissions & Recruitment at SC State University

Dynamic, results-oriented leader with extensive experience in strategic planning, fundraising, program management and process optimization. Proven track record of increasing efficiency by improving operational procedures while providing outstanding customer service. Adept at building relationships and collaborating across all levels within an organization to achieve shared goals. Strong research skills that foster an environment of excellence in the work force which is conducive to a highly productive culture.

Kate Pratt (Chief Officer of Operations at South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development)

Kate Pratt

Chief Officer of Operations at South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development

Kate Pratt is the Chief Officer of Operations for the SC Association for Community Economic Development where she oversees all program staff and financial resources. Kate supports member CDCs and CDFIs through the provision of technical assistance, develops partnerships that increase visibility and represents the organization at community, educational and political events Additionally Kate is involved in resource development, advocacy and the capacity building of non-profits to increase the impact they have on local communities.

Kate currently serves on First Horizon CRA Advisory Council, Truist Community Development Council as well as the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) Board of Directors.

Dr. Carolyn Prince, PhD (Mayor at Bennettsville, SC)

Dr. Carolyn Prince, PhD

Mayor at Bennettsville, SC

Dr. Carolyn A. Prince will describe her research on living “Blue” and her first-hand international travel experiences. She will provide insight on how to aid communities in creating policies that improve overall community health and outcomes. She will describe policies and practices that engage local producers, and growers and involve community education.

Tanya Rodriguez-Hodges (Executive Director of Latino Communicatons CDC)

Tanya Rodriguez-Hodges

Executive Director of Latino Communicatons CDC

Tanya Rodriguez-Hodges is the Executive Director of Latino Communications Community Development Corporation, a South Carolina 501c3 organization committed to fostering effective intercultural partnerships for the purpose of empowering low-wealth communities. With a strong belief in the transformative power of economic inclusion, healthcare education, and language services, Tanya has made a significant impact on the lives of the communities served by the organization.

Latino Communications places a strong emphasis on multilingual financial literacy and empowering individuals to achieve homeownership. Through financial literacy education and comprehensive first-time homeownership programs, they equip community members with the knowledge and tools to make informed financial decisions and realize their dreams of owning a home.

Tanya and the dedicated team at Latino Communications understand the significance of effective communication in bridging cultural gaps. By offering language services in Spanish, Burmese, Mandarin, and Chinese, facilitating access to critical information and services for diverse communities. Tanya embodies the organization's mission and core values, motivated by the belief that "To whom much is given much is expected" (Luke 12:48).

Patty Scarafile (Founder/President of Bridge North Charleston)

Patty Scarafile

Founder/President of Bridge North Charleston

Patty Scarafile is the Founder and President of Bridge North Charleston. BNC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help facilitate the holistic revitalization of the distressed Accabe and HUD village neighborhoods, in North Charleston, S.C. Among its initiatives is creating the opportunity for subsidized affordable home ownership. Patty began her journey as a real estate sales associate after graduating from the College of Charleston. Serving in various leadership roles, throughout her career, Patty became the majority Shareholder, CEO, and President of the largest real estate company in South Carolina, Carolina One Real Estate Services. During her transition into retirement Patty chose to repurpose her gifts and talents to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, and thus Bridge North Charleston emerged.

Cathy Seraphin (Investment Associate at South Carolina Research Authority)

Cathy Seraphin

Investment Associate at South Carolina Research Authority

Cathy Seraphin is a dedicated professional who has a general understanding of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and small business owners firsthand, having grown up as a daughter of an entrepreneur. This personal insight has fueled her passion for supporting and empowering small business communities.

Cathy holds a master's degree in Developmental Psychology, which has deepened her understanding of human behavior and decision-making processes, a critical skill in the world of business and entrepreneurship.

She embarked on her career in business development in the nonprofit sector, where she honed her expertise in forging valuable partnerships and fostering growth. During a notable stint in corporate America, Cathy continued her skill development, which led her to successfully secure over $2 Million in new contracts, a testament to her strategic acumen.

Recognizing the importance of fostering innovation, Cathy made a deliberate transition to join the South Carolina Research Authority, where she has had the privilege of working closely with technology-based startup companies across South Carolina, guiding them towards sustainable growth and success.

Cathy’s warm and engaging approach is committed to sharing her insights and strategies to help others thrive in their endeavors.

Lekesa Whitner (Community Programs Manager at Northside Development Group)

Lekesa Whitner

Community Programs Manager at Northside Development Group

Mrs. Lekesa Whitner became the first woman of color to run for Mayor of the City of Spartanburg in 2017. She may not have won that particular race, but her contributions to her city are undeniably the mark of an outstanding leader.

Mrs. Whitner is guided by the mantra, and has coined the phrase: “If you build the people, you grow the city!”

Through her work in the Northside Development Group (NDG), and her passion for projects that aim to employ, empower, and enrich the people of her community, the people of her community. As a long-term resident of Spartanburg, Mrs. Whitner has seen the changes and the economic development in the city. In her role as the Community Programs Manager for the NGD, she serves as a sort of “community quarterback” for residents living on the Northside. To help those 2,200 families keep up, she aids with financial literacy, homeownership skills, employment opportunities and access to countless other resources.

Seven years ago, the Northside Development Group instituted the Start:ME program developed by the College of Business at Emory University. Start:ME is a highly concentrated course in Micro Entrepreneurship (ME) designed to help people start small businesses. Mrs. Whitner spearheaded the process for participant selection and managed the entire program from beginning to end, including communications, meals, special events, facilities, and anything else that came up! Since its inception, Start:ME has impacted at least 98 different businesses, seventeen of which opened their brick and mortar locations!

Mrs. Whitner has spent many hours providing outreach services through her service organization, Children and Choices: a nonprofit that emphasizes education and the empowerment of mothers. Their December event, “Merry Clippers” offers free haircuts and styles in one of Spartanburg’s highest priority communities. By partnering with local barbers and stylists, they provided 33 hair services for children in need.

Melissa Yorko (Vice President, SBA Business Development Officer at TD Bank)

Melissa Yorko

Vice President, SBA Business Development Officer at TD Bank

Melissa Yorko is Vice President, Business Development Officer in SBA Lending for TD Bank. Based in Wilmington, NC, she is responsible for expanding TD Bank's SBA loan production by originating both SBA 7(a) loans including Express loans and lines, Export lines, Caplines and SBA 504 loans throughout the Carolinas. Melissa has 28 years of experience in banking and commercial lending, specializing in SBA lending since 2006. She was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago where she received her Associates degree with a focus in accounting. Melissa spent the last 18 years in Northeast Florida, before moving to North Carolina a year ago. She resides in Surf City, NC with her Husband, daughter and three dogs.

Ellen Zisholtz (President at Center for Creative Partnerships)

Ellen Zisholtz

President at Center for Creative Partnerships

Ellen Zisholtz is President of Center for Creative Partnerships and Project Director for the preservation of All Star Bowling Lanes on the National Historic Register for its role in the Orangeburg Massacre, funded by 2 National Park Service awards, $500,000 and $750,000. She is a member of the Railroad Corner Development Team preserving the original Black business district in Orangeburg and a Board member for the Center for Heirs Property Preservation. For 10 years, she served as Director/Curator of SC State’s I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium and taught in the Dept. of Visual and Performing Arts. She was previously on the faculties of NYU and Rutgers University. Her honors include the 2023 Social Justice Award from SC State; 2017 Leadership Award for “the preservation, promotion and interpretation of African and African American art, history and culture” from the Association of African American Museums.; 2015 Medal for Social Justice and Civil Rights, National Civil Rights Conference, Philadelphia, Mississippi; First SC State Faculty Award in Creativity, awarded at commencement by Congressman James Clyburn. She led the IP Stanback Museum to be awarded the Governor’s Award for the Humanities and the first Social Justice Award, Orangeburg Massacre Commemoration at SC State.