This year's 40 Over 40 winners (with full biographies)
Educators, medical professionals, volunteers, entrepreneurs, artists, nonprofit leaders — this year's group of 40 leaders aged 40+ is making Charlotte better
The Charlotte Ledger is pleased to announce this year’s recipients of The Charlotte Ledger 40 Over 40 Awards, presented by U.S. Bank.
The awards celebrate local unsung heroes aged 40+ who are doing great things in our community.
This year’s group was chosen by a distinguished independent panel of under-40 judges, who reviewed many impressive nominations — awe-inspiring and thought-provoking stories of innovators and problem-solvers who toil humbly to lift others up, or find gaps in systems and work to fill them.
They are making Charlotte a better place in a variety of ways, all over the city.
➡️ Award celebration: We’re holding a party in honor of these award winners, to be held April 27 at the Charlotte Museum of History. It’s going to be a fun time — a 1980s movie-themed celebration, with dinner, drinks, music, a costume contest and a few surprises. (Tickets are on sale now, details below.)
Winners for 2023 are:
Toya Bailey is a certified financial counselor, financial wellness facilitator and community leader. At Truliant Federal Credit Union, Toya works as community engagement lead, where she has facilitated more than 70 financial literacy workshops for people across the Charlotte region in the last two years. She’s a member of the Charlotte Community Relations Committee, mentors college students and volunteers with numerous other community organizations. She’s described as “a master networker with an infectiously positive and energetic outlook.”
Reginald Bean is managing director of White Label Management Group, a full-service staffing and consulting firm with a mission to increase access to work and employment opportunities for traditionally under-employed and marginalized segments of our society. They specifically focus on second-chance employment (nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies), veterans, non-college-bound high school seniors and individuals with disabilities. After a long career with a Fortune 100 company, Reginald chose to focus his impact on the community by helping to place our underserved workforce, and to assist small businesses by growing them with well-trained new employees.
He is the author of two books, a public speaker and a social justice and education reform advocate.
Tony A. Brantley
Tony Brantley is a business and CTE instructor at Sugar Creek Charter School and a co-founder of LeadCity Youth. LeadCity is a nonprofit organization that teaches the importance of social entrepreneurship to students and offers community engagement opportunities to local businesses. As a teacher, Tony does much behind the scenes —helping students obtain scholarships and other opportunities for growth, shopping for students in need, serving as a role model and mentor to young men. Coworkers and family describe him as a passionate and inspiring leader dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others.
Ivanna Garibaldi Campbell
Ivanna Garibaldi Campbell is a vice president and global HR manager at Bank of America, a mother of four and the inspiration for the creation of Kidz That Care. The nonprofit organizes and leads fun, safe, free age-appropriate volunteer events and service projects that empower kids and teens to give back to their communities, advocate for causes they care about and become student leaders. Ivanna serves as an adult mentor for Kidz That Care and is passionate about empowering children and teens to be civically minded and engaged in their communities in a genuine way. Ivanna has served as an adjunct professor and a pro-bono executive in residence for UNC Charlotte’s Graduate School, where, among other things, she helped roll out a program partnering with local companies to recruit and attract UNC Charlotte graduate students.
Carla Carlisle is a respected child advocate and executive director of The Compassionate Companion. She is a speaker and award-winning author of three books. Her work focuses on helping individuals and communities become trauma-informed and helping people who wish to foster or adopt. Her TEDx Charlotte talk focused on educating others on the impact of trauma and giving hope for the future. She speaks frequently on topics such as mental health, child advocacy, social/racial justice, using non-fiction writing to move your message forward, helping someone in a mental health crisis and more.
Alli Celebron-Brown is the president + CEO of McColl Center. Since being hired in 2017, Alli has led a team to revitalize the McColl Center. Today, it is a financially stable organization whose building has been reimagined. She developed a bold new vision for the organization, including subsidized studio space and support programs for local artists, while also increasing the organization’s diversity with the board, staff and attendees. Alli’s career path has revolved around improving her community, working for organizations like the Lee Institute and the Foundation for the Carolinas. Working behind the scenes to better the Charlotte community for years, she is described as a connector of people and ideas and a get-your-hands-dirty leader.
Steve Crump is a longtime reporter at WBTV whose side gig is making and producing documentaries about the African American experience. His subjects include John Lewis, the Orangeburg Massacre, school desegregation and the Rock Hill sit-ins. His documentaries bear witness to the Civil Rights struggle in the South and often highlight lesser-known people and events that were every bit as important as the well-known stories. Steve has done this work during his self-chronicled battle with colon cancer. His work not only preserves Black history, but Charlotte’s history as well.
One of Louis Foreman’s friends calls him a “master of the entrepreneurial universe.” He is the founder and CEO of Enventys, an integrated product design and engineering firm. Over the past 35 years, Louis has created 10 successful start-ups and has been directly responsible for the creation of over 20 others. He is the inventor of 10 registered U.S. patents, and his firm is responsible for the development and filing of hundreds more. Louis’ passion for small business extends beyond his own companies, teaching at four universities, serving on a number of boards and providing time and experience with would-be and start-up entrepreneurs in as many ways as he can.
Heather Call Fuller
Heather Call Fuller is an attorney at Lincoln Derr, PLLC, where she focuses primarily on healthcare and business litigation. She started her career as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., hired through the Attorney General’s Honor Program. After 5 years, she left that career to focus full-time on raising three children with her husband, volunteering in their schools every chance she could along the way. She served as PTO president and board member and founded a middle school tennis club. Then after 18 years, she forged her way back into the workforce, passing the North Carolina bar exam and returning to a full-time career as an attorney. Heather has since earned accolades from the North Carolina Pro Bono Honor Society and Best Lawyers in America in Healthcare Law & Litigation-Health Care.
Teneika Funderburk, MSN, RN, CCHP
Teneika Funderburk, MSN, RN, CCHP is the founder and owner of Loving In Home Care Services Inc. and Nursing Careers Institute Inc. She is also a Master prepared registered nurse, a certified correctional healthcare personnel nurse and an instructor at UNC Charlotte. In 2004, Teneika started Loving In Home Care Services to provide hands-on personal care assistance and in-home aides to the elderly and those with disabilities, mental impairments and/or chronic conditions. Her newest venture, Nursing Careers Institute, provides state-approved programs in nurse aide, CPR and medication aide instruction. It partners with local skilled nursing facilities, high schools and healthcare agencies to foster employability and professional health standards of care.
Christian Gallardo owns Carolina’s 1st Choice Agency, an independent insurance agency serving North and South Carolina. Christian has established a presence in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community working with nonprofits, sponsoring events and helping small business owners with services while educating them about underwriting, claims and even how to use social media to improve their marketing. He believes in driving economic development by hiring a diverse workforce, initiating efforts to remove barriers, promoting opportunities, improving the work experience, increasing engagement levels and telling stories of diverse communities and businesses.
Nidiya Gaspar is the founder and president of Shakthi Corporation, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower and support Asian immigrant women in the greater Charlotte area. As an immigrant, Nidiya faced a range of obstacles when she first came to this country at the age of 22. Despite these challenges, she became an expert and leader in the field of technology and finance, working 16 years for TIAA and now self-employed as an entrepreneur driving real estate development and digital solutions. Nidiya’s deep understanding of the unique challenges and obstacles faced by immigrant women has enabled her to effectively implement programs and services that address these issues. Her leadership and passion for the cause has resulted in the organization achieving significant impact in the community, improving the lives of many immigrant women.
Jessica Graham is the founder and president of Fionix Consulting, a business she started 5 years ago with the purpose of supporting and energizing brands to achieve business success. Throughout her career, Jessica has been wholeheartedly involved in multiple ways to improve the lives of others and support the city she loves. Since its inception, Fionix Consulting has donated 11% of its profits to charity, and approximately 15% of Jessica’s clients are nonprofits. When she led communications for Belk, she partnered with the American Heart Association, creating the most profitable and impactful retail point-of-sale campaign in the AHA’s history. She chaired the American Lung Association (ALA) NC Leadership Board and launched the N.C. Community Connections Speaker Series for the ALA. She is the chair-elect of the Dress for Success Charlotte Board.
Tameka Gunn is president and CEO of Community Link, a Charlotte nonprofit that helps individuals and families obtain and sustain safe, decent, affordable housing. Tameka took over this role in January, but she has almost 16 years of experience with the organization, serving as a housing coordinator, chief program officer, chief operating officer and vice president. Her motivation for this work is all about building family and community. The lives that Community Link has changed continue to inspire her passion for service. Tameka is also a leader on housing issues beyond Community Link. She is currently vice chair of the Coordinated Entry Oversight Committee for Mecklenburg County.
Shannon Harris is managing director of real estate development for Panorama Holdings. Described as a tenacious trailblazer, she has more than 30 years of construction management experience, working on both the general contractor and developer side of the deal. Shannon played key roles in the development of First Ward Park and adjacent development of UNC Charlotte Uptown campus, Catalyst apartments in uptown and the Microsoft campus in south Charlotte. At Panorama, Shannon has been instrumental in creating access and opportunities for under-represented students and professionals in commercial real estate, including the establishment of a scholarship at UNC Charlotte and evolving their internship program.
Emily Harry is a co-founder of Baby Bundles, a nonprofit dedicated to providing new and gently used clothing and other baby essentials to underprivileged newborns in the Charlotte area. Emily and her two co-founders (also 40 Over 40 winners this year) all suffered the loss of infant children. Baby Bundles was founded out of that loss. They describe Emily as providing the leadership to achieve a strong balance sheet and a loyal donor base. In addition to her role at Baby Bundles, Emily has served on the Novant Health Foundation Board of Directors for five years on both the Executive Committee and leading the Governance/Engagement Committee and serves on the Novant Health Hemby Children's Hospital Advisory Council.
Renee Hode is director of small business and entrepreneurship at South Piedmont Community College. She oversees, directs and develops internal and external entrepreneurial initiatives to maintain the college’s leadership role in serving the small business community. Renee’s mission is to help entrepreneurs of all walks of life achieve their goal of starting or growing their business, striving especially to educate, organize and energize the entrepreneurial community by lending her voice and expertise wherever she may be needed. She exudes an entrepreneurial spirit and is passionate in helping entrepreneurs identify and achieve their business goals.
Dr. Darlene Ifill-Taylor is regional medical director of Greenbrook TMS Charlotte and founder and medical director of Three Strand Wellness, which specializes in mind, body and spirit wellness, especially for healthcare staff, caregivers, teachers, clergy and first-responders. An opportunity with Novant Health as medical director of outpatient psychiatry services in the Charlotte region brought Darlene to the area after more than 20 years in private psychiatry practice in the Washington, D.C., area and work with the VA in Elizabeth City. Here in Charlotte, “Dr. IT” as her patients and staff call her, has been on the front line in voicing the need for mental health services and helping ease the stigma associated with the need for mental health parity in the insurance world.
Alvin C. Jacobs, Jr.
Alvin C. Jacobs, Jr. is CEO and lead photographer for ACJ Holdings LLC, but most people who know him and his work would call him an image activist. Through his photos, Alvin does the powerful and undervalued work of shining a glaring light on the imbalances between power and poverty. Alvin’s work has been featured in many local museums, including part of the permanent exhibit at the Harvey B. Gantt Center. Alvin also speaks to local organizations and schools about his artistry, creativity, social justice and the business of being a photographer.
Josh Jacobson is founder and CEO of Next Stage Consulting and a longtime local champion of nonprofits and other impact organizations. With Next Stage, Josh took his years of expertise in strategic impact and launched a socially-focused business that has already helped more than 250 organizations of all sizes and structures apply forward-thinking ideas to solve practical community challenges. Believing that profit and purpose can coexist, Josh has a passion for big ideas. He’s known for his strategic mind and is a true believer in the collective power of community.
Dr. Robert A. Johnson, III
Dr. Robert A. Johnson, III is a senior care advocate for UHC, Optum. Dr. Johnson’s career spans from private practice as a licensed professional counselor to his current role in health administration. A consistent thread throughout has been positivity and persistence. He is also a licensed mental health counselor-supervisor and focuses on mentoring more black males in the field. He volunteers with many community groups including South Charlotte Father’s Auxiliary Group of Jack and Jill of America, Black Male Therapists of Charlotte and as a team leader for his church, Steele Creek AME Zion.
Brian Kahn is managing partner of the Charlotte office of McGuireWoods law firm and co-producer of “Charlotte Squawks,” a critically acclaimed annual comedy stage show poking fun at politics, pop culture, sports and all things Charlotte through satire and musical parodies. One work colleague calls him the Chief Fun Officer. Described as a “rare combination of smarts, show-biz and service to others,” Brian also leads and participates in a number of pro bono initiatives at his firm and coaches his sons’ basketball teams. He has served in several local leadership roles including the Arts and Sciences Advisory Council, Madelyn’s Fund and Service Juris Day.
Dr. Alyson Kuroski-Mazzei
Dr. Alyson Kuroski-Mazzei is CEO and Chief Medical Officer of HopeWay, an accredited, nationally recognized nonprofit mental health treatment center with residential, day and outpatient treatment programs. Since founding HopeWay in 2016, she has recruited and led a team of 130 staff and successfully led a vital mental healthcare facility during a global pandemic. One of the many ways Dr. Kuroski-Mazzei is making a positive change in Charlotte is by establishing a joint venture with Novant Health to bring HopeWay’s premier psychiatric services to uninsured clients in two community clinics. On top of her professional positions, she devotes her “off hours” to serving as a resource and advocate for families as they navigate mental health issues and the complicated and under-resourced system of mental health care.
Heather Leavitt is a co-founder of Baby Bundles, a nonprofit dedicated to providing new and gently used clothing and other baby essentials to underprivileged newborns in the Charlotte area. Heather and her two co-founders (also 40 Over 40 winners this year) all suffered the loss of infant children. Baby Bundles was founded out of that loss. Her co-founders describe her as the marketing guru of the organization. A Charlotte native, Heather exemplifies strong community ties and a commitment to this city.
Brian Li is the financial education coordinator and a middle school math teacher at Providence Day School. He created a personal finance class and curriculum for middle school students in which he teaches them how to take advantage of historically predatory financial systems. Brian has also made it his goal to support educators and people of color in financial coaching, debt erasure, investment strategies and estate planning. In doing so, he has reshaped what they have thought to be possible and reoriented their ambitions for saving, investing and retirement.
Cat Long is a co-founder of Baby Bundles and a real estate broker with Compass. Baby Bundles is a nonprofit dedicated to providing new and gently used clothing and other baby essentials to underprivileged newborns in the Charlotte area. Cat and her two co-founders (also 40 Over 40 winners this year) all suffered the loss of infant children. Baby Bundles was founded as a way to honor their children. Cat brings endless energy, passion and a can-do attitude to everything she leads for Baby Bundles and any other volunteer work. She serves on the boards of Girls On The Run and Country Day Lower School. She started the Color Run fundraiser at Country Day and co-chaired the Preservation Society at Duke Mansion. Cat is also active in Myers Park Methodist Church.
Shannon McKnight founded Next Level Nonprofits and serves as chief consultant. With a long career in the local nonprofit community as a grant writer and fund development professional consultant, people look to Shannon to give them honest, straightforward information on finding funding for their organizations. She helps them make sure they are organizationally sound enough to even pursue funding and takes them step-by-step through processes to make them strong in the community. Shannon started a nonprofit podcast, giving tips and a platform to nonprofit professionals to help community-based organizations receive the support and resources they need to be sustainable.
Rajan (Raj) Merchant is a director at Grant Thorton and board chair of Feeding Charlotte, a nonprofit that is tackling the problems of climate change and hunger by making a bridge between those who have excess food with local nonprofits and churches serving the hungry. Raj is described as always willing to lend a helping hand when it's needed and a great cheerleader to those he works with. He also serves as a board member for Families Forward and HELPS Education Fund and a partner at Social Venture Partners.
Tchernavia Montgomery serves as chief executive officer for Care Ring, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing health services for the uninsured, underinsured or those lacking access to affordable, high-quality preventive health care. Before joining Care Ring in 2021, Tchernavia was a chief program officer at Crisis Assistance Ministries. A licensed clinical social worker and a servant leader at heart, she has two decades of health and human services experience. Under her leadership, Care Ring became the home to the largest nurse-family partnership program in the southeast providing maternal child health programming for low-income/at-risk women and launched a multi-organization, collaborative community-based health service for the Grier Heights community.
Joe Mynatt retired from Wells Fargo Corporate and Investment Banking and now serves as a program manager at Common Wealth Charlotte, where he helps build capacity to enable upward mobility through financial education and counseling. Joe chairs the strategic visioning process for Chapel of Christ the King and is a member of the development committee of Galilee Ministries, a collaborative of organizations serving Charlotte's refugee and immigrant communities. Friends note that Joe doesn’t just serve on boards; he is a hands-on volunteer, describing him as humble, committed and empowering.
Rashaan Peek is chief of staff at Charlotte Center City Partners, an organization that envisions and implements strategies to drive the economic, social and cultural development of Charlotte’s Center City. Prior to that role, she founded the executive management firm Your Girl Inc. For nearly two decades, Rashaan has supported small business and nonprofits in a variety of areas including, for example, virtual event management, seeing the need to help organizations thrive in a virtual environment before it was the norm. During her time as director of BLKTECHCLT, an organization that supports Black high-tech entrepreneurs who are intent on building scalable technology companies, Rashaan played a vital role in ensuring the success of countless programs and events. She has used her talents to positively impact aspiring entrepreneurs, small business owners and Charlotte's school-aged youth, serving as Girls on the Run board chair and as athletic director for Beatties Ford Saints.
Glenn Proctor is a certified professional coach, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, retired newspaper editor, mental health advocate and instructor, Marine Corps gunnery sergeant and a Vietnam veteran. In 2012, Glenn founded Reddjob, a communications and training organization providing strategic communications services, leadership training, coaching and creative writing workshops for all ages and experience levels. He uses his personal experiences to educate and support individuals and organizations in their understanding of mental health. Relentless in his pursuit of helping the community. Glenn leverages writing, speaking and teaching as methods to develop oneself and to gain coping skills to deal with life, loss and mental health challenges.
Cheryl Richards is president and CEO of Catapult, an employers’ association that serves employers across the Carolinas and beyond. Before joining Catapult, Richards worked for over 30 years in higher education. Since moving to Charlotte in 2004, she has made an incredible impact on this region through her professional roles and her personal contributions At Central Piedmont Community College, she began focusing on workplace development in higher education, growing its Business & Industry Training Services into a million-dollar program that helped companies train and develop their local workforce, and she oversaw the the first Middle College High School at Cato Campus.
She also served a deanship at Northeastern University, in which she focused on the intersection of young talent and the workforce. This led her to serve as president of Johnson and Wales University’s Charlotte campus, where she really began honing in on developing students with the skills needed for the workforce.
Mike Stolp is an award-winning investigative producer with WSOC-TV. In 2018, he helped break the 9th Congressional District election fraud story, which earned his team and him a duPont-Columbia Award and a Walter Cronkite Award. His news team has also been recognized with the Edward R. Murrow regional award. Perhaps more impressive, though, is his ability to break news every day, never hesitating to reach out to someone regardless of their status or circumstances. Described as thorough, smart and curious, Mike is also known for being a great coworker.
Jennifer Szakaly is the founder and CEO of Caregiving Corner, a geriatric care management and counseling firm that assists caregivers of older adults in navigating the long-term care system while arming them with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions. Jennifer started Caregiving Corner 18 years ago and has grown her team and her business while helping competitors and working collaboratively with them to elevate the profession. A standout in her field, she is a National Master Guardian — the highest level of certification for guardians — one of only 52 that have this distinction in the entire country–and is a Fellow of the Aging Life Care Association, again the highest level of membership for the most accomplished care managers. There are only about 32 in the country.
Brent Torstrick, a partner with Robinson Bradshaw law firm, uses his expertise as a real estate attorney to provide pro bono legal services to community organizations. By advising them on their physical infrastructure needs, his work sets off a rippling impact that benefits thousands of people, as these nonprofits leverage what they are able to do for clients in tremendous ways. For example, Brent represented Roof Above in the renovation of its Tryon Street shelter and the construction of the new Howard Levine Shelter and in the acquisition of Hillrock Estates, a 340-unit apartment complex in Charlotte that has been preserved as affordable housing. Some of his other pro bono clients include the Council for Children’s Rights, the Union Presbyterian Seminary, the Museum of the New South and Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Shelley White is president and CEO of Ascend Nonprofit Solutions, formerly known as Children and Family Services Center. The organization partners with fellow nonprofits to provide high-quality, affordable facilities and finance, HR and IT solutions, allowing them to focus more time and resources on advancing their missions. Under Shelley’s leadership, Ascend has grown from serving nine organizations with space, finance, HR and IT to nearly 50. She also expanded service offerings by launching fiscal sponsorships, a pilot with United Way of Greater Charlotte to provide back-office services to grassroots/emerging nonprofits, and for the first time in 20 years, leasing 100% of the uptown building. Shelley’s work has made such an impact through its multiplier effect on the social good in our community.
April B. Whitlock
April B. Whitlock is head of corporate citizenship for LendingTree. April’s passions are deep and wide but share a common thread of solving challenges for Charlotte’s marginalized. She pioneered a MomCorps staffing office to address working parents’ need for balance. When she experienced the need for early motor skill development within her own family, she expanded that solution to launch the Fundanoodle brand. At Lending Tree, she introduced a model of trust-based philanthropy, focusing on meaningful relationships with access to business expertise and social capital. It’s a total transformation of traditional corporate giving. The LendaHand Alliance Cohort is a three-year program for 10 Charlotte-based nonprofits. Beyond LendingTree, April’s passion for community engagement and leadership has echoed inside small classrooms and large boardrooms, including her church, CMS, Girl Scout Council, The Lunch Project, Dress for Success, Foundation for the Carolinas, Children’s Theatre and the Charlotte Arts and Cultural Plan.
Gregory A. Willingham
Gregory A. Willingham is senior managing director at Point B Consulting and owner and program director of SoundVizion LLC / Jazz N Soul Music. As an event producer, he has shown a dedication to his audience and his performers. Greg books artists that add to the cultural landscape of Charlotte, while tying in charitable components and using local along with national talent to give local artists and venues the chance to rise up and become equally successful.
Amanda Wise has been serving Charlotte-area nonprofits for more than two decades through her day jobs and volunteer pursuits. In 2021, she became director of nonprofit partnerships at SHARE Charlotte, an online engagement platform that connects the community with nonprofits and nonprofits with volunteers. Since then, she has recruited more than 100 new nonprofit partners and managed relationships with hundreds of others. Amanda has volunteered for Samaritan’s Feet, the Mint Museum Auxiliary, Arts for Life, Project Scientist and Girls on the Run, to name a few. Her supervisor describes her as a “Quiet Giant” who is compassionate, committed, and kind.
We’ll be celebrating these folks in April. Join us! Key details:
When: Thursday, April 27, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: Charlotte Museum of History, 3500 Shamrock Drive
What: ’80s movie-themed celebration, with buffet dinner, open bar with beer and wine, music and a few surprises. There’s also a costume contest if you care to dress the part. We are designing it to be a fun night — no stuffy sit-down country club dinner here. Your ticket also gets you admission to the museum’s first-floor exhibits, where you are free to mingle and explore some of our city’s history. There’s plenty of free parking.
Cost: Early bird pricing through Friday is $85 per person ($10 off for Ledger members—discount code available here). On Saturday, April 1, prices rise to $95. Why not get tickets today?
➡️ More info and tickets available here, or click this handy button:
We price tickets reasonably to encourage people to attend. We can do that because of the support of our event sponsors:
Title sponsor: U.S. Bank
Gold sponsors: Catapult; Ducie Stark, residential real estate broker with Dickens Mitchener
Silver sponsors: The Charlotte Museum of History, CLT Public Relations
Last year’s celebration attracted a sold-out crowd of nearly 250 people to honor the 40 Over 40 winners from 2020, 2021 and 2022.
With 40 Over 40, there’s always next year
Do you know someone who didn’t make the final cut, or whom you’d like to nominate for next year? Hang onto that thought for next year’s Charlotte Ledger 40 Over 40 contest, which we’ll announce at the start of 2024.
Congratulations again to all of the award recipients, and a big thank you to everybody making this celebration a success: all the nominees, all the people who took the time to nominate somebody, our volunteer judges — and a special thanks to Deborah Goldberg, who coordinated this year’s awards.
We hope to see you at the celebration on the 27th!