Team Profiles

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Name

Colgate Darden

Title

Director, Movie & Mixer Program

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Name

Danielle LeMaster

Title

Vice President, Board of Directors

Personal Profile

Danielle moved to Asheville in October 2015, to continue her career in Catering Sales and to fulfill her lifelong dream of living in Western North Carolina.  As a California native, Danielle longed to find a community that embraced individuality and compassion for others. Asheville has not only exceeded her greatest expectations but it's also where she met the love of her life, Kasey. Being an alumna of the University North Carolina School of the Arts, she knew Asheville would someday be the place that she calls home. When asked to join Blue Ridge Pride Board, she knew this was her opportunity to give back to a community that's embraced and loved her ever since she arrived. This will be the first board Danielle has served on. She is honored to support and serve the LGBTQ+ community in all ways possible.

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Rachelle Sorensen-Cox

Title

Director, Customer Service

Personal Profile

Rachelle is a native of Utah who was lucky enough to discover and move to Asheville in 1995. She is a dedicated community member and volunteer, she founded Girls on the Run of WNC in 2002. Currently Rachelle serves as a board member on the Asheville Downtown Association and is proud to join the Blue Ridge Pride team as Director, Customer Service recruiting and organizing vendors for the Blue Ridge Pride Festival.
When not working or volunteering, Rachelle likes to spend time working on her tennis game and living the big life with her daughter, Soren.

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Name

Perry Martino

Title

Director, Welcoming WNC Procession

Personal Profile

Perry Martino is working on getting the PROCESSION organized and streamlined to assure a smooth, fun start to the festivities ahead of the festival .

Perry assisted last year registering PROCESSION participants and organizing at the starting point. He enjoyed meeting all the different folks excited to partake in the PROCESSION and followed behind them  to ensure all participants stayed the course!

Perry and his husband Russ along with their furry child Teddie moved to Asheville in November 2014 from Miami Beach, Florida. He opened the same concept store, Perfect Gifts which  he had in Miami Beach on Biltmore Avenue. The business was sold two years ago and now he and Russ work on their own Real Estate investments here in Asheville. Prior to Perry's ten years owning retail stores, he worked in NYC at various banks in the mortgage industry.

Perry states shortly after meeting Tina Madison White, he and Russ instigated having a pride parade, which developed into the procession. They are thankful to Tina being able to make it happen!

Perry is excited to now be part of Blue Ridge Pride and is looking forward to meeting all the others at Blue Ridge Pride he has not yet met!

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Name

Dr. Rachel Muir

Title

Director, Community Projects and Partnerships

Personal Profile

I am a retired scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and I continue to pursue my vocation and avocation in environmental science as a scientist emeritus working with local federal offices and private efforts to research and protect endangered species and teach at local schools and institutions about conservation. When I moved to North Carolina from Washington DC about 5 years ago I did not realize that human rights, and the rights and welfare of THE LGBTQ community, were also endangered in this state, and now, our nation. Just as diversity in the natural world supports and sustains a complex world in the face of change, diversity in the human world strengthens us and enriches our lives; it opens our eyes to the new and the possible. I want to be part of the effort to protect that diversity and the dignity OF all people. Blue Ridge Pride gives me the opportunity to combine my professional skills and my passion for justice to promote equality for all.

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Name

Butch Thompson

Title

Member, Board of Directors; Director, Community Funding Programs

Personal Profile

Butch Thompson joined the Blue Ridge Pride Board of Directors in January 2019. Butch lives in West Asheville where he settled 4 years ago. He currently serves as Board of Directors President for Asheville Gay Men’s Chorus and sings in the chorus. His other volunteer work includes Loving Food Resources and butchOUT.

Butch spent most of his career in Atlanta, Georgia working for numerous HIV/AIDS organizations including AIDS Survival Project, AIDS Alliance for Faith and Health and Emory University. Starting as a fundraiser Butch soon realized his passion for program development. He built a Peer Counseling program which became utilized in many organizations in Atlanta. He helped found beautyAID, an Atlanta fundraiser for AIDS organizations. After 26 years Butch retired to Ft. Lauderdale where he volunteered for Poverello, an HIV/AIDS food pantry and initiated the formation of the Live Well Center.

As a native of SW Virginia Butch longed for the mountains and choose Asheville as a place to build a new life in retirement. Excited and knowledgeable Butch shares his skills with Blue Ridge Pride in hopes of expanding on the great success of Blue Ridge Pride and the community served. His favorite quote is “I cannot do all the work the world needs. But the world needs all the work I can do.” -Jana Stanfield

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Iosvany Gispert

Title

Member, Board of Directors

Personal Profile

Iosvany Gispert moved to Asheville, NC when he was 23 years of age, and since then, he has been fighting for equitable access to medical care for minorities living in rural areas. He currently works as the Associate Executive Director for WNCAP, a local non-profit that is dedicated to preventing new cases of HIV/AIDS and promotes self-sufficiency in people living with HIV. He believes that every person should have the right to quality healthcare services.

"As a member of the LGBT+ community, I believe we should always find common ground and be united", says Iosvany.

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Elio Gonzalez

Title

Member, Board of Directors

Personal Profile

Elio J. Gonzalez, Owner of Gonzalez Diaz Enterprise, came to the US as a Cuban Refugee in 1968 and made North Carolina his home. He acquired a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1978. Elio’s passion to be involved in the community led him to create Gonzalez Diaz Enterprise; and through this business, Elio has been able to be a community advocate and assist people in need. Elio has been involved with helping the community in many varied aspects including the following events/collaborations/interpretations: Carnaval Carolina, Latin American Festival, Fiesta Latina Asheville (2012-2016), Several LAWA collaborations, worked with Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, and mostly his inspiration of MGLA was turned into a reality. Elio J. Gonzalez is the founder of MGLA Miss Gay Latina Asheville. The pageant was created to show the beauty and richness of the World’s culture through the illusion of female impersonation. The pageant started in 2008 with great support from the community and sponsors, this year we will celebrate its 12th year anniversary. On July 6, 2019 Gonzalez Diaz Enterprise is launching a new endeavor Mister Gay Latino Asheville. Elio is currently the Patient Assistance Specialist Director at the Western North Carolina Community Health Center (WNCCHS).

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Name

Thomas E. Dula

Title

Former Member, Board of Directors

Personal Profile

Tom has spent 25+ years working in the Longterm Care Health Industry.  He currently is the Administrator at The Laurels of Summit Ridge.  Tom has volunteered all of his professional life with various organizations including Rotary, meals on wheels, habitat for humanity and LGBT organizations.  Tom was the chair person for the Holland Michigan Area PRIDE for 3 years turning the festival from an inside event hosting about 100 people to an outside festival with attendance of 2500.  Tom and his husband Arni are passionate about the LGBTQ+ community and they are excited to be here in Asheville and to get involved.

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Name

Bennett Lincoff

Title

President, Board of Directors

Personal Profile

As a Board member of Blue Ridge Pride, and as President for 2019, I look forward to working with Tina White, our outstanding Executive Director, and with the many volunteers who work with Tina, to expand the Blue Ridge Pride mission beyond the annual Pride Festival, to include new and inclusive programs to better serve the LGBTQ+ community of Western North Carolina.

I moved to Asheville with my husband, Konrad, in August 2016, after living in New York City for 37 years. I spent most of my career as a copyright lawyer in the music industry. Prior to that, I worked at the New York Legal Aid Society. And prior to that, I spent two years working in rural California as a volunteer with the United Farm Workers Union. Cesar Chavez was an early and strong influence on me. Cesar encouraged me to go to law school.

One compelling factor for me about living in Asheville is the many opportunities to participate in the betterment of my adopted community.

In addition to my involvement with Blue Ridge Pride, I also serve as a member of the Board of Directors of  WNCAP (the Western North Carolina AIDS Project).

I have also become certified as a Community Advisory Committee Volunteer for the NC Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program for Buncombe County. In that capacity, I inspect assisted living facilities, acting primarily as a residents’ rights advocate. I am President of the Advisory Committee for 2019.

My husband and I came to Asheville with great expectations. So far, our experience has exceeded our wildest imaginings. By every measure important to us, the quality of our lives has improved since moving to Asheville.

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Name

Sister Margarita del Encanto

Title

Treasurer, Board Events & Operations Liaison

Personal Profile

Other Roles: Fully Professed Sister, Founding Member, Irreverent Mother & President BOD at Beer City Sisters.

Biography: Born and raised in Arecibo, PR, from evangelical parents. My world always turned around good will and help for the needy. For a long time did missionary work abroad alleviating the need for the Dominican brothers. I grew up around music and theater, of which I wrote, produced and acted in many of them. I earned a bachelor’s degree in theology, but I never got to practice. I found a slightly different way that I always knew where the light, forgiveness and love are based. Today I put into practice the lessons learned and the charity I am passionate about.

When Did You Discover Your Calling?

I met the Sisters in Orlando and they talk to us about the Community and their mission. I wanted to join right away and a few months later we heard that a new house was being form in Jacksonville. Talking to the Sisters from Jacksonville I realize there’s so much I can get and give that decide to be part myself of the House.

Religious Belief: Unconditional Love

Favorite Quotes: I AM.

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Lyndsey Simpson

Title

Graphic Designer, Brand Specialist

Personal Profile

As one of the newest members of the team, Lyndsey created our updated logo & tagline and the materials for this year’s festival. After moving to Hendersonville with her family in July 2016, she decided to open her own graphic design & branding business. She continues to use her talents for businesses and organizations throughout Western North Carolina and looks forward to growing her business & becoming more involved with Pride.

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Nancy Sue Ellyson

Title

Director, Entertainment

Personal Profile

Nancy Sue works the Pride tent with "Pride". She is our public face, selling Pride merchandise and spreading the word with a smile and free hugs!

Nancy Sue says that, being the new kid in town, she felt blessed to have met Morgan, who got her started with Blue Ridge Pride.

Nancy Sue moved to Asheville in February 2017 from Austin, Texas, not knowing a soul and yet, knowing that Asheville is where she belongs.

In Austin, Nancy Sue worked various day jobs for online technology companies including Facebook and Homeaway.com. She had the pleasure of working her dream jobs in the live-music industry, including those of radio and television personality.

Looking to the future, Nancy Sue hopes to settle into the Asheville community, becoming more involved in non-profits and, of course, Blue Ridge Pride!

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Richard Morgan Swilling

Title

Director, Events & Operations

Personal Profile

Our Director of Events holds five environmental certifications and works daily to keep us safe. A life-long resident of western North Carolina, Rick (Morgan to some) comes from a family with a record of distinguished public service. He dotes on his two children, who run successful businesses.

“I worry often about acceptance and security. The one time I never feel alone is when I am volunteering. I am thankful for my Pride family, ”

Our events director, a true giver and leader, is why organizations like ours exist.

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Name

Amy Fisher

Title

Secretary, Board of Directors | Board Liaison to LGBTQ Elder Advocates

Personal Profile

In 2013, Amy began her LGBTQ+ advocacy work through QORDS Camp (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer) as a regional team member to support queer and trans youth and youth of LGBTQ+ caregivers through a music based social justice camp. She also has found a specific passion in working toward equality for LGBTQ+ elders and serves as a board member of the LGBTQ Elder Advocates of WNC. As a Master of Public Health student, she also partners with Land of Sky Regional Council on Aging to provide staff sensitivity training on LGBTQ elder health disparities, specifically in long term care facilities. She also sees power in recognizing intersectionality within the LGBTQ+ community to understand and support the multiple layers of discrimination and oppression many LGBTQ+ people face.

Amy identifies as queer and uses she/her pronouns. She lives with her partner Kim and their 2 fur babies, Lucy and Salchi. She is lucky to call Asheville her second home after moving here from PA in 2008. Since then, she has worked at Mission Children’s Hospital as a certified child life specialist providing psychosocial support for hospitalized children.

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Herb Arnold

Title

Former Board Vice President

Personal Profile

Herb has been an equality activist for over 25 years in Charlotte, NC followed by involvement in the Asheville, NC LGBTQ community. He started this crusade while working on the sponsorship and planning committees with the Human Rights Campaign in Charlotte, NC. This effort was further highlighted with involvement in the Mecklenburg County business community when Herb developed programs and meetings for the Charlotte Business Guild, the areas LGBTQ business association.
Upon moving to Asheville, NC, Herb worked with WNCAP and their yearly Raise Your Hand Fundraising dinner and auction, as well as participating as an Ambassador for their Dining Out for Life program.
Herb is currently the Director of Sales with Biltmore Farms Hotels. He has a BA in Psychology and Communications from Catawba College in Salisbury, NC. This will be Herb’s third year serving as Vice President on the Blue Ridge Pride Board of Directors.

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Michael David Carpenter

Title

Former President, Board of Directors

Personal Profile

Michael-David was elected President of the Board of Directors in January of 2016. It‘s MD’s vision to build Blue Ridge Pride Center in to a solid community resource center that supports the community through education and advocation, other non-profits that share BRPC’s values, and to create memorable celebrations.

MD is the owner of Michael-David Entertainment, which, in the past, produced several events for Blue Ridge Pride, including the Miss Blue Ridge Pride Pageant (through donated services).

MD has volunteered for many organizations including March of Dimes, Bares-it-All for Breast Cancer, Hope’s Chest and the United Way, to name a few.

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Tina White

Title

Executive Director

Personal Profile

Tina White is the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center, a member of the board of directors for the Human Rights Campaign, and a Democratic precinct chair.
Tina entered the workforce as a white, Ivy League-educated male. She spent most of the next 30 years helping corporate executives to transform their sprawling organizations. In 2013, Tina embarked on her most ambitious transformation project yet: herself. With the support of her wife, family and colleagues, Tina finally acknowledged the gender she had worked so hard to hide.
Today, Tina’s transformation continues. She is learning how to be a community activist and a public servant. She speaks and writes on issues of social justice and personal identity. In 2015, she published Between Shadow & Sun: A Husband‘s Journey Through Gender - A Wife’s Labor of Love.
Tina holds an MBA in Strategy & Finance from the Booth School of Business and a BA in Economics from Princeton University. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with Mary, her wife of nineteen years. From there, they watch their five children and five grandchildren take on the world.