BOARD MEMBERS

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Wendy Ruggiero (she/her), Treasurer

Wendy is the Chief Financial Officer with Capital Associates Management, LLC in Raleigh. She is responsible for all accounting and financial reporting, information systems, banking relationships, tax planning, administration and human resources. Wendy is currently on the Audit Committee and the Land & Building Committee at SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals. She is also a former board member and Treasurer of SECU Family House. She is also a former board member and Treasurer for the NCACPA Foundation. Wendy has lived in Durham for over twenty years with her husband and two sons.

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Jackie Pilgrim (she/her)

Jackie Pilgrim is an Advocate for persons having Epilepsy, Autism, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and Mental Illness; Founder of Autism’s Love: The Pilgrimage, Public Speaker, Artist, Poet, Blogger and Parent to a young adult who challenges the stigma of having disabilities. Jackie is currently partnered with the Durham CIT Leadership Collaborative to increase Autism and Intellectual/Developmental Disability awareness. In 2017, Jackie received an invitation to participate as a panel speaker at the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day Observation in NY, where she spoke on the importance of increasing autism awareness and education for Police Officers and First Responders. Jackie also serves on the Board of Directors for NAMI Durham (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the Mayor’s Committee for Disabled Persons and Jackie is a representative of the National Black Disability Coalition (NBDC) and serves on several committees. Jackie’s goals are to dismantle disability stigma and empower disabled individuals, family members, caregivers, and providers by increasing education and awareness of Autism, Intellectual Disabilities, and Mental Illness from the vantage point of lived experience.

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Annabelle Patton (she/her)

Annabelle is a Data Specialist for the Triple P Program at the Durham Public Health Department. She earned a Bachelor's in Psychology from the University of Denver, where she served as the LGBTIQ&A Programs' Coordinator. She is a member of the DuRham ACEs and Resilience Task Force, the READY Project, and the Racial Equity team at the Health Department. In her free time, you can find her working at the garden with her partner, winning at trivia, and hiking and foraging around the triangle

Felicia West (she/her)

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Laura Pyatt (she/her)

Laura Pyatt is a Durham native with a passion for building community, creating an equitable food system, and working in her garden. Laura graduated from Duke University in 2007 and since then has worked in the Domincan Republic, Washington DC, and back to Durham for good. Pre-pandemic Laura enjoyed a career as a Freelance Events Coordinator, working on organizing various community events around Durham. She shifted that work once the pandemic hit and is currently the Program Manager of Durham Delivers, working to support and sustain our local restaurants. Laura is also proud to be an NC State Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Durham County. You can often find her hanging in her backyard with her partner, two step kids, two cats, and two German Shepherds. 

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Brandon Travis (he/him)

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Tyler Morgan (he/him)

Tyler is a Senior Associate with Thomas, Judy & Tucker P.A. working in downtown Durham. He has extensive experience in Not for Profit accounting and provides Audit and Advisory services to many nonprofit businesses in the Triangle. Tyler earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked as a director in the nonprofit sector for several years before returning to school at UNC to earn his Masters in Accounting and CPA license. Tyler is a born and raised North Carolinian and has lived in the Triangle for 10 years. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two-year-old son, attending local events and shows, and cheering on the Tar Heels and Chicago Cubs.

FINANCE COMMITTEE

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La Tasha Cowden (she/her)

La Tasha currently works part-time as a budgeting reporting specialist at Duke University Press.  Prior to that, she worked as a lead financial analyst with the Private Diagnostic Clinics at Duke University. Her professional expertise is budgeting, forecasting, financial reporting, and various financial analyses.  She has two kiddos, one who is on the spectrum.  In addition to advocating for her son, she volunteers with the autism community through pet therapy. She and her certified pet therapy dog Rusty have made several school visits to support the intellectual and emotional needs of students.  She recently adopted a second golden retriever (Shila) to train and hopefully get certified as well.  

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Martina Ballen (she/her)

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Martina Ballen is the Senior Associate Athletics Director, Human Resources and Chief Financial Officer with the Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She provides oversight to the financial operation of a $110 million athletics program and directs all human resources activities for the athletics department.  Martina also serves as the diversity liaison to campus for her department and has spearheaded a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives to raise awareness of the success and impact of current and former student-athletes of color. Martina earned a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M. B. A. from Wake Forest University.  Martina currently serves on the board of the Autism Support and Advocacy Center and has served on the board of the Autism Society of North Carolina for several years, including board chair, and various committees.  She also served on the board of The Carolina Club, a membership dining facility on the campus of UNC.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT COMMITTEE

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Catalina Gonzalez (she/her)

Catalina was born in Tijuana, Mexico.  She moved to the United States in 1996, spent 9 years in Racine, Wisconsin, and then moved to North Carolina in 2005. Catalina is married and has 7 children, 5 girls  and 2 boys with Autism. She believes that “being a parent is the only profession where you first get the diploma, and then you study the course.” Since two of Catalina’s children have autism, she has learned to value the inclusion of others who learn in different ways. She has jumped into advocacy for children with learning differences, and embraces the opportunity to share her experiences with other families.

Catalina studied ESL at Durham Technical Community College in 2006. She has actively volunteered at organizations and programs that promote the healthy development of children and adults, including the Autism Society of NC for 12+ years.  In 2020 Catalina started working in a child care as a teacher so she decided to continue her education  in Early Childhood at Durham Technical Community College.

Advocacy for her children is something that will continue to be a fundamental part of her life.  Catalina is excited and thankful to be part of the Board because she believes in it and that, not only her children, but all people with different capacities, deserve and need an opportunity to be active in the community and develop their many abilities.