People & Partners
- Alan McGregor
Interim Executive Director
In the early 1990s, I was a co-chair of the working group that created SRDI. At that time, I was the executive director of The Sapelo Foundation, a family foundation in Georgia committed to social justice. As a grantmaker in the South, it was evident that too few resources were available to the many rural activists who were attacking poverty and injustice. In response to this problem, SRDI was created to be a powerful regional organization to advocate for new sources of philanthropic, investment and government capital into the region for rural community-based development.
That mission fit well with my own work in the philanthropic sector. In 1980, I was a co-founder of the Fund for Southern Communities, a new kind of community foundation that put justice at its core and its constituents in control. Recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, FSC continues to be an unusual partnership between donors and community change agents.
Since 1996, I have led SRDI’s work to create new rural philanthropy. The first part of this work was with nine community-based philanthropic groups to help them connect better to rural communities and to build their grantmaking assets. In 1998, SRDI mapped the region’s philanthropic assets and began advocacy too create new philanthropic assets in the South’s poorer rural regions. I coordinated a partnership between SRDI, the Southeastern Council of Foundations, the Foundation for the Mid South and L & M Associates to create and implement the Philanthropy Index for Small Towns and Rural Areas. The Index, now administered by SRDI, is a tool for used to demonstrate philanthropic potential in rural communities and to organize local leaders to build homegrown philanthropic assets.
I believe in philanthropy as a community venture where all can give and everyone is a beneficiary. With this model, I believe philanthropy is possible anywhere and that its practice will become increasingly democratic. Just as important, I believe that donors bring a full set of needs and expectations to the giving process. Philanthropy at its best nurtures donors by providing profound learning and deep connection to community. It brings people across the barriers of race and class to build a common vision of community.
In January 2007, I was asked by SRDI’s board to lead the organization for one year. My current job is to make SRDI financially stable and to lead a very talented staff as we implement a new organizational vision.
I live in Asheville, NC where I spend much of my time with a wonderful conservationist named Maggie Clancy. My stepson, Austin Kent, is a film student at the Savannah School of Art and Design and my son, Emmett McGregor, is in the final years of high school. He has deep interest in film, the environment and rock climbing.
- Calvin Allen
I consider myself a storyteller and a connector, a perspective gained mostly from living my entire life in the South. My family’s experiences living on small farms in NC, the necessity of the times to leave for bigger cities, and the questions of identity that arose as a result have shaped my personal and professional directions deeply. I approach my work at SRDI with this mindset, connecting the stories of yesterday’s rural South to present opportunities and resources.
Too often the individual experiences and voices of those who have been marginalized haven’t held significant weight in our communities. The experiences reflected in those lost voices lack vital influence over the allocation of resources, the creation of public policy, and the power to build sustainable futures in the towns that hold their histories. Those in small rural communities with limited resources particularly feel forced to compete rather than work for the well-being of all members of the community. The choice is reduced to survival over prosperity.
That reality drove my desire to join SRDI in October 2005 as Deputy Director. In this new role I seek to blend my experiences with philanthropy, leadership development, organizational development, anti-oppression/diversity theory, and power analysis into meaningful community development. I spend part of my time with the administrative team, helping to strengthen the internal processes that root our programs. I also work with the program team as a trainer, helping to further our network’s resources to generate and sustain “the vision, will, and resources” to create a “just, inclusive, and sustainable” rural South.
I’ve spent many years as a nonprofit consultant with OpenSource Leadership Strategies, as well as Executive Director of Public Allies NC, Associate Director of the Dispute Settlement Center of Orange County (NC), and as a program manager for Durham Companions, a mentoring program for court-involved youth. In all of my work I have sought to promote social justice with a balance of advocacy and bridge-building, facilitating the open discussion of the strong opinions of individuals toward meaningful mutual acknowledgement and forward motion. My involvement on the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union NC, Equality NC, and NC Gives reflects that value.
I’m a 1992 graduate of Duke University and completed the Duke University Certificate in Nonprofit Management in 2005. I’m also an alumnus of the 2003-2005 William C. Friday Fellows for Human Relations Program through the Wildacres Leadership Initiative.
- Donna Bell
Administrative and Data Support.
When I returned to North Carolina in Fall 2001, I made a decision that any work I would do from that moment on would have to somehow feed my spirit as well as my stomach. The amazing community I have found here in North Carolina has made it possible to follow through with that decision. I worked as the executive director of ncyt, a nonprofit working to make the nonprofit sector more accessible and sustainable for people new to the field, for almost two years. I also worked with Public Allies North Carolina as program manager. At Public Allies, I worked with a group of young adults in an alternative leadership program over a ten month program. I am now completing my Master's in Social Work at Smith College. I consider myself very lucky to offer administrative and data support to SRDI while I am completing my degree and continuing my plan to live a life with purpose.
- Jason Gray
Research and Policy Director
I am the research and policy director at the Southern Rural Development Initiative, where I have a diverse research portfolio around rural philanthropy, and federal community and economic development funding, as well as a broader policy advocacy agenda for sustainable rural development policy.
I grew up in Yorktown, Virginia when it was still rural. Living between the national battlefield and the lower Chesapeake Bay made for an idyllic childhood that alternated between reenacting the Revolutionary War and tramping about in nearby tidal marshes and creeks. I understand well that crabs are "beautiful swimmers" and the fine art of crab picking.
I acquired my bachelor's degree in Geography in a far different rural setting - Emory & Henry College, a small Methodist school in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. In addition to receiving a better education than I appreciated at the time, I also learned that growing burley tobacco is as knowledge-intensive as being in college, and considerably harder work. After wandering about for 4 years, I attended the University of Virginia where I earned an M.A. in regional and environmental planning in the School of Architecture. While there I worked with the Institute for Environmental Negotiation.
My entire professional career has centered on rural communities. I spent nearly ten years with the Virginia Water Project where I worked on rural water management and protection policy at the state and federal level. I participated in numerous multi-party environmental regulatory negotiations on pesticides, ground water management, coal mining impact mitigation, and regional water finance. I was the key author of a statistical portrait of rural Virginia, was active in Virginia's first effort to articulate a state rural development strategy, and was on the advisory board of the Rural Economic Analysis program at Virginia Tech.
In my non-work life I am the father of two young sons, and moonlight writing a book on the future of rural America. I was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Community Development Society and look forward to helping build stronger partnerships between community development practitioners and academia.
- Tina Merrill
When I was 18, I spent a life-changing semester working in a medical clinic in a slum of Guatemala City. When I returned to Harvard, I changed my major to economics to study theories of economic development and underdevelopment. After graduation, I began working in the renewable energy sector, doing project management and financial modeling for large-scale commercial wind power projects across the globe. Six years later I completed a Masters of Business Administration at Stanford.
While my business school classmates were making (and subsequently losing) their fortunes in the high tech sector, I chose a non-traditional career path, and opened a small business which is still running in Oakland, California, and recently won a “Best of the Bay” award for the best dog care facility in the Bay Area. As a small business entrepreneur, I was responsible for every aspect of start-up and management, including the construction, operations, client service, human resources, and finance. Employing a staff of 22, my company is committed to diversity and to providing a living wage and benefits for our primarily entry-level staff.
During this time, I also served as a volunteer Director and Treasurer for two non-profit organizations working in my community in Oakland, which familiarized me with the challenges of growing a non-profit organization.
We recently moved to Raleigh from California so my husband could join the faculty at NC State, and our son was born here. Our new community has welcomed us with open arms, and our roots in North Carolina are already growing deep. Joining SRDI in October 2006 as Finance Director has been a wonderful opportunity for me to work with a team of talented colleagues committed to an important mission.
- Thomas Watson
Director of SODI
Thomas is the first director of the Southern Organizational Development Initiative (SODI), joining the staff in 2006. He manages our collaborative effort to develop long-term organizational development, training, and support activities for rural nonprofits and consultants.
Thomas worked most recently as a Senior Program Consultant with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, managing initiatives to build grassroots leaders and social enterprise. He also co-founded the Center for Participatory Change in Asheville NC, supporting grassroots groups in Western NC through organizing, capacity-building, network building, and small grants support. He served there as Co-Executive Director for five years.
Thomas grew up in rural Appalachia and prior to becoming an organizer, worked in factories, as a welder, in hotel management, and banking. He received his Master of Social Work from the UNC-Chapel Hill where he completed internships with Grassroots Leadership and the Highlander Center. He received a BS in Business Management from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC.
- Justin Maxson (President)
Justin is the President of MACED in Berea, Kentucky. He also worked as Executive Director of the Progressive Technology Project in Washington DC and is a board member of the Center for Rural Strategies.
- Bernie Mazyck (Vice President)
SC Association of CDCs
Bernie is the first President of the SC Association of Community Development Corporations. A life long resident of Summerville, S.C, he serves on the Advisory Board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and is a board member of the Historic Charleston Foundation, College of Charleston Foundation and Charleston Southern University Alumni Association.
- Sandra Mikush (Secretary)
Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
Sandra is Assistant Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she has worked for the last twelve years. She leads the foundation's critical work in building organizational capacity.
- Joe Brooks
Joe is Vice President for Civic Engagement at PolicyLink – a national “public policy action and advocacy organization” with a focus on equity and strong organized communities. Joe spent the prior seven years as the Program Executive for Neighborhood and Community Development at the San Francisco Foundation.
- Robert Jackson
Quitman County Development Organization
Robert just completed his first legislative session as a Mississippi State Senator. CEO of the Quitman County Development Organization, he helped found the Quitman/Tri-County Federal Credit Union and was a Kellogg Fellow in the foundation's National Leadership Program.
- Emily Jones
Community Shares of TN
Emily hails from Knoxville and is a board and executive committee member of Community Shares of Tennessee. She has spent most of her career in fund raising. Emily now works for the Southeast office of the National Parks Conservation Association.
- Keith Corbett
Keith is Senior Vice President for External Affairs at Self Help in Durham, mostly focusing on combating predatory lending. Keith spent 21 years with NC Mutual Insurance Company, the nation's oldest and largest Black life insurance company.
- Ray Williams (Vice President)
Enterprise Corporation of the Delta
Ray is Senior Program Manager at Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD) in Jackson MS. With two decades of experience in lending, Ray focuses on health care lending and strengthening small community loan funds.
- Alvin Dollar
Georgia Black United Fund
Alvin is a long-time community activist in Atlanta, former City employee and a board member of the Georgia Black United Fund.
- Roland Anglin (Treasurer)
Initiative for Regional and Community Transformation
Roland is Executive Director of the Initiative for Regional and Community Transformation at the Edward J. Bloustein School for Planning and Public Policy. He is a long-time friend of community economic development, and previously held management and program positions with the New Jersey Public Policy Research Institute, SEEDCO and The Ford Foundation.
- Tracey Greene-Dorsett
National Rural Funders Collaborative
Tracey offers a range of training, leadership development and evaluation experience, currently serving as Director of Learning and Evaluation with the National Rural Funders Collaborative. She is the former Director of Technical Assistance and Training for long-time SRDI stakeholder, the South Carolina Association of CDCs.
- Felicia Jones
Black Belt Community Foundation
Felicia is Executive Director of the Black Belt Community Foundation in Selma, Alabama, which harnesses and delivers philanthropic resources for six rural Alabama counties. Felicia is no stranger to the complex economic issues facing rural communities: she is former Executive Director of the Sumter County Industrial Development Authority.
- Paul E. Castelloe, Jr.
Center for Participatory Change
Paul co-founded and is now Program Coordinator for the Center for Participatory Change in Asheville, NC, a non-profit that disseminates participatory change as a practice model in community organizing and development. Paul brings to his board role at SRDI a wealth of experience working with rural grassroots organizations, organizing people around critical issues, and evaluation planning.
- Andrew Foster
Andrew is founding director of Duke Law’s Community Enterprise Clinic, where he provides law students with training in and exposure to affordable housing, job creation and community revitalization projects. Among his prior experience is his work as Co-Director of the NC Justice and Community Development Center, a leading advocacy organization for the state's low income communities. For two years, Andrew worked for SRDI, managing our community reinvestment project.