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Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director

Jennifer is a native of South Carolina and an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church.  She loves South Carolina, but has managed to spend all but ten years of her adult life in North Carolina.  Those ten years were spent pastoring United Methodist churches across the Upstate.  She attended Duke University several times and in the process earned a BA, double majoring in English and Religion, a Master of Divinity, a PhD in religion, and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies.  Prior to coming to the Council, she spent 16 years as the United Methodist Chaplain at Duke University, where she also taught undergraduate and divinity school classes, served on committees and task forces, and attended lots of basketball games.  Jennifer has two, mostly grown, children who are content to continue rooming with her at the same address in Durham.

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Jennie Belle, Program Associate

Jennie was born and raised in Savannah, GA. She moved to Texas for her undergraduate education at Rice University, during which time she studied in Mexico, Peru and Argentina and participated in service projects in Central America. After graduation she moved to Spain for a year to teach English. Jennie then came to North Carolina for a dual degree M.Div./M.S.W. graduate program at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill where her work focused on advocating for farmworkers and organizing churches for social justice. Jennie is excited to use these skills in her role at the Council of Churches as she works to help improve conditions for immigrants and farmworkers in the state.

Jennie lives in Durham and attends that city’s First Presbyterian Church. In her free time she enjoys dancing, distance running, traveling, and walking her dog.

Jennie's Latest Articles:

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Steve Ford, Volunteer Program Associate

Steve Ford has lived in North Carolina since 1981, when he moved here to join The News & Observer of Raleigh. He retired in late 2012 as the paper’s editorial page editor. In that job, he supervised the opinion pages, wrote editorials and wrote a weekly column.

Steve grew up in Northern Virginia. He graduated from Yale University and served in the U.S. Army as a photographer, including a year in Vietnam. He and his wife, Jeanne, who is an attorney, live in Cary and have three grown sons. He began volunteer work with the N.C. Council of Churches in the spring of 2013, helping to keep an eye on state government and writing about public policy issues.

In his spare time, Steve enjoys outdoor activities, taking road trips (back roads, especially) and playing the piano. He and Jeanne are members of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Cary.

Steve's Latest Articles:

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Rose Gurkin, Program Associate for Administration

Rose Gurkin joined the staff in 2001. She manages the database and website for the Council and is the general office manager. She is a graduate of Western Carolina University with a B.S. in Music Education and of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a M.Div. She also serves as the Music Director for the First Presbyterian Church of Garner. She and her husband Michael are the household help for a very spoiled cat, Spirit. Spirit was adopted by the Gurkins from Sr. Evelyn Mattern.

Rose's Latest Articles:

Sandy Irving, Volunteer Program Associate

Sandy Irving has been involved with the Council’s work for many years. She currently serves as the Volunteer for Health Care, worker’s rights and other federal issues. Sandy is an activist grandmother of six, a Presbyterian, and a retired research associate from the Biostatistics Department of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health. She currently serves on the board of NC Peace Action.

Sandy's Latest Articles:

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Collins Kilburn, Executive Director Emeritus

Collins Kilburn served as Executive Director of the Council for 20 years prior to his retirement in 2000. He was named Executive Director Emeritus by the Council’s Executive Board in December, 2005.

A native of Memphis, Collins graduated from Memphis State College and received his M.Div. from Duke.  He is an ordained United Church of Christ minister, a member of Community United Church of Christ in Raleigh, and a watch care member of Olin Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill.

Kilburn’s career with the Council spanned a total of 30 years, 10 of that as Director of Social Ministries, which included representing the Council on legislative issues.  He wrote and performed folk songs linked to social justice issues of the time, such as “Take It All Off,” aimed at the repeal of the food tax and “Do You Have Room for a Little Boom Boom?” related to the MX missile.

Since retiring, he has found more time for tennis and for leading adult education programs focused on spiritual giants of our time.  He and his wife, Martha Hamilton, share four children and seven grandchildren.

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David LaMotte, Consultant for Peace

David LaMotte is a graduate of James Madison University, where he became passionate about mediation and alternative conflict resolution in the late eighties and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, where he completed a master’s degree in International Relations, Peace and Conflict Resolution. David is a member of the Swannanoa Valley Friends Meeting, but also has one foot in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

David's Latest Articles:

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Shannon Axtell Martin, Regional Consultant, Partners in Health and Wholeness

Shannon has moved and traveled most of her life. After growing up back and forth between California, Connecticut and Saudi Arabia she finally settled in North Carolina. She came to the Council in 2012 after completing a yearlong Residency as a Chaplain at Wake Forest Baptist Health. Shannon graduated with her Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University School of Divinity and her B.A. in Religion and Philosophy (with a Concentration in Outdoor Ministries) from Catawba College. Shannon’s love for interesting, diverse, and healthy foods was instilled in her from an early age, and she has become increasingly interested in the intersections of justice, food, health, and faith. She is excited to join with congregations to work to increase the faithful health of the communities in and around the Triad. Shannon loves working with people, laughing, cooking, being outside, painting, and her husband Robert.

Shannon Axtell's Latest Articles:

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Monica Motley, Director, Partners in Health and Wholeness

As a native of Danville, Monica has developed a personal understanding of the many barriers people face to lead and sustain healthy lives. A recent MPH graduate and former research assistant with the Virginia Tech Department of Population Health Sciences, Monica is currently completing a doctorate in Biomedical and Veterinary Science. Specifically, her dissertation research aims to identify, understand, and enhance the capacity and readiness of faith- based organizations implementing lifestyle-related health and wellness programs via collaborative partnerships. Her academic and professional background has taught her how to leverage public health research, community engagement, and social justice approaches as complimentary methods that can result in more effective, creative, and translational solutions for complex health issues. As a result, Monica has held various leadership roles with organizations such as the Danville Regional Foundation, Dan River Partnership for a Healthy Community, The Point Foundation, National Black Justice Coalition, God’s Storehouse, Virginia Tech Diversity Scholars and now NCCC Partners in Health in Wholeness.

Monica's Latest Articles:

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Aleta Payne, Deputy Executive Director

Aleta Payne first joined the Council staff in the spring of 2001 as the Communications Associate. She now oversees development, works as staff to the Council’s Peace Committee, and works in other administrative roles, as well. Aleta is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a degree in government and foreign affairs and spent much of her early career as a journalist.

She and her husband have three sons whose many interests and activities keep the family hopping. Their shepherd-mix, Sawyer, loves her best. The family attends St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cary.

Aleta's Latest Articles:

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Susannah Tuttle, Director, NC Interfaith Power & Light

Susannah Tuttle received a Master of Divinity degree from Starr King School for the Ministry at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. Her work at the GTU focused on three different interrelated levels of human existence: Educational/Philosophical, Institutional/Physical-Structural, and Communal/Bioregional. Upon graduation she was hired as UNC Chapel Hill’s first Sustainability Research Associate. She continues as co-founder and partner in Trace Collaborative, LLC a consulting firm specializing in the implementation of sustainability within the design and construction industry. Susannah is a founding member of HistoricGreen, a national nonprofit transforming and revitalizing communities through education and charitable activities that integrate sustainable design and heritage conservation practices. She recently served on the Board of Directors of the NC Triangle Chapter of the US Green Building Council.

Susannah's Latest Articles:

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Joy T. Williams, Regional Consultant – Partners in Health & Wholeness

Joy is excited to work with the North Carolina Council of Churches and is proud to call NC her home.

Despite the experiences that taught her to appreciate new places, e.g. attending Wheaton College in Norton, Ma, where she received a B.A. in Hispanic Studies or in Mali (featured in picture), nothing was like home. She earned a Master of Public Health degree at UNC-CH and through Partners in Health and Wholeness, she found a Jehovah-given opportunity of sharing health with congregations! She is now serving as one of the Partners in Health and Wholeness (PHW) Regional Consultants.

Joy T.'s Latest Articles:

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Ashley Yohman, Development Assistant

Ashley Yohman is a Raleigh native and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a degree in business management and a minor in religion. Prior to joining the Council, she worked with the Episcopal Service Corps in Louisiana.

Ashley likes to play kickball, try new restaurants, and listen to a cappella music. She is a member at First Presbyterian Church of Raleigh.

Ashley's Latest Articles:


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Alexander Oxendine, PHW Intern

Alexander Oxendine is a summer intern for Partners in Health and Wholeness. A student at UNC Pembroke with a major in sociology, he is passionate about being involved in improving his community. Alexander said being placed with PHW and the co-host site, Sacred Pathways, is a true blessing because he gets to work with Dr. Ruth Woods from Sacred Pathways, a longtime PHW Certified Church, and with Joy Williams of Partners in Health and Wholeness. Alexander appreciates the opportunity this summer to get more involved in the community. He will be focusing on working within the tribes represented in the Pembroke community of faith. He is looking forward to my experience with Sacred Pathways and the North Carolina Council of Churches.