Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director
Jennie Belle, Director, Immigration and Farmworkers
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 with her husband and attends that city’s First Presbyterian Church. In her free time she enjoys dancing, traveling, trying new restaurants, and walking her dogs.
Jennie's Latest Articles:
- Celebrate Citizenship Day by Attending the Faith & Immigration Summit
- Faith & Immigration Summit Workshops Highlight Importance of Immigration In Upcoming Elections
- Did You Miss the Council’s Workshop at the Wild Goose?
- Appealing to our Shared Humanity in Response to Civil Unrest
- At the Twilight’s Last Gleaming: Reflections from Haiti
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:
- Proposed H.B. 2 Deal Falls Short
- Bad Law vs. Big Games
- Early Voting Draws Support
- Election Maps Under Scrutiny
- Voting Rights, Redeemed
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:
- 2016 Ecumenical Prayer Calendar
- Updated ACA and Medicaid Expansion Resources Available
- What Can We Say? An Invitation to Write to George
- 2015 Ecumenical Prayer Calendar
- Children’s Resources Added to Lectionary Year B
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:
- North Carolina Passes a Decade with No Executions
- Payday Lending is Opposite Biblical Teaching
- Safety is Imperative to Worker Justice
- Reform Medicaid by Expanding It
- Shopping with Meaning
Nicole Johnson, Regional Coordinator, Partners in Health and Wholeness
Nicole has had the wonderful opportunity of living in different countries, having been born in Belize City, and currently calling North Carolina home. She is deeply convicted in her belief that faithful congregations can meet the environmental, social and ethical challenges of the 21st century in practical and tangible ways. Her travels and beliefs have motivated her to seek ways of merging faith, health, sustainability, justice and ethics. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to be working with congregations and individuals in creating and supporting more healthy communities. Nicole is a graduate of Salem College and is currently pursuing a dual degree MDiv/MA in Sustainability at Wake Forest University. Her favorite things to do include travelling, hiking, growing things, trying new recipes, and spending time with her husband and two boys. Nicole is staying on with PHW after her internship to help with the Strive to Revive program.
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.
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:
- David LaMotte: Celebrating Dad’s Day By Taking Mine to Jail
- Abraham Jam Poets Announced
- Abraham Jam Web Site Launched
- Interfaith Event – Your Opinion?
- Wild Goose Festival a Great Success
Shannon Axtell Martin, Regional Coordinator, 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:
- August is National Breastfeeding Month
- Gun Violence and Public Health
- Eating Faithfully
- Creating Healthier Food Pantries: Workshop and Lunch
- Lenten Guide — Third Sunday
Elizabeth Millar, Medicaid Expansion Coordinator
Liz is a native of New Jersey but landed in North Carolina in 2010 in search of warmer climates. Liz has served in a range of non-traditional educational roles since getting her BA in Sociology from Boston College. These have included Peace Corps Vanuatu, teaching environmental education in coastal North Carolina, and directing a NC prekindergarten program. Liz has most recently worked on community engagement with UNC’s Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute. She is excited to bring her passion for education, community engagement, and social justice to this new position.
Liz is currently finishing her Master in Public Health Degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and spends her free time enjoying the outdoors, trying new recipes, and working with UNC’s Classroom to Community Volunteer Program.
Elizabeth's Latest Articles:
- Health Insurance for All Means Healthier Children
- Five Questions Answered on Medicaid Expansion
- The Effort to Expand Medicaid in North Carolina Continues
- State Medicaid Reform Could Be an Opportunity for Expansion
- Medicaid Expansion Benefits Everyone in NC
Aleta Payne, Deputy Executive Director
Aleta Payne first joined the Council staff in the spring of 2001 as the Communications Associate. She continues to oversee that work along with development, represents the Council in several partnership efforts, and serves 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 young adult sons who continue to come home to Cary for dinner, or at least groceries. Their terrier-mix puppies, Phoebe and Ella, are currently eating their house from the inside out.
Aleta is a fan of all things UVa (which can be hard in North Carolina, especially during basketball season), reads everything from entertainment magazines to histories, and works hard at spending more time with her girlfriends.
Aleta's Latest Articles:
- We’re Hiring: Program Associate for Operations
- Supporting NC’s Public Colleges and Universities
- The Cost of Making Tax Cuts Permanent
- Pray for Orlando, Pray for Us All
- A Reminder of Evelyn
Chris Pernell, Program Coordinator, Partners in Health and Wholeness
Chris is a native Kentuckian and the daughter of missionary parents who served Eastern Kentucky for more than 40 years. She relocated to North Carolina in 1981 and has come to call NC home.
Prior to coming to the Council, she spent several years in corporate America with The Diabetes Treatment Center and Honeywell International before joining a faith-based, nonprofit medical clinic serving the uninsured and under-served of Franklin County. Chris is excited to be a part of the Council’s PHW program where she can utilize her background in health care and service. She and her husband, Joey, have two children, a cat, and a surprisingly friendly bearded dragon.
In her free time, Chris enjoys reading, basketball, and traveling, especially to the mountains.
Chris's Latest Articles:
- Concord UMC: Planting Seeds and Watching Hearts Grow
- PHW Success Story- Corinth AME Zion, Siler City
- PHW Success Story- St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Durham
- PHW Success Story- Soul Harvest Apostolic Church, Spring Lake
- Lenten Guide — Second Sunday
Jessica Stokes, Regional Coordinator, Partners in Health and Wholeness
Jessica Stokes is the PHW Regional Coordinator for Eastern North Carolina. She joins the Council with a deep love for North Carolina, returning home after directing an interfaith nonprofit in Washington State. Jessica has lived throughout NC, studying and working in Winston-Salem, Wilmington, and the Outer Banks. Jessica earned her Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University and BS in Clinical Psychology from Averett University. She is an ordained Baptist minister. Jessica’s background includes non-profit work, hospital chaplaincy, higher education, and the local church. Her convictions are rooted in experiences that range from ministry in Appalachia and a coastal psychiatric hospital to international travel. Jessica’s work for PHW will include a focus on mental health education and advocacy. Jessica is based in Greenville and connects with congregations and partners in the Eastern part of the state.
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:
- Inclusive Climate Adaptation and Resilience Building
- Pray for God’s Creation
- NCIPL’s Penny Hooper Named “Woman of the Year”
- When it Rains it Pours in a Changing Climate
- EPA’s Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) Supports Low-income Communities
Joy T. Williams, Regional Cooordinator – Partners in Health & Wholeness
Joy is excited to work with the North Carolina Council of Churches and is proud to call NC her home.
Joy T.'s Latest Articles:
- Supporting a Sustainable Race Workshop
- Lenten Guide — Maundy Thursday
- Watershed Discipleship
- Wake Divinity School Grooms Young Leaders With Soil
- Partnerships that Work: Linda Tyndall
Ashley Yohman, Program Associate for Finance and Development
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:
- Lenten Guide — Easter Sunday
- Advent Guide on Refugees — Third Sunday
- Support the NC Council of Churches through AmazonSmile
- Peace In Music
- Healing Ceilings at West Raleigh Presbyterian