President, Stephanie Schwartz, is the Tallahassee & Panama City Development Leader for Equality Florida – creating support and raising awareness of LGBTQ, Equality and Diversity issues in the Big Bend. Previously, Stephanie worked in development for a local HIV/AIDS advocacy nonprofit. Chosen as the agency’s first front-line fundraiser, Stephanie worked to identify and cultivate relationships with existing and prospective donors, community stakeholders, volunteers, and corporate partners. Stephanie also worked for many years in local media sales and was a top producer in account sales and retention. A UF Gator by degree (Bachelor of Science in Public Relations), today Stephanie loudly cheers for the FSU Seminoles in all sports, Go ‘Noles! Besides being President of the Big Bend Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, she is also a member of the Sunrise Rotary. Stephanie and her partner, Laura, live with their four-legged children, Eli and Simone.
Vice President, Holly Bernardo, is currently the CEO of the Big Bend Homeless Coalition. Previously she was the Chief Development Officer for CESC/Kearney Center and part of the executive management team. She has 6 years executive management experience with the majority of her professional career working with nonprofits. Holly is a graduate of Trevecca Nazarene University with a MA in Marriage and Family Therapy. Holly is married with two high energy daughters who keep her running.
Treasurer, Colette Podgorski, is currently the Senior Director of Development for University Wide Initiatives and College of Social Work at Florida State University (FSU). Colette received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C. Colette has worked in development for nonprofits and higher education for over 15 years. Colette has also worked as a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters (Tallahassee, FL), Florida Medial Association (Tallahassee, FL) and Abuse Prevention Council (Shelby, NC). Colette was honored with Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals' "20 under 40" Golden A.C.E. Award for 2016 in the category of Nonprofit Leadership and the 2018 Fundraiser of the Year from Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Big Bend Chapter. She served on the AFP’s Big Bend board from 2011- 2016 and was the 2015 AFP Big Bend President. One of the primary initiatives during Colette’s term as AFP president was to work closely with other organizations to create a community-wide giving campaign, #BigBendGivesBack centered on #GivingTuesday which is still active and successful. Colette believes philanthropy changes lives and being a development professional is invaluable and humbling because we are given the opportunity to create the “magic” for donors and as a result, they feel good about the philanthropic work they do to make a difference. Colette’s other passions include working out, spending time with her son and cheering on the Seminoles.
Secretary, Takila Brooks, is the Advancement Manager for the Children’s Home Society of Florida - Big Bend Region. Takila worked in the Health Administration field for over 10 years then transitioned to the nonprofit sector. She has a wealth of experience in managing boards, committees and relationship building. She graduated from Florida A&M University and has a master’s degree in Health Administration. Takila is a Leadership Tallahassee class 35 graduate and a community servant.
Membership Co-Chair, Leonard "Parky" Parkhurst, is the Regional Development Director for The Salvation Army. Leonard has over 20 years’ experience in the local and regional nonprofit arena. He has previously worked as a Development Officer for the FSU Foundation and College of Social Sciences, Executive Director of the American Cancer Society, Major Gifts Development Officer for the TMH Foundation and Director of the Southeastern Credit Union Foundation. Leonard graduated with a degree in Economics from FSU and is married with a son who is a junior at FSU.
With her dynamic energy and creative talent, Membership Co-Chair, Kay Meyer, is the Director of Development and Communications at 2-1-1 Big Bend where she is responsible for directing fundraising, fund development, messaging, community relations, and social media. Prior to her current role, she was the Director of Administration and Communication at a local credit union. Also an entrepreneur, Kay has owned her own photography business for over 20 years. Kay’s marketing and communications experience is both unique and varied. As a long-time Tallahassee resident, Kay has also involved herself in the community as a recent alumna of Leadership Tallahassee Class 38 and as a board member for the Joanna Francis Living Well Foundation, an organization which provides support and financial assistance for those living with breast cancer.
Education & Program Chair, Nicole Ballas, is the Chief Development Officer at Elder Care Services. Nicole graduated from the University of Georgia in 2007 with degrees in Public Relations and History. She has been involved in the not-for-profit sector for over 10 years and focused specifically on philanthropy in elder services for the last 5 years. Nicole moved to Tallahassee in 2017. She is married with two young children and spends much of her free time watching dinosaur videos and singing “The Wheels on the Bus.”
Born and raised in Miami, FL, Communications Co-Chair, Aleydis "Ally" Rodriguez, is the Development Officer for the Division of Student Affairs at Florida State University. Prior to re-locating, she held the position of Development Associate for Annual Giving at the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation where her focus was leading annual giving and community outreach efforts with individuals and corporations in the South Florida area. She holds an Associate’s Degree from Miami Dade College in Business Administration, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Florida International University College of Business, and a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration from West Coast University.
Communications Co-Chair, Brian Marquez, currently works as Communications and Development Coordinator for Elder Care Services. A graduate of both Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University, Brian has been a Tallahassee resident for over ten years. Brian served as Secretary for the Florida State Chapter of the Delta Chi Fraternity and earned his Bachelor's degree in Editing, Writing, and Media in 2021. In his spare time, he likes to explore the nature trails in the area.