RVE Board of Directors, 2020-21

President: Sara Stohler

I am a retired English professor, having taught 20 years at nearby St. Augustine’s University and a 35 year resident of Oakwood. I have been active in a variety of local non-profits, as well as the Wake County Democratic Party. My husband and I have long said that the only way we would leave our home here was feet first, so ten years ago we modified our house to make it possible to live on one level. My husband’s serious illness that started in 2018 and from which he is still recovering taught us a lot about home health care and the importance of our renovation, as well as the immeasurable value of our attentive neighbors.

 

Vice President: Deborah Owens

I worked for the United Nations for some two decades and, being an only Southern daughter, came home when my mother got sick. I stayed for the last two years of her life, devoted, but often mistaken as to what should be done. I got involved with the Affordable Care Act because I believed it to be the most comprehensive domestic policy initiative since Medicare. I came across aging folks deciding on not only their health care options, but tackling the overarching issues of aging. I love my neighborhood and my aging neighbors. I’m not far behind them. I am determined to help those that want to age in place do so. 

 

Treasurer: Peter Rumsey

I am a realtor living in Historic Oakwood and an active advocate for policies, codes and programs that increase opportunities for multi-generational housing and aging in place. My experience during my 40 years in real estate includes working with non-profit corporations to increase the availability of affordable housing in the Triangle area. In my earlier career in the Federal OMB and two state governments I reviewed policies, programs, and budgets for housing assistance and community development programs.

 

Secretary: Melissa Birdsong

I am a professional designer who focused primarily on residential/light commercial remodeling prior to joining a home improvement retailer in 1996. I retired in 2014 as a VP, having created and led design teams at the corporate level: trend forecasting, product design, store environment, and customer experience, as well as marketing teams. During this time I proposed and led development for a program which focused on product offerings, services, and information designed to make homes safer, more functional, and easier to use. Boomers and their aging parents were primary targets based on demographic research and alignment with AARP’s newly (15 years ago) coined term “aging in place.” Coming full circle, I am one of those Boomers who would like to age in place and through the RVE initiative, apply my skills and learnings to help others in our collective neighborhoods. 

 

Betsy Buford

I have lived in Oakwood since 1978. I have served as the Deputy Secretary for Cultural Resources, Director of the NC Museum of History, and President of the NC Literary and Historical Society. I have served nationally with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Women in the Arts, and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. I have worked with the NC Democratic Party on many campaigns and issues, but none more significant than my effort on the Equal Rights Amendment. I also worked with Congressmen Richardson Preyer to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act. My mother Frances lived with me and my husband Donald until her death, an experience that taught me much about being a caregiver for an aging, much loved, and admired mother. 

 

John Connors

I am now retired. My career was developing and providing recreational and educational programming for visitors to parks and museums, and teaching as an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism at North Carolina State University. I have worked with many senior groups during my career. My wife, my friends, neighbors, and I are aging and with a nod, wink and a chuckle we discuss our infirmities of the day. It’s amusing but real. I quote my mom who used to say, “Getting old ain’t for sissies,” a quote that seems more relevant every day. Many of us hope to remain in our homes, but I can foresee a time in the not too distant future that we will need assistance.

 

Linda DeGrand

I am retired after 25 years as a distance learning professional.  In that capacity I worked with various universities designing and administering distance learning programs and delivery systems for students pursuing graduate degrees and continuing education.  In my last position I was Section Chief for Distance Learning Systems with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, work that included the oversight and administration of state budgets and Federal grants. In my retirement I am interested in serving the needs of an older population, the target audience of Raleigh Village East.  

 

Merrilee Jacobson

My husband Ken and I moved from Ohio to Raleigh in 1994 after purchasing a house in Mordecai during a 72-hour visit. We moved here without jobs, and I was fortunate to get a temporary and then a full-time position at CP&L, which later became Duke Energy.  Nineteen years later, I took an early retirement package and have been able to get involved in several volunteer organizations with my more flexible schedule. I currently serve as our church’s Property Ministry chairperson and am also on the board of Families Together, a nonprofit that works with families experiencing homelessness.  My interest in Raleigh Village East grew out of providing assistance to older friends so that they could continue to live independently.  
 

Mary Lovelock

In the 1980s I earned an MBA and, after working for some small business, I joined a small start-up non-profit opening and running a large 85-bed inner city (Hartford, CN) shelter for homeless men, women & families with children. I moved up to Executive Director and for 20 years was responsible for the overall operation of the agency. As we grew and expanded our services included older adults with serious problems who were unable to manage on their own. I've served on Boards, reported to Boards, managed programs, and raised money by grant writing and events. After retiring, we moved to Oakwood and for ten years I was the volunteer chair of Oakwood's Good Neighbor Committee, helping people in the neighborhood having health, recovery, or other problems, all with volunteers.

 

Anne Thomas

I am currently President/CEO of Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation. Prior to this position, I co-founded a healthcare consulting firm, Praxis Partners for Health, LLP. As a consultant, I served as the interim Public Health Director for Halifax County, NC, and worked with Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC). Before that I served for eighteen years as Public Health Director for Dare County, NC. I have degrees in nursing and pubic administration. Since moving to Oakwood, I have become involved in this community and look forward to help this non-profit identify health care needs and solutions. I am also navigating the care of my 93 year old mother who now lives in an assisted living facility with a memory care unit, but she thrived in her home environment as long as she was able to remain there.

 

Barbara Wishy

I have lived in Historic Oakwood since 1974. I have served on the board of the Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood, Inc. and I have rehabilitated several historic homes in the downtown area. Professionally, I worked for a non-profit corporation, Preservation North Carolina, Inc. as Director of the Endangered Properties Program. I intend to remain living in my historic home as long as I can and want to help others to do the same. Therefore I am pleased to serve on the board of Raleigh Village East.

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