Women to Watch Awards Finalists – Nonprofit

Meet the 2020 finalists

Non Profit

Latoiabrown 4 ResizedLatoia Brown
Volunteer and Board Chair, DREAMS Center for Arts Education
Co-founder & president, Kingdom Colors Home Education Community

LaToia Brown isn’t just a great leader. She also nurtures and mentors other great leaders. That’s what she did recently in her role as board chair of DREAMS Center for Arts Education, a nonprofit, after-school, and summer camp arts program. At DREAMS, students eight to eighteen years old experience a free, high-quality arts education focused upon youth development.

Brown came to DREAMS as many do – as a parent.

“My husband introduced me to DREAMS, and after a tour our daughter fell in love with it,” she recalls. Later, she became a volunteer, and she’s currently board chair.

“I’m proud of building a diverse board, establishing a new organizational model, our transition to a new executive director, and opening DREAMS up to the community to serve as a disaster relief site after Hurricane Florence,” Brown says.

In 2011, shortly after she and Lisa Johnson began homeschooling their children, they noticed a lack of diversity and inclusion in the local home education community, so they decided to create the community they wanted for their children and to be intentional about cultivating diverse relationships.

The pair co-founded Kingdom Colors Home Education Community, a diverse group of homeschooling families, to help families by giving support, providing information and a forum to share ideas and information with each other.

Cooper ResizedElizabeth Cooper
El Cuerpo Christ Community Church

A hurricane put a “stat” on Elizabeth Cooper’s and Pastor Paul Phillips and his staff’s plan to start El Cuerpo, which is a ministry of and operates from Christ Community Church.

The idea of starting an organization to serve the educational, health access, and spiritual needs of the Hispanic community in Wilmington began ten years earlier, when Christ Community Church began a small tutoring program to serve neighborhood students.

Soon, the pair noticed issues of access and equity for their Latino neighbors. They began formalizing their plans in 2018, and when Hurricane Florence hit in September 2018, they helped meet local food and shelter needs.

Cooper quickly developed partnerships with other leaders and organizations to offer more resources for Latinos, including health clinics, Know Your Rights nights, benevolence funding, and tutoring for students. She helped start a free community clinic organization run in partnership with New Hanover Regional Medical Center that has received grant funding from Live Oak Bank. The clinic primarily serves uninsured patients near the church.

Since COVID hit, El Cuerpo has run weekly food, mask, and household supply distributions for Hispanic neighbors in need, delivering or supplying thousands of meals in the area while partnering with groups like UNCW Latina Alliance and NourishNC.

Cooper also partnered with Young Scientists Academy to offer online learning for Latina students for STEM fields.

Fuge ResizedKrystina Fuge
Philanthropist, Volunteer, Entrepreneur, and Committee Lead,
Pink Ribbon Project

“I love being around positive people who are doing positive things for not only themselves but selflessly for others,” says Krystina Fuge. “When doing volunteer or community work, I see the best version of myself.”

By day, Fuge works full time a project specialist in FSP-Clinical Management at PPD. On her off time, she serves as the of committee head of donations for The Pink Ribbon Project of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation.

The project provides patients in Southeastern North Carolina access to 3D mammography screenings, comfort to those undergoing cancer treatment, and community awareness of breast cancer and the benefits of early diagnosis and screenings.

When Fuge joined the organization in 2019, she knew she wanted to put her project management skills to use to head a committee. She manages a team of ten people to solicit monetary gifts and gifts for the silent auction.

In addition to Pink Ribbon Project, Fuge is a member of Port City Young Professionals and has volunteered for many charitable events in the area. She’s also a member of The Inspiration Lab and plans to create a small group dedicated to community involvement.

Nicole 2 ResizedLily Nicole
Director of Community Engagements,
the lowercase leaders

Lily Nicole became a newsmaker months ago when stories and photos of her speaking to police during the Wilmington protests following the killing George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. Nicole tried to de-escalate the violence that was brewing.

She says she has always been active in her community, particularly since living downtown. After all, she says, she lives here, too. This is her home, the people are her neighbors, and the issues affect her, as well, she says.

Nicole became group organizer of lowercase leaders, initially being the face of the Wilmington protests. While the focus of the nonprofit is still the community, she says aside from protests, there are other ways to invest in the community, such as book clubs where people can read challenging material and delve into the conversation with a group.

“We believe a protest without a purpose is pointless,” Nicole says. “So, we have evolved into community education and outreach.”

Trammel 2 ResizedRebecca Trammel
Executive Director,
Champions for Compassion

Two days after her mother died of ovarian cancer in January 2014, Rebecca Trammel was laying the groundwork for an organization that would honor her mother’s work as a substance-use disorder specialist.

Ruthie Trammel’s Champions for Compassions aims to remove obstacles to recovery and to remove the stigma of addiction and mental illness, promote professional development, and restore hope. Trammel serves as the organization’s cofounder and president.

Her next initiative, United for Racial Justice, aims to offer business leaders the opportunity to form a community of allies for equitable prosperity. She also is cocurating Cucalorus Connect, which this year has the theme of racial justice.

Champions for Compassions gives away bus passes and bicycles to keep people on the road to recovery. They’ve advocated for and raised awareness to combat veteran suicide for American warriors.

Helping families with behavioral health challenges, helping students and community members, and improving understanding of culture are core to Trammel’s work.

During COVID-19, she launched an initiative to provide masks to people most at risk.

When the work Champions for Compassions was doing began to surpass its stated mission, they started another initiative called Community Conversations, advocating for meeting basic needs for students, improving cultural competency and collaborating to eliminate the achievement gap.

When school was canceled due to COVID, she began Operation Ring and Run, which provided 2,200 meals to 1,100 students and 369 families in two weeks.

To view the Women to Watch Awards Finalists main page, click here.

Categories: Women to Watch