Women to Watch: Nonprofit Finalists

Meet the Women to Watch award finalists in the Nonprofite category

Dawn Ellis

Director | Share the Table Food Ministry

Dawn Ellis, who has worked in adult care facilities, hospitals, and her church as a children’s ministry coordinator, started Share the Table in 2010 as another way to help others.

The idea began as a free community meal to anyone who was hungry or lonely. Every Sunday night, a group gathers at Faith Harbor United Methodist Church for a hot meal and fellowship. Over the years, Share the Table has expanded services to include a weekly food pantry and school backpack program to discreetly provide food assistance to children in need. The group now serves about 500 people a week from Pender and Onslow counties, and it continues to grow.


Kyria Henry

Founder, CEO | paws4people foundation

Kyria Henry founded paws4people foundation at the age of twelve as a means of using dogs to help people.

The organization specializes in training assistance dogs for two groups: children and adolescents with physical, neurological,

psychiatric, or emotional disabilities; and veterans and active-duty service members with chronic/complex post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and military sexual trauma.

Besides overseeing more than 300 trained assistance dogs, Henry also is the program director and teaches classes for UNCW’s Assistance Dog Training Program, a unique program even on the national level.

The first class started in 2011 and includes undergraduate students with majors ranging from recreation therapy to psychology.

The intent is to introduce the concept of assistance dogs and the people they serve to future professionals in a variety of fields.

The UNCW students, the group’s specially trained staff, and members of the community work with puppies to socialize them. Puppies then enter an inmate intervention program to learn advanced commands and give inmates work experience.

The paws4people group has more than 200 volunteers and operates in sixteen states, placing dogs nationwide.


Jana Jones Halls

Executive Director | Blue Ribbon Commission Prevention of Youth Violence

Note: Since Jana Jones Halls also served as a judge, she recused herself from the discussion about her nomination and selection as a finalist.

As head of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence, Jana Jones Hall has been immersed in Wilmington’s Northside neighborhood.

Working with young people and their families in the designated Youth Enrichment Zone and D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, she also reaches out to city officials and business leaders to raise awareness and funds.

Her initial contact with D.C. Virgo was as an AmeriCorps HandsOn Corps VISTA program volunteer and community outreach coordinator with the school.


Alexandra Leviner

Assistant Director | NourishNC

Alexandra Leviner found herself first taking on a leadership role at a nonprofit when she was twenty-six when that group’s executive director had to take a leave. She took to the work, increasing fundraising and upping volunteer involvement.

Now, in her somewhat new role as assistant director of NourishNC, Leviner already is making an impact at that nonprofit, too.

She started in May, and during the group’s summer packing event, close to 300 volunteers gathered to pack eighty-pound food boxes for 325 children.

The nonprofit group packs and distributes backpacks with food to students in the area who might otherwise go hungry over the weekend when they don’t have access to free and reduced-price meals provided at school.


Charlon Turner

Festival Director | North Carolina Black Film Festival

Charlon Turner has no shortage of titles.

Turner is founder and CEO of Turner Solutions, a boutique public relations firm that assists nonprofits, small businesses, organizations, and programs. She also was the web and social media coordinator for Working Films.

Turner was appointed director of the North Carolina Black Film Festival in 2012 and is a board member of the Black Arts Alliance, serving as vice president to help plan the annual event.

She also has worked with Outside the Walls, a faith-based mentoring program of the Wilmington Leadership Foundation since 2008 and is currently the program director.

Officials named Turner the artist in residence for UNCW’s Upperman African American Cultural Center for the 2013-14 school year, and she worked with the center’s director Todd McFadden to develop the Black Film Collective for film students at the university.

For more about the awards and other category finalists, click here.