Who We Are

Improving the health, well-being and overall quality of life for those living in the westernmost region of North Carolina

Nantahala Health Foundation is committed to collaborating with organizations to build capacity and address areas that significantly affect the health and well-being of all people in the community we serve.

Nantahala Health Foundation, a public 501(c)3 nonprofit, is charged with improving the health, wellness and overall quality of life for those living in the westernmost region of North Carolina, including Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties, as well as the Qualla Boundary.  

Nantahala Health Foundation is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors reflecting the diversity of the region. This diversity is demonstrated in where they live, their expertise regarding the social drivers of health, as well as by their race and gender. 

Our Staff Leadership

LORI BAILEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Call Lori: 828.634.1527

Lori has nearly 30 years of experience working to protect, equip, and empower our most vulnerable citizens. A native of Western North Carolina, Lori holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. After receiving her BA, Lori worked for 12 years in various public and not-for-profit roles covering the Asheville and broader Western North Carolina region in positions working to support individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental illness, the aging and caregivers for those individuals. This work included mobilization and empowerment of recipients of public mental health services to have a voice in state-level system reform efforts.

Lori relocated to upstate South Carolina, where she earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in International Family and Community Studies from Clemson University. While completing her degree, she worked for Clemson University on the Strong Communities for Children initiative, a comprehensive effort to prevent child maltreatment by building systems of support for families of young children through grassroots neighborhood and community mobilization.

Since completing her degrees, Lori has more than 12 years of proven leadership and management success in executive and senior leadership positions in not-for-profit organizations serving children, youth, and families in crisis, including those experiencing housing instability and homelessness, those experiencing food insecurity, and other economic disadvantage, and those involved with the child welfare system.

“Nantahala Health Foundation is well-poised to mobilize our mountain communities to address the grassroot issues impacting the health and well-being of the region I’ve has always considered home,” said Lori, who lives with her husband, Doug, in Jackson County’s Balsam community. 

Lisa Duff_headshot

LISA DUFF, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR

Call Lisa: 828.634.1528

Lisa joined Nantahala Health Foundation as the Advancement Officer in January 2020 and was promoted to Associate Director early in 2021. Prior to joining NHF, she worked for nearly 15 years in nonprofit Business Administration, Marketing/Communications, and Fundraising. Calling Jackson County home for nearly her entire life, Lisa attended Western Carolina University, where she earned a degree in English and Communications, which lead to a 12-year journalism career following college.

After her father was diagnosed with cancer, Lisa left journalism to work for a cure as a fundraiser and community organizer throughout Western North Carolina with the American Cancer Society. It was during her time with ACS that she returned to school, this time earning an MBA at Walden University. When an East Tennessee nonprofit sent out a call for its first marketing and membership director, she answered by moving to Gatlinburg, TN, to support the work of the Great Smoky Mountains Association. Here she grew the nonprofit’s membership program and worked to grow the GSMA brand as a premier partner of the National Park Service.

With her work at Nantahala Health Foundation, Lisa has return home to Western North Carolina, where she looks forward to partnering with community leaders to identify and remove barriers to health for all. When not spending time with her family and dogs, Lisa enjoys hiking, listening to educational podcasts and taking the road less traveled.

Our Board of Directors

LISA LEATHERMAN, CHAIR

A native of Franklin, Lisa holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Elon College. She has been an employee of Duke Energy for more than 30 years, having worked in various customer-facing roles, including lake services, hydro relicensing, hydro operations, engineering, and vegetation management.

A member of the Rotary Club of Sylva, she serves on boards for the Mountain West Partnership, Southwestern Community College Foundation, Mainspring Conservation Trust, Macon County Department of Social Services, Macon County Community Foundation, Macon County Recreation Commission, Smoky Mountain Host and Western Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology Dean’s Advisory Board.

She has also served on the board for Macon County Habitat for Humanity, Macon County CareNet, Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce and WCU’s Academic Community Engagement Board.

“It is an honor to serve as a founding member – and now chair – of Nantahala Health Foundation,” she said. “The opportunity to partner with nonprofits, agencies, local governments, and community leaders in the six westernmost counties in Western North Carolina to influence the health and well-being of fellow citizens is humbling and motivating.”

ROGER PLEMENS, VICE CHAIR

After graduating from Western Carolina University, Roger went to work at Macon Savings and Loan Association (now Entegra Bank) in March of 1978 as a mortgage loan officer. The bank held $27 million in assets with one office when he started. Roger was promoted to manager of Mortgage Lending in 1981. He became the chief lending officer and vice president in 1984 and senior vice president in 1994. Roger was promoted to president/CEO in April 2004. When Entegra Bank merged with First Citizens Bank, it had $1.6 billion in assets with 18 branches and two loan production offices.

Roger has been active in his community, previously serving on the board of Angel Medical Center, president of the Macon County Chamber of Commerce, president of the Franklin Daybreak Rotary, board member of Western Carolina University Foundation, board member of the North Carolina Bankers Association and currently serves on Macon County’s Economic Development Commission.

“Working toward the betterment of my community has always been important to me,” Plemens said, “and because the work we’re doing at Nantahala Health Foundation is guaranteed to pay dividends for us all well into the future, I would encourage anyone interested in leaving a lasting legacy on this community to get involved with our mission.”

Roger Plemens
Angie Knight

ANGIE KNIGHT, SECRETARY

A native of North Carolina, Angie grew up in Lenoir and moved to Robbinsville in 1983. A graduate of Robbinsville High School, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education, Master’s degree in Special Education, and her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Western Carolina University. With an education career spanning more than 30 years, Angie serves as superintendent of Graham County Schools.

“Having spent my entire career in education, I have learned that all community issues are interconnected, including community health and wellness,” she said. “I look forward to actively participating with the other NHF board members to make decisions that benefit all our communities.”

Angie is married to Jeff Knight, school resource officer at Graham County Schools. They have two children.

 

JANE KIMSEY, TREASURER

Founding Board Chair: 2019-2021

Jane spent her career as the director of the Macon County Department of Social Services. After 33 years of service – 26 years as the director – she retired in 2015. During her tenure she served on numerous local, regional and state professional boards related to health and well-being.

After retirement, Jane continued to serve in leadership roles on the local hospital board and two low-income housing boards, resigning from these boards to serve on the NHF Board. Jane received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from N.C. Governor Pat McCrory in 2015 and received both the Outstanding DSS Director Award in 2011 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 from the N.C. Association of County Directors of Social Services.

Jane is a ninth-generation resident of the area that became Macon County in 1828. Her love of her mountain home community, her commitment to service, and her desire to help people help themselves are the reasons she decided to serve on the health foundation’s Board of Directors.

Jane is a proud mother of a daughter and a son, and a very proud grandmother of two grandsons and a granddaughter.

CLARISSA ASHE

A first-generation Mexican-American, Clarissa was born in Tucson, AZ, and has lived in Western North Carolina since age 16. Growing up, she spent her school holidays in Agua Prieta, Sonora Mexico, with her grandmothers.

A graduate of Western Carolina University, she earned a degree in International Business. Clarissa has been employed by the Jackson County Health Department since 2004, first as a foreign language medical interpreter (Spanish is her first language); and currently, since 2009, the department’s Business Officer. In this role she is responsible for the organization and supervision of fiscal and budgetary operations, personnel administration, purchasing, and managerial functions, as well as analyzing and solving workflow problems.

Clarissa met her husband, Travis, a Sylva native, while both were attending WCU. They have two sons, Eli and Max, who are both involved in local sports.

“I am a Public Health Nerd at heart. Improving the health and well-being of our community is a priority for (the health department), and Nantahala Health Foundation strives for the same. I am honored to serve on a Board that shares the same vision for our community,” she said.

Clarissa Ashe Head Shot
Alison Cochran

ALISON COCHRAN

Raised in Bryson City, Alison graduated from UNC-Asheville with a bachelor of science degree in earth science and earned a master of health science degree from Western Carolina University. She began her career with the Swain County Health Department in 2005 as an environmental health program specialist. In 2013 she was appointed interim director at Swain County Health Department and in 2015 was named director.

As a representative of Swain County and health directors across Western North Carolina, Alison’s experience gives her an enhanced understanding of the challenges our communities face with social determinants and how we can invest in our counties’ future.

Alison and her husband, Cabbott, are parents to their son,  Landon. She and her family enjoy camping, going to the lake and, of course, playing baseball!

OLLIN DUNFORD

Ollin is retired from Goodyear Rubber Tire & Company and holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Carolina University in sociology with a minor in health and physical education. He has served on the Jackson County Planning Board since March 2021. Prior to that, he served on the planning board for the Village of Forest Hills, as well as a board member for Jackson County Sports Hall of Fame for 12 years.                                 

Ollin has been a fixture in Jackson County Sports for more than 20 years. He has served as Varsity Girls’ Head Basketball coach at Smoky Mountain High School since 2018. Prior to that, he served 13 years as assistant coach with 11 of the years as the Head Junior Varsity coach. He has been the President of Jackson County Youth Basketball for more than 18 years.

Ollin lives in Jackson County with his wife, Jane Adams-Dunford, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at WCU.

“I aspire to be involved in something bigger than myself. I am intentional in my work,” he said. “My lens desires a harmonious, inclusive community where inequities are identified, and all feel welcomed. There is so much need in the community. We all have to do our part to make it better – and I strive to do that every day.”

DAVID GARRETT

Board Chair: 2022

Born and raised in Georgia, David relocated to Jackson County in 2002 after falling in love with this region as an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. David joined the Employment Security Commission (now NCWorks) in 2009, where he worked as an employment counselor before becoming the business service representative for Southwestern Commission in 2014. In 2018 David was named the Southwestern Workforce Development Board director, supporting workforce initiatives and projects throughout our region.

David believes Nantahala Health Foundation can help Western North Carolina maximize the health potential of our community by reducing health disparities and access to quality healthcare and resources. “A healthy community translates to a healthy workforce, which, in turn, allows us to grow and prosper.”

David is an avid cyclist and loves traveling and exploring Western North Carolina.

ANN LUKENS

A semi-retired paramedic, Ann is still involved in the work of two volunteer fire departments and as a medical first responder in the Hiwassee Dam and Unaka areas of Cherokee County.  She has some 20 years of experience in EMS and first response. A former Red Cross disaster volunteer, she has been deployed to 14 national disasters, largely in the southern US. Formerly a social worker in hospitals and child protective services in New York and Georgia, her specialty was geriatric services.

Ann holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont and an associate degree in emergency medical sciences from Tri-County Community College. 

She and her husband, Jan, enjoy gardening, chasing after their German Shepherds, and being outdoors. Ann also enjoys educating the public about disaster preparedness and personal safety.

“I am delighted to join the Board of the Nantahala Health Foundation and hope that my varied experience brings an insightful viewpoint to discussions and decisions impacting the health and welfare of our citizens and region.”

Ann Lukins head shot

DEBBIE MAUNEY

Debbie began her career with the Clay County Department of Social Services in 1990 and served as its director until being named County Manager in 2020.

Debbie’s passion over the years has been to develop in-house resources (DSS) and to work with the community to develop resources that did not exist when needed. Debbie says she is excited about the opportunity to serve on the Nantahala Health Foundation board. She believes that her experience working with families will help in developing a plan to address the social determinants of health in this region. Her career has allowed her to witness how we can make a difference when given the chance to make our community a better place to live.

Debbie is married to Alan Mauney; they reside in Brasstown. They are proud parents of daughter Allie.

BARBARA 'SUNSHINE' PARKER

Sunshine grew up in the Yellowhill and Tow String communities on the Qualla Boundary. After graduating from Swain County High, she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Tennessee. She worked in the field of developmental disabilities for several years before returning to school to pursue a law degree.

Upon graduating from law school, she returned to the  Qualla Boundary, where the bulk of her work focused on child welfare, human services and legal issues in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Office of the Attorney General. She was named an Associate Judge of the Cherokee Trial Court in 2021 and continues to serve as a member of both the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority and the Yogi Crowe Memorial Scholarship boards.

Upon her introduction to the board, Sunshine said, “I believe my work and skills will mesh well with the mission, values, and vision of Nantahala Health Foundation. I hope to bring to the board a new perspective based on my upbringing, education, and experience.”

Paul Worley head shot

PAUL WORLEY

Paul Worley, a native and resident of Murphy, is Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development and directs the Continuing Education Programs at Tri-County Community College. He also serves on the Economic Development Agency for Cherokee County where he works with new and existing businesses to locate them in the county or to expand their existing footprint. 

Paul earned a Master’s Degree in Education and Two-Year College Administration from Western Carolina University after earning a Bachelor of Business Administration from Montreat College.

Paul and his wife are the parents of two daughters: the oldest teaches at Andrews Middle School; the youngest just graduated from WCU and is working toward becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant. They also have two grandsons they adore.

“I believe the work this board is doing has the same potential to create change for our mountain communities that TVA did back in the 1950s,” Paul said. “Our organization, partnering with Dogwood Health Trust, Golden Leaf, Appalachian Regional Commission, and the many educational and economic development groups in the region, has the potential to create prosperity for our residents in much the same way as bringing electrical power to the communities.”