Meet our Board of Directors
Patti is retired from a career in Early Childhood Education. After living in Charlotte for 30 years, she and her husband are now year round residents of the High Country. Patti is a member of Rumple Presbyterian Church and is a board member of Hospitality House. She is the mother of three and the happy grandmother to two grandsons, Reid and Luke. Patti enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time in our beautiful mountains.
Originally from Indiana, Susan Duke has lived in the High Country for 30 years. Her professional background is in business, with work at a law firm, in the news industry, and in administration at the Blowing Rock Hospital. Susan also volunteers with the Holy Cross Church, the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum, and serves on the board of the Watauga Humane Society. She is the Director of the Boone Bridge Club and an American Contact Bridge League Certified Teacher.
Megan Lynch Ellis
Megan Lynch Ellis is regional development officer for the North Carolina Community Foundation. She is responsible for development in eighteen counties that make up the western and northwestern regions of the state. Prior to joining NCCF in November of 2013, Megan was major gifts and special events coordinator for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System from 2008-2013. She is the former president of the board of directors of the Children’s Playhouse in Boone and served for four years as treasurer for the Cancer Resource Alliance of the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center. Megan attended the University of South Carolina and Temple University, where she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English. She also earned a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University.
Billie has been an activist for over forty years. Some of her favorite causes include those benefiting women, children and animals. She was a member and supporter of both the Appalachian Women’s Fund and the High Country Women’s Fund for seven years, and now serves the WFBR as a Board Member and the Development Committee Co-Chair. Previous involvement in other organizations include: Blowing Rock PTO, Friends of Watauga High School, American Heart Association, and the Watauga Humane Society.
Christina worked as a Real Estate Broker in Miami for 33 years. Along with her late husband, she built a terminal at the Sanford-Orlando Airport, now known as OSI. Christina is a pilot with a multi-engine rating. Her passions are sailing, gardening, painting in several media, tennis, and she enjoys occasional golf. She has been very involved in environmental volunteer work since she moved to Valle Crucis 18 years ago, and another of her passions is to help women of all ages in the High Country.
Mary is a retired teacher from the Pulaski County School System in Southwest Virginia.She was an elementary classroom teacher and later supervised Title 1 instructional aides. She moved to the mountains in 2001 when her husband accepted a position at ASU. Mary enjoys traveling, walking, reading and volunteering with the WFBR. She loves having her daughter, Ashley, living close by in Boone.
Kathleen, a Miami-based philanthropist and entrepreneur is a widely respected businesswoman and volunteer leader. As Managing Director of her family’s philanthropic foundation, The Ethel & W. George Kennedy Family Foundation, Kathleen guides charitable support in multiple states supporting a variety of causes and holds positions on numerous non-profit boards. What started out as a part-time job has become a lifelong passion: “I never lose sight of the importance philanthropic foundations and volunteerism has as an instrument of change in the lives of people in need.”
Maria Julian (Secretary)
Maria took her first nonprofit job ten years ago and has worked ever since for social change and health organizations. After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova, Maria worked on issues affecting women and girls with organizations such as Partners in Health, Girls’ Health in Girls’ Hands, and the State of the World’s Mother’s report. Maria earned a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Journalism from Ohio University and a Master of Public Administration from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. She is the Innovative Approaches Coordinator at the Appalachian District Health Department. Maria loves playing euchre and pointing out palindromes.
Susie was born in Monroe, NC and graduated from Greensboro College in 1970. After moving to Boone in 1992, she began working at Appalachian State University and retired in 2013 as Director of Testing Services. She has both a Master’s and an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees in higher ed administration. In the past, she has served on the Board of Directors for the Valle Crucis Conference Center and on the Governing Council of the National College Testing Association. Susie lives with her dog and cat in Boone and has a daughter, Kelly Witmer, who resides in Los Angeles. She attends St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church in Blowing Rock and volunteers at Hospitality House and Watauga Hospital.
Debbie, a native Tar Heel, has lived in Boone since 1980 where she and Richard raised three fabulous children. Debbie has owned two small businesses and served on several non-profit boards, mostly in the capacity of Treasurer. One of her proudest accomplishments was her role in creating and establishing Mountain Pathways School, a Montessori school in the Boone community. She is thrilled to be involved in the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge!
Deborah Smith (Treasurer)
Deborah works as a psychologist connected to Florida’s Child Welfare system and mental health managed care. She had a full time private practice and oversight responsibility for community mental health program in central Florida prior to moving to North Carolina eight years ago. She and her partner are currently enjoying living in beautiful western Ashe County. Deborah enjoys gardening and needlework, and loves to travel.
Patti Turner (Vice Chair)
Patti is currently a full-time real estate broker with Sotheby’s Realty in Blowing Rock and has long been a community volunteer in Watauga County. She was formerly a small business owner who opened Boone’s first fitness center just for women. She is married to local attorney John Turner, and her passions are fitness and yoga, gardening, college basketball (Go Heels!), and baseball. They have one son, Ryan. In addition to helping women by serving on the board of the WFBR and as former chair of the Appalachian Women’s Fund, Patti has also advocated for OASIS, children, and for preventing homelessness and hunger.
Elena and her husband moved from South Florida to Vilas in 2012, after she had managed her family’s law firm for 22 years. A former chair of the High Country Women’s Fund luncheon, she is active not only with the WFBR, but with the Temple of the High Country and as a Guardian ad Litem volunteer in Wilkes County. She is the co-owner of ReDeux Boutique in Boone, and loves the outdoors, exercising, and shopping.
A member of the American Society of Interior Designers, Emily settled in Boone after living in nine different cities. President of the Blue Ridge Garden Club, she also presides over the Hearts of Hospitality House group for which she started the annual Turkey Trot 5K fundraiser. Emily is on the Campaign Cabinet for the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, and is also on their Friends Committee, informally known as the “Party Girls.” She was recently the design consultant for Boone’s newest micro-brewery, Lost Province.
Jan Rienerth (Chair)
From Cleveland, Ohio, Jan attended Ohio University as an undergrad and Southern Illinois University for her graduate degrees. She recently retired from teaching Sociology at Appalachian State after 40 years of service. She has been a Guardian ad Litem for many years working with abused, neglected and dependent children. Jan has also been an advisor for Sigma Kappa sorority and serves on the board of the Western Youth Network, an organization she helped found.
A Boone Native, Jan Winkler and her husband own and run The Winkler Organization, a commercial real estate business in the High Country that specializes in student housing. She is pleased to be the co-owner of ReDeux Consignment Boutique, where customers and consigners can benefit the WFBR through shopping and donating upscale clothing and home goods.
Sue is a graduate of Appalachian State University, where she first realized the personal and community benefits of working with and supporting nonprofits as an intern at the Watauga County Hunger Coalition (now the Hunger and Health Coalition). For more than 15 years, Sue has worked in Information Technology (IT) managing large-scale software implementation projects and is currently the Director of IT at Crisis Assistance Ministry, a Charlotte-based nonprofit. Originally from North Carolina, she and her husband moved back to Watauga County in 2013, and Sue is so excited to be part of the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge and help carry out the organization’s mission.