FIN Board Member Bios

Karen Jackson, Founder and Executive Director

Karen lives in Norfolk with her husband Scott and three children, Joseph, Samantha and Jacob. She graduated from the Eastman School of Music, NY and Temple University, PA and has been band director at The Williams School in Ghent since 1998.

Karen’s experience advocating for her daughter who has autism and her work as a parish Advocate at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Norfolk, led her to found Faith Inclusion Network in 2008. Since that time, she has written about the topic of faith and inclusion with articles published in area newsletters, the Catholic Virginian and on various websites and blogs. Most recently she has contributed to the new book, “Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion” by Mark Pinsky, published by Alban Institute.

Karen shares “I see my work with FIN as something I have been called to do. I believe that by raising community awareness and by providing educational and networking opportunities we can help make our community’s places of worship more inclusive for everyone.”

You can reach Karen at kjackson@faithinclusionnetwork.org or by calling her at 757-282-8000.

Gray Puryear, Treasurer
2010-present

Gray is a native of Portsmouth, Virginia and a graduate of Old Dominion University with a B.A. in History. In 1971 he did four things that altered his life: he moved to Norfolk, got married, became a member of his wife’s church, and secured a job with the city of Norfolk. Of those four events, only one has changed: he is now retired from the City of Norfolk with 34 years of service in the Bureau of Recreation and has partially filled that void in his life by becoming a volunteer docent at the Chrysler Museum where he is finally using his history degree. Otherwise, he still lives in Norfolk, has been happily married to Sharon for 40 years, and continues to be a very active member of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. One of his positions in the church is coordinator of the Happy Hour Class, a class for intellectually challenged adults that was formed in 1967. Working with the Happy Hour Class has been challenging and rewarding and a source of great joy. Gray embraces the United Methodist slogan – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors. – and joining Faith Inclusion Network is a perfect fit for his passion of inclusion of all people in faith communities.

Jeff Turner, FIN Board Member
2010-present

Jeff is a native of Norfolk, VA. He married his high school sweetheart Cathy in 1975, raised 2 sons in Virginia Beach and moved as empty nesters to Suffolk. He was diagnosed with Lupus in 1977, became physically disabled in 1998 and had to retire from his employer of 25 years Hoy Construction Inc. After the death of his wife in 2008 he felt the need to get involved in an organization where he could apply his background in construction and his empathy for those with disabilities. He heard about FIN from a friend, who was already involved, and it quickly became apparent this was the opportunity God was providing. He has since moved back to Norfolk, lives with his son and his family and is still worshiping at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church in Suffolk. As Jeff sees it “Overcoming the barriers that physical limitations encounter can be easily fixed. Overcoming people’s fears and assumptions about those different from themselves takes education, love and softened hearts. FIN helps educate and encourages peoples of our local Faith Communities to see everyone as “abled” and to extend the love we have received from our God and Creator.”

Erik W. Carter, FIN Board Advisor
2012-present

Erik is an Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. He completed his graduate studies in the area of severe disabilities at Vanderbilt University and his undergraduate work at Wheaton College. His research and teaching focuses on strategies for supporting meaningful school inclusion and promoting valued roles in school, work, and community settings for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He has co-authored four books, one of which is Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities: A Guide for Service Providers, Families, and Congregations (Brookes Publishing). He lives in Tennessee with his wife Sharon and three children (Mason, Maddie, and Will).

Rosemarie Scotti Hughes, Ph.D., FIN Board Chair
2012 - present

Rosie is the mom of an adult son with ID and his three brothers, step-mom to three other adults, and mother-in-law and grandma to 9. She is Dean Emerita, School of Psychology and Counseling, Regent University, reflecting that 23 year career. She currently sees clients at Eden Counseling Center in Virginia Beach and teaches graduate students online for Liberty University.

Her published books include Parenting the Child with Special Needs and Counseling Families of Children with Disabilities. She is also co-author of 126 classroom guidance lessons for children in grades K-5, called S.A.I.L. Her published chapters and journal articles include disability issues. She has presented at conferences and invited seminars throughout the United States as well as Malaysia and Oxford, England. She was a US delegate to a disabilities conference at the Vatican.

She has been a member of several professional boards, including the State Board of Counseling in Virginia, the state human rights commission, The ARC, and the religion division of AAIDD. She is currently on the editorial board of two professional journals, Counseling and Values, and The Journal of Religion, Disability, and Health. She is on the Stephen Ministry Leadership team for her church. With FIN, she helped with the last conference and with the silent auction for the first fundraising event.

Pamela Tanner, FIN Board Member
2015-present

Pamela Tanner is from a Navy family and grew up in the Hampton Roads area. After living in Nashville TN, Boston, MA and Manchester NH for 15 years, working as a vocalist and musician, she has returned to settle with her family in Virginia Beach.

Pamela is married to William Tanner and mother of two children, Terry and Raven. Her passion for music and her experience as mom to Raven who has autism and multiple developmental delays, has led her to found and direct a disability/arts organization called Ravens Way Foundation.

Pamela brings much passion to FIN and shares, “So often I felt inadequate and lacking in knowledge, strength and patience to be Raven’s mother, so I finally asked God why He chose me. He said, “You have a big heart, a big passion, and a big mouth and I am going to use all of those gifts to make a difference in the lives of people”. We are excited to have Pamela use her gifts as part of our FIN team.

Hollie Stephens, FIN Peninsula Area Director and FIN Board Member
2014-present

Hollie is a Virginia native, and lives on the Peninsula Side of Hampton Roads with her husband and two adorable pugs. Hollie Stephens is Project Manager of the Program Management System with Lutheran Family Services. Hollie also specializes in working with adults and children affected by disabilities such as ID, DD, Autism, PDD, genetic disorders, chromosome disorders, and other disabilities. Hollie has over 10 years of experience provide intensive in-home therapy, therapeutic day treatment, structural family therapy, behavioral therapy, ABA, and advocacy for children, adults, and families. Hollie serves as the coordinator of Essential Pieces Tidewater, a program which offers FREE educational workshops and Community Adventures (field trips) for individuals living with or affected by disabilities and their families. Hollie is passionate about her work and helping families. Hollie has been participating in FIN events for about three years now. Hollie is excited about her new role as a FIN Board Member and working to create more inclusive communities: especially faith communities, services, resources, and programs for those affected by disabilities.

Mary Mathena, FIN Board Secretary
2015-present

Mary Mathena graduated from Old Dominion University with a Bachelor and Master of Arts in History. She has been employed as a museum aide and researcher, volunteer coordinator with the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, and as a fund raiser for the Endependence Center, a non-profit center for independent living (CIL) that provides services for persons with disabilities.

Mary is an extremely active advocate in our community. Some of the organizations on which she has served include the Virginia Statewide Independent Living Council, the Chesapeake Southside Lions Club, the Virginia Beach Mayor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities and the Chesapeake Bay chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. Most recently, she has been appointed to the City of Virginia Beach’s Human Rights Commission and is excited to serve as a new member of the Faith Inclusion Network Board of Directors.

Shelly Christensen, FIN Board Adviser
2015-present

Shelly Christensen, MA literally wrote the book on inclusion of people with disabilities, the Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities. Her award-winning work as Program Manager of the Minneapolis Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis for 13 years led her to co-found Jewish Disability Awareness Month. Shelly is founder and Executive Director of Inclusion Innovations, where she provides training, coaching, strategic planning and organization and community development for faith communities. Shelly is the president of the Religion and Spirituality Division of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) and is a frequent speaker at faith community and disability organization conferences on inclusion. Currently she is consulting with the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative and is co-founder and faculty for the Jewish Leadership Institute on Disabilities and Inclusion. She is the parent of an adult child with Asperger syndrome.

David Morstad, MEd, FAAIDD, FIN Board Adviser
2015-present

David Morstad was with Bethesda Lutheran Communities for over 35 years, serving in various capacities involving staff training and religious resource publication. He was the founding executive director of the Bethesda Institute and served as its Senior Fellow until 2015.

Throughout his career, he led the production team of the Staff Development Series, which became the largest video-based training program for disability support staff in the nation. As a teacher and consultant, he has assisted organizations with quality improvement and strategic planning; and has worked with organizations in the Caribbean and the former Soviet Union to advance their quality and training initiatives. He is a Fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) and was the 2010 recipient of the Henri J.M. Nouwen Award, presented by the Religion and Spirituality Division of AAIDD. He is a frequent presenter on issues involving disability and faith communities and is a widely published writer of curriculum and resources for adults with developmental disabilities.

Past Board Members

Helen Elder, 2010-13
Jenny Redick, 2010-12
Angela West, 2010-12
Juanita Williams, 2010-12
LaVerne Avant, 2010-12
Suzanne Eich, 2010-11
Rebecca Howell, 2012-14
Amos Yong, 2010-15
Angela Kahler, 2012-2015
Sheila Panitz, 2014-2015
Nikki Schwartz-2012-16
Mana Masters 2013-16