Meet Our Team

Together we work to Empower our community.

Jessica Davis - President & CEO

Jessica Davis, President & CEO

Since she was a young girl, Jessica wanted to help her community and the children within it. With a BS in Human Development and Family Science from Florida State University and an MS in Business Leadership from NOVA Southeastern University, boasts over 25 years in the nonprofit sector. Her extensive experience spans leadership roles in various areas, including case management, early childhood education, mental health, and substance abuse treatment programs. Notably, she spent 4.5 years in executive leadership at Children’s Home Society, overseeing 14 programs across 11 counties with a $10.5M budget and 150+ employees. Committed to community improvement, Jessica serves on multiple boards and committees, including the First Tee of Central Florida. Outside of work, she cherishes time with family, friends, and her pet Harley, indulging in live jazz, Caribbean travels, and reading.

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Nishika Stafford - Director of Health & Economic Mobility

Nishika Stafford, Director of Heath & Economic Development

Nishika Stafford holds degrees in Social Work and Health Administration from the University of Central Florida and Florida International University, respectively. With experience in long-term care, she volunteers with the homeless population and non-profit events in Central Florida. Nishika is passionate about supporting individuals and families facing societal challenges, especially youth, whom she encourages to pursue their dreams.

Driven by a passion for social justice, Nishika finds fulfillment in assisting individuals and families facing societal disadvantages. She is particularly dedicated to empowering youth, encouraging them to pursue their goals and realize their full potential. As a native of Central Florida, Nishika resides in the area with her two children.

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Rachel Whetstone - Comm. & Marketing Specialist

Rachel Whetstone, Communications & Marketing Specialist

Rachel is a native of Lake County and former local news editor and reporter. Rachel has also worked in educational publishing. She brings editing, writing, and media-relations experience to the organization and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. She is also a graduate of Lake-Sumter State College and Leesburg High School.

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Thawanna Hurge - Director of Community Impact

Thawanna Hurge, Director of Community Impact

Thawanna has dedicated 21 years to Early Childhood Education, initially working in the Department of Corrections before discovering her passion for child development while volunteering at Head Start. She transitioned to a full-time role in 2000 and has since served as the Director of Little Buffalo in the Villages. As a proud mother and grandmother, she believes in creating safe, supportive environments for all children to learn and grow. Thawanna holds certifications in Child Development and Florida Daycare Directors Credentials, along with a Bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies. She is committed to empowering teachers and believes in the transformative power of education.

Quotes: “There is Nothing as Powerful as a Changed Mind.”

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Cathy Bicknell - Director of Finance

Cathy Bicknell, Director of Finance

Cathy brings a strong foundation in Business Administration and extensive experience in various finance roles. She has developed a deep understanding of financial models, particularly within the United Way framework. Prior to joining us, Cathy served in key financial positions at the United Way of McLean County and the United Way of Marion County.

Her overarching goal is to elevate our United Way to unprecedented heights of success. This includes achieving a new UWW Metro ranking, surpassing $4M in revenue, and ensuring meticulous compliance, accuracy, and transparency in audits and 990 documentation. Cathy is dedicated to driving growth while upholding the highest standards of integrity and quality.

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Miriam Benton - Master Teacher

Miriam Benton, Master Teacher

Miriam is a native of Central Florida with a passion for teaching children. She has worked as a local early-childhood education teacher since 2006.

She has a Childhood Development Associate (CDA) and Directors credentials in childhood development.

Miriam has the propensity to make learning interesting and fun and believes all children have the ability to learn in a safe and encouraging environment.
In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and leading worship at her church. She also enjoys being a DONA International Doula, as well as photography, traveling, and using Canva.

Miriam is excited to join the team as Master Teacher and looks forward to making a positive impact.

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Juana Delacruz - Administrative Coordinator

Juana Delacruz, Administrative Coordinator

Juana is of Peruvian descent and a longtime Floridian. She’s worked previously as a paralegal and an administrative assistant for law firms and construction companies.

She is also working toward a degree in public relations and/or communications.

Juana loves that the UWLS mission and goals are specific to our local communities.

She loves paddleboarding, the beach, her kids and her cat, Max.

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Brandon Pitts - Director of Resource Development

Brandon Pitts, Director of Resource Development

Brandon has a passion for helping others and cultivating relationships in the community. He has extensive background in planned, major and annual giving, capital campaigns, strategic planning, corporate/individual donor, board stewardship, team building, community outreach, grant writing, and risk management.

In his spare time, he enjoys outdoor activities and spending time with family.

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Victoria Durham

Victoria Durham, Finance Coordinator

Victoria is a native Texan who has resided in Florida for more than 30 years. She is a devoted wife, mother of two and a proud citizen of Lake County.

She has more than 20 years of experience in small-business financial management with a strong initiative to be engaged in her community. Victoria found that United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties was the perfect fit for her skill set to be utilized for the service of our residents.

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Keia Wilson - EM Case Manager

Keia Wilson, Economic Mobility Case Manager

Keia Wilson is a Case Manager with United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties. She holds a BS in Business and Accounting and has had 18 years of experience in the medical field. Her passion is in raising morale and establishing strong communication along with a trusting therapeutic relationship with clients of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures.

She has worked with youth as a mentor, clients in need with funding options, and even helped clients assess the risks and outcomes of many of their decisions, using skills learned from when she was a data analyst. Keia tends to roam both counties in our service area, so you may spot her in Sumterville, Mount Dora, or even the South Lake area, as well as her home base of right here in Leesburg.

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We value diversity…

At United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties, diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the core of who we are. Our commitment to these values is unwavering – across all of our work in both of our two counties we have the pleasure of serving. They are central to our mission and vision, as well as our community impact. We know that having varied perspectives, backgrounds, and points of view, are able to help generate better ideas to solve the complex problems of a changing—and increasingly diverse—world.