Our Board of Directors

The Ability1st Board of Directors consists of a diverse group of leaders in our community. They provide the staff with the governance and and resources necessary to efficiently and effectively serve those living with a disability in the Big Bend area.

Person

Bruce Leslie

President

Bruce Leslie has spent 34 years as an Information Technology professional. Early in his career, his focus was implementing complex systems in the banking and public safety industries. In 2002, Leslie relocated from the Tampa Bay area to Tallahassee to work, and now works for one of the largest IBM business partners in the country. For the past twelve years he has been active at Ability1st as a volunteer, Board member and Board officer. Leslie served in a variety of positions including vice president and president. During his tenure, Ability1st established two primary fundraising campaigns; started a campaign to raise money to expand the Ability1st Office Building; and laid the groundwork to retire the existing mortgage while growing the reserve fund. As President of the current Board, his goals for the organization include increasing the Board size, broadening Board experience and expertise, and enhancing fundraising capacity.

Person

Judy Barnes

Vice President

Judy Barnes recently retired from Tallahassee Community College (TCC) where she served as an Advisor in the Support Services Department. Prior to her time at TCC, she was an educator for 27 years in Alabama serving as a teacher for students with disabilities, an elementary guidance counselor, and school psychometrist. Barnes earned a Bachelor’s degree from Auburn University in Emotional Conflict and a Master’s degree from Troy State University in Counseling with a certification in in School Psychometry.

Person

Richard Kitchen

Interim Treasurer

Richard “Lee” Kitchen, interim Treasurer, is a local writer of award winning screenplays and plays.  Prior to writing full-time, Kitchen served as Professor of Marketing, Personal Finance, and Introduction to Business at Tallahassee Community College where he was awarded the ISOD Outstanding Professor Award. His background includes marketing and advertising for such companies as J. Walter Thompson, The Mentholatum Company, and Greater Buffalo Press (later Sullivan Graphics). Kitchen is an Honorary Professor, Tianjin Foreign Studies University, Tianjin, China. He has served on the boards of Artpark & Company and The Peyton Tuthill Foundation.

Person

Diane Patchen

Secretary

Diane B. Patchen spent her career in education, first as teacher for kids with disabilities, grades K-10, and then serving as Exceptional Education Director for Nassau County for more than 31 years. Additional work experience includes teaching at the University of North Florida as an Adjunct Professor and Facilitator for the Professional Development Alternatives for Exceptional Students Board (PDA-ESE). She earned a BA from Florida State University,  a M Ed. from University of North Florida, and a S. ED from the University of Florida. She is a Certified Mediator for Special Education and has served on the Board of Trustees for Tallahassee Community College, the PDA-ESE, the Advisory Board for Multi agency Service Networks for Severely Emotionally Disturbed, State Advisory Committee for Exceptional Students and chaired her local Family Planning Services Intervention Team. Patchen has worked with people with disabilities during her entire career and says she is inspired to see how many people are working to provide the best possible services in our community.

Person

Kyra Jenkins

At Large

Kyra Jenkins is the Nurse Residency Program Manager and a Registered Clinical Nurse in the Internal Medicine Unit at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare. She earned Associate of Arts and Associate of Nursing degrees from Tallahassee Community College (TCC), a Masters of of Science in Nursing from Thomas University, and is Certified as a Medical Surgical Nurse. Jenkins has also served on medical missions to Morelia, Mexico and Dumay, Haiti. While at TCC, she was named Outstanding Female Student and was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She was also a member of Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing while at Thomas University and was recently an ICARE award nominee at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare.

Person

Mary Lazor

At Large

Mary Lazor is Vice President, Strategic Policy and Performance for Career Source Florida,  the statewide workforce policy and investment board. Prior to being named Vice President in 2018, she served as Director of Contracts for nine years. In 2006, she was honored by Tallahassee Community College at the “Women: Builders of Communities and Dreams” event for her outstanding leadership skills and service to the community.  Lazor has a Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.

Person

Savannah Middlebrooks

At Large

Savannah Middlebrooks is a Data Analyst for Citizens Property Insurance. She spent the last five years volunteering for several different organizations including Ability1st, the Junior League of Tallahassee, Children’s Home Society, Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and Equality Florida. Most recently she has lobbied the Florida Legislature to add people with physical disabilities to the list of protected classes under Florida Hate Crime legislation. Middlebrooks earned a Bachelor’s degree from University of West Florida. Being disabled herself, she was first drawn to Ability1st because of their people-first approach to empowering people with disabilities to attain their goals, including independence.

Person

H. Dean Perkins

At Large

H. Dean Perkins in Tallahassee, Florida, is the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)/504 Coordinator for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).  An architect since 1984, Dean joined FDOT in 1988 to design rest areas.  In January 1992 he was appointed to initiate the Department's ADA Program for transportation buildings and facilities, which expanded to include roads and bridges in 1999.  He directs the activities of district ADA coordinators, provides technical support, and develops and conducts ADA/504 training for department staff, design consultants, contractors and local agencies.  He has developed, coordinated and presented sessions on accessible transportation facilities at multiple national conferences. In 1994 Perkins was appointed to the Governor's ADA Working Group, a statewide organization to advise state and local government agencies on ADA compliance issues.  As a member of the Florida Building Commission's Accessibility Technical Advisory Committee, he worked with the Florida Building Commission to refine the Florida Accessibility Code.  He is currently Secretary of the Board of the National Association of ADA Coordinators, a nonprofit organization founded to educate public and private entities in all aspects of the ADA.  Dean has a Master of Architecture degree from Florida A&M University.

Person

Kelvin Sands

At Large

Kelvin Sands has worked for the State of Florida Department of Transportation for 33 years. Originally from Tallahassee, he attended Florida State High School, Tallahassee Community College, and is a graduate of Lively Technical Center. He has served on the Ability1st Board of Directors for seven years.

Person

Craig Stephens

At Large

Craig Stephens worked in finance prior to his retirement in 2011. He spent 35 years at the State of Florida Department of Banking and Finance and five at Fringe Benefits Management Co. He attended Gulf Coast Community College and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. In his free time, Stephens enjoys sports, especially football, golf and auto racing.  

Person

Malika Woody

At Large

Malika Woody has worked for more than 10 years in government, social services and disability programs. An active member of her community, she volunteers for several organizations including Stonewall Columbus, Meals on Wheels, Food for Haiti, Kate Sullivan Elementary School and Cobb Middle School Parent Teacher Organizations, and Habitat for Humanity. Woody earned a Bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and has directed a play, edited a book, and served as foster parent to several teenagers. She chooses to volunteer on the Board of Ability1st because she believes there is great value in how the organization serves a population in the community who often does not have other options for the services provided.    

Ability First Logo

Ability1st, the Center for Independent Living of North Florida, is a community-based nonprofit organization that provides services to persons with varying disabilities. Ability1st serves Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Gadsden, and Wakulla counties.