Our Staff

At Ability1st we are a team. We work together, debate strategy, and cheer each other on. We are passionate about what we do and inspired by our mission to empower people with disabilities to live independently and enhance their quality of life.

People

Dan Moore

Executive Director, aka Team Captain

Dan Moore wears many hats at Ability1st. He oversees staff and programs, grant management, directs consumer services, fundraising, community relations, human resources, and has even been spotted doing landscaping at Ability1st on the weekends. A team member for over 20 years, he is inspired by providing staff with opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the Big Bend neighbors we serve. Among his favorite moments at Ability1st is learning enough American Sign Language to communicate socially with people who are Deaf. Moore’s hero is M.Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled and his secret skill is juggling.

People

Holly Bernardo

Assistant Director

Holly Bernardo grew up in Tallahassee, FL and spends her days working on Ability1st program supervision, grant/contract management, reports for funders, and working directly with consumers. Her favorite moment at Ability1st was watching a consumer she had the privilege of counseling become stable, begin a long-term relationship, and become a homeowner. She is inspired by watching people choose to love and accept who they are, grow, recover, heal, and change. Bernardo’s hero is Mother Teresa and her favorite ice cream flavors are Jeni’s Splendid Brown Butter Almond Brittle or Pear Riesling.

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Andrea Wiggins

Family Housing Coordinator

Andrea Wiggins was born in Fort Lauderdale, raised in Jefferson County, and has lived in Tallahassee for more than 10 years. In her position at Ability1st flexibility is key, because each day is different. She works to secure housing for Big Bend families by conducting housing site visits, helping consumers complete applications, and working to secure necessary housing supplies and furniture. Her favorite moment at Ability1st was completing a zip line team building exercise at the staff retreat. “I have a fear of heights, so just considering making the climb, then making it to the top felt great,” she said. Wiggins hero is her mother and she is inspired everyday by life and hope.

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Barbara Groves

Director of Finance

Barbara Groves's typical work day is spent working on grant management. Her favorite moment at Ability1st was attending a team-building retreat and her hero is her mother. Groves is inspired by giving to others and her favorite ice cream flavor is butter pecan.    

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Billy Richardson

Access to Independence Program Coordinator

Billy Richardson is originally from Havana, FL. At Ability1st, his workday is spent coordinating professionals and community groups that volunteer time and resources to build wheelchair ramps in our community for our neighbors living with a disability. He also oversees loans of durable medical equipment and disposables to consumers. Richardson’s hero is Jesus and he is inspired by his faith. His favorite ice cream flavor is harlequin aka neopolitan.

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Bruce Weaver

Independent Living Coordinator

Bruce Weaver is originally from Chicago, IL and has called Tallahassee home for nearly 30 years. His typical day at Ability1st is spent assisting consumers complete applications and locate housing. He also trains consumers living with a disability on how to use the Tallahassee public transportation system, which is essential to living independently. Weaver’s favorite moment at Abilty1st was participating in a Torch Relay race, an American with Disabilities Act celebration held with staff, community members, and consumers together. He is inspired by the opportunity to make a difference in his community and his hero is Jackie Robinson. When asked about his special skill, Weaver, who has a visual impairment, jokes he is the agency palm reader.

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Dee Humose

Housing Coordinator, A Place Called Home

Dee Humose has worked at Ability1st for 15 years. In her current position, she helps those who have been chronically homeless find and remain in stable housing. This includes providing wrap-around services such as addressing the factors that lead to homelessness, and teaching the budgeting and social skills necessary to live independently. Her favorite moment at Ability1st is receiving the 2010 Celebration of Human Services Above and Beyond Award from the United Partners for Human Services. Humose is inspired by people who are excited by life no matter their circumstances. She claims to have no hidden talents, but makes a green smoothie each morning her Ability1st teammates have nicknamed “Dee’s swamp juice,” which seems to ensure a positive attitude and a smile for everybody in the office.

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Elyse Brodeur

Fiscal Specialist

Elyse Brodeur was born in Port St. Joe, FL and has lived in Tallahassee for the past 55 years. Her typical day at Abiltiy1st is spent on budgets and details, details, and more details. She is inspired by her faith and helping others and her husband is her hero. Brodeur’s hidden talent is playing in the handbell choir and her favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla.

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Gwen Peters

Mental Health Outreach/Benefits Specialist

Gwen Peters grew up in Tallahassee, FL and attended Florida A&M University. She makes a schedule for the day, but says at Ability1st, it changes ninety percent of the time. Peters enjoys working with consumers and is inspired to provide the best services as possible. She loves music and is affiliated with several choirs in town. Her hero is Maya Angelou.

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Kathryn Marini

ATI Program Technician

Katherine Marini was raised in Indian Head, MD and arrived at Ability1st via a Florida State University internship. Now a full-time member of the team, Marini spends a typical work day answering and returning phone calls, entering data, and provides consumers living with a disability with medical equipment and disposable supplies. She jokes that her hidden talent is still hidden as she hasn’t discovered it yet. Her favorite moment at Ablity1st was teaching one of our High School High Tech program participants how to bake a cake from scratch. Marini’s favorite ice cream flavor is cake batter and she is inspired each day by the opportunity to seize the moment and appreciate life’s little blessings.

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Marquesas Blimes

Nursing Home Diversion Specialist/Youth Transition Specialist

A typical day for Marquesas Blimes is spent helping people living with a disability stay in their homes rather than move to a nursing home. Originally from Savannah, GA, her favorite moments at Ability1st are receiving phone calls from consumers who lives have been improved because of our programs. Blimes is inspired by hard work, kindness and forgiveness and her hidden talent is baking the world’s best chocolate chip cookie.

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Melissa Malone

Victims Assistance Specialist

Melissa Malone was born in central Florida. She got her start at Ability1st as an intern and now spends most of her days working in the community with her consumers. Her hidden talent is singing and her favorite color is purple.

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Pamela Sykes

Mental Health Outreach Coordinator

Pamela Sykes is originally from Newark, NJ. At Ability1st, she provides information and referrals to consumers with mental health and substance abuse issues. She is often in the community or at outreach sites meeting with consumers directly. When not at work, Sykes enjoys making jewelry and gardening. Her favorite ice cream flavor is butter pecan and her hero is her mother. She is inspired by LIFE.

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Patti Horowitz

Victim Services Coordinator

Patti Horowitz was born and raised in Tallahassee, Fl. At Ability1st, she provides outreach, supportive counseling services and advocacy to individuals and families who have been victims of a crime. Her typical day may involve time in shelters meeting with women and children who have been victims of domestic violence or meeting with a homeless individual who has experienced assault or theft and connecting them to housing, counseling and medical services. Her favorite Ability1st moment was working with a woman who shortly after entering our program realized she was dying from cancer. She was estranged from her family and had spent many years homeless and abused. Prior to her passing, Horowitz was able to work with hospital staff to locate her family and arranged a proper burial. “Many would hear her story and feel sad, but this sweet lady passed with a home, with reasonable medical care and surrounded by family,” she explained. Horowitz is inspired by the people who have experienced horrible, traumatic things, and yet they are friendly, funny and hopeful things will get better for them.

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Sally Failma

Public Relations Specialist

Sally Failma is originally from South Bend, IN and has called Tallahassee home since 2003. She is inspired by the work her Ability1st teammates do in the Big Bend community and spends her day promoting it on social media, the internet, and to the press. Failma’s hero is her Aunt Sally and favorite ice cream is Sherman’s milky way.

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Shelley Shaul

Office Manager, SHIP Coordinator

Shelley Shaul is originally from Miami, FL but has lived in many parts of the country including Reno, NV; Kansas City, MO; Omaha, NE; Atlanta, GA; and Emerald Isle, NC. Each workday at Ability1st is an adventure as she assists consumers and staff with requests, qualifies SHIP consumers and provides modifications to their homes to help them continue to live independently. Her favorite moments at Ability1st are the smiles, hugs, blessings, and thank yous she receives from consumers who have received services. She inspired by people who show love and understanding no matter what their circumstances are and people who feel weak or scared, but still take a leap of faith and try something outside their comfort zone. Shaul’s favorite ice cream flavors are mint chocolate chip and Ben & Jerry’s Everything But The.

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Tina Ferfort

Administrative Assistant

Tina Ferfort was born and raised in New Jersey and has lived in Florida since the mid-90s. She currently has two jobs; one as Administrative Assistant at Ability1st and the other as family caregiver. In each role, she helps people living with a disability handle issues that arise throughout the day so they can live happier, healthier lives. Her favorite moment at Ability1st was comforting a fellow caregiver who was struggling. It was a bonding moment she won’t forget. Ferfort’s inspiration comes from her Christian faith as she admires the generous spirit of the saints throughout history. Her secret skill anticipating what people need before they ask for it

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Tranesia Walker

Housing Specialist

Tranesia Walker grew up in Live Oak, FL. Her typical workday is spent performing mental health outreach services in the community to homeless, indigent consumers with mental health diagnosis. One of Walker’s favorite moments at Ablity1st was assisting a consumer who had just given birth transition from being homeless to stable housing. Her hidden talent is photography and her hero Tonier Cain, a former addict turned educated community advocate. Walker’s inspiration stems from her passion to assist those in need and advocate against the injustices they experience in the community.

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Wanda McKenzie

Mental Health Outreach/Benefits Specialist

Wanda McKenzie operates at a fast-pace as she works to assist and link Ability1st consumers to resources in the community they need to live independently. She advocates on their behalf and helps them apply for Social Security benefits. McKenzie has many hidden talents including making diaper cakes, planning parties, crocheting and making cake pops. Her heros are her mother and grandmother and she is inspired by her faith and being able to help individuals improve their circumstances in life.

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.