Julie Wade, Executive Director
Julie Wade is lawyer by training who has served Savannah’s non-profit community since 2017. As Executive Director of Park Place Outreach, a teen homeless shelter, she added new programs and doubled the budget to be able to serve more youth more comprehensively. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood Southeast and UGA Alumni Association.
A Georgia native, Julie attended UGA for undergrad and law school. She clerked for a federal judge and practiced law in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Savannah. She currently provides legal services for non-profits to build capacity and ensure compliance. Julie is a graduate of Leadership Georgia, Leadership Southeast Georgia, and Leadership Savannah and has been recognized as a UGA 40 Under 40 and a Bulldog 100 business. For 10 years, Julie served as an elected member of the Savannah Chatham County Board of Education, representing District One.
Kate Templeton, Outreach Coordinator
Kate is a recent graduate of The University of Georgia where she obtained her Master of Public Health degree. Kate is a Savannah native and is excited to be working with Tharros Place.
In the past, Kate has interned with multiple organizations in the Athens, Georgia area such as Unified Healthcare for the Rural Underserved and Live Forward (formerly AIDS Athens). Kate has a passion for health education and loves working with children.
Fun fact: Kate loves singing and musical theatre. She actually started college as a music major!
Rachel Baker, Spring 2023 Intern
Rachel is a Senior Psychology student at Georgia Southern University in Savannah. Rachel grew up in Maine and has lived in Georgia for three years now.
Once graduating, Rachel hopes to obtain her Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and work as a licensed therapist with a focus on adolescents and young adults. Rachel hopes to go forward and use her degree to help create a safe space for students and teens, as well as focusing on community outreach for high-risk youth.
Marsha Buford, President
Rev. Marsha Buford is the Founder and Pastor of The House of Favor Full Gospel Ministries located in Savannah Georgia. She is a graduate of Savannah Vocational College and the Word Alive Bible School.
Rev. Buford has trained with the Georgia Sheriff’s Association Chaplains’ Division from March of 2012 to March of 2017. Her training has included Individual Crisis Intervention and Peer Support from University of Maryland at Baltimore; Group Crisis Intervention from UMBC; Crisis Support Solutions Refresh Scenarios in Crisis Intervention; Group and Individual Role Playing in Real Life Scenarios. In March of 2016 Chaplain Buford received her Law Enforcement Chaplain Basic Certification and in March of 2017 she completed Law Enforcement Chaplain Advanced Training from Georgia Sheriff’s Association Chaplain Division. She is currently active in GSA’s Region 9 Chaplain’s Division.
Chaplain Buford is also active in her community by serving on several Boards which include West Savannah Ministers Alliance; Aglow Lighthouse Fellowship; Vision 21 in Douglasville Ga.; West Savannah Community Organization as President and The Coastal Family Institute; Tide to Town Board member and The Mediation Center Board.. She currently teaches the Fatherhood Program at the Smith Transitional Center in Claxton, Ga. She has served as a job coach for Family Restoration Network from January 2010 through 2014.
Her extensive work in Ministry from 1993 until present has given her the ecumenical, mission focused, and community-based ministry that continues to keep her focused on the ministry of Jesus, the Christ.
Kate Blair, Treasurer
Kate Blair joined Brightside Child & Family Advocacy as the Executive Director in 2018. Before joining, she served as the Director of Development & Communications with Step Up Savannah. Her past professional and volunteer experience include communications, corporate foundations, nonprofit leadership, board development, and fundraising. Kate has her BA in Professional Communications. She is a graduate of Leadership Savannah and a Board member of Migrant Equity Southeast.
Denise Cooper, Secretary
Denise M. Cooper is a Savannah, Georgia native and the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Savannah. Formerly, Attorney Cooper was the owner and operator of a general law practice. Attorney Cooper holds Sociology Degree from Spelman College and a Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. Prior to her matriculation to law school, Attorney Cooper was employed with the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles as a P.O.S.T. certified parole officer in Fulton County, Georgia.
With a strong passion for community service and outreach, Attorney Cooper is engaged as a volunteer with various community organizations/agencies – State Bar of Georgia Committees: Children and the Courts (2016 – present); Local and Voluntary Bars (2016 – present); Civics (2015-2016); and Committee to Promote Inclusion in the Profession (2014-2015); Court Appointed Special Advocates (C.A.S.A.), Board Member; Savannah Bar Association; Port City Bar Association, President (2015-2016); Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, Vice President Savannah Region; Mock Trial Team, attorney-coach and State Competition Judge; Savannah Law School Mock Trial – Competition Judge; Savannah Chatham County Public School System, Audit Committee Chair; King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation, Board Member; Leadership Savannah Graduate (2010); Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys Judicial and Political Office Academy Graduate; 2016 Savannah Bar Association, Young Lawyer’s Division recipient of the John B. Miller Award for community service; State Bar of Georgia, Commission on Professionalism 2017 Justice Robert Benham Award for community service; and 2017 recipient of The Savannah Sisterhood Symposium Award for legal services.
Additionally, Attorney Cooper is an active member in various organizations including Gamma Sigma Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (President, 2019-2020), Savannah (GA) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated (President), National Alumnae Association of Spelman College – Savannah Chapter (President), and Junior League of Savannah. Attorney Cooper serves as a Trustee, Director of the Board of Christian Education, and Teen Church Advisor at St. Paul CME Church.
Phylicia Anderson, Board Member
Phylicia Anderson, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, mental health champion and a dedicated leader with a passion for creating intentional space for individuals to flo; to move freely throughout the world healthy, protected and empowered.
Phylicia’s clinical work and advocacy has been the catalyst to develop mentally healthy, resilient young people for the past ten years. Her professional experience ranges from diversity inclusion, clinical therapy to community outreach and strategic leadership.
In her professional role, Phylicia currently sits on the executive leadership team of Gateway Community Service Board as the Director of Child and Adolescent Services and the Director of Outreach.
Although she is proud to be from Cincinnati Ohio, she has affectionately declared Georgia her home for the past eight years. As a mother and a community stakeholder, she is personally invested in the betterment of young people to make our community a healthier place for all.
Farrah Lawrence, Board Member
Farrah Lawrence is originally from Brooklyn, New York and now resides in Savannah, Georgia.
With 19 years of experience in the social service field, Farrah Lawrence began her career in social services in 2004 working with the homeless population in New York City. During this time, she assisted families with transitioning from the shelter system to securing permanent housing. In 2007, she began her career in the child welfare system. Farrah Lawrence was dedicated and committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of New York City’s most vulnerable children. Understanding the need to strengthen community partnerships and bridging the gaps between child welfare and community stakeholders, Farrah Lawrence worked diligently to strengthen community partnerships and demystify the negative connotation about the child welfare system.
As she continues this work in Savannah, Georgia, Farrah Lawrence is the County Director for Chatham County Division of Family and Children Services. She continues the vision to promote the well-being of children by ensuring safety, achieving permanency, and strengthening families.
As a strong advocate for education, Farrah Lawrence will continue the work in Chatham County of ensuring children receive the most appropriate services to meet their educational needs. The promotion of education among those that we serve is critical to the future success of our children and young people.
Farrah Lawrence has a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Brooklyn College. Master’s degree in Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is a mother of two young men.
Fun Fact: Farrah recently joined a Double Dutch group, loves to play basketball with her son and recently added a Peekapoo puppy Tyson to her family.
Farrah Lawrence shares her key goal is staff retention and to strengthen and sustain effective practices that will improve outcomes for children, youth and families. She envisions Chatham County to be a place where children and young people are safe and thriving and receiving adequate support which promotes stability.
Paul Meyer, Board Member
Paul is a founding partner of Meyer and Sayers LLP and has over 20 years of experience in representation of private clients, family businesses and fiduciaries. Paul focuses primarily on the creation of advanced estate plans which minimize transfer taxes, the administration of estates, and business succession strategies. He specializes in transaction-oriented planning techniques using family limited partnerships, limited liability companies, advanced trusts and charitable bequests. Paul represents and consults fiduciaries, such as trustees and executors, in all areas including litigation of legal claims against fiduciaries by beneficiaries. Paul also has significant experience advising fiduciaries and managing the estate and trust administration process during litigation among fiduciaries and beneficiaries. He regularly coordinates multi-state estate, tax and litigation matters for his family clients. Paul also has created and managed multi-national corporate structures and start up ventures.
Paul graduated, cum laude and as salutatorian, in 1996 from Mercer Law School where he was a Managing Editor of the Mercer Law Review and received the Outstanding Senior Award from the law faculty. He was also a member of the Moot Court Board and served as one of three members of a championship team at the Domenick L. Gabrielli National Family Law Competition in Albany, New York. Paul also holds a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech where he graduated with honors.
Paul is a past president of The Savannah Estate Planning Council and is listed in Best Lawyers in America in Trusts & Estates. He is listed as an “AV” rated Preeminent attorney by Martindale Hubbell, and he is the recipient of numerous professional distinctions.
Paul is an advocate of philanthropy and serves as a Board Member and Treasurer of Hospice Savannah, Inc., as a Board Member of the Coastal Empire Council of the Boy Scouts of America and he is the Scout Master of Troop 57 on Skidaway Island. Paul is also an Eagle Scout. He is an avid Rotarian where he has served as President of the Skidaway Island Rotary Club and as an Assistant Governor of Rotary District 6920. Paul is frequent speaker at professional and philanthropic events and he attends many of the nation’s top tax and business succession seminars. He is a member of both the Georgia and South Carolina Bars.
Ashlee Aspden, Board Member
Ashlee Aspden is originally from central Pennsylvania and has lived in the Lowcountry for over 15 years. She has spent most of her professional career in Human Resources at Gulfstream Aerospace where she’s held senior leadership positions in Leadership & Organizational Development, Diversity & Inclusion, Global Compensation, and most recently as a business partner in the Manufacturing and Operations Engineering space. Ashlee has her B.S. in Applied Mathematics, holds a secondary mathematics teaching certificate and has several professional certifications including project management, change management and a variety in leadership development. She is an active volunteer at her children’s school, the church her family attends and also provides tutoring in math to local students. Ashlee is passionate about education reform and creating pathways for future employment opportunities, solving childhood hunger in our local communities and spending quality time with her husband and two young daughters.
Justin Vanderbrink, Board Member
Justin is a Savannah, Georgia native, is a managing partner of VanderBrink Paasch Builders, Inc., (VP Builders) and has over 20 years of experience in building construction. VP Builders is a local general contracting/construction management firm focused on small-to-medium healthcare construction. Prior to forming VP Builders in 2019, Justin led preconstruction and construction efforts for two large southeast/national construction firms building projects for nearly every market segment.
Justin graduated summa cum laude from Georgia Southern University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in Building Construction and Contracting with a Business minor. Justin has continued his support for his alma mater by joining and then chairing the GSU Associates Council where he led multiple clay shooting fund raisers to provide scholarships to students in the Construction Management program. Later, he joined the GSU Industry Advisory Board to provide input from industry professionals to shape the Construction Management program’s learning objectives.
Some of Justin’s accolades and accomplishments include being selected for Generation Next’s 20 under 40 Rising Stars of Business in 2015 and graduating from Leadership Southeast Georgia.
Justin has led efforts to raise funds for other philanthropies such as Cystic Fibrosis (Clays for a Cause) and Ronald McDonald House (Chef of the House Challenge). In 2015, Justin joined the Board of Directors for Girls on the Run of Coastal Georgia and the Lowcountry where he started an annual golf tournament to raise funds for lower-income girls to be able to participate in Girls on the Run at no cost.