Wholespire Welcomes New Leadership to Drive Strategic Growth

Wholespire is pleased to announce the appointment of Mary Jones, PhD, MPH, as the new Chairperson of the Board of Directors. With an illustrious career and a proven track record in public health, specifically minority health research, she brings a wealth of experience and strategic vision to the leadership of Wholespire. In addition, Wholespire is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Ila McFadden, Moses Washington, Nick Vera, Merrette Dowdell, and SC State Representative Marvin Pendarvis to its Board of Directors.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Jones as the new Chairperson of our Board of Directors,” said Deena Hilton, outgoing Chairperson at Wholespire, whose term expires on December 31. “Her extensive experience and visionary leadership will be instrumental in guiding Wholespire as we embark on the next phase of our strategic initiatives.”

Dr. Jones currently serves as the Director of Workforce Development and Adjunct Faculty at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health in the Department of Health Promotion Education and Behavior. She has worked in the field of public health and healthcare for more than 15 years. She has worked specifically on minority health research over the last 13 years. Dr. Jones is a US Air Force Veteran and serves her community in multiple capacities. She has been active with Wholespire at the state and local chapter levels since 2012.

In addition to Dr. Jones stepping into the Chairperson position, Dr. TQ Davis will take over as Secretary of the Board of Directors. Davis will also serve on the Executive Committee, the governing body responsible for shaping the strategic direction, policies, and operations. Dr. Davis is managing partner at Health E Strategies, LLC, and adjunct professor at the School of Health Sciences Department for Purdue University Global. She also serves as an advisor on various community coalitions, boards, and advocacy committees, assisting with advancing state and local public health practice interventions to help achieve health equity.

New Board Members Begin January 1

“We are equally thrilled to welcome five impressive individuals to our Board of Directors,” said Hilton. “Their exceptional skills and diverse experiences will undoubtedly enhance our ability to drive innovation, navigate challenges, and achieve our long-term goals. We look forward to leveraging their insights as we continue to grow and excel in community health improvement.”

Dr. Ila McFadden is a retired veterinarian and Director of Young People’s & Children’s Division (YPD) at the 7th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. As YPD Director, she played a pivotal role in partnering with Wholespire and The HYPE Project to recruit YPD HYPE teams throughout the state. A resident of Olanta, SC, Dr. McFadden is active in her community and serves as Chairperson of the Florence County Disabilities and Special Needs Board.

Moses Washington brings a unique perspective to the Board as an alumni of The HYPE Project. A native of Denmark, SC, Washington’s experiences growing up in the Corridor of Shame and implementing a HYPE project, among others, will help drive the growth of Wholespire. Washington is an attorney practicing law at Perkins Coie, LLP in Dallas, Texas. He is passionate about improving the quality of life in rural areas, especially in his hometown. He hosts an annual Back-to-School Bash in Denmark, providing students with free school supplies.

Nick Vera, MLIS, is a Doctoral Candidate in Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina College of Information and Communications. He is passionate about holistic health and believes strongly in the mantra that prevention is better than cure. His experiences as an intern at SC Thrive and Cocky’s Reading Express will strengthen partnerships in literacy, such as libraries and schools. Vera’s research aims to empower young adults with the knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions about their sexual health, promoting overall well-being and reducing the potential risks associated with missing, inadequate, or misleading information.

Merrette Dowdell, M.Ed., is the External Affairs & Strategic Engagement Manager for MUSC Health Pee Dee Division, where she is responsible for establishing unique collaborations and partnerships. Much of this work is focused on the Social Determinants of Health. Her past experiences in marketing and development at Hope Health and managing the Food Innovation Department for the City of Florence will enhance the growth and development of Wholespire. Dowdell serves on the Boys and Girls Club of the Pee Dee Unit Board and First Presbyterian Board of Directors. She is a healthcare advocate for the United Way strategic plan and a fitness instructor.

SC State Representative Marvin Pendarvis represents Charleston County at the State House. He is an advocate for education, affordable housing, and economic empowerment. A native of North Charleston’s Charleston Farms neighborhood, Representative Pendarvis practices personal injury and criminal law at Pendarvis Law, LLC. He understands the importance of being active in his community and serves various organizations, associations, councils and societies.

Board Members Terms Ending December 31

“We, of course, must thank those leaving our Board of Directors for their volunteer time spent on board meetings, committee meetings, individual phone calls and countless hours of guidance,” said Meg Stanley, executive director at Wholespire. “Without their unwavering support over the last several years, Wholespire could not have prospered as much as we have.”

Deena Hilton has served two terms on the Board of Directors. In 2018, she joined as a member and in 2020-2021 she served as Secretary. She then accepted an invitation to serve as Chairperson in 2022-2023. Serving in this leadership capacity requires a large amount of time, a role and responsibility in which Hilton has excelled. She was instrumental in leading the organization during the COVID-19 Pandemic, providing impactful direction and guidance during an uncertain time. Although she is leaving her leadership position due to her term ending, Hilton will continue to serve on the Board as a non-voting member. She will assist Dr. Jones in her transition into Board Chairperson.

Dudley Brown has also served two terms, first as a member and second as Secretary. His background as a reporter and in healthcare public relations has been an asset for Wholespire. Brown provided countless feedback and direction on public relations and marketing. He was instrumental during the rebrand process, participating in planning meetings and providing expertise about the various components of the Wholespire name and logo.

Phyllis Smart served one term on the Board of Directors. She provided insight into the life of small, rural and low-income communities. Her experiences in addressing food insecurity, health disparities and health equity lent to the overall strategic direction. Smart also provided valuable feedback on the rebrand after it was implemented and received by communities. Her input helped shape many social media strategies.

Phil Cristaldi also served one term on the Board of Directors. As an attorney, he assisted with governance and compliance, using his legal eye and knowledge to flag issues and discuss problems. While Cristaldi’s capacity did not include giving legal advice, his role included suggesting to the board when to seek legal counsel. In his role, he also assisted with compliance with legal and regulatory, often taking phone calls and giving guidance to staff.

“Volunteering time to the Wholespire board means each one of them has a vested interest in healthy eating and active living for all and believes in our mission to provide communities with proven and sustainable approaches that lead to increased access to healthy choices for ALL people,” said Stanely. “We are grateful for their contributions to our organization and the communities we serve.”