Celebrating Women

We are storytellers, highlighting local female leaders who have been tirelessly committed to the cause of advancing women, the next generation of emerging female leaders who are inspired to make a difference, and those women who have weathered their own life transitions while moving forward on their leadership path.

Gessica Pierre, Impacting Others Through Service and Hope

Lieutenant (Lt.) Gessica Pierre is “not afraid to roll up her sleeves and ‘get dirty’ and does not expect anyone to do what she would not”. Lt. Gessica, the Executive Director and pastor at The Salvation Army of Alamance County does what it takes to serve others and impact the community. Whether it is driving and unloading trucks, distributing food to the community, planning events, or cleaning out a storage area, Lt. Gessica is always leading the way and setting an example for those around her. She is described by a nominator as someone who “is transparent, creates an atmosphere of trust, shares their knowledge, and makes a positive connection to every individual with whom she reacts”.

Lt. Gessica served with the Salvation Army of Wake County from 2015 to 2019 in varying capacities. In 2021, she became the Commanding Officer/ Executive Director at the Salvation Army of Alamance County. There Lt. Gessica is responsible for ensuring the Salvation Army achieves its mission and purpose. She oversees a multitude of resources such as the Food Bank, Seasonal Assistance programs, Emergency Financial Assistance, Boys Club and Girls Club, and the Salvation Army Thrift Store. She also provides support for The Salvation Army’s After-school programs, Camps 4 Youth, and the Music and Creative Arts program for NC. The services and programs that Lt. Gessica oversees move individuals and families away from crisis and vulnerability toward stability and ultimately self-sufficiency. She also works behind the scenes to obtain funding for the programs to serve the residents of Alamance County. Lt. Gessica is excited to be part of the planning committee for the inaugural Salvation Army Women Officers’ Retreat, the first of its kind for all women officers in the Southern Territory.

Lt. Gessica graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Communication with a concentration in International Public Relations from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her Master’s degree in Public Administration from North Carolina State University. After a couple of years working in the government sector, The Lord called her into full-time ministry with The Salvation Army. She and her husband Lt. Jimmy Pierre both obtained their Bachelor’s degrees in Practical Christian Ministries from Evangeline Booth College School of Officer Training through the Salvation Army.

Lt Gessica is native to Haiti but grew up in the heart of North Carolina. She is mommy to Giselle Marie and Jakobe Justus. Lt. Gessica is passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with those that she encounters and has devoted the rest of her life in the service of others. She is guided by a verse from the Old Testament of the Bible which says, “Take delight in The Lord and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.” (Psalm 37:4-5).

A nominator writes “As a woman, wife, mother, friend, Pastor, and leader, she is a true reflection of Christ’s love”.  Lt. Gessica is grateful for the impact that The Salvation Army had on her life and considers it to be a privilege to now be a part of impacting the lives of others under the shield of hope. In her free time, Lt. Gessica loves to sing, spend quality time with family and friends, and is a self-proclaimed foodie that loves to try new culinary experiences. She also mentors the youth leading a young woman’s monthly Bible study and leads a weekly singing company for children.

Patty Holmes, Leading with Respect, Love and Caring

Patty Holmes immigrated to The United States of America in 1999 while pregnant with her second daughter. Her hope was to better their lives. In the 23 years she has been in the US, she has bettered not only their lives but the lives of many others. One of Patty’s nominators wrote, “Patty is an exemplary woman who uses her passion for uplifting others to the best of her ability. She is always pursuing ways to elevate her community and develop those around her”. Between developing innovative and enriching programs, to working with other leaders in the community, Patty seeks to empower others in all that she does.

In 2019, Patty began her own online TV show “Mente y Actitud Positiva” (Positive Mind and Attitude) in her native Spanish language. This created a space for ideas and education to empower the Latino community and all those aspiring for personal growth and success. As a producer and host of her show, Patty’s reach has evolved towards other social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and podcasts. Currently, she is launching her show “Mente y Actitud Positiva” (Positive Mind and Attitude) through Radio APyT, an inspiring and positive online radio station. Recently, she has also been transmitting her positive message in English.

In 2020, Patty created her own editorial and entertainment company, Ascending333 LLC. She launched her company with her first book, “Un Sueño Sin Fronteras” (A Dream without Borders).

As an author, Patty created a group called Tour Literario Latino. Its goal is to position new writers in new cities, tour in groups with different book topics, and promote the habit of reading and writing in the Hispanic community.
Holmes founded the Alamance County non-profit organization, Empodera-Te Latina, a group where leadership is modeled, executed, and taught with respect, love, and caring. In May 2022, she and other leaders of Empodera-Te Latina developed La Escuela de Sexualidad para la Mujer (School of Sexuality for the Female) and received a grant for her group in Alamance County.

In August 2022, USA Campus, The Corporate University of the DD Corporation, LLC, in Florida awarded Patty with an Honorary Doctorate for her empathic, social, and professional performance, and altruistic work for the benefit of humanity. She was a nominee for the “Inspiración Hispana” from Inspiración Hispana Foundation. As she shared her story at the “Hispanic Inspiration 2023″ podcast, she was recognized for the first time at the “Women Who Build” World Summit, in Sarasota, Florida, in August 2023. In July 2023, Patty was recognized by the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, North Carolina, for her dedication and commitment to promoting literature in the Hispanic community.

Patty finds it exciting to see other people, especially women, work on knowing themselves and their purpose. She does not hesitate to be courageous when it comes to empowering and building up others.
You can find Patty’s social media outlets and her projects at https://linktr.ee/inveteratedreamer.

Stephanie Copland, Caregiver and Community Volunteer

Stephanie’s pleasant disposition sends a calming sense of comfort and trust that our children at Burlington and Mebane Pediatrics are in great hands.  As a Clinical Site Leader at the Mebane clinic, Stephanie provides leadership to the clinical team and operations.  She’s loved by staff and families.  Stephanie is known to make everyone’s days better. When doctors receive roadblocks in helping patients get great care, she always comes through.  She is also the clinic’s Wellness Coordinator where she gets to plan activities and events focusing on physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  Making sure all the offices have healthy snacks for everyone, and coordinating team-building events that promote health like organizing the practice team to participate in local 5K races.  More importantly, Stephanie leads the clinic’s community service initiatives, including its year-long fundraiser events to support Christmas Cheer, the back-to-school supply drive in partnership with Alamance Chamber, and community awareness projects like those around child abuse prevention month.

As a parent of a teenager coming to the clinic, you can rest assured that Stephanie will have your back.  She tells our teens when they think they know more than their parents, that she speaks from experience when she says that one day they will be looking back and thinking, you know my mom was right, I should have listened to her years ago.

Outside of work, Stephanie has served as the President of the Ladies Auxiliary since 2020 at Pleasant Grove Volunteer Fire Department where her husband Ryan is the Deputy Chief. She organizes most of the community events that are geared towards the children as well as tending to the firemen’s needs whenever called upon. 

She is heavily involved with Alamance County Farm Bureau as a family.  Her husband grew up on the McPherson farms in Mabane.  She has been a part of the Young Farmer’s and Rancher’s Committee since 2016, a part of the Women’s Committee since 2018, and currently serves as their co-chair. These committees work to promote agriculture within our community and advocate for our farmers.

Stephanie stays busy with work and volunteering. “Some days it can be overwhelming but when the child or family that you helped smiles at you or thanks you for your blessing, the long days and tireless efforts are all worth it”.  Her life mantra is “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”-Albert Einstein

Stephanie was born and raised in Alamance County and currently resides in Mebane with her husband, Ryan and their 8-month-old daughter Stella.  She is super excited about life right now.  They are raising the daughter for whom they have so patiently waited for 5 years.  She is grateful for her supportive husband. 

Patience, dedication, and hard work are the qualities that Stephanie attributes to her success. 

Julie Tonnesen, Empowering Students In the Elon University Campus Community

Rev. Julie Tonnesen serves her community with a clear vision of providing space and opportunity for young people to ask difficult questions and learn about themselves. In her current position as Associate University Chaplain and as the Campus Minister for LEAF (Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Friends) at Elon University, Julie strives to foster spaces where students can explore and live into the fullness of their intersecting identities. Students come to her in happy times and in difficult times because she makes them feel seen, heard, and accepted. 

This is evident in a project Julie calls one of her most exciting: curating and implementing the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life at Elon University’s Thursday morning speaker series, “Numen Lumen.” This year’s theme is, “Me: In My Own Words,” and Julie’s hope for that theme is to give folks from across Elon’s campus the opportunity to share a piece of themselves that may not come up in everyday conversation. She says that “in giving a platform and a microphone to folks from under-represented identities and departments, we have been able to amplify voices and stories that challenge the status quo, and bear witness to the wide range of stories and life experiences that exist within the university community.” Her long-term hope for this series is to increase empathy, spark curiosity, and empower under-represented voices across the campus community. 

A 2014 graduate of Elon University, Julie now finds herself giving back to her alma mater in a role that allows her to create space for students to explore and grow, while learning about others lived experiences in a safe and supportive environment. Julie embodies the work of a mentor without making it an obvious goal. “People are naturally attracted to her positive spirit and effervescent personality,” one of her nominators says of Julie, “but what is really attractive is the way she accepts herself and readily shares her time and talents.” Julie says in her late teens and early twenties she put significant pressure on herself to “have her life together,” and if she could go back, she would tell her high school and college self that it is okay not to have it all figured out. Freeing herself from the idea that she must have it all figured out allows Julie to approach her own life and others’ lives with compassion and curiosity and is one of the keys to her success connecting with and empowering students in the Elon University campus community. 

Through her work, Julie is helping to develop young leaders by involving students in leadership and serving roles during worship, empowering students with the chance to lead other students. One of Julie’s nominators comments, “Although she is young, she amazes me with a wisdom and insight that usually is seen in someone who is more seasoned.” Julie is truly a Rising Star in our community, leading the way for young students to explore and find their own path. 

Connie Poovey, Community Minded Superwoman

Connie has been described as being a Superwoman, and after reading her biography and letters of recommendation, I have to agree! This honoree moved to Burlington in the mid-1970s with her family, graduated from Williams High School and UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in Math. After working as a programmer for Health Services Research and AT&T System Support, she returned to UNC to obtain a Master’s in Computer Science through a Fellowship with AT&T. Connie reports that she did the most courageous thing she’s ever done by taking early retirement from AT&T and deciding to change her career path in 1996 to Social Work. After obtaining her MSW from UNC-CH, she began her second career with Lutheran Retirement Ministries at their Twin Lakes campus. She began there as a social work intern, moving to research and development, assisted living administrator, memory care administrator, and quality assurance and HIPAA officer. While working with Memory Care, Connie was responsible for planning and implementing a state-of-the-art program and designing the facility for persons with dementia which is an award-winning residence. In recognition of her many contributions to the senior services industry, she received the prestigious Leadership Award from Leading Age N.C.

Since retiring from Twin Lakes, she is serving on their Board of Directors and is a member of the I/DD committee which looks for innovative ways to serve people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Connie has a passion for working for organizations that improve the lives of adults with developmental challenges. She was a founder of HESED Retreat of NC, a non-profit devoted to helping those with disabilities by designing a 2-day retreat that included drama, music, dance, and worship, and is now an annual event. In addition, she has been active with Christmas Cheer and served on boards at Ralph Scott LifeServices, ARC of Alamance, and Alamance Affirmative Enterprises. Connie served as co-director of Celebration Singers, which is a special choir including adults with disabilities. Through her church, Macedonia Evangelical Lutheran Church, she manages several projects, including the monthly Community Meal and Sunday school for adults with developmental challenges. She also chairs the Community Benevolence Committee at Macedonia, which is a committee of women who decide how to spend endowment monies. Connie has also helped with backpack giveaways for children in need and care packages for Church World Services. It is evident that she gives tirelessly of her time, talent and treasure to many worthy causes and they are all of them better off for her contributions to their work. She is an exemplary leader, mentor, volunteer, and friend to many in Alamance County.

This honoree is married to her husband Bill and they have four children, nine grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and dog, Domino. It is evident that they are very active members of Macedonia Church. Connie enjoys cooking, reading, family game nights, and all kinds of puzzles. She is especially enjoying experiencing retired life with Bill. Her favorite quote: “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

Tiffanie King, Empowering the Community Through Culinary Arts

Tiffanie King is not just an educator – she is also a lifelong learner. From the time she earned her Bachelor’s degree in 2002, she has not stopped working to increase her knowledge. She has earned her NC Teacher’s Certification, her Master’s of Education degree, as well as several certifications within the fields of Hospitality and Diversity and Inclusion. In fact, Tiffanie comments that one thing that excites her about her current role is that she learns as much from others as they learn from her.

Tiffanie’s job is Culinary Arts educator, where she works with the Alamance Burlington School System’s Career & Technical Education Center (CTEC). Through her role as Culinary Arts Educator, she has developed innovative and groundbreaking businesses and services for students within Cummings High School, created a Culinary Arts Scholarship Award, been recognized as CTEC Teacher of the year, earned 100% and 99% proficiency on NC Post Assessment scores, and partnered with local businesses to maximize the work of her Culinary Arts students throughout the community.

While Tiffanie’s full-time role is Culinary Arts educator, she has a strong desire to combine her classroom knowledge and skills with her passion for community engagement to bring opportunities and programs to high school students. She has done just that not only in her full-time role but through working with the Dream Center’s Community Kitchen, the Healthy Alamance Board of Directors, and King’s Hospitality Group, LLC. Through her work with the Dream Center’s Community Kitchen, she has guided and mentored five bakers who are now able to sell their baked goods in more retail locations, and two of these bakers have opened storefronts in Burlington. Through the kitchen and Tiffanie’s leadership, three have been able to leave their full-time work as they’ve seen their businesses grow and become more profitable.

A supporter of Tiffanie’s nomination writes “Tiffanie’s incredible knowledge and relentless enthusiasm is making dreams come true for students and in the community. She is someone that people are drawn to and she is a great advocate and friend to everyone she works with. She is a warm, fun, energetic, and compassionate person. Her leadership and passion to help others has made a great impact in our community. She works in many areas and serves our community at her church, in her neighborhood, through her extended family, and the [Community] kitchen. She is constantly seeking ways to help support and advocate for all members of our community. Tiffanie is a person of incredibly strong character and someone that others turn to for leadership and as a trusted leader in the community”.

Despite growing up in foster care, working multiple jobs, and being diagnosed with cancer halfway through college, Tiffanie has kept going. She has been motivated by the Bible verse Romans 8:28 “and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose”, and she lives to tell others that no matter what you face in life, you can make it if you put your heart into it!

Celebrating Women

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Leading the Way

The Founders’ Award is given by the Women’s Resource Center in Alamance County to a female leader who demonstrates the characteristics of our founding members by providing outstanding contributions in the areas of philanthropy, community development and mentoring.

A Rising Star Award will be given to the most deserving nominee under age 40.

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Working Womens Wednesdays

Working Women’s Wednesdays is an exciting monthly series designed by the Women’s Resource Center and dedicated to improving opportunities for women in the workplace. This monthly event brings dynamic speakers and proven leaders to Alamance County.