Our Team

CEF Executive Director


Donna Carrington, She/Her

Executive Director Full-Time

Donna leads both the Chapel Hill and Durham geographies, working with staff, Advocates, Members, and the Board of Directors. She stewards organizational vision and growth for all of CEF. Donna supports both offices in developing partnerships to secure housing justice and financial security for all Members. Donna’s passions are music, Jeopardy, Mahjong, and cooking shows.

Program Management

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Jessica Cannady, She/Her

Member Services & Programs Manager Full-Time

Jessica is the Member Services and Programs Manager (MSPM) at CEF. In her role she supports program staff, guides program strategy, and manages reporting for Member Services and Advocate Programs for the Durham and Chapel Hill offices. Prior to joining CEF, Jessica was a coordinator and advocate with Compass Center, and began her career as a community research analyst at Forsyth Futures. Jessica is passionate about community, qualitative research and storytelling, mental health advocacy, access to quality and affordable housing, and racial justice. She believes in working collaboratively with the community to build thriving communities. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys cooking, dancing, hiking, reading, and yoga.


Emily Simpson-Keyes, She/Her

Member Assistance Funds Manager Full-Time

Emily is the Member Assistance Funds Manager at CEF. Prior to this role, Emily worked in nonprofit operations at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Arabella Advisors and served as an Advocate in CEF’s Durham Office. 

Emily began her career with the Carolina College Advising Corps; a college access program committed to increasing the number of first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented high school students entering and completing higher education. A product of the public education system herself, she is a two-time graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, most recently earning a Master of Social Work in 2020. 

Emily is passionate about social justice and spreadsheets and feels most whole when she is in relationship with her community. In her free time, Emily enjoys getting outside, eating delicious vegetarian food, and doting on her rescued racing greyhound, Ginny.

Durham County Team

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Hannah Lyles, She/Her

Office & Community Organizer

Hannah works as the Office and Community Organizer at CEF in the Durham office. While attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Hannah found her love for relationship-based service programs as well as her passion for working within the community to achieve goals on both the individual and community levels. She is passionate about walking alongside others as they find their own strength and develop confidence in themselves. From her own life experiences, she has come to know that every human is creative, resourceful, and whole. Outside of work, you can usually find Hannah with animals. She enjoys spending time with her pets, learning about species conservation, and connecting with the world around her.

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Sophia Thayer, She/Her

Member Services Coordinator

Sophia is the Member Services Coordinator in CEF’s Durham office. In her role, Sophia works alongside Members, community partners, Advocates, and other staff to develop and implement the best resources for Members. Prior to joining CEF, Sophia grew her skills through case management, resource navigation, youth development, and food justice initiatives. Sophia strongly enjoys building community and relationships with those around her. She believes that collective action is at the center of our work. Outside of work, Sophia spends time with her partner, cats, friends, and family through food, exploring outside, and playing ultimate frisbee.

Orange County Team


Yvette Mathews, She/Her

Office and Community Organizer Full-Time

Yvette is the captain of the ship in the Chapel Hill office, leading the front of the house including reception, welcoming, and administration. Yvette also leads community advocacy efforts in Chapel Hill and is the creator and director of the CEF Advocacy Choir! Yvette is the first face many Members and Advocates see when they enter the office, and effectively ensures that everyone who walks through the door is cared for and leaves happy (and keeps CEF’s Office Agreements!).

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Imanie Williams, She/Her

Member Services Coordinator Full-Time

Imanie is the Member Services Coordinator in CEF’s Chapel Hill office, stewarding all Orange Community Hub partnerships, resources, and service systems implemented to best serve CEF Members. In her 24 years of living, Imanie has sustained an immense amount of passion as it pertains to community curation. During her time at Delaware State University, she assumed many student leadership roles, and also became the founder of the service initiative, “#EveryBodyEats”. She has spent time as a case manager, providing direct support services to community members in Durham, NC. Imanie believes that the emancipation of one’s community begins with the sovereignty of one’s self. Thus this became the impetus for her passion, which would later translate to her purpose; She is here to serve others. Imanie knew that the first step of overcoming hardship was to obtain a growth mindset. Therefore, it was then that she vowed to seek refuge in her education, experiences, and exposure forever, for she knew that it was her greatest chance of justice to her people. In her free time, Imanie enjoys spending time with her partner and loved ones, cuddles with her fur babies, good music, and even better food!

Development & Finance Team

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Steven Horton, He/Him

Finance & Operations Manager

Steven was recruited to help out with bookkeeping after a short stint as an Advocate. What he loves most about CEF is the belief that is the foundation of the Member-Advocate relationship: that everyone is creative, resourceful, and whole. Steven has a background in sustainable agriculture and food access. He is passionate about growing the personal and financial freedom of people who are presently or have historically been denied that freedom. In his spare time he enjoys travel, surf fishing, cooking and eating, political and legal podcasts/discussions, and playing video games. He currently lives in Carrboro with his wife, Robin, and daughter, Ada.

CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233