Staff and Student Team

Our Team

CEF is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization led by Leadership Teams and CEF Staff. The team is made up of members and graduates of CEF, as well as undergraduates, graduate students, and recent alumni of both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.

CEF Co-Directors


Maggie West

Co-Director : Full-Time

Maggie, part of the team of UNC students who founded CEF in 2009, works in both Orange and Durham Counties and with all of CEF’s programs and services. Maggie leads our Chapel Hill geography team, working with staff, student leaders, and Members in our Chapel Hill office. Maggie also leads CEF’s fundraising, financial management, and board development, and works with our savings program to pilot new financial services and partnerships. Fun facts: Maggie really likes cheese and all things made of cheese, reads lots of fiction books, had lots of little businesses when she was a kid, and has an extra vertebra.

Jon Young

Jon Young

Co-Director : Full-Time

Jon, part of the team of UNC students who founded CEF in 2009, works across Orange and Durham County developing tech systems in and out of Connect, CEF’s database and volunteer platform. He is also Director of Communications and leads CEF’s Savings Programs. Based out of the Chapel Hill office, Jon works as an advocate directly with Members in Chapel Hill as an Advocate and in support of Chapel Hill Advocates and Leadership Team. Fun Facts: Jon’s passions include Spotify playlists, keeping rss feeds alive, people watching, and making pretty things. He eats a bag of broccoli, nuts and snap-peas on the daily.


Janet Xiao

Co-Director : Full-Time

Janet planted CEF’s Durham office in 2011 and leads our Durham geography team, working with staff, student leaders, and Members in our Durham office. She supports service delivery to all Members in Durham, and supports administrative work pertaining to the Durham office, including fundraising and financial management. She represents the organization in community meetings and efforts toward system-wide change in Durham. Janet enjoys marine animals, scifi/fantasy, PC gaming, eating, reflecting on decoloniality, and the Internet.


Donna Carrington

Office Services Coordinator and Housing Specialist Full-Time

Donna stewards our Renters Savings IDA and our Homebuyer’s IDA collaborative with the Duke Homebuyers Club and is involved in Durham’s partnership building activities toward housing stability. Donna’s passions are music, Jeopardy, Mahjong, and cooking shows.


Krista Kowalczyk

Neighborhood Engagement Specialist Full-Time

Krista is a Duke Chapel PathWays Fellow with CEF. She stewards our partnerships with businesses and other non-profit agencies in Durham, including our Laptop Savings Program with the Kramden Institute and our partnerships with the Durham Co-Op Market and Durham Community Land Trustees. She also works with the Development team at CEF in event planning. In her free time, she enjoys reading literary classics and cross-stitching, as well as searching for the best brunch in Durham.


Joy Shaver

Financial Coaching Specialist Full-Time

Joy is an Americorps Literacycorp member. She directs CEF’s Financial Coaching program in both Chapel Hill and Durham. She also leads our partnership with Families Moving Forward in Durham, including supporting our advocates there and strengthening relationships with the staff of Families Moving Forward. In her free time, Joy tries to convince as many people as she can to let her play with their dogs. She also enjoys baking and a wide variety of art.

Jess Mcdonald

Jess McDonald

Advocate Program Coordinator Full-Time

Jess coordinates the Advocate program in our Durham office, overseeing training and management of volunteers. They support CEF’s partnerships with Duke University, including the Advocate training house course. Jess is also the Durham site manager of internal and external communications. Their background includes work in intergroup dialogue and social justice education. They are passionate about building community across difference and centering self-awareness and reflection as a part of transformative learning. Their favorite pastimes include scouting local swimming holes and fine-tuning their amateur dog whispering skills.


JV Alencar

 Workforce & Finances Specialist Full-Time

JV is an AmeriCorps VISTA through the IDA and Asset Building Collaborative. He leads efforts that build on further implementing CEF’s savings programs. He also works on improving and integrating data into CEF’s evaluation and services as well as creating partnerships to deliver greater workforce development opportunities for Members in Durham. He also serves as an Advocate in the Durham office. Outside of CEF, JV likes finding cool vegetarian/vegan recipes, guessing other’s astrological signs, obsessing over new musical artists, and playing capoeira.

Orange County Team

Orange County Student Leadership Team: Click Here


Sarah Cohn

Advocate Program Coordinator – Full-Time

Sarah supports the Advocate program in our Chapel Hill office, overseeing recruitment, training and ongoing support for our volunteer Advocates. She also provides support and training for the Chapel Hill student leadership team, and works closely with this team to support Members and Advocates in their work together and ensure our Advocates receive top quality training. Sarah loves spending time outside and by water (preferably with a dog), getting friends together, and cooking and eating all kinds of food – especially salads.

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Michael Wood

Opportunity Class Leader Part Time

Mike leads the Saturday morning Opportunity Class. CEF’s Opportunity Class meets weekly and covers topics from personal finance to job readiness to health, as well as teaching self-sufficiency and how to obtain permanent housing. 


Diiv Sternman

Member Services Coordinator Full-Time

Diiv oversees service delivery to all of the Members in the Chapel Hill office, ensuring that Members receive the services they seek by supporting and coordinating with our volunteer Advocates. Diiv provides technical assistance to Advocates to help them find the right resources to assist Members in reaching their goals and to identify helpful strategies for working together and building effective Member-Advocate relationships. Diiv also oversees the OC Hub in the Chapel Hill office, coordinating partner agencies to co-locate services and provide coordinated care across systems county wide. Diiv represents CEF on the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, 100K Homes Task-Force, and other community-wide efforts to coordinate care for people experiencing homelessness in Orange County. Diiv is passionate about Social Justice (think globally/build locally!), cooperativity and interdependence (food coops, farming coops, housing coops, consensus building, coordinated care, etc.), post-colonial literature, growing edible things, eating edible things (especially sweets), and building strong relationships with their (big, messy, complicated, blended) family, friends, and community.


Yvette Mathews

Advocate Program Associate Part-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 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!).


Kevin Tolson

Workforce Development Specialist Full-Time

Kevin is an AmeriCorps VISTA through the Individual Development Account (IDA) and Asset Building Collaborative of North Carolina.  Kevin will continue CEF’s workforce development initiatives by strengthening existing workforce and employment services for members at CEF and by expanding and developing community support and new workforce programs for CEF in Chapel Hill.  Kevin proudly served as an AmeriCorps NC Vets volunteer at Central Carolina Community College and has taught as an adjunct social work professor for two local historical Black colleges. Kevin is a first-time grandfather who dotes on his pre-preschooler “genius” grandson and strategically bribes him with Hot Wheels.  He is an avid Turner Classic Movie (TCM) watcher, a North Carolina Weekend “occasional get-away” traveler with his wife of 36 years, and is an absolute lover of really “really” good savory foods.

Chapel Hill Alumni Advisory Council


CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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