Expert Spokespeople

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United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County offers information, tips and expert spokespeople to develop compelling stories informing the public about the most pressing issues facing our community. Our leadership also offers presentations on a wide variety of topics including nonprofit development, community organizing, volunteerism, event management, media engagement, strategic planning and more.

To set up interviews or talk to an expert, please contact Elisabeth Bocklet, Marketing and Communications Director, at (828) 239-1031 or

David Bailey, CEO

After serving in leadership positions at four other local United Ways, David joined United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County in 1996 as Campaign Director. He has served as CEO since 2000. He is often asked to share his vast knowledge of nonprofit management and fundraising. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of The Hub and has previously served on the boards of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Partnership for Children/Smart Start, and United Way of North Carolina. David has a B.A. in psychology.

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Lance Edwards, Vice President of Planning and Community Investment

Lance joined United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County in 2005 as the Community Investment Director. Lance led the organization’s transition to focus on three priorities: Education, Income and Health. He oversaw the annual investment process to ensure that dollars were invested in program results that align with the goals of the three focus areas. Lance serves on the Board of Directors for the NC Center for Nonprofits, the Steering Committee for WNC Nonprofit Pathways, the Advisory Committee for the Asheville-Buncombe Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness and the Social Work subcommittee for Buncombe County Health and Human Services. Prior to his work with United Way, Lance was the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Virginia. He also served as Program Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters in Winston-Salem, NC for several years immediately following graduate school. Lance has a Master of Social Work from East Carolina University and bachelor's degrees in psychology and political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Michelle Bennett, Hands On Asheville-Buncombe Director

Michelle guides United Way’s volunteerism strategy. She oversees Hands On Asheville-Buncombe (the volunteer center of United Way), professional development trainings for volunteer coordinators, Day of Caring, and partnerships with nonprofits, schools, businesses, and other groups to align volunteers with organizations that need support.

Michelle joined United Way in 2012. She holds a Master’s degree in International Studies with a focus on International Development from North Carolina State University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and International Studies with a focus on Latin America, from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Michelle has worked in the nonprofit sector 5 years, developing volunteer programs, managing large-scale volunteer events, managing volunteer partnerships, and coordinating professional development trainings. Michelle serves as the current Chapter Leader of the AmeriCorps Alums Asheville Chapter. She served as the Treasurer of the Piedmont Regional Association of Volunteer Administration, a professional development organization for volunteer managers.

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Elisabeth Bocklet, Marketing and Communications Director

Elisabeth has worked at United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County since 2008, but her relationship with the organization goes back a bit further. In the early 1990s, Elisabeth served as an intern at this very United Way and spent 14 years working for nonprofits that received financial support from the organization as well. Elisabeth credits her social work and grassroots community organizing background in preparing her for her current role as Director of Marketing and Communications. “My formal education and years of work at local nonprofits have taught me how important it is to really listen to people. It does not matter if a person is homeless or lives in a mansion, we each have a story to tell and we each want to connect to others who care about things that matter to us. I believe a good part of my job is to help make those opportunities happen for people.”

Elisabeth has served as board member to Francine Delany School for Children, Public Relations Association of WNC and The Empowerment Resource Center/WRES. She was a founding member of the group that started Just Economics. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Warren Wilson College and attended organizing training through the Southern Empowerment Project. She is the recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan Award and has collected several awards between 2009 and 2014 including Best of the Mountains/Public Relations Association of WNC 2009 for Special Event & Underwriting Plan and a 2013 Platinum Marcom award recognizing United Way’s annual campaign video.

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Marla Browne, 2-1-1 Director

Marla has worked and volunteered in the nonprofit sector for more than ten years. Prior to joining United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County in 2013, Marla worked in Alabama as a 2-1-1 Coordinator and Director of a faith based crisis center. While in Alabama, she was part of the team that brought 2-1-1 coverage statewide. As Director of the crisis center, Marla lead the charge to be the first agency in a multi-county area to offer a community garden and a backpack program for food insecure children. During her time at both organizations, Marla was active in disaster response by serving as a board member and the spontaneous volunteer coordinator for VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). She has been trained in NIMS (National Incident Management System) and basic PIO (Public Information Officer) courses. She has participated in a number of real and mock disasters on a local and state level; she is a national spokesperson regarding 2-1-1’s role during disasters. She currently serves on the AIRS (Alliance of Information and Referral Services) Disaster Committee and is certified through this national accrediting agency.

Marla has served on a number of nonprofit boards and advisory committees and in 2012 was recognized by the Alabama Legislature for her professional achievements. Marla holds a degree in anthropology from Appalachian State University and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Lambda Alpha, Dean’s list and nominee for outstanding senior.

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Laura Elliot, Middle School Success Director

Laura Elliot joined United Way of Aasheville and Buncombe County in June of 2013. She has twenty years of experience working with both nonprofit and school-based agencies. As the Middle School Success Director, Laura serves as the facilitator of the Asheville-Buncombe Middle Grades Network. Previously, Laura served as the Residential and Enhanced Services Director for Eliada, Inc., Program Manager for Project Homestart, Residential Administrator at the Brush Ranch School and a Case Manager for Samaritan Ministries. Laura is an active presenter in the community. Topics of presentation include building strong community school partnerships, collective impact, and early warning and response systems. Laura is a certified trainer in Positive Youth Development and Quality Coaching for supervisors of youth services program staff.

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Layton Howar, Finance Director

Bio coming soon.

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Kevin Montgomery, Resource Development Director

A retired Army senior non-commissioned medical officer, Kevin brings a unique blend of practical thinking and emotional control to the Resource Development team. He joined United Way in 2001 and has served as the Director of Resource Development since 2010. Kevin is the chief fundraising strategist, overseeing three development staff and one pledge processing manager. His responsibilities include the development and execution of workplace giving, corporate and donor relations, major gifts, and pledge processing procedures. In addition, he also manages the Combined Federal Campaign of Western North Carolina. He is an AB Tech Alumni and holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership from Columbia Southern University. He is currently the chair of the United Way of North Carolina Spirit Awards committee and is an active board member with the Rotary Club of Asheville.

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Ann Von Brock, Special Projects Manager

Ann has worked in nonprofits since 1976. She has administered programs with migrant and seasonal farm workers and their preschool children, young adults working on their GED, unemployed and underemployed adults, victims of family violence, and women’s resource services. Ann has been with United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County for over 27 years and has held several positions. Her work has included community needs assessments, fund distribution, outcomes measurement, community conversations, community and organizational planning and community initiatives. Ann recently moved from her position as Vice President of Planning and Community Investment to work as a part time special projects manager. Her vice president responsibilities included strategic planning and oversight of the community investment strategies which include the Community Fund, NC 2-1-1 Asheville Center, Hands On Asheville-Buncombe and Middle School Success. She conducts training for other United Ways and nonprofits in strategic planning, outcome measurement and community conversations.

Ann’s academic and professional training has been in sociology, community organizing/development and counseling. She has a B.A. in sociology from Louisiana State University. She has served on numerous public and private nonprofit boards and is currently a member of the Boards of Directors for Community Action Opportunities, Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College Human Services Technology Program and NC 2-1-1.

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