President of the Board of Directors since 2011, Debra is the parent of two adult children, including a uniquely challenged daughter, Amie. Amie’s Voice was one of the first microboards incorporated in the state of Georgia.
Debra Foster McElhaney, M.Ed. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Certified Imago Relationship Therapist Advanced Clinician. Through her Atlanta based private practice, she offers therapy and consultation, as well as various workshops and groups on relationships, marriage, communication skills, parenting, special needs families, grief and healing, developmental issues and other topics.
Debra holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Auburn University, and advanced clinical training through IRI (Imago Relationships International) She is a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), Georgia Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (GAMFT), and Imago Relationships International. Debra also serves as an advisory board member for FOCUS (Families of Children Under Stress).
I grew up in a very small town in southern rural Michigan - which made the move to the southern U.S. quite seamless! My wife and I have lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years now. My interests and free time are often centered around my family. I have three children (girls age 11 and 15, and a son age 13). My oldest daughter, Amanda, is part of the reason why I ended up involved with work and interest in developmental disabilities. I have led an effort over the past three years with a circle of friends assisting a mother with developmental disabilities who has 7 children. I'm also an active volunteer with Hands On Atlanta (Discovery tutoring program) at Dunwoody United Methodist Church in Dunwoody.
I've been working in and around software technologies my entire career, including as an executive with CheckFree where we pioneered the development of digital and mobile banking and electronic bill payments. Currently, I'm a Principal with a consulting firm, called ThoughtWorks, specializing in software innovation.
Nancy L. Vara, Advisor and Board Member at Large
Nancy Vara is a parent, a well-known advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities, a frequent guest speaker at conferences and transition fairs throughout the state, and the former Executive Director of the Georgia Microboards Association.
Nancy became involved with the Georgia Microboards Association after her son Carmine transitioned out of the school system. Carmine and Friends was the first Microboard to incorporate in the state of Georgia. A strong supporter of Participant-Directed Waiver Services, Nancy’s leadership, assistance, and hands-on support has helped improve the lives of people of all ages. Nancy was the first to coin a phrase which would become the motto of the Association, “We put people, behind people, who need people.”
Over the last twenty six years, Chris Hunnicutt has been focused on supporting and advocating on behalf of folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since 1997 he has been professionally pursuing these ends.
Initially he worked in quality assurance, quality improvement and participant safety. Later he focused upon leading edge residential services offering participants personal choice and community assimilation while providing appropriate, needed, supports. Most recently, he worked to promote, educate and implement the strategies of customized employment. The Microboard is the logical next step for individuals and families desiring assurances for their family member’s personal choices and care throughout their life seasons. These entities focus on building and formalizing asset based community development.
Chris lives in Decatur with Marty, his wife of 43 years. In additional to Christopher, his family includes a daughter, son in law and four grandchildren who live in Ottawa, Canada.
The Georgia Microboards Association is funded in part by grants from the Division of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
and by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
Ken is a native of Long Island, New York, and has resided in the Atlanta area since retiring from the Marine Corps in 1996. Ken and his wife, Vanessa, have 5 sons and 5 grandchildren. They have two young adult children that experience ASD daily.
Ken is the co-founder of Total Life Coaching and Consulting (TLC2), a service established to provide consulting and coaching assistance to persons and families needing unique advocacy help and supports. He has worked as a social worker and trainer with non-profit organizations serving foster children and those families that provide safe loving homes for them. He has also been involved with Strengthening Families and Fatherhood initiatives throughout the Metro-Atlanta area. Ken has been a corporate recruiter and distribution manager for fortune 500 companies in Atlanta. He currently serves as an associate pastor at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia. He has undergraduate degrees in Sociology and Theology, and graduate degrees in Human Resource Management Development and Ministry.
Ken is a former Parent Mentor with Gwinnett County Schools, a graduate of Partners in Policy Making (AADD), and the Parent Leadership Support Project (GAO). He has also received advanced training with the University of Georgia Institute of Human Development and Disability; Georgia State University Center for Leadership in Disability; and the Houlton Institute Autistic Global Initiative. He is currently serving on the Gwinnett County DFCS Board and Monarch School Local School Council.
Katie Chandler, Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Directors
Katie Chandler, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is the Developmental Disabilities Director with the Georgia Advocacy Office, the designated Protection and Advocacy system for people with disabilities in Georgia. Katie studies Social Role Valorization and is learning to teach these principles which enhance her work of supporting people with disabilities to have valued social roles. Katie has worked to support children and adults with developmental disabilities to be integrated and included in their communities for ten years. She works to help young people get out of nursing facilities and institutions and into loving homes in the community through the Children’s Freedom Initiative “CFI,” (www.georgiacfi.org). The CFI is a collaborative effort of the Georgia Developmental Disability Network and envisions a future in which no child lives in an institution. Katie has identified more than 80 young people with developmental disabilities in Georgia who live in facilities, and more than 20 young people who are placed in out of state facilities.
She has been interviewed about her work on National Public Radio and the Joe Madison show on XM Radio. Katie received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and her Master’s degree from the University of Georgia. She and her husband have two young children and live in Lawrenceville, GA.
A licensed land surveyor and retired naval reservist, James Butler works part-time with the Lamar County School District as the Parent Mentor. He works collaboratively through his non-profit with other agencies that focus on youth development and serving people with disabilities in his community.
In addition to his professional background as a surveyor, he earned a BS in Psychology and is in the initial process of fulfilling an internship requirement for the completion of an MS in Professional Counseling. His desire is to promote interaction between all people in communities, particularly those living at the margins of a community.
A graduate of Partners in Policy Making, Mr. Butler is a trainer and former Regional Coordinator for Parent to Parent of Georgia, a Cultural Competency Trainer for the Georgia Department of Education, Division of Special Education and related services, and the Center for Leadership in Disability, Georgia State University.
Tom Copper, President and Chairman
Tom is a member of Dunwoody Baptist Church, where he founded the Explorer Scout Group for adults with disabilities as well as being a deacon.
He served in the United State Air Force and was stationed in Orlando FL and Viet Nam being discharged with the rank of Captain.
He was a District Manager with Procter and Gamble as well as Polaroid after his military service. Later Tom was a National Account Manager with BP/Castrol, Sunbeam/Jarden and most recently Sensio, Inc.
Along with his wife, Becky, they formed one of the first Microboards in Georgia for their son, Todd. Tom has accompanied and helped facilitate with Todd on numerous presentations that Todd conducted for various organizations throughout the state of Georgia, titled “Independent Living”. Tom has been attending and interacting with the Georgia Microboard Association quarterly meetings for many years and is honored and looking forward to bringing his professional and corporate work experience to the Presidency of the Georgia Microboard Association.