Executive Director – Matthew Garcia
Matthew C. Garcia, originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Vermont Law School. After his admission to the Vermont bar, he worked as a trial court law clerk in the Vermont Judiciary for several years, followed by a session with the Vermont Legislature as Legislative Counsel in health care policy.
Since 2008 Matthew has pursued a modest private practice in law in White River Junction, but devotes the majority of his time to what he likes to call “humanitarian” work. Matthew was a member of the board of directors of the Good Neighbor Health Clinics in WRJ for almost ten years, serving at various times as fundraising chair, vice chair, and chair of the board. He is currently the vice chair of the board of trustees of the Valley Court Diversion Programs and volunteers as a community justice board member there. He is also a member of the board of trustees of Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services of Southeastern Vermont. Matthew has been a Guardian ad Litem in the Vermont Family Courts for five years, he is a member of the Judiciary’s GAL Oversight Committee, and recently founded a statewide Vermont non-profit group, the Friends of Vermont GAL, Inc. He is also a founding volunteer attorney for the Windsor-Orange Legal Assistance Project and is a volunteer at Headrest in Lebanon, NH.
Community Outreach Coordinator – John Fenley
John Fenley was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor at the age of three which required four surgeries to successfully remove. Though the resulting brain injury created obstacles to overcome, John strives to define himself by his abilities rather than his disabilities. He has made it his calling to speak openly and passionately about his experiences in the hope that it might inspire others to join the disability rights movement.
Since 2008 John has faithfully served as President of UNITE (formerly Upper Valley Neighbors) an advocacy chapter based in Lebanon, New Hampshire. In 2012 he was elected President of the statewide advocacy organization, People First of New Hampshire. In that same year John was appointed to the Council on Developmental Disabilities by the Governor, and helped create Advocate NH – an organization that plans and delivers the annual statewide disability rights conference. In 2013 he joined the Self Advocacy Leadership Team (SALT) a group that addresses issues of: abuse and neglect, accessible transportation, and mentorship of young advocates. Through his extensive involvement in these organizations, John has had many opportunities to testify at the NH State House on issues of health and human services.
Venues in which John Fenley has given keynote presentations include: NH Direct Support Provider Conference, Family and Caregiver Support Conference, and Self Advocacy: Learn it! Live it! Love it! Conference. He has been invited to speak at trainings for: the NH Bureau of Developmental Services, NH Institute on Disabilities, and the NH Leadership Series. In 2014 he presented at the Massachusetts Direct Support Provider Conference. With a style more conversational than lecture, John Fenley is sure to engage any audience with his passion and humor.
Marketing Specialist – Cortney Nichols
Cortney began by working with small non-profits helping them build their brand awareness before coming to Spark! Community Center. She continues to help local non-profits with their marketing, development, and communication strategies in a consultant capacity. Cortney is the vice president of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce board, serves on several boards and committees in the region, and is a member of the Leadership Upper Valley Class of 2018. You can find out more about Cortney and what she does at marketingforsocialprofits.com.
In her free time, Cortney can be found enjoying the beautiful New Hampshire outdoors. She loves kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and volunteering in the field of conservation.
Program Director – Heather Slater
Heather grew up in Groton, Vermont and moved to the Upper Valley with her three boys three years ago. She attended Lyndon State College studying Psychology and Human Services with a minor in Art. She has worked in domestic violence advocacy with Umbrella and has several years experience working as an aid with special needs kids. In Heather’s spare time she enjoys drawing, painting and staying busy, enjoying the outdoors with her kids.
Activities Specialist – Merrie Hedges
Merrie has lived in the northeast most of her life, graduating from Kearsarge Regional High School in 2001. Merrie has several years experience working with and helping to care for those with special needs.
Merrie enjoys volunteering. For the last six years, she has worked in conjunction with the Friends of Springfield Fire-Rescue and is currently a member of the board.
In Merrie’s spare time she enjoys spending time with her daughter and extended family. This can mean going for walks around the neighborhood, swimming, or gardening among other things.