Board and Staff
WAF is led by Executive Director, Melissa Moore and a dedicated Board of Directors. It is an organization that is sustained by youth, donors, and volunteers from the greater Charleston area. The We Are Family Youth Advisory Board (WAFYAB) is made up of group leaders ages 12-23 years old. The WAFYAB oversees the SafeSpace program and regularly meets with the Executive Director to develop topics and content for meetings.
We Are Family Executive Director, is the only paid staff person. Melissa, a native of Charleston, SC, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from the College of Charleston. She currently serves as the Executive Director for We Are Family, where she engages in asset-based community development and support services for youth who have been marginalized on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Melissa is a published writer and a founder of the Charleston Gay Pride festival. She is the 2016 recipient of the Center for Women Influential Women In Business “Rising Star” award, as well as the 2015 Alliance For Full Acceptance Advocacy Award. She has worked toward LGBT liberation for more than a decade and has held staff positions at SC Equality and Alliance For Full Acceptance.
Topher Larkin – Chair
Topher Larkin is a Charleston transplant originally from Tampa, FL. While he has an eclectic background of work experience from entertainment public relations, surrogacy, and being a personal assistant, his passion towards community activism and getting involved with LGBT youth led him to We Are Family. Topher is a graduate of Emerson College, with a degree in Theatre and Communications. In addition to his involvement with WAF, he is the board chair of the Charleston Area World AIDS Day Committee, Charleston Pride (2014-2016) and currents works at The Ryan White Wellness Center at Roper St. Francis as the Outreach Specialist, dealing with HIV educational outreach, prevention, PrEP, and special events. In his spare time, Topher’s other passions include sailing, the beach, theatre and the arts, traveling, and engaging new ways to collaborate with other creative leaders, He was featured in Charlie Magazine as one of Charleston’s “Top 50 Progressives” of 2014, Toast of the Town Recipient in 2015, and was featured in NRP’s StoryCorp OutLoud series in 2016.
Kris Mady – Secretary
Kris hails from the north where they got their degree in social work. They currently work as the Outreach and Follow-Up Coordinator at People Against Rape, the local rape crisis center. As a queer person living in the south, Kris loves working with traditionally underserved populations and talking about intersectionality. Kris is incredibly passionate about creating safe spaces for all people and is focused on social and economic justice and advocacy.
Lu Betti – Treasurer
Lu Betti hails from Cleveland, Ohio and attended Kent State University. She has called the Lowcountry home since 1995. She began her CFO duties for Frank Leigh Painting & Co., Inc. in 1996 and continues to wear many hats while still employed by FLP. She is a strong advocate for social justice and her passions include tennis, travel, animals, reading and Random Acts of Kindness. MOTTO: It’s not how much you make in life-it’s how much you give.
Jonatan Guerrero Ramirez
Jonatan Guerrero Ramirez was born in Celaya, Mexico and moved to the United States at the age of 5. Growing up in the small town of Waynesboro Georgia, Jonatan was involved in music, theatre and dance where he was even featured in Teen Vogue Magazine and receiving recognitions such as ‘Best in Theatrical Caption” from the Georgia literacy Association. After moving to Charleston in 2014, Jonatan started working in the fashion through styling, PR, and special event planning. Some of his work includes Charleston Fashion Week, Lowcounty Live, and Bravo TV’s Southern Charm. While working with the city during special projects, Jonatan because a strong supporter of animal rights, LGBTQI rights, adult education and became one of the youngest Hispanic activist in the low country. His passion for children and to help others is his driving force to “Keep moving forward”.
www.jonatanguerreroramirez.com Social Media: @jonatanguerreroramirez
Lee Anne Leland
Lee Anne Leland is a native Charlestonian who resides in McClellanville, SC with her wife of 18 years, 17 adopted dogs, a parrot and a pet possum. In 1974 she graduated from St. Andrews College with a degree in word literature. After college she entered the construction field and eventually became a restoration carpenter working on some of the most historic properties in the Charleston area. Currently employed as te building manager for a local private school she devotes much of her free time to her family and working for LGBTQI rights. She is co-facilitator for the Charleston Area Transgender Support group and recently was named to the board of We Are Family. Her goal is equality for all, focusing on LGBTQI youth and their struggle for acceptance.
Josh is originally from southeastern Ohio and relocated in Charleston to live in the Drexel House, a communit y of young Catholic men. He works to educate and increase dialogue around sexuality within faith communities. For instance, Jesus in Love blog wrote a piece on his efforts calling on faith communities to participate in Day of Silence (http://jesusinlove.blogspot.com/2015/04/day-of-silence-prayer-stop-bullying.html). He is also a part of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative as a member of the Marianist LGBT Initiative Team. During his studies at the University of Dayton where he obtained his B.S. Psychology, Josh served as the Director of Marianist Involvement,established the Marianist Student Collaborative, and was awarded “Most Inspirational” by the Student Government Association. In 2011, he was one of five university-selected students to represent UD at the Marianist Universities Meeting on Civic Engagement. He founded the Social Justice Service Learning Organization at UD, a social justice club that extended the first-year Social Justice Learning and Living Community to a four-year co-curricular, residential program. Skills he brings to the organization include four years of experience fundraising for the University of Dayton, evaluation and research as a former team coordinator for the Memory Aesthetics Attention Perception Research Lab at UD, and insights from his serving full-time as a Bonner AmeriCorps volunteer in an LGBTQ-friendly youth shelter and transitional housing provider, Daybreak in Dayton, Ohio. During his graduate studies, he produced a proposal encompassing a strategic and marketing plan for the implementation of a Non-Profit & Community Leadership program for the University of Dayton, assisted the formation of the Graduate Student Association at the University of Dayton, and constructed a benchmarking report on “Awards and Recognition” the President’s Office has utilized for implementation. When Josh has a chance to get away, he likes to return to Appalachia in southeastern Kentucky where he spent the summer of 2010 immersed in the Appalachian culture. In fact, he has visited over 50 times in the past 6 years.
A lifelong South Carolina resident, Jessie Parks moved to Charleston after obtaining a bachelor of arts in philosophy from Clemson University. She hails from a long line of strong, socially conscious Southern women and is passionate about continuing that tradition. Jessie believes that grassroots organizing is key to making her home state a more progressive and tolerant place, and she has volunteered for numerous nonprofits and social movements, including NORML, Girls Rock Charleston, and Occupy Charleston. In her spare time, she enjoys thrifting, playing dress-up, and relaxing with her fiance, Scott, and their three rescue critters.