Our Mission is to support the independence of people with disabilities through consumer empowerment and community education.
We believe in consumer choice, consumer expertise, and community based living.
Our job is to work with you to identify and ultimately help pursue the goals that result in greater independence. We advocate for equality and public awareness to remove physical and attitudinal barriers throughout our service area.
The team at Solutions for Independence is here to connect with you. Here’s a little bit about each of us and our story. Contact any of us so we can learn more about you.
Mark Steele — Executive Director
With years of experience as both an advocate and as a person with a disability, Mark is the person who drives us forward.
As our Executive Director, Mark utilizes his extensive knowledge of organizing and managing independent living centers to position Solutions for Independence (SFI) as the Triad’s trusted establishment for independent living. But along with his experience working within the sector, Mark also carries perspective as someone with a disability.
Mark acquired a spinal cord injury that resulted in quadriplegia at the age of 18. Mark used this perspective to earn a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from East Carolina University (ECU). From there, he leveraged that education and experience to hold numerous managerial positions throughout NC, all focused on re-entry, rehabilitation, and independent living.
When Mark is not paving new ways forward for SFI and the people who utilize its services, he loves cooking, concerts, exercising and keeping up with his favorite school — East Carolina University.
Adrian Boone - Director of Operations
Driven by his passion for helping others, Adrian is the man who helps our consumers regain agency in their life.
As a Re-Entry and Community Inclusion Specialist, he implements empowering and inclusive Independent Living Plans that allow his patients to live their lives independently and in a manner that’s enjoyable for them. Adrian’s unique approach ensures that each plan created is specifically tailored to the person he’s working with.
When Adrian isn’t helping consumers, he loves spending his time cooking, watching sports, and enjoying quality time with his family in Baltimore.
Celia Dixon-Community Inclusion Specialist
Celia is a graduate from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in Education with emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation. Prior to joining Solutions for Independence as a Community Inclusion Specialist, Celia worked in the healthcare field in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation for 25 years as a Recreational Therapist. Along with professional experience, Celia has gained a tremendous amount of experience with advocating for her daughter who has a hearing impairment and medical issues. Celia was afforded the opportunity to work with and learn from persons with a variety of disabilities as a therapist and as the Peer Mentor coordinator on an inpatient rehabilitation unit. In addition, Celia worked in the community with adaptive sporting events such as water skiing and hand cycling, assisting with SpiNet, a spinal cord injury support group in the Triad. Celia has a passion for advocacy for persons with disabilities. Along with educating the consumers on resources for them to gain independence, Celia hopes to educate the community on the abilities and value of all persons with disabilities. In her free time, Celia loves watching her daughter perform on stage, going to the beach, swimming and all things related to University of Georgia football! Go DAWGS!!
Ben Salzer- Community Inclusion Specialist
Ben is a graduate of Temple University with a degree in Economics. Using his deep understanding of analytical and behavioral sciences, Ben is tackling complex community problems with creative solutions. As a Community Inclusion & Resource Development Coordinator, his goals include providing Solutions For Independence consumers with empowering information and developing Solutions For Independence infrastructure to serve the community most effectively. In his free time, Ben enjoys hiking, trying new foods, and watching Philly sports.
Bryan Dooley- Community Inclusion Specialist
Bryan Dooley is a graduate of Guilford College, Summa Cum Laude. While earning a degree in History, he won numerous leadership awards and scholarships, wrote for The Guilfordian, and worked as a Diversity Coordinator. Bryan, who has cerebral palsy, is an advocate for people with disabilities. He began advocating from a young age, earning state and national awards by high school, including the Yes I Can award in assistive technology from the Council for Exceptional Children and the Matthew Graziadei Achievement Award. He participated in the Youth Leadership Forum at NC State and numerous youth groups, including the National Youth Leadership Network and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). Bryan chose to focus on the history of the disability movement as an academic subject because of these experiences. He completed the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities Partners in Policymaking program in 2014 and the Advancing Strong Leadership in Developmental Disability Initiative in 2016. He is co-vice chair for the governor-appointed NC Council on Developmental Disabilities, the immediate past chair for Disability Rights NC, the immediate past chair for the NC Empowerment Network, speaks at numerous educational and disability advocacy events, and before joining the staff of Solutions for Independence he was a former board member for the Adaptables and Solutions for Independence.
Board of Directors
Solutions for Independence Board of Directors is dedicated to high-quality governance and service. We seek members who bring expertise in business, nonprofit, public relations and specific knowledge about disability. The application process for joining our board is simple and begins with a call to Solutions for Independence at 336-767-7060. Board Meetings are held monthly.
JoAnn Ahrens — Board Chair
A native of the Elkin area in Surry County, I have been married for 30 years and have a daughter and 2 grandchildren. I am passionate about elders and individuals with disabilities and their rights. I have been the manager of two apartment complexes that offer subsidized housing for persons with disabilities and the elderly for 25 years. Having had constant training in ADA laws and disability rights, I constantly work to make sure the people I house are protected and their rights are made known to them. I serve on the Surry County Aging and planning Committee and I am the Board Chair for the YVEDDI Transportation Advisory Board for the five-county area as well as serve on the Board of Directors for Foothills Food Pantry that serves all of Surry County.
A native of Winston-Salem Chris started working with Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind dba IFB Solutions in 2003 in Impulse Merchandising, and quickly realized that what he enjoyed most was helping others who were blind or visually impaired. He then became a low vision technician and counselor in the Community Low Vision Center for about two years, a job that he grew to include developing programs for adults and using computers as adaptive technology devices. Chris’ work became the foundation of IFB Solutions programs serving thousands of blind and low vision per year through adult and kid programming in Winston-Salem, Asheville, Charlotte and Little Rock, Arkansas. Programs include summer camps, weekend activities, after school programs, three Community Low Vision Centers and various social/recreational activities.
Chris developed Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 11, and learned that the disease was hereditary and he would eventually go blind. Since that prognosis, Chris has lived with the challenges of living with low vision and now being totally blind he can now share those experiences with others who are blind or visually impaired.
Chris is a graduate of the 2021 class of Leadership Winston-Salem and is the 2010 recipient of the Nancy Susan Reynolds Award for Service. Chris resides in Pfafftown with his wife Paula and his guide dog Hayden.
Tamara S. Rhyne
Adjunct instructor for Winston-Salem State University, Deaf Studies Minor program under the Rehabilitation and Human Services Department. Graduated from Appalachian State University. Native of Winston-Salem, Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), also has Deaf family relatives. Served as an Interpreter for the Deaf for approximately 16 plus years. Passionate about teaching American Sign Language. Tami is married to Jim Rhyne and they have two daughters.
Before moving to North Carolina I worked in public education for over twenty years. I worked in every grade level from Pre-K to 12th grade and even adult education.
After moving to North Carolina I became a consultant, an advocate, a presenter and then an author. My first book, “Challenged But Not Defeated – Strategies for Coping with Autism and Schizophrenia” is non-fiction and partially autobiographical since I live with autism and schizophrenia. My second book, “Weight A Minute – Lessons a Family Learns Thru the Gift of Autism” is young adult fiction. The hero lives in Winston-Salem and also lives with autism.
I am a member of the Mayor’s Council for Person’s with Disabilities in Winston-Salem, Forsyth Mental Health Community Collaborative, Forsyth County Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Advisory Committee and Forsyth County Collaborative. I am also on the board of directors for The Greentree Peer Center.
I live with my wife, Marlene and our furry baby, Kaylie. Marlene and I have been married for 33 years.
Matthew James is the current Director of Clinical Operations at Horizons Residential Care Center, a local non-profit serving children and adults through residential, respite, and educational services; President of the Triad Regional Provider Partners Council, Cardinal Innovations Regional Council; and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for Moji Coffee & More, a non-profit supporting employment for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. As a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations program at UNC-Greensboro, he researches quality of life outcomes for people with extensive support needs and approaches to transforming disability service systems. He received his Master’s in Special Education from UNC-Charlotte with K-12 licensures in both adapted and general curriculum. Lastly, Bachelor’s degrees from the UNC-Wilmington in History and Political Science. Fostering collaborative partnerships between people with disabilities, their families, schools and the greater community in order to improve the quality of life for us all, is a deeply held passion. He supports local, state, national and international initiatives that advocate for inclusive environments and enviable living for people with disabilities and their families.
I am D'Marlo "Tre" Brannon. I am 42 from Winston-Salem but I have lived around the world! I was a Project Manager in Construction and a side DJ! Now I love being a DJ full-time! I love the kids I work with and the people I communicate with. I hope to help out the people I know and don't know! Independence is GREAT; but we need to help ALL achieve it!