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.
Please subscribe to our YouTube page
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 — Chief Executive Officer
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 Chief Executive Officer, 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 - Chief Operating Officer
Adrian Boone is a Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET), a Heating Ventilation and Air Condition (HVAC) Technician, and is certified with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He is a certified Peer Specialist with years of experience as an Independent Living Specialist, a Community Inclusion Specialist, and a Re-entry Specialist. He is also a Functional Assessment Support Team (F.A.S.T.) member for NC Emergency Management.
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!!
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.
Travis Evans-Community Inclusion Specialist
With years of experience as an advocate and as a person with a disability, Travis is a person who has not given up.
As a Community Inclusion Specialist, Travis brings the knowledge of how to live an independent life on your own terms. Travis worked at a Center for Independent Living (CIL). Travis has an Associate Degree in mathematics, Early Childhood Development, and has been a Peer Support Specialist in Georgia. Travis has a passion for supporting people with disabilities to live independent lives and be in the community if they want to.
In his free time, Travis enjoys playing sports, playing chess, working on computers, photography, and singing. He is a Tennessee Titans Fan.
Lorena Hieronymus-Community Inclusion Specialist
With over two decades of experience living with undiagnosed mental disabilities, Lorena brings a unique perspective to Solutions for Independence. Her understanding of the everyday struggles that our consumers experience, gives her the ability to connect at a deeper level to help encourage and motivate them to succeed. Lorena is a strong advocate for mental health. In the next ten years, Lorena would like to pursue her passion for advocating for individuals with disabilities, by opening a Center for Independent Living in the rural and underserved counties of North Carolina. She also plans on using her talent as a writer to publish her life story, to help others realize they are not alone in their struggles with mental health and disability.
When not working or actively advocating in the community, Lorena likes to read fantasy novels, cook, and take long walks on the many beautiful greenways Winston-Salem has to offer.
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.
Advocating with and for people with disabilities has been a passion and mission for Beth since the fifth grade. Beth has always seen the abilities of people with disabilities and enjoys sharing this insight through advocacy and education in our local community.
Having received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from UNC Charlotte and a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from UNC Greensboro, Beth has put her educational background to use in both her career and volunteering. Along with serving on the Board of Directors for Solutions for Independence, Beth also serves on the Board of Directors of Horizons Residential Care Center and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Triad Chapter, Additionally, Beth volunteers in the NICU at Novant Health and teaches the Disability Awareness Merit Badge to local BSA participants.
When not volunteering, Beth enjoys making jewelry, yoga, and rooting for her favorite team, the Charlotte 49ers. Go Niners!
As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in Medical Family Therapy (MedFT), Jessica helps individuals and families cope with life-changing illnesses and injuries. She is passionate about helping her clients embrace their "new normal" and learn ways to live a balanced life, no matter the circumstances. Jessica is a Clinical Fellow of The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy and the Founder/Clinical Director of House Call Counseling, a provider of in-home and telemental health services. Before becoming a therapist, Jessica worked as a Direct Support Professional and provided support services to ID/DD clients. After earning her Master's Degree, she continued her career in helping people with disabilities as the Psychosocial Counselor of Whitaker Rehab at Forsyth Medical Center and later transitioned to the role of Rehab Counselor at Novant Health Rehabilitation Hospital, an affiliate of Encompass Health. In addition to serving the Solutions for Independence Board, Jessica is a member of the Winston Salem Mayor's Council for People with Disabilities.
Jo Ann Coco-Ripp
Jo Ann Coco-Ripp practiced therapeutic recreation (TR) for many years before embracing a career change to higher education. Among the areas where she served as a TR practitioner, residential youth and other behavioral health settings are her preferences. She also worked for about 15 years in Illinois as Leisure Services Coordinator at a comprehensive agency serving persons with IDD/DD.
Currently, she is chair of the TR Department at Winston-Salem State University. Prior to WSSU, she taught at Oklahoma State, Georgia Southern and the University of Utah. While at Utah, Dr. Coco-Ripp had the opportunity to be fully involved in several research projects: A National Institute of Health study focused on patients receiving chemotherapy; a study funded by the Third District court to investigate best practices related to recreation therapy with adjudicated youth; and an after-school program focused on youth from Asian backgrounds.
During her leisure, Jo Ann enjoys activities in the outdoors, travel, reading, playing board games, and cooking. Sports of any kind is a passion that she pursues through playing, spectating, and keeping up with any Chicago team-Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, and especially the Cubs. One of her lifetime goals is to visit all the 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. She has one more to go!
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.
David Owen received his B.M. with a concentration in saxophone performance from the UNC School of the Arts in 2003 and studied music business at William Paterson University. He has been steeped in the world of live music promotion, performance, and production for the past twenty-five years. In 2016, David began a foray into disability advocacy when he became a Direct Support Professional (DSP) for pre-eminent, disability activist Bryan Dooley. While supporting Mr. Dooley’s participation on numerous boards, organizations, councils and advocacy groups, David plunged into another world, that of disability policy and politics. Through the lens of a DSP, he became familiar with the work of disability advocacy organizations, among them NC Council on Developmental Disabilities, Disability Rights North Carolina, the Post-Secondary Education Alliance, the NC Empowerment Network, and The Adaptables/Solutions for Independence. After being asked to join the Olmstead Plan Stakeholder Advisory, representing the State’s DSPs, David decided to embark on a new career path. He has recently become an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities In-Reach/Transition Coordinator for Vaya Health Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organization.
Savannah brings positivity, innovation, and creativity to the team. She is passionate about improving post-secondary outcomes for individuals with disabilities, promoting inclusive school cultures, and increasing community engagement in schools.
Savannah currently serves as a Transition Coordinator for the Exceptional Children’s Division of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools where she supports high school students, families, teachers, and administrators to ensure that students are prepared to be the most productive members of their communities as possible after high school. Through community-based instruction and hands-on learning, Savannah believes that all youth deserve the opportunity to experience how to work, live, play and grow in their own communities.
After graduating from Western Carolina University in 2013, Savannah spent 10 years in the classroom teaching students following the Occupational Course of Study in both Davidson County Schools and Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools. While teaching in Davidson County Schools, Savannah led her school into achieving national banner status through Unified Champions with Special Olympics by building and facilitating a fully inclusive school culture and climate. In January 2022, Savannah took a leap of faith to leave the classroom to join the district level Transition Team to not only gain more leadership skills, but to be able to make a greater impact on improving the post-secondary outcomes of students with disabilities. Savannah has recently completed her M.Ed in Educational Leadership at Salem College. She hopes to use her administration and leadership skills to continue to grow in the area of Exceptional Children’s Administration.
D'Marlo Brannon- Board Chair
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!