Ashland, VA 23005
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NewFound Families Team
J. Will Pitzer, MSW, Executive Director
Born in Centreville, raised in Front Royal, and having lived in Vienna and Richmond, Va, Will has experienced a great deal of Virginia and its offerings. After receiving a degree in theatrical design and production from Auburn University, Will began working as a theatrical carpenter and technician. This was exciting work, but Will soon received an opportunity to live and work in London, England. This was the start his social work career. Since then, will has garnered experience working with several different populations.
Will is a graduate of Auburn University and Virginia Commonwealth University with bachelor’s degrees in theatrical design and production and social work, respectively, as well as a master’s degree in social work administration, planning, and policy practice. Will also earned a certificate in non-profit management from the Wilder School at Virginia Commonwealth University. Will has over nine years of experience working with organizations such as L’arche London, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Virginia, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Target Inc., Dominion Waiver Services, Extra Special Parents of Virginia, ECPI University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. More recently, Will served as the Program Director for Connecting Hearts at Jewish Family Services.
As the Executive Director of Newfound Families Virginia, Will aims to focus on helping communities and families engage in foster care, adoption, and kinship care. Will believes that healing requires collaboration, connection, and cooperation. Together, we can support our youth and families across the state of Virginia.
Ellena McConnell, Member Services Coordinator
Ellena McConnell was born in Chesterfield, Va. At age 7, along with two other siblings she was placed into Foster Care. At age 11 she was adopted by her forever home. Going through the system herself, Ellena has a lot of passion and interest in ways to serve our youth and better our systems to ensure that all Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship families have the support they need to ensure every child gets a happy home. As a young-adult she worked with the #VirginiaAdopts1000 campaign to advocate for adoption and youth voice through that process. Ellena collaborated with Faces of Virginia Families to be the Youth Representative before we rebranded to NewFound Families. Ellena is currently going to school to pursue a degree in Human Resources to better her understanding in her position as Member Services Coordinator.
NewFound Regional Ambassadors
Heidi Rizzo, Piedmont Regional Ambassador
Heidi Rizzo is the NewFound Families Ambassador for the Piedmont Region. With a background in early childhood education, her current work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care. She has experience as a foster parent, adoptee, and mother to four incredible kids. She feels passionate about children, especially children from hard places. When she isn’t advocating for children, (or taking them to soccer practice) you can find her being walked by her unruly dogs, tending to an overcrowded garden, or staring at a dusty ukulele. She is a reader, a "want to be" author, and a music maker. She is thrilled to start the new decade as part of “The NewFound Families-Virginia” family.
Cornelia Mayes, Eastern Region Ambassador
Cornelia (Connie) Mayes grew up in North Georgia and Eastern Tennessee. She graduated from Emory University. After living in several different states, she, her husband, and two daughters settled in Tidewater, Virginia.
Connie worked for Gloucester Social Services for many years, working in all areas of child welfare, including foster care, adoption, and home studies for court. She facilitated and delivered training for foster and adoptive families. She was president of the Virginia Alliance of Social Work Practitioners (VASWP) and planned several state-wide conferences.
Since retiring, Connie has worked part-time with social services and as a GED teacher.
Connie is widowed and has two adult daughters and six grandchildren. She also has a young adult foster grandson who lives with her.
Connie Mayes is excited about the opportunity to work with foster, adoptive, and kinship care families as well as local social service agencies and other nonprofit agencies. She looks forward to assisting families in accessing services so they can better care for the children and youth who have joined their family. She is particularly interested in identifying services for children and youth who have experienced adverse childhood experiences. Connie realizes kinship care families often find it less easy to locate and utilize services. She especially looks forward to serving these families.
Lori Jacocks, Central Region Ambassador
Lori Jacocks is our Central Region Ambassador. She is looking forward to making connections with local departments of social services and helping to support foster, adoptive and kinship families. She and her husband have been foster parents for over 5 years and are adoptive parents. They have 4 children ranging in age from five to fifteen. Lori is a former special education teacher and is an avid reader.
Jaoni Wood, Northern Region Ambassador
Jaoni Wood and her husband, Gabe were foster parents in Louden county. There they fostered children ranging in ages from 5 months to 18 years old. They have four permanent children via birth and adoption. Being nominated to participate in the CCAI Angels in Adoption program in 2016 helped Jaoni get more involved in advocating for family supports and changes to the foster care system. This also increased her involvement of the faith community in foster care, adoption, and kinship care. She is looking forward to helping families in the northern region find information about how they can best care and advocate for the children in their homes while raising awareness of the impact of trauma across all environments.
Molly Buckwalter Fairfield,Western Regional Ambassador
(540) 421-6953 (Fridays 11-3)
Molly Buckwalter Fairfield grew up in Harrisonburg, VA where she fell in love with the mountains and music of Appalachia, and learned to play fiddle and banjo. After graduating from Goshen College with a degree in Music and English, Molly moved back to Harrisonburg to work at Rosetta Stone. A passion for social justice drove Molly to move to China where she spent three years volunteering as an English teacher at a rural college. Back in the U.S., Molly developed a successful million dollar grant-writing program at Community Options, a nonprofit serving people with disabilities. Eventually,Molly received a Master's in Public Administration from New York University, and moved to Christiansburg, VA where she takes care of her two young children and a cat. Molly is joining NewFound Families as the Western Regional Ambassador, and is excited to work with the region's families and social service professionals to support children and youth as they grow into a new family. Please contact Molly with any questions, concerns, or suggestions for the Western Region.
NewFound Families Board of Directors
Stan Phillips, JD
Jean Kelly, JD
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