" "
Need help? Dial 2-1-1 to contact a United Way call center specialist or click here to find resources.


United Way announces 2022 Cocktails and Conversations Honorees

April 4, 2022

United Way of Northeast Florida is thrilled to recognize our outstanding honorees for 2022’s Cocktails and Conversations, April 21.  Click the link on their name to connect with them on LinkedIn and scroll further to read their bios.




  • Michelle Braun, President and CEO, United Way of Northeast Florida
  • Dawn Curling, Co-founder, The Melanin Market
  • Thabata Ford, Vice President of Operations and System Pulmonary, Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Baptist Medical Center 
  • Dr. Rudy F. Jamison Jr., Director of the Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, University of North Florida
  • Phillip Lee, Vice President, Strategic Provider Partnerships, GuideWell
  • Shannon Nazworth, President and CEO, Ability Housing
  • Deloris Moton Quaranta, Founder and CEO, Northeast Florida Women Veterans, Inc.
  • T-Neisha Tate, Vice President of Social Responsibility and Impact, Jacksonville Jaguars



Michelle Braun


Michelle Braun is President and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida. United Way’s vision is to create a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can reach their full potential. United Way serves a five-county area of northeast Florida and one in three people in the region. Prior to becoming president in 2014, she served in many capacities, including serving as a member of the board of directors, community chair for United Way’s RealSense initiative and as the vice president of Resource Development where she led a record-setting campaign. After many years of dedication, Michelle is retiring from her role as President and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida April 30, 2022.

Michelle joined United Way from Wells Fargo where she was the community development manager for Florida responsible for coordinating the bank’s resources and partners to ensure the bank served all of Florida’s diverse communities – especially low- and moderate-income individuals and families. She was previously Wachovia’s community relations executive for Florida before the merger with Wells Fargo.

Prior to her career at Wachovia, Braun worked for Bank of America as director of the Florida Foundation and as community development manager. She has also served in leadership positions at nonprofit agencies across the country. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and philosophy from The University of Notre Dame and earned a master’s degree in nonprofit management from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

Michelle is passionate about serving the community. She serves on the board of directors for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Jacksonville Civic Council, the Early Learning Coalition of Duval, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and chaired the JCCI mental health inquiry. She is a member of Leadership Jacksonville’s class of 2017 and United Way Worldwide’s Network Partnership Group.

Michelle is married to Paul, her artist husband and they have two children Quinn, 15, and Shea, 13.


Dr. Darren Brownlee


Dr. Darren Brownlee, is a Senior Division Chair of Education at the Mayo Clinic of Florida. He was a former scholarship athlete, playing football at West Virginia University, later earning his Master of Health Administration from Hofstra University, and completing his Doctor of Public Health in Health Policy and Management from the Johns Hopkins University. He is a proven leader in the management of both people and resources with special strengths in operations, analytics, health equity and enhancing access.  

In 2012, Dr. Brownlee began his healthcare career in Baltimore, Maryland with the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Serving in many capacities, he led various functions within the Department of Surgery and Department of Medicine, managed Chairman’s Office activities and led hospital and system wide health equity initiatives. In October of 2018, he transitioned to Jacksonville, Florida, as an Operations Administrator for Dermatology, Pulmonary, Allergy, Sleep Medicine, and Respiratory Services. In April of 2021, he stepped into his current role of Senior Division Chair of Education, maintaining operational oversight as the Mayo Clinic Florida’s Secretary of the Operations Coordinating Group (OCG), strategically monitoring clinical practices in alignment with the operating plan.   

In addition to his profession, Dr. Brownlee is a Past Chapter President and current Board Member of the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE), an organization geared towards the elevation of quality healthcare services rendered to the poor and members of minority races in the United States. He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Culture of Health Leader Alum, a group composed of leaders from all sectors working towards collaborative solutions that address health inequities while moving communities and organizations toward a Culture of Health and a former United Way Northeast Florida Fellow. He continues to serve in various capacity in his community and is a proud Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Fraternity, Inc. Dr. Brownlee continues to excel in fostering collaboration, mentoring, and forming successful internal and external partnerships.  


Dawn Curling


Dawn Curling is a passionate and innovative community servant. As a 3rd generation business owner in the historic corridor on Jacksonville’s eastside, she offers quality service, development platforms, and economic opportunities to her community. Dawn’s vision is to inspire the next generation of minority entrepreneurs by supplying the educational and functional resources that will empower them to growth and success.  

Throughout her professional journey, Dawn has sought to bridge the gap between social and economic inequalities that minorities face every day. Her motivation to start The Melanin Market stemmed from the historic business corridor of Jacksonville’s Eastside, a bustling economic hub for minority owned businesses prior to the 1964 Race Riots, which diminished the social and business growth of the renowned minority district.    

Dawn’s mission is for The Melanin Market to inspire hope in the reality of an economically secure minority entrepreneur network. Creating a movement where ethics, culture, and community intercede to reform the structure of Jacksonville’s eastside and provide a framework for a national minority economic and business enterprise.   



Gabrielle Dean-Rector

Gabrielle is an experienced fundraiser, project manager, and relationship builder. At United Way of Northeast Florida, she helps drive organizational strategic change and partners with local companies to grow their employee and community engagement. Gabrielle believes in the power of collective impact and is passionate about building a stronger, more equitable northeast Florida for all. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and pets, reading, creating art, and visiting new places. 

Thabata Ford


Thabata Ford works for Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville Florida as the Vice President of Operations and System Pulmonary.  Thabata has been with Baptist Health for eight years and has served in progressively expanding management roles for Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Baptist Medical Center. Thabata oversees the day-to-day administrative operations of WCH and is also responsible for clinical operations of numerous areas within WCH including: the C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Heart Institute; the Walter and Michelle Stys Neuroscience Institute; the Diabetes and Endocrinology Institute; Regional and International Outreach, Satellite Centers and Hospital Affiliations; the Bower Lyman Center for the Medically Complex Child; the Snyder Family Cleft and Craniofacial Center; and the Duran Genetics Center. Thabata also oversees the BMCJ and WCH Auxiliary/Volunteer services, and on a system-wide basis she is responsible for overseeing and developing Neurodiagnostics services and Pulmonary services at all Baptist Health locations.  

Prior to joining the Baptist Health in 2013 Thabata worked as a Health Care Policy Analyst for the Florida House of Representatives. During her time in the House she worked on many health care issues including: Medicaid Reform, Family and Child Welfare, and Hospital and Facility Regulation.  Prior to working in the House, Thabata worked for the Florida Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget and the Florida Department of Health. 

Thabata serves as the President of the Board of Directors for Episcopal Children’s Services.  She is a Fellow in the American College of Health Care Executives, and received the ACHE Regent’s Award in 2018. Thabata was recognized as one of Jacksonville’s 40 under 40 in 2019. 

Thabata Ford is a two-time graduate of Florida State University. She graduated in 2010 with her Master’s in Public Health and in 2006 with her Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Criminology. Thabata was born in Miami and raised in Florida. Thabata is married to Valentino and they have two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, exercising and is an avid lover of Florida State football. 


Dr. Rudy F. Jamison Jr.


Dr. Rudy F. Jamison Jr. is a native of Jacksonville, FL and proud graduate of Jean Ribault Sr. High School, Florida A&M University, and University of North Florida. Dr. Jamison currently serves as Director of the Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of North Florida. He is a national award-winning author and is committed to advancing a collective critical consciousness that moves humanity

Phillip Lee


Phillip Lee is GuideWell’s Vice President of Strategic Provider Partnerships. In this role, which he assumed in April 2020, Lee is responsible for the development, execution, and oversight of deep strategic and value-based relationships with key providers to advance the enterprise’s objectives around affordability, quality of care and differentiated value proposition in each of GuideWell’s markets.  Additionally, as of Nov. 2021, Lee also serves as the President of Truli for Health, a new health maintenance organization (HMO), to better serve small and mid-size employers using a unique financing and delivery model that aligns incentives with provider partners on outcomes and value.   

Prior to this role, Lee served as Vice President and Chief of Staff to the Office of the CEO, where he was responsible for assisting with the CEO’s plan and coordinating the strategic, cross-functional activities of the executive office, including managing executive committee efforts. Prior to that, he was a Strategic Account Executive on the company’s national accounts team where he distinguished himself in his strong connection to customers; long-standing, successful relationships with strategic health insurance accounts; and a passion for the company’s mission, exemplified by his exceptional commitment to the community. He successfully managed some of the company’s largest customers while achieving 100 percent customer retention.  

Lee is very active in the community, particularly with United Way. He has held several leadership roles with United Way of Northeast Florida, including acting as a captain for several of Florida Blue’s internal campaigns. He also is a past United Way Stein Fellow and is a former chair of the United Way Builder’s Society. Currently, he is a member of the community leadership board of the American Diabetes Association, and he serves on the JAX Chamber Foundation Board of Governors.  

Lee holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. 

Shannon Nazworth


Shannon Nazworth is President and CEO of Ability Housing, a position she has held since 2003. Ability Housing is dedicated to building strong communities where everyone has a home. Its vision is a society where housing is a right, not a privilege, and all individuals have safe, affordable housing in vibrant communities.

Nazworth brings more than 19 years of experience in the affordable housing sector, having held executive positions with Habitat for Humanity’s international headquarters and local affiliates. In addition to leading Ability Housing, Nazworth is Chair of the State of Florida Council on Homelessness, immediate past president of the Florida Supportive Housing Coalition, and was a gubernatorial appointee to both the Florida Affordable Housing Workgroup and Affordable Housing Study Commission. She also serves on the Chase Community Advisory Board, National Low Income Housing Coalition Policy Committee, and many other state and national organizations; most recently joining the Advisory Council of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Prosperity Initiative. In 2020, she earned national recognition as Multifamily Executive Magazine’s “Executive of the Year.”

Nazworth is a native of Massachusetts, but has resided in Northeast Florida for over 20 years. She has a B.S. in Political Science, having graduated magna cum laude from Boston College; a Certificate in Executive Leadership from Harvard Business School; and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University.


Deloris Moton Quaranta 


Deloris (Dee) is the Founder and CEO of Northeast Florida Women Veterans, Inc.  She retired from the US Air Force after 20 year of service.

After returning home to Jacksonville, she worked for the state of Florida as a  veterans’ representative.  This position helped her understand the transitional challenges veterans face, especially women.  Answering to the call, she founded the Northeast Florida Women Veterans, Inc, in 2012.  This organization provides supportive services to women veterans and their children.  In addition, she encourages them to get involved in the community they live, in order to reconnect.  Her passion to see every woman veteran “excel beyond their own expectations”, is evident in the many programs and activities she and her team provides.

In addition to work with the organization, over the years, Dee has given countless hours to volunteer efforts such as serving on the Jacksonville chapter, National Congress of Black Women Board of Directors, Duval County Veterans Council member, On-call Director for Stage Aurora Theatrical Company, Inc., guest soloist at several city events, hosting annual “Pretty in Pink” events to encourage breast cancer survivors and many more causes.  Dee is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of America and has chosen to give back by making a difference in her community wherever needed.

Currently, as an advocate, she is working to bring awareness to the needs of women veterans.  She serves as the Vice Chair of the Military Women Coalition, a national group of formal and informal organizations that work collaboratively to serve and support US active duty, Guard, Reserve, Veteran, and retired servicewomen.  Dee created an annual event named “Women Veterans Recognition Week” which has been endorsed by the mayor and governor plus a resolution from Congress.

Dee is a graduate of William M. Raines High School and the Community College of the Air Force.  She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Limestone College of Gaffney, South Carolina and her Master’s in Business Administration from The University of Phoenix.

 Dee’s volunteer efforts resulted in her receiving the Commander’s Award for Public Service and the Air Force Angel Award for Volunteerism.  Having provided direct support for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1996, she received the Humanitarian Service Medal.  In addition to the Air Force Commendation and Meritorious Service medals, she was inducted into the State of Florida Veteran Hall of Fame in 2020, The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce 2019 Military Hall of Fame and received the Jacksonville Business Journal’s 2016 Veteran of Influence Award, ESGR Seven Seals Award, 2014 Workforce Champion Award, 2015 HandsOn Jacksonville Celebrate Good Award- Military category, Wealth Watcher’s Homes for our Heroes recognition, and the Women of Color Compassionate Award.

Dee is the proud daughter of Ms. Sallie E. Harris and the mother of two sons, Wes and Cyrus; and one daughter, DeAndra.

T-Neisha Tate


T-Neisha Tate is entering her twelfth season at the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Vice President of Social Responsibility and Impact.  She oversees the Jaguars’ neighborhood revitalization effects and Inspire Change platform, which seeks to drive systemic change and equality in Jacksonville by leveraging the power of football.  In her previous role with the Jaguars Foundation, T-Neisha oversaw youth programs and initiatives, including Honor Rows, the NFL’s largest charitable use ticketing program, educational partnerships, Youth Football, and NFL Play 60.  In 2016, she developed the team’s Girls Flag Jamboree celebrating high-school-aged female athletes dominating both on and off the field.  Also, in that year, she implemented Jaguars FAFSA Nights with the goal of increasing students at underserved schools applying for and receiving education grants and scholarships.  She also works as an Adjunct Professor for the Graduate Program of Sport Management at California State University Long Beach.  

 T-Neisha, a native of Jacksonville, attended Nova Southern University and Florida State College at Jacksonville and received her Sports Impact Leadership Certificate from Johns Hopkins University.  In 2020, she was recognized as one of Paradigm for Parity 2020 Women on the Rise and earned three ADDY Awards for her contributions to the Jaguars 2021 NFL Inspire Change content digital series.  She has worked in grassroots programming for more than twenty years and has a passion for partnering with programs that focus on creating safe out-of-school-time spaces in underserved communities.  T-Neisha enjoys traveling, camping, listening to audiobooks, and spending time with friends and family in her spare time.


Join us at Cocktails & Conversations 2022

Register today to join us at Cocktails & Conversations, April 22 at 5:30 p.m.


Register Now