Board of Directors
Michele Atkins graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Communications and Marketing. After graduation, she held positions in Media buying and Marketing. Realizing a love for interior design, Michele worked for an interior design firm for 3 years. In 1999, Michele and Deanna Strother founded Vinewood Interior Design. Since 2005, Michele and her husband, Blaine, have owned Allsports, Blaine’s family’s business in Lexington KY. She is currently involved in the day to day operation of the business with a focus on apparel buying, marketing, merchandising and store design. She has served on her church’s board of trustees and various committees and has also held numerous leadership and committee positions with the Fayette County Public School system.
After a trip to Africa and viewing BTGA bridge sites, Michele realized the importance of BTGA’s work and became an active volunteer and supporter of Bridging the Gap Africa for many years.
Michele and her husband reside in Lexington KY and have two college aged children.
Bella Babot has an extensive background in HR/mergers and acquisitions and marketing communications. Her educational background in organizational behavior and communications, served her well in her career in high tech, where she served as U.S. Director of Human Resources for a U.K. based tech firm, and worked with numerous start ups in Silicon Valley. Her love of creativity and small, culturally collaborative companies, led her to a boutique design + build firm in Palo Alto where she is currently the Director of Marketing, PR and manages their corporate philanthropy.
Bella has been involved with non profits since she was a child, and is or has been active in Rotary, Dining for Women and Pregnant Mare Rescue, among others. She has held Board positions with EMQ Families First and The San Francisco 49ers Academy, where she served as Board Vice President. She is an active volunteer consultant to local and national non profits. Bella is passionate about the need to help others and getting involved. She has a soft spot for causes benefiting animals and under-served communities, which includes her own rescued yellow lab, Mia. Her philosophy is simple, "Just get there and do something to help someone each day."
Drew W. Deeter officially joined the team at DeeterUSA in April 1997, although he has been around the firm since its formation. Over the years, Drew served as a summer intern, an audio/video production specialist, and an account representative. Today, his role has evolved into a leadership position, where he interacts directly with major clients and is the primary point of contact with many of them.
Over the years, Drew has developed a reputation for being a hardworking, thoughtful, creative, and team-oriented executive who consistently finds a way to successfully accomplish tasks rather than assume things cannot be done. He strives for excellence and bristles at the notion of “settling.” Throughout his career, Drew has earned several awards and distinctions, including the Communicator Award for a series of radio spots he wrote and produced for a regional client.
Drew lives by the motto, “When are you going to have an opportunity to do this again?” By asking himself this question, he continually seeks new adventures and is willing to at least try many new things. He is passionate about family, has an ear for music, loves to travel, and is a sports enthusiast. He is happily married and has two wonderful children.
Drew has a B.A. speech communications, University of Georgia; M.B.A. Delaware Valley College.
Sonny Goodall is a marketing and creative professional with over 30 years industry experience. He co-founded Lighthouse Marketing in 1996, a brand development and communications agency in Atlanta, primarily serving consumer brand leaders like Coca-Cola, Burger King, Orkin, DS Services and FGF Brands. Nonprofit clients include Living On The Edge, PromRED and several local and community charities. Sonny leads the agency to award winning solutions that work for their clients. He enjoys his family, golf, fishing and hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Terry Herring has nearly 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. He joined Mission Pharmacal in 2010 as President, Commercial Operations. He also serves as President of Alamo Pharma Services, Mission’s sales services subsidiary. Previously, Herring was President, Chief Operating Officer, and Director, InVentiv Health. He first joined InVentiv Sales and Marketing in 1999 as a National Business Director and moved progressively through additional positions including Vice President and General Manager, as well as Vice President of Sales before being appointed President in 2002. Prior to InVentiv, Herring was the Senior National Sales Director with Noven Pharmaceuticals, where he was instrumental in establishing their first sales force and creating an effective team dedicated to transdermal delivery and women’s health marketing. He also held positions with Solvay Pharmaceuticals as a Regional Business Director, Director of Training and Development, Director of Operations and Trade Affairs, and Director of Customer Marketing. Prior to this, Herring served as Training Manager, Hospital Sales Manager, and Trade Relations Manager with Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals. He was named to PharmaVOICE magazine’s Top 100 Most Inspiring people in 2007 and 2008. In addition, Herring serves on the Archway Advisory Board and as a Camp Kirkwood Board Member. He is also a former Big Brother’s Big Sister’s Board Member (2007 honoree).
Herring graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in biology from The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina. In addition, he attended Mercer University School of Engineering where he received a graduate certificate in project design and Duke University/London Business School where he earned a graduate certificate at the International Marketing Forum.
Chris Offen is presently retired. Previously, Chris held several executive positions over the past few decades at pharmaceutical companies. For the ten years prior to his retirement, he ran his own consulting business to the pharmaceutical industry focusing on marketing and alliance/acquisition development services. Since retirement, Chris has volunteered at his local church spearheading programs on social justice topics: refugee resettlement, racism, human trafficking, veteran reemergence back into society, immigration, to name a few. Chris has graduated with a MBA in Marketing and Sales Management and a BA in Biology.
Harmon Parker, founder of BtGA, constructed his first footbridge in Kenya in 1997 in response to the need of a local village. Since then, he has built more than 46 footbridges in rural Kenya. In 2010, Harmon was selected as one of the world's Top Ten CNN Heroes. Harmon hopes the award will build awareness for the need of lifesaving bridges for poor communities around the world.
Josh Parker grew up in Kenya and has extensive work experience in East Africa. His experience in the non profit sector provides contextual knowledge of the people, cultures and complexities of life and work in East Africa.
Josh joined Chick-fil-A in 2017 and currently serves as Operating Partner at a franchised location in Elk Grove, near Sacramento.
Josh graduated from Azusa Pacific university where he studied sociology and economics. He and his wife Rebekah currently live in Elk Grove, California. In his spare time, Josh loves anything active and outdoors.
Tom Richards is a special services counselor for the County of Bucks: Youth Facilities. He has been an active volunteer with Bridging the Gap for over five years, bringing significant knowledge of the nonprofit sector. Tom holds his Masters Degree in Nonprofit Management from Eastern University. He is also a 1997 graduate of Juniata College where he attained a BS in Education.
Technical Advisory Committee
Nate Bloss is a licensed Professional Engineer working for Jacobs in Seattle, Washington. He has 10 years' experience designing, detailing, and constructing bridges, ports, and coastal protection projects. From 2008 to 2010 Nate served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in northern Namibia. He joined BtGA in 2012 as a field engineer and served as BtGA's TAC Chair from 2014 to 2017. He holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Débora Bowser is an graduate from the University of Guelph in Canada with a Master of Science (Environmental) and a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. Débora's specialized knowledge in plant-based agriculture, industry experience, and applied research will assist BTGA in developing a bio-engineered method for protection against bridge scour. This will extend the service life of both suspended and suspension footbridges.
Matthew Bowser is a licensed Professional Engineer (Canada) and is the Country Manager for Bridging the Gap Africa. Matthew brings over 10 years of bridge design and construction experience to our organization and is passionate about bridge building as a means to bring social change. Enjoying home cooked meals with family and friends and sipping single malt whiskey are some of Matthew’s favourite pastimes. Matthew and his wife Débora live in Kitale, Kenya.
Burleigh Law, P.E. is a senior technical advisor/engineer with HNTB Corporation in Indianapolis, Indiana. He brings 21+ years of experience and technical expertise working on and leading structural design and construction projects across the US. He has a BA in Physical Science from Asbury University and a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Kentucky.
Chris Leibfried has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters in Engineering Management from Rochester Institute of Technology. After 30 years with Xerox as an engineering manager, Chris retired in 2014 to pursue volunteer work with organizations building infrastructure projects in developing countries. Chris is completing a degree in Civil Engineering and is an adjunct instructor at RIT. He works part time as a land surveyor in Rochester NY.
Natalie McCombs, PE, SE is a senior Technical Advisor with HNTB Corporation in Kansas City with over 22 yrs of experience designing and detailing complex highway bridge projects in the US including arch bridges, cable-stayed bridge and tunnels. She has a BS and MS in Civil Engineering from the U. of Kansas. Natalie participates in the National Steel Bridge Alliance collaboration meetings to update the industry recommendations for steel bridge design. BtGA satisfies two things I love: helping people and designing bridges!
Jerome S. O’Connor, P.E. is Executive Director of the Institute of Bridge Engineering, University at Buffalo. His 30 years of experience in bridge engineering encompasses research, design, construction, materials, and development of education programs/courses. He has a Master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is an ASCE Fellow. At Buffalo, he mentors students who want to make a difference in the world by supporting the mission of Bridging the Gap Africa.
Bobby Reese is a registered Professional Engineer. He graduated in 2009 from the University of Arkansas with an M.S. in Civil Engineering. Bobby has a background in bridge design having worked as a Bridge Engineer with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department for over 3 years. He was born in Zimbabwe and lived there until moving to Arkansas for college. Currently Bobby and his wife are back in Africa living and working just outside of Nairobi, Kenya.
Timirial Laney is the U.S. Operational Administrator for BtGA. A native Atlantan, she is a graduate of the University of West Georgia where she obtained her bachelor degree in Environmental Studies in 2015. Her passion for protecting the environment has lead her to work with various global and local nonprofit organizations of all disciplines.
In her spare time, Timirial is actively involved in serving her community and volunteers with local nonprofits in the Atlanta area.