- Gina Rogers – President
- Donna Whittle – Vice President
- Belinda Heys – Treasurer
- Cassie Branch – Secretary
Gina Rogers is a dynamic, passionate individual who is eager to serve at-risk children and families. Currently, Gina works at Boys Town North Florida on the Development Team; her title is the site’s Donor Relations Specialist. Gina has earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social Work and has been certified in Child Welfare Practice as well as Leadership in Executive and Administrative Development. Gina is determined to serve children and families in need and believes in maximizing every child’s opportunity to succeed.
Donna Whittle is a native of Tallahassee, FL. Donna professionally holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management and has worked for the State of Florida since September 2008. She is a certified traditional foster parent for the State of Florida Department of Children and Families, which began November 2017. Donna and her husband have welcomed nine children into their home, ranging in age from an infant to teenagers, over the past four years. Donna stated, “All the children that we have fostered will always have a piece of my heart. Each child that has left my home are forevermore my godchildren.” Donna’s passion is advocating and caring for children. In November 2019, Donna and her husband adopted three sibling brothers that were their past foster children. Donna stated, “Our boys are a true blessing. I am so grateful that I get to be their mother.” Donna began volunteering for the Heart Gallery Big Bend in June 2021. She has taken on the role of social media coordinator, became a board member in October 2021, and January 2022 became the Vice President. Donna studied website design for three years and participated in yearbook design all four years of high school. She enjoys updating and designing for the Heart Gallery Big Bend website and social media platforms. She is confident that expanding our platform to promote and advocate for children, will increase their chances of getting adopted. She believes every child should have a loving, caring, supportive family. By volunteering, she hopes that she can make a difference by helping children find their forever homes.
Belinda Heys is a former foster mom and now adoptive mom. Her passion is advocating for kids to find their forever families. She has been volunteering for the Heart Gallery Big Bend for the last 3 years.
Madonna Finney is an attorney who limits her practice to adoption law. She is one of the first attorneys in the state of Florida to be Board Certified in Adoption Law and is the only Board Certified Specialist in the panhandle. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, and serves as a Director and the long time Legislative Chair for the Florida Adoption Council. She is past President of the Florida Association of Adoption Lawyers, and has served on the Florida Bar Family Law Section Committee on Adoption. She is actively involved in adoption issues before the State of Florida Legislature and has testified before numerous committees. She is a former professional lobbyist, and a founding member of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists. She is a former Assistant General Counsel for the former Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. One of her greatest honors was serving as Law Clerk to the late Honorable William E. Gladstone, a pioneer in child welfare.
In 1995, the Florida Supreme Court and Governor Lawton Chiles recognized her for outstanding Pro Bono service to the court for her representation of abused, abandoned and neglected children. She graduated from the University of Florida College of Law in 1987, and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1988. Ms. Finney is also admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. She has achieved the highest rating from Martindale-Hubbell, meaning she’s rated at the highest level of professional excellence by the legal community.
Abigail (Abby) Phelps started with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) in 2016 as the youth advocate for the Fostering Success Program. She briefly left DCF in May of 2017 when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) received funding from the legislature to implement the Fostering Success Program and served as the Fostering Success Manager for the FWC. Abby returned to DCF as the Fostering Success Program Director in September of 2017 and has served in that role since. While Fostering Success lost funding in July of 2020, DCF decided to implement Fueling Futures where she serves as the program director today. Abby has served on the Heart Gallery Big Bend Board since 2018 and has volunteered as a Guardian ad Litem for the last 5 years. She is a member of the Junior League of Tallahassee and Capital Woman’s Network. She believes every child deserves a loving home and is passionate about advocating for our kids to find forever families.
Debra Ingles Walters has worked in child welfare for 16 years, 11 in case management and 5 in adoptions. Debra has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology, CWCM certified, Adoption Competent trainer, a former protective services supervisor, and currently the c14 adoption home finder. Debra’s favorite qualification is she is an adoptive parent of the two most incredible children ever (although she does admit to certain bias). Debra does understand all the little ins and outs of creating a family where there was not one before with children who have experienced trauma because her family lives it every day. Debra thinks that experience, insight, and knowledge is very helpful to the families seeking to adopt, and to the children trusting us to find them healthy, safe families. Working for children from hard places is truly her life passion. She states, “I am so blessed to be able to be a part of the process.”
Taylor Witherow was primarily raised in Spring Hill, FL and moved to Tallahassee, FL to attend college. Taylor received her Bachelor’s degree in Family and Child Sciences from Florida State University. She currently serves as the Circuit 2 Adoption Specialist with Children’s Home Society. Taylor previously worked as a Dependency Case Manager to help reunify children and their families. Taylor loves her position as the Adoption Specialist because she enjoys helping find families for children who do not have an identified adoptive family. Taylor believes that there is a perfect family out there for every child, and she is thankful for the Heart Gallery Big Bend for helping us find forever homes for children in our care.
Clay Owens is the Chief Executive Officer of Every Child Home (ECH), a nationwide nonprofit organization providing assistance to the foster care community, particularly to address the need for adoptive homes for over 100,000 waiting US children. Clay and his wife Laura are foster and adoptive parents themselves and saw firsthand the need for more families to pursue adoption, which helped lead to his work with ECH. Clay and Laura have six daughters, two of whom are adopted, and they continue to provide respite foster care. The family stays busy, attending their children’s various events and school activities; they are also active in their church and community.
Christine Thurman was born and raised in North Florida. She attended Lincoln High School, Tallahassee Community College and received her B.S. from Florida State University in 1999. She is a graduate of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and recipient of both the Memphis Bar Association Irvin Bogatin Social Justice Award and Dean’s Distinguished Service Award. D. Christine Thurman has practiced law since 2004 and is self-employed practicing in the areas of adoption, family law, civil litigation and estate planning. Christine is a certified family law mediator, dependency trained mediator, collaborative divorce attorney and guardian ad litem.
Christine is a member of the Florida Bar Family Law Section and is involved in issues/legislation involving or affecting children, adoption and domestic violence. Christine has worked with various child placing agencies on adoptions since 2005 as well as the Heart Gallery of North Florida. Christine is an active member of the Florida Adoption Council. In 2011, Christine was named as a “Rising Star” with the Superlawyers magazine.
In addition to her employment and involvement in legal issues and advocacy, Christine has been actively involved with Good Samaritan Network/Chelsea House, Angelwingz, the Tallahassee Community College Foundation, William Stafford Inns of Court, Capital Collaborative Group, NEBA, and is a past Chair of American Lung Association Advisory Board for the Tallahassee Chapter.
In her spare time, Christine enjoys spending time with her significant other, family, friends and her animals (she has lots of them). She enjoys travel, wine tasting and loves to laugh.
Alexis Corder is a Tallahassee native who attended Florida State University where she received her Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Social Work. Alexis received her Masters of Social Work degree from Florida State University in December of 2020. She currently serves as the Circuit 2 Adoption Specialist Home Finder with Camelot Community Care. Alexis volunteered with the Guardian Ad Litem Program throughout college where she learned her love for child welfare. Alexis is eager to work with families in her community to locate and connect with children without identified homes. Alexis is committed to advocating for the children she serves and believes that every child is deserving of a loving home.