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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Roll Call! Meet Our New Team Members

Book Harvest has been busy increasing our capacity and expanding our team. Below are the SIX new employees who started this summer! We are so fortunate to have them on board as we work toward our big dream of books for every child, support for every parent, and literacy for every community.


Please enjoy today's blog as Jeff Quinn, Frida Daniels Sanchez, Ashley McClure, Gia Parker, June Neese, and Gisela Mora Hernandez introduce themselves!


Jeff Quinn, Chief Operating Officer

When someone asks me why I do the work I do, my answer is typically pretty cliché. I respond by saying “I want to make sure that all children and families are able to reach their greatest potential and achieve all the things that they were born to do.” I know it’s simple, but it just registers with me…I love being a part of a team or organization that puts children and families first and, in the position, to be successful. I am a hopeful optimist that loves working in teams and always bringing the glass half full approach. And usually the bigger the challenge, the more optimistic I get!

While I am originally from Springfield, MO, Durham has been my home since 2001. I have been lucky enough to support programs and initiatives across the state as well as the country by working with communities to build their local systems of care. The first professional years of my career were spent at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University where I was fortunate to work on several projects that brought me even closer to Durham. While at the Center, I was also able to work on the development of a universal nurse home visiting program called Family Connects. During my time at Family Connects, I was able to travel across the country and help stakeholders and partners align their community resources and identify ways to make them more efficient and effective. For the last several years, I have been a private consultant where I have collaborated with states that were looking to (re)build their systems of care to better serve families and children as well as working with nonprofits.

I am a proud Tar Heel and have the wonderful pleasure of being the husband to my wife Jen who is an OT in Durham, and the proud father of my son Nolan (13) and my daughter Lily (9). Most weekends you can find us at soccer games, practicing gymnastics, going on hikes, or playing at different venues with my band The Referrals, who only play shows for organizations and individuals that need fundraisers. I am so excited to be at Book Harvest and if you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out or stop on by! Have a great day and thank you for reading!


 

Frida Daniels Sanchez, Book Babies Coordinator

I am Frida Daniels Sanchez and I am the Book Babies Program Coordinator. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Accounting from the Universidad Bicentenaria de Aragua in Venezuela and was part of the Real Estate business for the last ten years before coming to the USA.


As an immigrant of a Latin American country and not having free access to books in my childhood, I was amazed the very first time I saw a bookshelf full of kids books at the community clinic. To be able to show a book to my son (3 years old at the time), while we were waiting -- and the fact that we were able to take it home for FREE -- blew my mind in that moment.


Later, I started to work in an elementary school where the experience of having access to books became something natural and regular. I worked with kids from 5 to 10 years old and being able to help them and to be witness of the importance that an early literacy can do on them is amazing.


Four years later, I had the opportunity to be part of the staff of the organization that is responsible for making this experience possible not only for children but also for the rest of the family, and that fills my heart with a beautiful feeling. I feel very proud to be able to work at Book Harvest and help not only my hispanic community but all the kids that we reach in the different programs Book Harvest offers.


 

Ashley McClure, Books on Break Expansion Manager

As a born and raised Hoosier from Indiana, I have always been fascinated by cultures and communities outside of my own. That fascination led me to teach in several diverse settings over the past 14 years including Ireland, rural Louisiana, East Harlem in New York City, and most recently, Raleigh, NC. The thread that has tied those various experiences together is a passion for equitable education for all students, a love for reading and a drive to create a solid partnership with families and communities.


As an elementary school educator, I strived to provide the space, time and resources for children to fall in love with books and reading. Whether it was through take-home bags full of books of their choice to read with their families weekly or just providing 10 minutes of uninterrupted reading time every day where we all (including myself) laid around the room indulging in our favorite stories.


I was privileged to have the experiences that I’ve had and I truly believe each experience was a step on the path that led me to Book Harvest and this incredible community. I am thrilled to continue the work of Books on Break and expand it within North Carolina and beyond to support children in having robust home libraries!


In my free time you can find me with my nose in a book, experimenting with a new baking recipe to share with family and friends or walking around my neighborhood with my dog, Pippa.


 

Gia Parker, Family Engagement Coordinator

Whether it was teaching English in Spain, tutoring second grade students, or working at an adult literacy center in Harrisonburg, literacy has been at the forefront of my life for the past 5 years! And it was watching my mother interact with families and students as a bilingual ESL teacher that inspired my love for language learning and working with children. In 2022, I graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Spanish. It was always my dream that I could find a way to make the two intersect, along with my love of reading and working with children, and I am so glad to have found that in Book Harvest.


Outside of the Family Space, you can usually find me at home, curled up with a good Romance or Literary Fiction book and soul music playing in the background (lately, I have been obsessed with The Supremes and Pet by Akwaeke Emezi). I also love to dance, having done so since I was a young girl and all the way through college. I grew up between Durham and Richmond, VA and I’m so happy to be home again!

It is my and Book Harvest's intentional goal that the Family Space is a place where families can come together by playing and reading culturally relevant and representative books. It makes me incredibly happy each time a child comes in and finds a book they love and get to cherish forever, and the love and appreciation of this space is apparent each time a family walks through our doors. I am so excited to join the Book Harvest, and School and Family Engagement team as the Family Engagement Coordinator, and to work with this community!


 

June Neese, Book Hub Coordinator

Hello! My name is June Neese and I am the Book Hub Coordinator at Book Harvest. My primary work role is to visit and fill our many lovely Book Hubs throughout Durham. If you see the Book Harvest truck out in the wild, then it's almost certainly me behind the wheel so feel free to honk or wave! Working at Book Harvest has been a dream come true. I consider myself blessed to work with an amazing group of colleagues and luckier still to work in such a supportive and vibrant city as Durham. My passion for my work stems from a lifetime of reading, which was only deepened by the decade I spent as a bookseller in several bookstores in the Southeast. I am a believer in the transformative power of reading and access to books at all stages and ages; I have been nothing short of delighted at watching my own child grow (and thrive!) as an avid reader.

I grew up in rural southeast Guilford County and, while I enjoy seeing as much of the world as I can, I will always find my way home to North Carolina. I am a free range reader and will pick up anything that piques my interest, from history and the social sciences to poetry and fiction featuring a healthy dose of magical realism. I am a lifelong fan of Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes collections, my favorite being Something Under the Bed is Drooling. I love spending time with my partner and child outside of work hours. You will often find us on the trails at Sandy Creek Park or along the Eno River. If and when I'm not watching out for wildlife and asking (pretty please?) to pet strangers' dogs, then it's likely you will find me researching local history, reading (of course!), or chipping away at what's left of my hearing at local music venues.


 

Gisela Mora Hernandez, Bridge to School Coordinator

Before joining Book Harvest, I came from an immigration law firm where I worked closely with families and guided them through the legal process within the U.S. immigration system. There, I gained experience being a trauma-informed provider serving as the case manager for victims of crime and running day-to-day operations as an administrator. Providing a safe space for children through my legal work encouraged me to become a registered children’s yoga teacher and bring healing practices and wellness education to families. Looking back, all my experiences working with children have brought me the most joy through work that also felt the most meaningful.


In 2018, I was a teacher assistant for Ikaya Primary School in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where I also participated in experiential learning in the Sustainable Development Program at Stellenbosch University. After coming back home to NC, I continued to enrich my cross-cultural development and earned my bachelor’s degrees in International & Global Human Rights and Political Science. From working at a community health center, interning at the Fairview Resource Center, and assisting the CCSA with research and program evaluation, I’ve remained in family advocacy spaces. Every school year, I look forward to volunteering at Grove Park Elementary (where I’m also an alumna) with the scholastic book fair and class support to my lifelong friend - the school’s librarian!


Whether you find me in North Carolina, my home in Mexico, or somewhere warm abroad - I'm a lover of nature, a sunset chaser, soul & rap head, and a reputable foodie. I believe that our personal work can transcend to transform communities. My search for an organization with a mission led by people whose values align with and inspire mine led me to Book Harvest. Here, I can promote the well-being of families by connecting them to literacy and school support. I’m honored to contribute to the magic unfolding at Book Harvest - with an ignited spirit to spread the love and joy of reading!



 


You can view Book Harvest's entire team on our Leadership page.


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