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DFJ Leadership

Meet the Executive Board

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CARY HEISE | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND FOUNDER

Cary is married to her biggest encourager Rob and Mom to Ashlin and Carver who attend Apex High School. Cary grew up in Myrtle Beach, SC and has lived most of her adult life in Raleigh. She’s a Clemson Tiger at heart where she attended early in college, but graduated from Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. Her family attends Hope Community Church’s Raleigh Campus and have for over 12 years. Cary’s international mission experience working with women’s artisan co-ops in Central America and Africa inspired the birth of Designed For Joy. She's a serial entrepreneur and has founded small several businesses around creating community for women in the Raleigh area. Cary’s a big believer in encouraging women to pursue their passion.

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KRISTEN SYDOW | CO-FOUNDER AND DESIGNER

A native New Yorker, Kristen is a city girl who is most comfortable among skyscrapers, concrete sidewalks, and lots of people. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, textiles is her love language. After working at Liz Claiborne for years, the palm trees of San Diego called her name and she lived there until meeting her NC State alum husband Shawn. Now Raleigh is her happily ever after. Proud parents to three loud kids; Jack who attends middle school at Wake Christian Academy, Eli who attends Holly Ridge Elementary, and Stella who attends Yates Mill Elementary. They are blessed to have adopted one of their children internationally as adoption holds a special place in Kristen’s heart. Serving women locally through Designed For Joy, as well as internationally through mission trips, gives Kristen the opportunity to be the church that Jesus calls us to be. You can find Kristen worshiping on Sundays at Hope Community Church.

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ANGELA PADGETT | BOARD CHAIR

Angela has called the Triangle-area home for almost 30 years. She and her husband, Tim, live in Apex and have three children: Brandon, a first-year law student; Joshua, a student at Wake Tech; and Mia, a seventh-grader. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Angela worked in corporate and marketing communications at SAS for 11 years. As a stay-at-home mom, she became involved with several non-profits, including International Justice Mission (IJM) where she is currently the team leader for the IJM Raleigh Volunteer Team. Angela is passionate about advocating for those that society often overlooks - both internationally and right here in her community.

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LINDA WISHART | FUNDRAISING EVENTS AND MISSION TRIPS

Linda is a wife of 25 years to her husband Scott and mother to two children. Linda lives in Gastonia, NC. Her daughter Ella attends Forestview High School and son Dax attends University of South Carolina. Her family attends First United Methodist Church in Gastonia. Linda enjoys cooking, entertaining, the arts, and traveling. She has found her passion for women through international mission trips over the past three years. Linda is passionate about DFJ and has been volunteering since the beginning working alongside our artisans.

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KATHLEEN KENNEY | TREASURER

Kathleen began working with non-profit finances in 2012 as the bookkeeper for the West Raleigh Baseball Association and continued in 2015 as financial administrator for the Vs Cancer Foundation. Currently, Kathleen works with numerous non-profit organizations as a staff accountant at Maddison & Caison LLP. In between raising her sons, Evan and William, and studying for the CPA exam, Kathleen enjoys hiking with her pup Cleo, going to live music shows, and baking.

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UTA ZACHARIAS | SECRETARY

Uta is a native of Germany, emigrating to the US with her family when she was a toddler. She grew up in South Carolina and graduated from Clemson University. Thereafter, she attended Loyola University New Orleans where she obtained her Juris Doctorate degree. Uta then started her law practice in Charlotte, eventually relocating to Richmond, Virginia, and then back to North Carolina in 2010. She has focused most of her 25 year law career in real estate and insurance. She currently works at Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company of NC as Senior Claims Counsel. Uta has been married to John for 18 years. They are the parents of Kira, a junior in high school, and Evan, in eighth grade. Uta loves watching her son's baseball games, and shopping with her daughter.

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Sherika HiSmith
Sherika has called Raleigh, NC home for 12 years. She is a nurse by profession and by nature. She attended the University of South Florida where she studied nursing and public health. She has worked with various nonprofit organizations for over 10 years. Her passion is women’s and children’s health. Being of service is in her DNA. Advocating, educating and empowering are a few of the guideposts she lives by. Sherika enjoys her family, bike riding and sunshine (as a native Floridian).
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Ellen Throne
Ellen has lived in Raleigh for 35 years and considers herself a NC native. She immigrated to the US from Italy as a small child and had the opportunity to live in different cities and countries with her family. Ellen went to school in Raleigh and ultimately graduated from Meredith College where she found her passion for business management. Ellen has held various positions in human resources in the software industry, with her most recent position as VP, Global Human Resources for a software company called CloudBees. Her passion is in helping people navigate difficult situations and likes that the human resources function allows her to problem solve on a daily basis. Ellen is married to her partner Kevin and have been married for 17 years. They have two teenage girls named Julia and Emma When not attending NC State football games, Ellen and her family like to keep busy, travel whenever possible, and their favorite place to be is on the North Carolina coast on the island of Topsail. Ellen's favorite bible verse that speaks to her on a daily basis is: "Be still, and know that I am God."