2023 Heart of the Matter &
Tin Man Awards
At the Heart of the Matter Event, we celebrate and recognize with the Tin Man Awards members of our community who help build resiliency in child abuse survivors and provide exceptional service to children and/or their families in New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender Counties.
At this event, we will shine a light on those individuals in our community
who are leading the way in making a difference in the lives of child survivors of abuse.
This year’s Tin Man Awards candidates are sure to inspire. Join us in celebrating their dedication and heart.
Thank you for your support! #justtryingtohlpsomekids
Congratulations to all the 2023 Tin Man Nominees!
Thank you, IMAGE Photography by John Lam 910-264-2197
2023 Tin Man
Community Professional Nominees
Detective Kelsi Allen, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office
Det. Allen works tirelessly to create a positive impact on children in the community. She investigates Crimes Against Children (CAC) cases in which many of these cases are of children of all ages who were abused either physically or sexually. She is relentless in her investigation of these child abuse cases and securing the evidence needed to successfully bring a perpetrator to justice. Always with the focus to ensure that the child receives the assistance they need such as new, safe living arrangements. She often maintains contact with the child/family after a case has gone to court, and they are recovering from their trauma. She takes an active role in Juvenile Court in advocating for positive changes. She recognizes that punitive measures such as juvenile detention are not always the best solution to juvenile crime and that other avenues such as Teen Court, Therapy, or the NHSO Elements program may be a better path. Det. Allen prevents these children from having a juvenile record and ensures that they learn from their mistakes and is a positive influence in their lives. While on light duty, she took it upon herself to work on Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Cases. She organized a large-scale operation where several cases were closed and arrests were made. She has resumed her investigation of CAC Cases with the same determination.
Jordan Burnsides, New Hanover County Dept. of Social Services
Jordan consistently goes above and beyond for her patients and families. She treats them with kindness, respect, and dignity while thoroughly investing reports of abuse and neglect. It is evident she develops a strong rapport with the children she works with as they often flash a big smile when they see her. She always comes prepared, provides all records and necessary information ahead of time, and remains unbiased until she gathers all the facts. She is not afraid to advocate for the children and truly prioritizes their safety in every situation. Despite having a heavy caseload, she meticulously investigates each case and consistently believes and supports the children she serves to protect while abiding by DSS protocols and guidelines. It is evident that she is passionate about her role, albeit challenging at times, and is a huge support to children who may not have anyone else in their corner.
Detective Josh Childress, Wilmington Police Department
In addition, to their work as Detective in the Wilmington Police Department, Detective Childress is also in the military and is often away on weekends. Recently, Detective Childress searched tirelessly for the body of a missing Wilmington teenager. And always showed up ready to advocate for each and every child. Childress is well respected by all community partners, and is a resource to others, providing training when needed. He attends each case and is supportive of the child, and the process. He is supportive of all children and makes LGBTQIA+ youth feel safe and supported. He makes sure that the child feels seen and heard, takes time to communicate, and calms the caregiver. He will go the extra mile every time to ensure that the child gets justice.
Jenna Earley, Brunswick County District Attorney’s Office
Jenna handles the most serious physical and sexual abuse cases involving children for the Brunswick County District Attorney’s offices. Child sexual abuse cases are extremely difficult to prosecute, given the delay in disclosure, and therefore, reduced likelihood to have physical evidence. She takes each case seriously and thoroughly reviews ALL the evidence provided, researches relevant case law, and builds strong cases against alleged perpetrators. She fights for justice for victims of child abuse, even when it is daunting or seems impossible. It takes a BIG HEART to witness the horrors of child abuse. Her commitment is to the children in the courtroom, support of child victims, and whether the offender is found guilty or not. Children, first and foremost need to be seen, heard, and believed. And she does that!
Jermaine Glaspie, Pender County Dept of Social Services
Jermain is a HUGE advocate for the children. In the case of the LGBTQIA+ client, Jermaine was supportive and affirming of the child’s gender identification while also respecting the caregivers’. He showed empathy and understanding for the child and the caregiver who was not supportive of the child’s abuse disclosure, or that they identified within the LGBTQIA+ community. He helped facilitate a positive dialogue between the caregiver and child, which both seemed to appreciate. Jermaine advocated for a peer group for the child to join, and provided information for the caregiver as well. His honesty and transparency are what make him a big advocate for the children we serve. He exemplifies what it means to be a DSS worker, he truly does care about the children and families for which he works. His devotion to the families is unmatched.
Mandy Hancock, New Hanover County Dept of Social Services
Mandy works every day in the area of social services. She never missed a chance to improve the life of a child. From running out to pick up lunch for a child who came in from school and has not yet had lunch, to texting a troubled teen because she is a trusted and reliable to this child. She is kind and supportive to caregivers, but she is a child’s best advocate, pushing forward with caregivers who are none believing. Mandy understands the struggles our children and families are going through and does everything in her power to ensure that his child and family know they have someone in their corner they can count on.
Tracy Harrison, Executive Director & Founder, Keep Your Hands Off Me
Tracy founded Keep Your Hands Off Me to allow molestation survivors to heal in a safe space while unraveling their trauma. She is deeply dedicated to bringing awareness to how important it is to walk in your truth as you embark on your health journey. Tracy is a certified Community Healthcare Worker (CHW) as well as, a Violence Prevention Professional (VPP). As a CHW, Tracy attends court with victims of physical and sexual assault to help advocate for justice when they themselves struggle to do so. Her nonprofit is the first community organization to sign on in the TripCouty as a Partner in Prevention with the Carousel Center, and training 100% of her staff in Darkness to Light Stewards of Children.
Patrol Officer Troy Herman, Wilmington Police Department
Patrol Officer Herman was on call when the call came in and realized this was not like any other call, that a child was involved. He took the initiative and continued to explore what was going on in this home. He was careful to ensure that the child was safe. He ultimately arrested the caregivers at the scene and worked with DSS to secure custody. What seemed routine was not. What was simple was not. He took his time to find out was what behind a simple call.
Detective Cassandra Knipp, Wilmington Police Department
Detective Knipp was assigned a Secret Peeping case, where the suspect, a registered sex offender, had installed a camera disguised as a night light in a bathroom in order to collect indecent images of children. Her tireless efforts led to the suspect pleading guilty and being sentenced to 25 -35 years! She removed a predator and a threat to children in our community while simultaneously seeking resources for the child victims. Her work clearly sent a message to the community that child victims will be believed and protected.
Special Agent Kelly Kucala, FBI
Special Agent Kucala joined the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation unit, over the last year and a half, Kucala has worked on several cases related to juveniles that were sexually assaulted in the human trafficking world. She recovered two juveniles from human trafficking rings with one of them being only 13 years old. Kucala takes the time to get to know the survivors related to her cases and builds trust in them as they share the most horrific events. She/Law Enforcement is the last person these survivors want to talk to. Traffickers have repeatedly threatened them if they talk about their experiences. Kucala takes the time to invest in the survivors, so they know she is there to help them and keep them safe.
Melissa Quinlan, Executive Director for Exceptional Children and Student Support Services, Brunswick County Schools
Exceptional Children Program is to assure that students with disabilities develop mentally, physically, emotionally, and vocationally through the provision of appropriate individualized education in the least restrictive environment. Quinlan assures students with disabilities are cared for by taking the “whole child” approach. All needs–just not academic–are considered.
She spearheaded the development of programs such as the day treatment program, Coastal Counseling services, and Project Search. She has expanded access to mental health services for students through a partnership with Novant Health. These programs give fragile individuals a stable environment to grow and develop their skills before entering the general population, school, work, and community environments. She persevered to overcome the bureaucratic barriers when trying to implement these programs. In order to help to improve the postsecondary outcomes for students with disabilities Brunswick County Schools has been participating in the Project SEARCH program for the past three school years under her leadership. This program is a partnership between Brunswick County Schools, Novant Hospital, and Vocational Rehabilitation. This program has been an incredible success for our students and has led to job placements for our students both at Novant Hospital as well as in the community. The Brunswick County Project SEARCH Program was recently recognized as a promising practice for the state of North Carolina. She is instrumental in changing the culture in the district as it relates to student support services. She is a tireless advocate for the students that she serves. The services she promotes space for in our district support healing, foster resilience, and improve the short and long-term impact on the student and their family.
One example of her tenacity and dedication is with a preschool family, she brought together a team to ensure that the student was supported from his first enrollment within the exceptional children’s special education program at the age of three to his exit from the exceptional children’s program prior to his third-grade year. Below is an excerpt of an email sent to Brunswick County Schools from the parent:
“When our son was a toddler we noticed some delays in development, especially with his language. We got private evaluations and did what we could but we felt helpless. Even in my profession in education, I was at a loss. We reached out to Melissa Quinlan and Charli Arman with the EC Pre-K division and the response we got was amazing. Even prior to his 3rd birthday, they set up observations and assessments. Through their multidisciplinary team approach, our son was given a comprehensive set of assessments that pinpointed areas of developmental delay. When the assessments pointed out even more delays than what we initially thought, I was heart-broken. But that feeling did not last long as the team created a wrap-around educational plan for him via his IEP which included him attending the Town Creek Elementary Pre-K program. And that was when our world changed.”
Darian Roberts, New Hanover County Dept of Social Services
Darien is an excellent advocate for both children and families in our community. In a particularly complicated Child Medical Exam, where the caregiver was in crisis upon learning her child had been abused. Darian quickly developed and maintained an excellent rapport with the caregiver and the child. Her relationship was essential in facilitating the child and family’s needs as well as the investigation. She went above and beyond to ensure this child was able to attend multiple appointments at the Carousel Center and had various necessary labs/diagnostics completed despite barriers. She is an involved member of the multi-disciplinary team, and brings a unique, comprehensive view of kids’ and families’ strengths, and needs to the table. She is a strong advocate for children and their needs to help foster strength and resilience in children, and supports healing in families.
Brandi Rosenberg, Brunswick County Dept of Social Services
Brandi works every day in the area of social services. Her career has been to support children and advocate for social and justice reform. She is highly involved in the bi-weekly Multi-disciplinary team meetings, she is up to date on all her cases, and is responsive to community partners. She is prepared, and supportive of the team and the child when cases go to court. You would want Brandi in your corner!
Mary Beth Rubright, Assistant Director of Social Work, New Hanover County Health and Human Services
For over two decades, Mary Beth has worked to help protect and nurture the growth and well-being of children in a multitude of capacities ranging from being a foster care social worker, a CPS supervisor, a Program Manager, and currently as Assistant Director of Social Work at NHC HHS. She has developed policy and programmatic improvements to service delivery in DSS and the community for many years. Mary Beth is progressive, consistent, kind, and tough in her leadership and a tireless advocate for children. She will not tolerate the abuse of children and works hard to collaborate with countless services including the court system, CCPT, JCPC, the Carousel Center, Smart Start, Coastal Horizons, and many other agencies and service providers. She is an advocate for her staff and supports learning and growth and fosters this in her leadership style in all programs.
Mary Beth is consistent in her adherence to state and federal policy. She explores ways to improve our service delivery by advocating for specialist staff to assist DSS in training, recruitment, retention, and quality improvement. She approached the State in seeking NHCDSS to become involved in “Safe Babies Court” a joint project with the court system and DSS to help hasten the safe reunification of children with their parents. She, also, advocated for NHCDSS CPS to become involved in the NCFAST Pilot to help bring our agency in line with future technologies the state is promoting and to help staff improve their service delivery and keep children safe.
Mary Beth is genuinely concerned for the well-being of children and families having seen this over 2 decades and many projects and struggles to become the best DSS agency we can be. She is kind and patient and fair with her staff and committed to making us the best we can be. She challenges the agency to be professional, accountable, and stewards not only financially but with the most precious resource in our community, the children and adults who cannot advocate for themselves.
Mary Beth is a tireless advocate to protect children and vulnerable adults in this community. She has dedicated decades of her life to this worthwhile cause and has helped to bolster the HHS/DSS Agency’s effectiveness in this community. She works hard to support the protection of children along with helping to attend to their wellbeing and finding permanence for them. She works with CCPT, the court, the State of North Carolina, and a multitude of agencies and community organizations/committees that have a like-minded goal of keeping children safe and strengthening their resiliency and families.
Detective Daniel Ruisueño, Wilmington Police Department
Detective Ruisueño is a very welcomed new addition to the Wilmington Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Investigations. He has an unwavering dedication to this community its children and their families. Det. Ruisueño jumped right into the MDT, ready to go, without reservation, and with an open mind. Just “Ruisueño,” as he is known in the halls of Carousel, he actively seeks more knowledge, and expertise, seeking feedback from the experts readily available to him as he investigates each child abuse case because he wants to best serve our kiddos. Throughout the entire investigative process, Ruisueño remains in contact with each family, keeping them informed on the case progress regularly to keep them informed on what to expect and always available to answer their questions or concerns. Ruisueño, dedicated to getting justice for children, even connects new evidence secured, which was also evidence in a past case. He didn’t hesitate to reopen the old case and work to improve it along with his others so that he could hold the offenders accountable. Even in this short time, Ruisueño had had a positive impact on his cases, the MDT, and our community, too! Ruisueño really is amazing!
2023 Tin Man
Community Volunteer Nominee
When you need a boost of positive outlook, find Ms. Linda at Carousel. She is an active Carousel Greeter volunteer who jumps in to help, even when our Finance and Development Team needs a hand with the administrative side of Carousel’s work! No matter what is going on, Ms. Linda looks for ways to assist Carousel’s Team to get it done and remember how amazing they are. Not just at Carousel New Hanover, Ms. Linda readily volunteers to help Carousel for community events, and with our annual fundraisers… never without a smile and a “How are you?”. Even during COVID times, when we were protecting our volunteers from exposures and it just wasn’t safe to be present at Carousel, she regularly called in to see what tasks she could come to pick up, take home, complete, and return. If there was a lull, she hand-crocheted beautiful and comfy blankies for us to give to each child that visits Carousel. We couldn’t do this work without her!
Previous Tin Man “Biggest Heart” Award Winners
Watch the 2022 Recording of this Event
Community Volunteer Tin Man of the Year
For nearly 5 years, the first face you see at the New Hanover Carousel offices is Ms. Beth! She has been a tried and true, dedicated Volunteer Greeter. She is the cheerful face visitors experience week-in week-out, boosting the spirits of not only Carousel kids and their grown-ups, but for the whole Carousel Team, too. Always willing to do whatever needs to be done, rarely missing a week, seeking out projects when things are slow all show she has the Biggest Heart of ALL! A champion for “behind the scenes” tasks, she is so kind and ready to help with any task, no matter how big or small, and her efforts keep Carousel operations humming right along! Even away from Carousel, she looks for ways to help support Carousel’s mission. Ms. Beth not only lends her valuable time and talents to Carousel, volunteering for most of Carousel’s annual fundraising events, or outreach events, and spreading the word about Carousel, she gives generously of her treasure, too, making sure every Carousel family gets grocery gift cards as part of the gift package for Holiday Hugs. As a direct investor in Carousel’s efforts, she never tires to educate others about our agency, its dedicated Team, and encouraging others to get actively involved, too. Kids need consistency and routine. They need caring and supportive adults in their lives. Ms. Beth IS that consistent and supportive presence for Carousel children, learning from them, playing with them, and even learning a new work in a different language. She is so genuinely invested in Carousel’s families and it shows!
Community Professional Tin Man of the Year
Detective Sydni Starnes, New Hanover County Sheriffs’ Office
Detective Starnes serves as a Crimes Against Children (CAC) Detective in the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. She is responsible to investigate all manner of crimes involving children, including cases of physical/sexual abuse, neglect, and child pornography. Literally every day Det. Starnes works to create a positive impact for children, not just as their detective, but also providing reassurance, understanding, and support for the victims of these horrible crimes. Det. Starnes is constantly engaged with the child victims, their parents or guardians, and MDT partners at DSS, District Attorney’s Office, and Carousel. Det. Starnes investigates NUMEROUS cases that involve predators contacting their victims using social media platforms. In addition to investigating, she takes time to educate children, parents, guardians, and the public on the internet and personal safety in the hope that she can help prevent children from being victimized.
Detective Stephen Baize, Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department
Detective Chawana Moore-Johnson Justin Sorrells
New Hanover County Sherriff’s Office GLOW Academy
Detective Holt Wooddell Danielle Boisse
Wilmington Police Department Port City Design Group
Marino, Wanda – Assistant Director-New Hanover DSS
Vandenberg, Angelena – Volunteer Therapist – UNCW School of Social Work
Clinard, Steve – Det. Sgt. Pender County Sheriff’s Office
Snyder, Michael – Carousel Center Greeter
Community Professional – Awarded to the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) members who were present at the official National Children’s Alliance Site Visit on December 10, 2014, and made it possible for The Carousel Center, Inc. to achieve full Child Advocacy Center Accreditation Status:
Amy Horgan, CoastalCare
Colleen Mistovitch, New Hanover Regional Medical Center
Det. Peter Oehl, Wilmington Police Department
Lance Oehrlein, Assistant District Attorney – NC 5th Judicial District
Det. Justin Ovaska, Wilmington Police Department
Amy Phillips, Rape Crisis Center of Coastal Horizons Center, Inc.
Kari Sanders, New Hanover County Department of Social Services
Det. Kelly Sellers, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department
Det. Mike Tenney, Wilmington Police Department
Lt. Thomas Tilmon, Wilmington, Police Department
Det. Amy Womble, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office
Community Volunteer – Awarded to community volunteer(s) who go above and beyond in their efforts to assist child victims of abuse through thick and thin. These Biggest Hearts in the Cape Fear Community give of their time, energy, talents, and/or financially to ensure The Carousel Center remains available for children and families who need Child Advocacy Center services:
Bill & Debbie Rudisill