Welcome. We are the National Capital Area chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The grassroots work we do focuses on eliminating the loss of life from suicide by: delivering innovative prevention programs, educating the public about risk factors and warning signs, raising funds for suicide research and programs, and reaching out to those individuals who have lost someone to suicide.
As a part of AFSP’s growing nationwide network of chapters, we bring together people from all backgrounds who want to prevent suicide in our communities. Families and friends who have lost someone to suicide, vulnerable individuals, mental health professionals, clergy, educators, students, community/business leaders, and many others energize our chapter.
The Chapter Leadership Council of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention approved the application of the National Capital Area Chapter (NCAC) to become a local Chapter on July 1, 2010. The NCAC serves the Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia.
Through our local chapter, we seek opportunities to help spread the word about suicide prevention and mental illness, highlight the many activities of AFSP National and our local chapter, and educate the public on the important research studies and results looking into the underlying risk factors that contribute to suicide.
Meet the NCAC 2015-2016 Board
Gabrielle Katz, President
Gabrielle "Gabby" is a licensed social worker in Maryland (LGSW) and Virginia (LSW). Gabby received her Bachelor's from American University, and went on to obtain a Master's of Social Work degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Gabby works as a therapist at the Reflections Eating Disorders Center at Dominion Hospital.
In 2012 Gabby was working in an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Philadelphia and decided to expand her knowledge and skills by participating in an Applied Suicide Interventions Skills Training (ASIST). A little while later, Gabby had to utilize her suicide first aid training on a loved one who was suffering from depression and suicidal ideation. During this time, Gabby found out about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walk and participated in the national event. Ever since then, Gabby has recognized the significant impact of the organization and has continued to be an active participant in AFSP awareness, education, and prevention efforts.
Kelley Willitts, Chair
Kelley Willitts has been recently elected the NCAC Board Chair. She has been VP of Finance & Administration for the past 18 years for a small local information technology consulting firm located in Washington D.C. She lost her daughter, Ashley in January 2002. Both her and her husband Bob, have completed the 2002 Overnight; and several community walks both in Maryland and Virginia. She began involvement with the National Capital Area Chapter in 2013; Kelley chaired the 2014 DC Out of the Darkness Community Walk and continues to chair our 2015 Walk.
Alexa Deucher, Secretary
Allie is a Manager in the Client Services department of a local event management software solution company. She has lived in the National Capital Area her entire life. Allie lost her older brother, CJ, to suicide in June 2010 and shortly after, her family got involved with AFSP through the community walks. This is Allie’s second year on the board.
Rhonda McElroy, Treasurer
Rhonda McElroy is a Certified Government Contracts Manager and worked in McLean for 12 years. Rhonda and her husband Ken lost their oldest son, Patrick Dzor, to suicide in August of 2010. Rhonda was introduced to AFSP by a co-worker and together they started "Team Pac" whose first walk was at the Fairfax Campus Walk in 2012. Team Pac also walked at the DC Community walk in 2013 and lead the DC walk in 2014. Later Rhonda began volunteering at the AFSP Golf Tournaments in 2013 & 2014. Rhonda has served as Treasure at her local church as well as volunteering for several nonprofit organizations locally and abroad. Rhonda has vast experience in the financial arena and joins our board this year as its new Treasurer.
Peggy DiVincenzo, LPC, LMFT, ISOS/Research Connect
Peggy DiVincenzo is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Virginia. She maintains a private practice in Centreville, Virginia. Peggy has worked with many suicidal patients over her 30 year career, particularly in her 21 years of service at Fairfax County Mental Health Services. She lost her 25 year old son, who had a severe psychiatric disorder, to suicide in 2007. Peggy was instrumental in establishing the National Capital Area Chapter of AFSP in 2010 and served as its first president.
Chandler Goule, Development/Corp
Chandler came to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s national chapter event held at Nellie’s Sports bar about 6 months after he his older brother died by suicide in 2012. Immediately, Gould became active in the national chapter and held a fundraiser at his home and also raised money and volunteered at the DC Out of the Darkness Walk. Chandler's primary role on the board is to raise money and develop relationships with large donors.
Chandler works for the National Farmers Union as their senior vice president of programs but began his career with NFU in November 2009 as the vice president of government relations. Chandler has previously served as the staff director of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry for the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture under former chairman Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn.
Goule has appeared on “Good Morning America,” CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” and NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show.” He has also been interviewed on Bloomberg TV and C-SPAN’s “The Washington Journal.”
Kristen Gundersen, Public Relations
Kristen currently works as a Graphic Designer and Marketing Coordinator at an engineering consulting firm in Washington, DC. She has over 5 years of professional experience in design, marketing, photography, project management, leadership and team management. Kristen started volunteering with AFSP in 2012, shortly after she lost her cousin to suicide and was recently elected to the National Capital Area Chapter's Board as the Public Relations Lead. She is passionate about using her talent to end the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
George Hyder, Signature Events/Logistics
George is President of the Hyder Group, LLC providing IT consulting services to corporate executives. George became involved with AFSP after a friend who had recently lost a son to suicide requested George’s assistance in planning the first golf tournament in 2010. He has been instrumental in the success of the NCAC AFSP Golf Tournament for the past four years, and is passionate about AFSP and suicide prevention. George looks forward to the 2015 tournament and hopes it that this will be the biggest one to date.
Annise Maguire, Advocacy
Annise got involved the AFSP after losing her younger brother to suicide on his "golden" birthday (27 years old on May 27, 2009). An attorney by training-- she currently practices transactional environmental law at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Annise began volunteering with the AFSP in late 2012 specifically because of its field advocacy work, and the opportunity to use her legal training to advance the AFSP's efforts. She has remained involved with the NCAC's efforts, including attending the annual policy forum on behalf of the District in 2014, and participating in the 2013 and 2014 Overnight Walks. Annise was recently elected to serve on the NCAC Board as Field Advocate Chair, although she has occupied this position as a non-Board member for more than a year. She is excited to help the NCAC effort be more active with its field advocacy efforts.
Marge McConnell, Loss and Bereavement
Marge lost her 17 year old daughter, Allie in July 2006 and joined AFSP’s movement when she signed up for the 2008 Overnight; and proudly has walked in the Overnight every year that followed. She has been a volunteer in many capacities since the formation of the chapter in 2010, including a SOP volunteer and “More than Sad” facilitator. Marge, last served as the chapter Treasurer and, this year, transitioned to her new role.
Ron McNeely, Coalition Affairs
Ron is a Systems Engineer at AtHoc, a Silicon Valley software company that provides crisis communications solutions for the Defense, Transportation, Energy and Government markets globally. After losing his Brother Dan to suicide March 2010, Ron started a team for the Atlanta AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk to prevent Suicide - Team Dan. He has found working with and raising funds for the AFSP to be deeply gratifying and healing while at the same time raising money for suicide research, education and outreach.
Ron joined the Atlanta, Georgia AFSP Board of directors in 2013 but soon after relocated to DC for work and became involved in the National Capital Area Chapter, including the 2013 Over Night walk; he was involved with planning and implementing the 2014 Washington, DC Walk and various other volunteer opportunities and is serving as co-chair for the 2015 Washington, DC Out of the Darkness Walk.
Simone Poetscher, Walk Liaison
Simone is a Project Management Professional (PMP) and works as Senior Program Manager for a European Embassy in Washington, DC. She lost her dad to suicide when she was a teenager. Simone has been supporting AFSP’s efforts since she chaired the Washington, DC Out of the Darkness Community Walk in 2013. Simone currently serves as a member of the NCAC board for a second term. Holding the position of Walk Liaison, she oversees the four Out of the Darkness Community Walks of the National Capital Area Chapter.
Amy Polly, Special Events/Logistics
Amy Polly joins NCAC for the first time this year, serving as Special Events and Logistics Board LEAD. Amy became involved with AFSP on her 1st overnight walk in Washington DC in 2013. She has not only worked to earn substantial funds for AFSP via the overnights but recently created a large social fundraiser that inspired her addition to the NCAC team. This year Amy will work tirelessly in this new position to create, promote, and manage events. These events will serve to educate our community to prevent suicide, support those who have lost, and inspire those who have suffered.
Michelle Rorie, Volunteer Coordinator
Michelle has been a Labor Economist for over 10 years, specializing in support litigation in major arbitration cases. She got involved in AFSP shortly after she lost her brother Michael at the age of 32, who succumbed to his battle with Bipolar Disorder in July 2010. Michelle has volunteered in many local and national AFSP walks, including the last two Overnight walks in Washington, DC and San Francisco. Now, along with volunteering at local events herself, she is the Volunteer Coordinator for the National Capital Area Chapter of AFSP, which consists of maintaining a database of volunteers and organizing volunteers for all of our educational and walk events.
Cynthia Ruffner, Education
A native of Northern Virginia, Cynthia Ruffner lends her passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to helping others with her AFSP National Capital Area chapter involvement. Cynthia personally lost both her dad (Donald Trent Ruffner) in January 2005 and her boyfriend (Mathew Curtis Huff) in March 2012 to suicide. Since 2012, she has participated annually in the Fairfax Out of the Darkness Walks. She serves as a More Than Sad presenter, providing outreach to schools, community groups and youth groups. She is passionate about educating youth about mental health and suicide prevention to save lives and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide.
Her desire to help others also extends to her career. She is a graduate of George Mason University, earning her Master of Social Work in 2010. Her professional experience includes hospice, grief and bereavement counseling, and social work case management. Cynthia is a social worker for local county government where she works with older adults. She is currently under supervision to receive her LCSW.