SCCF Team

Kathy Deacon

Executive Director

Kathy is a serial entrepreneur, a painter, and an avid reader. She has over thirty years experience as a business development and marketing professional, serving in senior business development positions for several government contracting firms in Washington, D.C. During that time she traveled the world and spent lots of time in developing countries working with their communities to foster economic growth. In 2014, she established her own consulting firm and provided business development and marketing advisory services to a wide range of local, state, and federal agencies as well as private sector for-profit and non-profit organizations. Kathy’s past development work resulted in over $2 Billion dollars of new funding for her employers and clients. Kathy says, "It is a deep honor to have the privilege to serve the people and communities in Staunton and in the greater Central Shenandoah Valley as SCCF's executive director. I am excited every day to get to work with SCCF’s amazing staff and Board of Directors to broaden and deepen the transformative work that SCCF is doing through its programing which supports, funds, and inspires the entrepreneurs who are responsible for creating and expanding businesses in the area.”

Nick Walge

Director of Capital

Nick was born and raised in Staunton, and was excited to return to his hometown after undergraduate school and contribute to the community he felt had truly begun to hit its stride. As Director of Capital for the SCCF, Nick is responsible for ensuring that clients are capable of meeting their funding needs as they begin or expand their businesses. Nick acquired his Bachelor of Sciences in Professional Writing from Champlain College, and uses that experience to assist clients in telling their own stories when creating a business plan. He believes that the best way to have an impact on the world is to start in your own community - whether that's through your work, your investment, your purchases, or your time as a volunteer. When not at the fund, Nick also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the nonprofit "Bike Box" - a bike kitchen that helps members of the community access healthy transportation, and can be found on election day at the polls working for the City. In his spare time, he enjoys drinking beers at any of the fine craft breweries in the area, and is just as likely to invite you to play some convoluted board game as look at you. Best to avoid eye contact.

Debbie Irwin

Director of Education & Marketing

Debbie grew up in Lynchburg, VA but visited Staunton often. As the granddaughter of Reid's Butcher, Pete Sumner, Debbie always enjoyed visiting the area and watching it grow up with her. She graduated from James Madison University with a BBA in Marketing and did her senior thesis on small businesses. As the Director of Business Support for SCCF, Debbie counsels clients through the process of writing a business plan, making the tough decisions and also teaching and managing the education courses offered at SCCF. Outside work, Debbie enjoys spending time with her husband Nate and their new daughter, Adeline. She loves being outdoors and also grabbing dinner at great local restaurants.

Courtland Robinson

Board President

Courtland previously served as the Assistant Director of Economic Development in the City of Staunton. He moved to the Shenandoah Valley from Richmond, Virginia in 2011. He studied Urban and Regional Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and obtained a Masters of Public Administration from James Madison University. Courtland served with organizations such as the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (SHD), Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR), the Shenandoah Valley Partnership (SVP), James Madison University (JMU) and the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (CSPDC). In these positions he provided research, marketing assistance, policy analysis and grant writing. Courtland has a unique perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing SVP as we restructure and focus on business development, lead generation, market research and project management. When asked what philosophy guides his life he replied, “Philosophies are for tombstones.”

Judd Bankert

Board Treasurer

With over 30 years of CPA and education experience and a metric tonne of international adventure and business know-how, Judd rounds out our diverse team. He also happens to be Staunton’s resident Woodrow Wilson impersonator AND Guam’s first Olympic Athlete in the 1988 Winter Games in Biathlon.

Gretchen Long

Board Member

Gretchen is an award-winning graphic designer with over 22 years of design experience. With a fine arts school foundation, a degree in journalism, and professional experience in creative services departments for commercial print companies, she offers a unique perspective that brings content and production expertise to design projects. Gretchen managed Mary Baldwin University’s design and branding needs as Art Director for 16 years. While working full-time in higher education, Gretchen grew her home-based design company until launching the business full time in downtown Staunton, Virginia in 2012. She now works with clients throughout the United States and specializes in working with non-profits, higher education, health care, economic development and regional tourism. She is a 1993 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and a member of the American Marketing Association.

Ellen Brock

Board Member

In 2016 Ellen Brock retired to Rockbridge County from Richmond, where she was Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at VCU Medical Center, and the Founding Director of the VCU Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety. She also has a long history of attachment to the Staunton area, and served on the Board of Trustees of the American Shakespeare Center from 2000 to 2007 (and as its chair from 2004 to 2006). Ellen is especially excited to serve on the Staunton Creative Community Fund's Board, and embraces the notion that as citizens of a community, we are responsible for creating, nurturing and maintaining that community in ways that reflect our collective values and aspirations. She is proud to support SCCF's work of facilitating economic opportunity and entrepreneurship in Staunton and the surrounding area.

John Gorra

Board Member

After college, John returned home to work in his family fruit and produce company in Southeastern, CT. They sold the business 7 years later, and he moved to Boston to attend theological school where he earned a master’s degree in religion before working for nonprofits for 8 years, 7 of that with a large nonprofit food cooperative. After one year in sales for another company, he started his own in 1999, which just began its 18th year. Cooperative Food Sales, inc. is a food distributor supplying key nonprofit customers with primarily protein items, trades different commodities and provides occasional financing for specific projects. Lucky enough to marry his wife Rebecca, a native Virginian, in 1995 John moved to Staunton in 2002 with their daughters. “My philosophy of life changes regularly as I get older, and I’ve never put it in a few words, so let’s start with a bit of Woody Allen, who said 80% of success is showing up. Show up, be kind to everyone, apologize when you are not, be responsible to those you are responsible to and responsible for, be open as the world is changing all the time, and don’t forget, as my wife says, love is a verb. Or I could just say Romans 12, but that is a lot harder to live up to.”

Marlena Hobson

Board Member

Marlena was born into a military family and spent her youth moving around the United States and Europe. Her love of art and history was cultivated by her Italian mother and reinforced by experiences living and traveling to countries outside the U.S. She earned a Ph.D. in Art History from Virginia Commonwealth University where she wrote on Fascism and art in Italy during the time of Mussolini. She taught Art History at Middle Tennessee State University (1986-87) and from 1987 until 2017 at Mary Baldwin University and served on the board of the Staunton Augusta Art Center and as an Education Committee member at the Beverley Street Studio School and served two 4-year terms as a regional panelist for the Virginia Commission for the Arts. “In 2007 I was fortunate to begin a 10-year collaboration with human rights activist and artist Claudia Bernardi. The community- based mural projects, known as “Permeable Borders,” are teaching tools that bring Mary Baldwin students together with community members in an open dialogue of shared memories, stories and hopes. “Permeable Borders” has collaborated with children, youth and adults in war torn El Salvador, in a juvenile detention center in the United States and at community centers and schools in the Staunton/Augusta region. This experience has helped to shape my understanding and sense of responsibility to the local and global community.”

Sarah Lynch

Board Member

While earning a degree in Biology and Psychology at UVA, Sarah’s passion kept her rooted in the restaurant world she’d been working in for years. She was on a path to a career in health care when she met Baja Bean Charlottesville and she’s never looked back! The idea of getting paid the make friends and host parties still delights her. In 1998, Sarah was reacquainted with Staunton and at 23, too young to know (or care) about the risks, she stumbled into the best decision of her life… opening a restaurant in the historic and (soon to be) beautiful downtown area. In the past Sarah has served at Shelter for Help in Emergency, WNRN, SDDA and CASA in various volunteer capacities. Currently, she makes sure downtown literally rocks biannually by organizing Staunton Jams and is the restaurant liaison for the Tourism Advisory Board. In her spare time, she has adventures with her son, Henry, eats books for breakfast and binge watches HBO shows. Sarah says, “The talent of the staff at the SCCF leaves me awestruck and eager for the chance to work with them more closely. Frequently, I wonder how all these inspiring women ended up in one town, much less one office. I hope to have valuable insight for the local businesses that solicit the Fund for loans and help developing their plans."

William "Billy" Vaughn

Board Member

A long-time Staunton resident and civic leader, Billy has enjoyed a diverse and fulfilling career serving at the local and regional government levels for over 40 years. Last September, after 20 years of traveling I-81, Billy decided to return home for employment and accepted the position of Director of Economic Development for Staunton. Billy has made civic involvement the foundation of his life. The most notable of his prior volunteer memberships include the Staunton City School Board (7 years), Staunton Planning Commission (15 years), the Board of Directors for the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (20 years), and a number of non-profit including the American Red Cross, and the Valley Program for Aging Services to name a few. He and Peggy, his wife of 35 years, have a son and three daughters ranging in ages of 37 to 24 years young. They welcomed their first and only grandchild to the family in September 2013. In his spare time, Billy enjoys family gatherings, crafting military strategies via PS3 Online, and chess, or simply keeping abreast of latest technologies. His wife, also a lifelong resident of Staunton, owns and operates Bears and Blankets Academy of Early Learning, Inc. in Staunton. As vice-president of his wife’s venture since the late 80’s, he understands the challenges of maintaining a successful venture in today’s economy. He says, “SCCF is a wonderful and creative means helping passions and dreams come true for those innovative minds in Staunton.”

Amanda Homes DiMeo

Board Member

Amanda graduated from Mary Baldwin College with a major in Political Science focusing on public administration and minor in Education. Worked for the City of Staunton since 2004, prior to that I worked in the Registrar’s office and Community Development for Augusta County. My husband is from Italy and owns an Italian restaurant in Verona with his family. We have an 8-year-old daughter attending McSwain Elementary School. We live in Staunton with our 3 dogs and enjoy traveling when we are able. I love making memories and watching people succeed in my beautiful home town.

Kathy Deacon

Executive Director

Kathy Deacon

Executive Director

Nick Walge

Director of Capital

Nick Walge

Director of Capital

Debbie Irwin

Director of Education & Marketing

Debbie Irwin

Director of Education & Marketing

Board of Directors

Courtland Robinson

Board President

Courtland Robinson

Board President

Judd Bankert

Board Treasurer

Judd Bankert

Board Treasurer

Gretchen Long

Board Member

Gretchen Long

Board Member

Ellen Brock

Board Member

Ellen Brock

Board Member


John Gorra

Board Member

John Gorra

Board Member

Marlena Hobson

Board Member

Marlena Hobson

Board Member

Sarah Lynch

Board Member

Sarah Lynch

Board Member

William "Billy" Vaughn

Board Member

William "Billy" Vaughn

Board Member

Amanda Homes DiMeo

Board Member

Amanda Homes DiMeo

Board Member