The Kids Hope Alliance is governed by a seven member board, who are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by City Council. The Board also includes four Subject Matter Experts from Duval County Public Schools, the State Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, as well as a City Council Liaison.
Vice Board Chair
Kevin T. Gay is a native of Jacksonville, FL and a graduate of the University of Florida. As CEO/Founder of Operation New Hope, he successfully revitalized urban neighborhoods in Jacksonville while helping the underserved communities find a way out of the cycle of addiction, poverty and incarceration.
Kevin left corporate America in 1999 to create a new model for community development. His mission initially was to restore urban communities through restoration of the Historic Springfield community. Operation New Hope (ONH) brought new housing, news skills which lead to new jobs and a revitalized community. In June of 2002, Kevin was invited to meet with President George W. Bush and Secretary of labor Elain Chao. This meeting led to ONH being selected by the White House to develop the first national model for Prisoner Re- entry called Ready4Work. This employment-based re-entry model was then introduced in 16 other cities around the country. Ready4Work Jacksonville has gained national attention because of its impact in reducing recidivism.
Kevin has served on several boards to include HabiJax, one of the nation's largest Habitat for Humanity affiliates, Gateway Community Services and the Florida Alliance of Community Development Corporations (the "FLACDC).
Dr. Saralyn Grass
Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Saralyn Grass currently serves the City of Jacksonville (COJ) as the Chief Executive Officer for the Kids Hope Alliance (KHA), a funding agent that annually invests millions in children and youth programming and services in Duval County, FL. She also serves as the Co-Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Women’s Giving Alliance of Northeast FL. Saralyn’s passion lies in supporting nonprofits so they can do the important work of serving our most vulnerable children. She has worked hard to create efficiencies within the governmental system so that service providers can spend more time serving those who are most in need – and making a lasting difference in Jacksonville’s future for generations to come.
Dr. Grass has been with the City since 2019 and has over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and ten of those as an executive. In addition, her extensive experience includes Executive Director of the Association for Early Learning Coalitions, Vice President and Chief Programs Officer at the Children’s Forum, and an adjunct faculty member at both Florida State University and University of North Florida. Dr. Grass also launched and owned/operated a small business with her husband in Tallahassee from 2014-2019: GrassLands Brewing Company, a community-centric craft brewery that was awarded the Entrepreneurial Startup Business of the Year award by the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband sold the business after five years and relocated to Jacksonville to be closer to family.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of North Florida, a Master of Science degree in Human Development from Virginia Tech with a concentration on special needs across child and adolescent development and community agencies, and her Doctorate in Educational Policy and Program Evaluation from the College of Education at Florida State University. While at FSU, she earned two graduate certificates – one in Global Pathways from the Center for Global Engagement and another in Emergency Management and Homeland Security from the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program at FSU.
Dr. Grass has been happily married to Gabe Grass, Director for Corporate Relations and Major Gifts at UNF, for the past 18 years. They have one daughter (Cheyanne), three cats (CiCi, Delilah and Saké) and one dog (Pearl).
State Attorney's Office
Adair Newman graduated cum laude from Providence College in Rhode Island. She went on to law school at Florida State University, also graduating cum laude. At Florida State she participated in an externship with the Children’s Advocacy Clinic and volunteered with the Guardian Ad Litem program. She began her career at the State Attorney’s Office in 2001. In September of 2007, she was promoted to Division Chief. She has prosecuted a wide range of cases including sexual assaults, homicides, and violent crimes. Mrs. Newman spent time in private practice and during that time obtained Board Certification in Criminal Trial. Since returning to the State Attorney’s Office, she has concentrated on special assault cases and has been the Division Chief in the Special Assault Division since 2014. Adair was named Director of the Special Victims Unit in 2018 and the Director of Juvenile in 2021.
Chief Administrative Officer
Kenneth Darity is a seasoned professional in the field of youth development, boasting over two decades of experience. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, Kenneth has always been passionate about nurturing young minds and making a positive impact in his community.
He holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of North Florida and a Master's in Management and Leadership from Webster University.
Kenneth's career is marked by a 15-year tenure with the City of Jacksonville, where he has played pivotal roles at the Jacksonville Children's Commission and the Kids Hope Alliance. Prior to his work with the City, he served as a Program Manager with the Bridge of Northeast Florida for 5 years, and 2 years with Northwestern Mutual as a insurance and investment professional.
Apart from his professional life, Kenneth is a devoted husband of 19 years and a proud father to three beautiful children. An active individual by nature, Kenneth enjoys all sports, recently taking up bowling.
Marsha G. Oliver holds the position of Senior Vice-President for Community & Public Engagement at the PGA TOUR. Her role involves assisting the TOUR in identifying charitable and civic opportunities that increase its awareness, engagement, and impact in diverse communities where it operates.
Oliver joined the TOUR in April 2019 with over 25 years of public relations, marketing communications, and crisis management experience which includes roles as Director of Public Affairs and spokesperson for the City of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, and Assistant Superintendent for Communications for Duval County Public Schools.
She has received multiple industry awards and commendations, including being named one of the nation’s top 100 female leaders (Business Journal Bizwomen 100 list) in 2023.
Asst. Chief, Morris Halyard
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
Assistant Chief Morris Halyard has been an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office for almost 15 years. He is currently the Assistant Chief of Community Engagement. Assistant Chief Halyard has worked in many areas of the JSO. He has held supervisory positions in Investigations from Burglary Sergeant, Auto Crimes Sergeant, and Homicide Sergeant. He was also the former Lieutenant of the Police Athletic League before being appointed by Sheriff Waters in November of 2022.
Lawrence Edward Dennis
Lawrence Edward Dennis boasts a distinguished career as a veteran educator in Duval County Public Schools, spanning an impressive 37 years of service. Notably, he spent 19 of those years as a Principal at various educational levels, including Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. Even in retirement, he remains deeply committed to the Jacksonville community, exemplified by his role on the Sales Surtax Oversight Committee, where he plays a vital part in overseeing funding allocation for DCPS schools. Mr. Dennis's true passion lies in working with young people. As a dedicated Board Member of KHA, he eagerly anticipates the opportunity to personally engage with students by visiting program sites and engaging in candid conversations. His objective is to glean their unfiltered feedback and assess the extent to which their needs are being effectively addressed.
Chief Strategy Officer
Rodger Belcher has been a member of Kids Hope Alliance since its inception in 2018. He originally joined the organization in 2012 when it was still known as JCC. Rodger’s professional career has spanned over 27 years as a software developer, technical writer, trainer, and systems administrator. He lives on the northside of Jacksonville with his 3 teenage children and wife who is a 10th grade ELA and ESOL teacher. Rodger earned his bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems at The University of North Florida and has certifications as a Project Management Professional and Results Based Accountability Professional.
Assistant Public Defender
Diana L. Johnson is an Assistant Public Defender in the 4th Judicial Circuit, leading the Office’s Juvenile Unit. Ms. Johnson served on the Florida Bar Juvenile Court Rules Committee from 2012-2018, has published in Florida Juvenile Law and Practice, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Editions, and has presented on juvenile justice issues for continuing legal credit throughout the State of Florida. In 2021, Ms. Johnson became a National Juvenile Defender Center Certified JTIP Trainer and she currently serves as a member of the Gault Center South Advisory Committee.
Prior to returning to the Office of the Public Defender to head the Juvenile Unit, Ms. Johnson was in private practice having co-founded Johnson and Lufrano, P.A., a firm specializing in criminal trials and appeals. She is a Florida Bar Board Certified Expert in Criminal Appellate Law and has handled over 90 appeals. Ms. Johnson has been named a Rising Star, Super Lawyer, and Legal Elite Up and Comer over the last several years and was again recognized as a “Legal Elite” in the area of criminal law in 2022.
Director of Finance
Jessica Pitts is a native of Roxboro, North Carolina. She moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 2018 and started working with the City of Jacksonville in 2019. In May 2022, Jessica became the Director of Finance for the Kids Hope Alliance.
Jessica served as an Operations Specialist in the United States Navy from 2007 to 2012. Immediately after her enlistment, Jessica returned to school and earned an A.A.S. in Accounting (Tidewater Community College), a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Services Management (Norfolk State University), a Master in Business and Administration (Liberty University) and is working towards her Doctorate in Business Administration (Liberty University) with a concentration in Nonprofit Leadership.
Aside from her professional life, Jessica has been married to Branden Pitts for 15 years and has 6 kids: Trinity (17), Jeremiah (15), Kayla (13), Gabrielle (13), Morgan (9), and Sydney (7).
A Jacksonville native, Meredith graduated from Florida State University in 2003, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Child Sciences. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she taught in a Montessori school. In 2007, Meredith moved back to Jacksonville to help to improve the lives of Jacksonville’s children and work with her family to establish The Chartrand Foundation. She currently serves on the board of The Chartrand Foundation, is a member of The Women’s Giving Alliance. While raising four children with her husband Mark, she has spearheaded initiatives in Early Childhood Development with specific interest in the creating opportunity for families by addressing the needs of parents and their children simultaneously. Meredith believes that children in Jacksonville can reach their full potential when they are born healthy and their early stage development is nourished, and invests her time in ensuring these outcomes are available to the greatest number of children possible.
Dr. Dana Kriznar, Superintendent
Duval County Public Schools
Dr. Dana Kriznar is the Interim Superintendent for Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) in Jacksonville, FL. Duval County Public Schools is the 20th largest school district in the nation, with over 130,000 students attending 200 schools.
Dr. Kriznar began her 37-year career with Duval County in 1986 and has served as a teacher, a school-based administrator, and district administrator including Chief of Staff and Deputy Superintendent. Dr. Kriznar holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from Iowa State University, a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from the University of North Florida, and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Policy from the University of Florida.
The Honorable Charles Cofer
Public Defender’s Office
Charlie Cofer was born in Radford, Virginia. His father was a Methodist minister, and his mother was a high school teacher. He graduated from Duke University in 1974 with a B.A. in Political Science and Zoology. He attended law school at the University of Virginia, and graduated in 1977. He was admitted to practice law in Florida later that same year.
Cofer worked as an associate with the firm of Mahoney Hadlow & Adams in Jacksonville for over 2 years before joining the Public Defender’s office in January of 1980. He served as an Assistant Public Defender for over 18 years, including 10 years as a member of the Homicide Team. He handled more than 63 contested jury trials, and 26 homicide trials.
Cofer was appointed as a Duval County Judge in 1998. He was re-elected to that position three times. During his 17 years as a judge, Cofer handled over 78,000 criminal cases and over 27,000 civil cases. Charlie Cofer resigned his position as a Duval County Judge on November 30, 2015, in order to run for Public Defender for the Fourth Judicial Circuit. He was elected to serve as Public Defender in the November, 2016, general election, and took office on January 3, 2017. He has been re-elected without opposition to another four-year term beginning in January, 2021.
Connie Hodges, of Jacksonville, is the former President and CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida. Her career with the United Way network spanned 30 years prior to her retirement in December of 2014. Under Connie’s leadership, the organization evolved from primarily a fundraising organization to the community impact model focused on research-based initiatives that keep students on track to graduation, prepare children to start kindergarten, assist families in achieving financial stability and help people to lead healthier, more productive lives. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona and her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Kansas. Connie has served on the boards of Downtown Rotary, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Jacksonville Children’s Commission, the Early Learning Coalition and Chair of OneJax Board of Directors. Connie received the Florida Times Union EVE Award in Employment and the Leadership Jacksonville Celebration of Leadership. She currently serves on the Baptist Health Foundation.
The Honorable Terrance Freeman
Jacksonville City Council
Terrance Freeman is currently the Senior Project Manager of Apprenticeship Programs at Miller Electric, Talent/Workforce Development . On June 25, 2022, Council Vice President Terrance Freeman was sworn in as Jacksonville City Council’s President. After a successful professional baseball career, he earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in physical education and sports psychology. Mr. Freeman has always believed that helping our young people succeed is a tremendous calling, and he spent over ten years as a teacher, a school administrator, and coach.
A hard worker and student of government, in his time on the Council Mr. Freeman has been the primary sponsor of legislation to extend an Inter-local Agreement continuing the City’s participation in the First Coast Workforce Development Consortium; to honor the legacy of community activist Gary Lee Mills, Sr. with an Honorary Street Designation; to appropriate $350,000 to purchase playground equipment for Lonnie Miller Regional Park; and to authorize an agreement for management of the City’s Moncrief Community Center by 100 Black Men of Jacksonville, Inc. and the I'm A Star Foundation; Creating a new Chapter 180 to establish a Continual Program for Apprenticeship and Workforce training programs called Jacksonville Upward Mobility Program (JUMP); Sign Regulations legislation in reaction to recent incidents which anti-Semitic images and text that have been projected onto prominent public and private buildings without consent of the property owners. In addition, Mr. Freeman sponsored legislation to provided funding for the Jacksonville Small and Emerging Business program, the Public Service Micro-Grant program and Hearts 4 Minds as well as created the Dockless Mobility Program in downtown and in an effort to increase the public participation in City Council meetings, moved the public comment period to earlier in the meeting so citizens who wish to be engaged with their representatives have an opportunity earlier in the meetings.
Cynthia Nixon has been a valued member of the Jacksonville community for four decades. Her extensive professional background includes a 15-year tenure at the Jacksonville Children's Commission, where she served as the Senior Director of Finance. Furthermore, she held the role of Chief Financial Officer for the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition. Mrs. Nixon's personal journey as an "at hope child" has been a driving force in her life, inspiring her to dedicate herself to the betterment of children and young adults within the community. It is with a deep sense of honor that she now assumes the role of a KHA Board Member. In this capacity, she eagerly looks forward to reuniting with former colleagues and collaborating to advance the mission of the Kids Hope Alliance, furthering her lifelong commitment to the welfare of Jacksonville's youth and families.
J. Carson Tranquille
J. Carson Tranquille brings a wealth of experience to his role as a retired Police Division Chief from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, where he dedicated 30 years of his career. During the final decade of his service with JSO, Mr. Tranquille actively participated in various crucial initiatives. He served on the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Circuit 4 Legislative Committee, contributed as a Board Member of The System of Care Committee, and held the esteemed position of Board Chair for the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Grant Subcommittee. In his capacity as a KHA Board Member, Mr. Tranquille is deeply committed to injecting fresh, innovative ideas into the organization's endeavors. He is steadfast in his determination to ensure that funding is efficiently and effectively deployed to maximize the range and quality of services provided to the community.
Tim Rogers, Director
Jacksonville Public Library
As the chief librarian and library director of the Jacksonville Public Library, Tim Rogers works closely with the Board of Library Trustees, elected officials and a host of city community leaders to deliver on the Library’s mission to enrich lives, build community and foster success by bringing people, information and ideas together. He is responsible for the overall operations of JPL’s Main Library and 20 branches (soon to be 21!) which serve Jacksonville’s 400,000 households. His other key duties include strengthening the Library’s financial base while providing an environment that attracts and supports a diverse and talented staff of more than 425 people.
Tim has more than 30 years as a library leader, serving in executive leadership positions with library systems and organizations in Kansas, New York, North Carolina and Oklahoma. He is professionally active local, state and national library organizations, most recently serving as president of the Northeast Florida Library and Information Network and currently chairs Florida’s State Library Council. On a local level, he has participated in five Rotary clubs in four different states (including the Rotary Club of Jacksonville) and was a founding member a Lions’ Club chapter.
Tim earned a BA from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Master of Library Science from Indiana University. He lives in the Bartram Park area of Jacksonville with his wife Carla and is the proud grandfather of two very curious granddaughters who share his love of books and reading.