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Role: Staff

Helia Daigeau (she/her), California Disability and Elder Justice Organizer

A medium-toned Black woman with glasses and short curly brown hair wearing a Kenta cloth hair wrap, dangle earrings, and a red t-shirt is smiling towards the camera

Prior to joining Hand in Hand Helia worked as a Systems Change Advocate focused on disability rights at Dale McIntosh Center, the Independent Living Center in Orange County CA. As a Black, queer and disabled woman, Helia has always been called to fight for the rights and full inclusion of all with the understanding that

Zhara Baksh (she/her),NYC Organizer

Zhara is a Spelman Graduate with a B.A. in Political Science. Prior to joining Hand in Hand, she served as an Organizer at CeaseFire PA mobilizing to fight the gun violence crisis throughout Pennsylvania. She also worked as a Canvass Organizer through the City of Philadelphia Philly Counts program, where she raised awareness around COVID

Blithe Riley (she/her), Communications Director

Blithe brings over fifteen years of communications and organizing experience both in non-profits and organized labor. Prior to joining Hand in Hand, Blithe served as the Organizing and Communications Manager at the Hotel Trades Council, the hotel workers union in New York City. Blithe also has a background in the arts, is a mother, former

Tara Polansky (she/her), Education and Digital Director

Tara has twenty years of combined organizing and teaching experience that she brings to her role at Hand in Hand. She has campaigned for immigrant rights; quality education; and social, economic and racial justice with organizations including ACORN, New York Civic Participation Project, and American Jewish World Service. She has taught at the college level

Diana Morales (she/her), Administrative & Operations Manager

Diana brings years of HR, finance, accounting administrative and operations experience, and has worked both as a controller and office manager in non-profit and corporate settings. In her previous role at Fort Washington Collegiate Church, Diana reduced a budget deficit and increased revenue by creating community programs, space rentals and partnering with local businesses. She

Stacy Kono (she/her), Executive Director

As Executive Director, Stacy partners with staff, our National Steering Committee and members to advance our vision of interdependent communities committed to social and economic justice. With over two decades of nonprofit experience in organizing and capacity building, she leads fundraising and organizational strategy and systems. Stacy first learned about the power of grassroots organizing

Fanta Koita (she/her), Communications and Development Associate

Fanta recently graduated with a B.A. in International Relations and French from Widener University, located in Chester, PA. Being a first-generation American has allowed her to witness the struggles many immigrants face in the United States and has pushed her to drive for community service and non-profit organizations. Throughout college, she participated in numerous non-profits

Zoë Ackerman (she/they), Resource Manager

A white person with brown hair and gold earrings is smiling in front of a house

Zoë joins Hand in Hand with years of fundraising leadership including with Families Organizing to Resource Movements (FORM) Collective and Resource Generation Connecticut. Prior to joining Hand in Hand, Zoë worked as Associate Program Director at the Rachel Carson Council, conducted policy research around affordable child care with Community Labor United, and most recently, as

Russell Rawlings (he/him), California Education Organizer

White man with beard sitting in a wheelchair wearing black sunglasses, hat, and a dark green shirt.

Russell has over fifteen years of experience as a disability rights activist and organizer. Born with cerebral palsy in Texas, Russell relocated to Sacramento, California in 2001, where he experienced a transformational connection to the Independent Living Movement. Russell served for seven years as President of DOGFITE (Disability Organizing Group For Initiating Total Equality), and

Gemma Calinda (she/her), Hudson Valley Organizer

Gemma Calinda was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a teenager and has used a wheelchair for the last seven years. She received her B.A. in Legal Communications from Howard University and a Master’s of Science Management in healthcare from Kaplan University. Deeply appreciative of the support she received from her home attendants over the years,

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