Jim Bowers: Chairperson
After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Hampden-Sydney College, Jim began his career as an analyst with First Union Securities in the Capital Markets Group. In 2001, he progressed to the Fixed Income trading floor of Wachovia Securities, with the Investment Grade Origination Group. Looking for an opportunity to work with individual investors, he moved to Asheville to join A.G. Edwards & Sons in 2007. Desiring the industry’s greatest resources available for his clients, he joined Merrill Lynch in 2015.
Jim participates in many of Serve To LEAD’s Asheville youth programs and joined our international service team to the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2018. Jim feels one of the most rewarding benefits of Serve to LEAD is seeing the changes in the children involved.
Since volunteering his time with Serve to LEAD he says his life has forever been changed. “I’ve worked with other non-profit organizations throughout my life and have not had one change my life in a way like Serve to LEAD. I’ve been inspired and motivated. I believe the leadership and structure of Serve to LEAD to be the source. I believe this organization has created a unique culture that starts with helping our kids, in our community, to understand greater challenges around the world and take action, thus creating young leaders. STL is a stand alone non-profit on the cover, but in the story, it is a non-profit that helps the Asheville community while helping other communities around the world. That is something I want to be a part of.”
Jim and his wife Elizabeth currently live in Swannanoa with their two children Lily and Beau.
Claire Hug: Secretary
Bradford D. Burlingham: Treasurer
Brad has lived in Asheville over 20 years and I work professionally as a CPA. He has enjoyed serving with several non-profits in the area, including:
President of Dominican Crossroads USA. Partnering with others in Asheville and Atlanta, I have led and helped to administer annual mission trips to the Dominican Republic since 2005. In addition, I have helped other organizations and donors to participate in work with the poor in the DR, including feeding programs, medical ministries, construction ministries, prison ministry, and a scholarship program.
Treasurer of Western North Carolina Medical Society Foundation, which seeks to improve access to healthcare in the counties of western North Carolina. (current)
Asheville Christian Academy – served as Board Member and sometime Treasurer from 2013-2015 and 2006-2012.
Bethany Christian Services (Adoption and family services) – Board member, 2009-2010.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Tulane University and an MBA from Emory University. He attends Trinity Presbyterian Church, and is married to his wife of 31 years and has two children and one grandchild.
Blake Wagner is one of the founders of JESUS missions, an international mission service organization dedicated to providing mission service opportunities for youth and families . He has organized and led multiple service trips to the Dominican Republic since 2003, with the latest in 2016.
Blake currently serves on the board of Dominican Republic U.S.A.
He has worked with a multitude of local community organizations including ABCCM and Homeward Bound.
Blake has been an International flight attendant for American Airlines since 1978 and is the managing director of Living H2O Holdings which owns and develops residential neighborhoods in Asheville and the US Virgin Islands. He also is the managing director of Atlantic Wave which owns and manages low income housing providing a path to permanent housing for the homeless here in Asheville. Blake has lived in Fairview since 1997.
Lesli moved to Asheville in 1990. She studied at DePauw University and graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Communications.
As a member of Central United Methodist Church in Asheville, Lesli has served as Chair of the Administrative Board, Chair of Central’s United Methodist Women and co-chair of the Missions Council. For over 16 years she has been delivering hot meals for Meals On Wheels. Two months each summer, she and her husband open their home to six college students who come to Asheville to serve as Carolina Cross Connection mission project team leaders. Lesli has participated on medical and construction mission projects in the U. S., Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka.
Lesli works part time as a bookkeeper for Haywood Street Congregation.
A native of Iowa, Dr. Walter is a graduate of the University of Iowa. She earned her medical degree at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in California and completed her pediatric internship and residency at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Following her residency, Dr. Walter was drawn to the mountain culture of Asheville and joined Mountain Area Pediatrics in the summer of 1999.
At the practice, she loves watching the children grow and be successful. “Children inspire me every day, and their parents are amazing,” Dr. Walter says. “Mountain Area Pediatrics’ loving, caring nature makes it a pleasure to work here.”
She and her husband, Mark, have raised two children in Asheville and relish in the adventure sports the area offers. Section hiking the Appalachian Trail, cycling, kayaking, skiing and hang gliding are some of her choice outdoor quests. Dr. Walter finds great fulfillment in being a mother, volunteering with Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, and serving as faculty member at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
Born in Southern California but Tar Heel bred, Kendall is a 2016 graduate of the UNC Chapel Hill Kenan Flagler Business School where he studied Spanish and Business before shifting focus to his passion: music production and songwriting.
Kendall’s past experience with service, including 17 trips to the ‘bateys’ or sugar cane villages of the Dominican Republic, is the driving force behind his music and art. Now owner and operator of “Espwa Sound”, a recording label and collective, Kendall strives to bring awareness to those who cannot speak for themselves through music, film, and continued hands-on service alongside marginalized communities whether domestic or abroad.
Joining Serve To LEAD has been the honor of Kendall’s life: “As a 20-something still trying to figure out life and my purpose in it, I’ve yet to encounter people who inspire me like the Serve To Lead team; Jessica, Jim, Brad, my dad Blake and plenty of others with Serve To LEAD have helped shaped my outlook on life and inspired me to truly be the change I want to see in our world.”
Sean grew up in Asheville and is currently pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. While at school, Sean is involved in campus ministry as a student leader and undergraduate research in the field of autonomous vehicles.Sean first visited the Dominican Republic in 2016 on a service trip led by Serve to LEAD board member Brad Burlingham. This impactful trip uncovered a passion for international missions and spurred Sean to return to the Dominican Republic a year later. In 2019, Sean began to join Serve To LEAD sponsored trips to the Dominican Republic and has been closely involved with the non-profit’s work in the area since. He greatly enjoys being able to interact with those in the villages and on the teams as he believes personal relationship is the foundation of missions and service.
“Serve to LEAD’s emphasis on intra-community leadership is what sets the non-profit apart from other organizations I have worked with. They have created a structure that is imbued with human dignity and impacts the lives of others, not just their circumstances.”
Sean hopes to use his degree to aid in community development projects across all of Serve to LEAD’s communities. His vision is to create engineering solutions unique to each community that can solve infrastructural problems with cost effective and locally sourced resources.
Sean currently lives in Raleigh while attending N.C. State but can otherwise be found at his family’s home in Asheville where he attends Biltmore Church.
Melissa was born and raised in Asheville, NC and is a recent graduate of Queens University of Charlotte. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and plans to begin work as a registered nurse this fall.Melissa has worked with Serve to LEAD locally and globally since 2014. She was a founder of the World Changers Club at Asheville High School and has participated in service trips to both the Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka. It was these trips that led her to pursue a nursing career. Melissa intends to use her nursing skills to serve communities that lack access to proper medical care.
Serve to LEAD has impacted Melissa’s life in more ways than one. She has learned what it means “not to be served, but to serve,” the motto of her alma mater. Melissa says, “It is an honor to be part of this amazing organization both on local and global service teams and to be nominated as an STL board member.”
Our Executive Director
Learn more about Jessica Tripp, here.