Our Staff & Board of Directors



Michael Brown

Executive Director

Michael Brown is the Executive Director of Sustaining Way with its flagship demonstration site, Annie’s House, located in historic Nicholtown. A native of Spartanburg, Michael holds a B.A. in Political Science from Alabama A&M University, an MPA from The Ohio State University, and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Michael served 12 years as the District One Representative for Spartanburg County Council, was the first African American Vice-Chair and chaired the Public Safety and Judiciary Committee and was a long serving member of the Economic Development Committee having worked directly to establish 20k jobs and delivering more than $8 billion of development. Among many community service roles, he has served on the South Carolina Bar Board of Governors, serves as President of the Spartanburg NAACP, is an alumnus of the Liberty Fellowship and is an Aspen Global Leadership Fellow. A trained apiarist certified in Sustainable Agriculture and Permaculture, Michael serves on the Boards of Directors for the South Carolina Food Policy Council and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, respectively. He works daily to combat the reality of food deserts in communities throughout the state. As a recognized environmental justice advocate, Michael champions sustainable approaches in community resiliency through energy policy reforms, implementation of efficient energy alternatives in low income communities, affordable housing innovation and transformative healthy lifestyle practices. Michael’s passion about helping to “heal the land” propelled him to start in 2019 a regenerative urban farm, Roots of Life. Contact Michael via email at michael.brown@sustainingway.com

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Rick Joye

Founder/ Interim Operations Director

Rick is the Founder and Interim Operations Director of Sustaining Way. Rick received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and later an MBA from Clemson University.


Fernanda Rabago

Operations Coordinator

Fernanda Rabago is the Operations Coordinator at Sustaining Way. Originally from Mexico, Fernanda holds a degree in Industrial Engineering. She is a passionate advocate for healthy lifestyles and caring for the environment which led her to seek a position with Sustaining Way. 

Her favorite things to do in the Upstate are:

  • Hike Rainbow Falls at Jones Gap State Park 
  • Kayak on Lake Jocassee.

Preston Johnson

Energy Specialist

Preston Johnson is the Sustainable Energy Specialist here at Sustaining Way, holding the NABCEP PV Associate Certification, Solar Tech Basics Certification, and a Solar PV Design & Install Certification, and is the owner of Earthwave Renewables. He performs the Energy Home Visits and helps community members make their homes more efficient. 

His favorite things to do in the Upstate are:

  • Frequent local restaurants like Naked Vegan
  • Swim
  • Garden with his family

Oscar Bennett

Community Engagement Coordinator

Oscar Bennett is the Community Engagement Specialist at Sustaining Way. He graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Middle East studies. Oscar was raised to know that service to one’s neighbor is one of the greatest duties a person can undertake in their life and he lives that truth through his work with the Nicholtown community. Oscar wants to uplift others to become more educated, healthier, and self-sufficient in their lives, through a sustainable lifestyle and a helping hand. His favorite thing to do in his spare time is play games at Dave and Busters.

Lauren Allen

Community Health VISTA

Lauren Allen is the Community Health AmeriCorps VISTA and is helping lead the Nicholtown Community Health Initiative this cycle. Since graduating from Furman University, Lauren has worked in the Greenville community.

She loves:

  • Spending time with her family and dogs
  • Playing tennis
  • Shopping at Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery

Stacia Leach Lomax

Community Engagement VISTA

Stacia Leach Lomax is the Community Engagement VISTA here at Sustaining Way. Graduating from South Carolina State University with a graduate degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, Stacia works closely with members of the community to inform them of the programs and services offered by Sustaining Way and beyond. She loves working with a community of similar people to assist the members to obtain skills, strategies,  resources to fight against injustices that threaten their neighborhoods; to build better support systems to draw from; and build relationships with organizations that have the abilities to push these amazing people to their greatest potential. 

Her favorite things to do in her spare time are:

  • Spend time with her loved ones
  • Shop
  • Eat at Naked Vegan

Oscar Moreno

Sustainable Education VISTA

Oscar Moreno is the Education VISTA here at Sustaining Way. After graduating from Greer HS and the University of South Carolina, he is integral in supporting Sustaining Way’s educational initiatives. 

In his spare time, Oscar loves to:

  • Spend time in Downtown Greenville
  • Shop consciously to support sustainably responsible consumption and companies

Belu Kees Rau

Impact, Growth, and Governance VISTA

Belu is the Impact, Growth and Governance VISTA here at Sustaining Way. Holding a degree in Structural Engineering, her goal is to help Sustaining Way expand their reach, maximize their impact, and maintain strong governance practices. 

Her favorite things to do are:

  • Spend time with her family at local parks 
  • Cook for her friends and family

Julia Sellers

Marketing and Development VISTA

Julia Sellers is the Marketing/Development AmeriCorps VISTA for this cycle. Graduating from the University of South Carolina and holding her Masters from the University of North Carolina, Julia is responsible for all marketing and social media for Sustaining Way.

Her favorite things to do in the Upstate are:

  • Volunteer at the Peace Center
  • Attend the Travelers Rest Farmers Market
  • Shop at Amend Market, a refill store in Greenville

Summer Meares


Summer Meares is one of the Storytellers here at Sustaining Way. Having graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Marketing, and minors in Spanish and Sustainability, she is an active member of the community. Along with her husband, Summer likes to compost and ride her bike as often as she can. 

Some of her favorite things to do in the Upstate are:

  • Ride her bike on the Swamp Rabbit Trail to Traveler’s Rest to get a tempeh BLT.
  • Spend time with her family and friends.

Fiona Lavin Steck


Fiona Lavin Steck is one of the storytellers here at Sustaining Way. After graduating from the University of Delaware in 2017, Fiona worked as a high school English teacher and yearbook advisor in the Greenville County School District. She began working with Sustaining Way in September of 2023.

Some of Fiona’s favorite things about the Upstate are:

  • Falls Park 
  • Saturday Downtown Farmers Market 
  • Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery


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Abbi Burgess

Sustainable Agriculture Intern

Abbi Burgess is a Sustainable Agriculture intern this summer. She is studying Environmental Science and Natural Resources, with a focus in Conservation Biology, and minor in Sustainability at Clemson University. Abbi’s family ignited a love for nature in her at a young age, so she is extremely passionate about the environment. She also has a desire to get involved in social justice matters, to do something that will make the world a better place. At Sustaining Way, she feels like she’s been able to contribute to both passions.

Board of Directors


Sylvia Palmer

Board Chair

Sylvia is native a Greenvillian and long-time resident of Nicholtown. She was the first African-American Earth and Life Sciences teacher at Greenville Middle School serving 30 years from 1967-1997. Later she served for ten years as the Office Manager of the Greenville County Education Association. Now retired, Sylvia continues to serve the community as the past President of the Nicholtown Neighborhood Association, and board member of Genesis Homes along with many other volunteer activities focused on the betterment of the Nicholtown Community.
Liz Gilman

Elizabeth Gilman


Since her earliest memories of walking on the beach in Australia, Liz has always been in love with the outdoors. She is a passionate flyfisher and enjoys all things outside. Liz is a graduate from Clemson’s school of Business & Behavioral Sciences, where she studied Management Info Systems and Nonprofit Leadership, and currently serves as a licensed Scrum Master at EP+Co where she helps manage their Creative Technology Team. In the past she has served in a variety of roles in the nonprofit world, focusing on health and wellness, environmental activism, equality for all people, and animal protection. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree from Clemson and is serving on the Board for Sustaining Way.
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Rahsaan Louris


Rahsaan K. Louris, PA, is the founder and operator of The Louris Group, LLC, serving the Greater Upstate Area of South Carolina. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from South Carolina State University and an MBA in Accountancy from Furman University. For over ten years, The Louris Group, LLC has provided comprehensive accounting and tax services, emphasizing professionalism, responsiveness, and quality. Rahsaan is dedicated to educating his clients, believing that “educating my client base is the best part of my business.”

In addition to growing his business, Rahsaan has been a volunteer for the Beta Club and Key Club at Eastside High School and is a mentor to various youth and young men in his community. He is actively involved with the Prince Hall Masonic Order as District 3 Secretary and is a member of the National Association of Black Accountants. Rahsaan resides in Greer, South Carolina, with his wife and two children, and he is passionate about instilling strong values and morals in his family.

Gary Davis

Gary Davis

Vice Chair

Gary Davis is a partner at CAPTRUST and has worked in the financial advisory industry for twenty nine years. Before that he worked with an international manufacturing company traveling extensively in Europe. He served on the Green Ribbon Committee for Mobility for the City of Greenville for several years. During his 28-year tenure with the Rotary Club of Greenville City Center he has worn many hats including President, treasurer, and Foundation Chair. His interests include sustainability, solar energy, organic gardening, hiking, bird watching, running, travel and flying. In 2014 he set an aviation world record for altitude with an electric powered ultralight.


Mike Murrell

Board Member

Mike brings a unique mix of business development expertise, a passion for equity and cultural sensitivity, and a love of community to his board role. Mike earned his BA in Economics from Furman University, and went on to become a successful computer programmer, and eventually a vice president of sales for an international software company. He is a graduate of the Propel Greenville Board Education Program, which has helped enhance best practices of the Sustaining Way board . Mike’s efforts at Sustaining Way are geared towards leveraging his skills and passion to grow fundraising while supporting the board as it adapts to the organization’s growth.

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Jervelle Fort

Board Member

Jervelle Fort serves as a Community Engagement Manager for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC).  In this role, she provides technical assistance and resources to communities in seven counties in the upstate region of South Carolina to help community members create Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) policies, systems and environmental changes.  She holds both a Bachelor's Degree in Community Health, and a Master's Degree in Public Health, as well as a Certified Health Education Specialist certification, and a Child Passenger Safety certification.  Jervelle has a passion for service as she sits on numerous boards, and actively participates in numerous organizations, most notably serving as the Vice President for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Epsilon Tau Omega Chapter, the Secretary for the South Carolina Public Health Association, and Church Clerk, Trustee, and Health Ministry Chair for Springfield Baptist Church.

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Matthew Loomis Rehnborg

Board Member

Matthew knew he wanted to be involved with Sustaining Way from the moment he learned about the organization's unique approach to neighborhood and community development. Holding graduate degrees in both urban planning and Christian ministry, Matthew loves to explore ways to build and live in community that grow out of a recognition of our deep belonging to one another and to all of creation. He currently works for a planning and engineering consulting firm based in Virginia, but has also engaged in the work of community development through a regional planning organization, a city bus agency, local churches, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania.

Apply to be on Sustaining Way’s Governance Committees!

Do you believe in Sustaining Way’s mission and vision? Do you think you can help us realize our goals? If yes, please apply to serve on one of our governance committees. Our Nominating Committee regularly reviews applications and will be back in touch.

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