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

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.


Oscar Bennett

Engagement Coordinator

Oscar Bennett is the Engagement Coordinator at Sustaining Way. He graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Middle East studies. He was raised to know that service to your fellow neighbor is one of the greatest duties a person can undertake in your life. Oscar wants to uplift others to become more educated, healthier, and self-sufficient in their lives. Through a sustainable lifestyle and a helping hand, he believes the Nicholtown community can achieve those goals.
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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.

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Meghan Salm

AmeriCorps Youth and Adult Development VISTA

Meghan Salm is the AmeriCorps Youth and Adult Development VISTA member at Sustaining Way for the 2022-2023 circuit. She graduated from Furman University with a B.S. in Sustainability Science and a minor in Poverty Studies. She believes a sustainable future starts with uplifting and empowering marginalized communities first. This has led to her passion for local-level sustainable development, environmental justice, and community empowerment.
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Sydney Spires

AmeriCorps Marketing and Development VISTA

Sydney Spires is the AmeriCorps Marketing and Development VISTA member at Sustaining Way for the 2022-2023 circuit. She graduated from Furman University with a B.S. in Sustainability Science, B.A. in English Literature, and a minor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is passionate about social and environmental justice and believes that everyone deserves equitable access and opportunity to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Sophi Christian

AmeriCorps Sustainable Demonstration Site and Agriculture VISTA

Sophi Christian is the 2023 Sustainable Demonstration Site and Agriculture AmeriCorps VISTA member at Sustaining Way. She is a recent Clemson University graduate, where her studies focused on row crop agriculture and integrated pest management. She is excited to share her passion for the environment, sustainable living, and the right to healthy, affordable, and culturally-appropriate foods.
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Rebekah Kenowski

AmeriCorps Sustainable Energy VISTA

Rebekah Kenowski is the AmeriCorps Sustainable Energy VISTA at Sustaining Way for 2023-2024. She attended the University of South Florida for graduate studies and has a B.A. in Business Administration from St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, NC. She also manages a small horse farm and is passionate about all forms of sustainability concentrating in agriculture and energy.


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Magdalyn Husser

Sustainable Agriculture Intern

Magdalyn Husser is a summer and fall Sustainable Agriculture intern at Sustaining Way. She graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology. She is passionate about plants and serving the community.


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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.

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Gabby Fehler

Sustainable Agriculture Intern

Gabby Fehler is a Sustaining Way Sustainable Agriculture Fellow this summer. She is a rising senior at Furman University. At Furman, she is majoring in Sustainability Science with a minor in Poverty Studies. She is passionate about all things related to sustainability, but food justice and social justice are two big areas of interest for her.


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Clark Alford

Marketing and Engagement Intern

Clark Alford is working as the Marketing and Engagement intern at Sustaining Way this summer. He is a rising senior at Furman University, majoring in Business Administration. Clark is passionate about helping the surrounding community and treating the environment with respect.


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Maria Balderas

Youth Education and Steward Fellows Intern

Maria Balderas is serving as the Youth Education and Steward Fellows intern at Sustaining Way for the summer of 2023. Currently a rising junior at Furman, she is pursuing a B.S. in Public Health. Maria's dedication lies in promoting community health and advocating for environmental justice, firmly believing that everyone should have access to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.


Board of Directors

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Sylvia Palmer

Board Chair

Sylvia is native a Greenvillian and long-term 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 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.

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.

Gary Davis

Board Member

Gary Davis is a partner at Nachman Norwood & Parrott, and has worked in the financial advisory industry for twenty three years. Before that he worked with an international manufacturing company traveling extensively in Europe. He serves on the Green Ribbon Committee for Mobility for the City of Greenville. His interests include sustainability, solar energy, organic gardening, hiking, bird watching, running, travel and flying. Four years ago 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. His efforts at Sustaining Way are geared towards leveraging his skills and passion to grow corporate fund-raising while supporting the board as it adapts its governance and policies to keep pace with the organization’s growth.
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Jervelle Fort

Board Member

Jervelle Fort serves as a Health Educator for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC).  In this role, she provides technical assistance and resources to communities in Laurens and Greenville Counties 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 Secretary for the Greenville Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Secretary for the South Carolina Public Health Association, and Church Clerk, Trustee, and Health Ministry Chair for Springfield Baptist Church.

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.


Mikalaa Martin Battin

Board Member

Mikalaa is a Forensic Scientist at RTI International where she supports a variety of research initiatives funded by the U.S. federal government. She earned her B.S. in Forensic and Investigative Science from West Virginia University. Since November 2021, she has served as the Volunteer Coordinator for Sustaining Way. Her current and continuing goals include merging the principles of sustainability within forensic disciplines and mentoring youth girls to pursue their passions in STEM. Sustaining Way’s mission and core values are very much aligned with her own. She is very thankful to be a part of an organization which focuses on the intersection of fostering community, caring for the environment, and improving the quality of life for those in local Greenville communities.

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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