Our Staff:

Patti H. Parker



I am a native of Monroe County, MS. Although I am new to United Way of Northeast MS in 2020, I was the Director of the United Way of Greater Monroe County for 20 years. In that role, I am proud of the work we have done to strengthen the Monroe County area, particularly after the 2011 tornado outbreak that devastated the communities of Smithville and Wren. I look forward to expanding my work in serving the wider Northeast MS region. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English from Mississippi University for Women and a master’s degree in History from Mississippi State University. I am a recipient of the MS Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 Award. My husband, Randy, and I are proud parents of two children, Johnny, a meteorologist, and Chloe, a criminologist.

Cara Waters

Director of Finance and Administration


I have been with United Way since July of 2004.  I am originally from Columbus, Mississippi, and attended Mississippi University for Women, receiving my Bachelor’s degree in 1996. My husband Justin and I have been married since 1997 and have two sons, Cooper and Samuel. Our family are members of Gum Tree Presbyterian Church in Tupelo. I am a graduate of the NEWMS Success Skills program. My most recent victory is that I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2015, and I am proud to say that I am a survivor.

BJ Kent

Campaign Director


I joined United Way in May of 2022 as Campaign Director. I am a graduate of Mantachie High School and Itawamba Community College, where I received an Associate Degree in Religion and Ministry. I have served as a youth pastor for Basileia Church in Mooreville, Missisippi, since 2011. I have worked in sales, retail, and non-profits. Most recently, I worked at The Autism Center of North Mississippi for three years as a Lead Registered Behavioral Technician, where I worked one-on-one with children with autism doing ABA therapy. Doing such, I have great first hand knowledge of how United Way is helping support programs across our area.

I am a native and resident of Mantachie and have been married to my wife, Morgan, since 2013. We have three children, Zora, Waverly, and Jalen.

I am honored to join the United Way of Northeast Mississippi team and look forward to working alongside our communities to make a collective impact in the eight counties we serve.

Riley Winter

Campaign Director


I joined United Way in January of 2023 as Campaign Director. I am originally from Pontotoc, Mississippi where I graduated from North Pontotoc High School. I attended Itawamba Community College for my associates degree, and then continued to Mississippi State University where I completed my Bachelors Degree in Psychology. My husband Lane and I have been married since April 2021 and currently reside in Pontotoc, Mississippi. My husband and I enjoy coming together to serve the community where we see a need.

I have always had a drive for volunteerism and participating with nonprofits. I have been involved with both Banah Center and the Autism Center of North Mississippi, these organizations have allowed me to observe the impact nonprofits can make on the community and the resources that are accessible through them.  Most recently I have worked at Center for Behavior Analytic Services as a Registered Behavior Technician offering ABA therapy. I look forward to increasing the awareness of available resources to the community, as well as seeing how our nonprofits impact our region through the counties we serve.

Robin McKinney

Director of Marketing and Communications


I have been with United Way of Northeast Mississippi since 2012. I am a graduate of Nettleton High School and the University of Mississippi, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in English. I completed my master’s in Nonprofit Management at Northeastern University in 2018.

I am active in the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, currently serving as secretary for the state board and having held several officer roles for the Northeast chapter, and am a member of the Southern Public Relations Federation. I was honored to be named Person of the Year in the Daily Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2020. I helped to found Groundswell (United Way’s young donors group) and Volunteer Northeast Mississippi, and have been a member of the Early Childhood Coalition since its inception.

I live in Tupelo with my husband, Brad, my son, Jacob, and two cats, Darwin and Claude.

Julia Monts

Director of Donor Engagement


I am a happy transplant to Mississippi, having been born and raised in California. I attended the University of Southern California for my undergraduate studies, and then continued to Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN for my graduate degree in education. While serving as a Teach for America teacher in under-served schools in Nashville, I developed a love for service and an awareness of impactful community initiatives. In 2016 I moved to Tupelo with my husband to raise our family in his hometown–we have a young daughter and a sweet pup at home–and I immediately got engaged with the Northeast Mississippi community, from my work as Lead Educator at HealthWorks! Children’s Museum, to my roles on the boards of Link Centre and Tupelo Women’s Club. I’m excited to engage with the community-driven United Way supporters to expand their understanding of the incredible agencies we serve, as well as to increase the resources we are able to provide to the region.

Rebecca C. Nelson

Director of Community Impact


I joined the United Way staff in January 2019 as director of Volunteer Northeast Mississippi and became Director of Community Impact in March 2021. Prior to that time, I had spent 34 years in education in various capacities, including a 22-year stint as a high school English teacher in Augusta, Georgia. I have a bachelor’s degree in communication from Mississippi State University and a master’s in post-secondary education from Troy University. My husband Andrew and I both graduated from Tupelo High School, and we are proud that our daughter Lindsey did as well. While we thoroughly enjoyed living in Georgia, we were thrilled to move back to our beloved Mississippi in 2014. My work with United Way is beyond gratifying, as I get to see on a day-to-day basis the amazing work being done by our nonprofits and volunteers to help our neighbors in need.

Shelly Brooks

Early Childhood Coalition


I have been with United Way of Northeast Mississippi since 2017 and am honored to serve as the director of the Early Childhood Coalition-Tupelo/Lee County. I am originally from Blue Mountain but have lived in Lee County the past 24 years. I am a graduate of Blue Mountain College, with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. I received my Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and my Specialist in Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Mississippi. I spent 25 years as a teacher and administrator in the Lee County School District. I spent the last 7 years as principal at Shannon Primary School.

I live in Tupelo, with my husband, Harvey, who is also a retired educator. We attend Cross Pointe Ministries and enjoy serving our community through our church and local service organizations. It is an honor to serve in this position and be able to impact the young children in our community.

Jason Martin

Hunger Coalition of Northeast Mississippi

662-432-1894 | jason@unitedwaynems.org

I am a native Tennessean who moved to Tupelo in 2008. I have been with United Way of Northeast Mississippi since 2018, serving as the director of the Hunger Coalition. I am a graduate of Mississippi State University, with a bachelor’s in Business Administration. Prior to working for United Way, I served as a youth pastor for seventeen years and previously co-owned a land surveying business in Tennessee. I have been the director of the St. Luke Food Pantry in Tupelo since 2013 and still hold that position as well. In 2019 I was elected to serve on the board of the Mid-South Food Bank, which provides services to eighteen counties in North Mississippi. In 2020, I was named as an “Extra Mile Hero” by the mayor and city council of Tupelo. In 2021, the Hunger Coalition received an honorable mention for Covid-19 response by the Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence.

My wife, Jennifer, and I have been married since 2000. We met while attending Northeast Mississippi Community College and dated all through our college years. We have enjoyed living in Tupelo and are grateful to call Northeast Mississippi our home. Our spare time is filled with riding bicycles, playing with our 3 rescue dogs, and enjoying being outside. I feel that all of my previous work experiences have prepared me for this role and I’m reminded daily why I do what I do.

Emma James

Northeast Mississippi Health Alliance

662-432-0180 | emma@unitedwaynems.org

I was born and raised in the Texas Panhandle but grew up visiting my dad’s extended family in Mississippi. When it was time to choose a college my oldest brother was at Mississippi State University getting his master’s degree and convinced me MSU was the right choice for me. While getting my Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology, I met my husband Sam and we now have two sweet children. After graduating from MSU, I went through the Physical Therapist Assistant program at ICC here in Tupelo and for 7 years served throughout Northeast Mississippi. Growing up my parents always emphasized our involvement in our community and gave my siblings and me a heart for service. Throughout my years in the healthcare system, I have seen many needs in the communities United Way of Northeast Mississippi serves. I am honored to have the opportunity to pioneer the Health Alliance and see how we can positively impact the health and well being of those we serve.

Kim Rushing

Volunteer Northeast Mississippi


I joined the United Way team in April of 2021 as Volunteer NEMS Hub director.  Prior to joining United Way, I was a registered dental hygienist for 18 years. My husband Brian and I have two children, Clay and Jolee. We are members of Trinity Baptist Church and are both life long Itawamba county residents. In 2013 I founded the non-profit Wives of Warriors, a support group for law enforcement wives.  Our mission is to raise money to purchase body armor for officers and departments that do not have the budget to afford them. As of 2020 we have supplied 157 vests to 42 departments in the state of Mississippi covering 15 counties! I was raised with a heart for volunteerism and I cannot wait to share my passion with everyone.