Dr. Maria Hanlin, Executive Director
Dr. Hanlin did her undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University, her Masters of Divinity at the School of Theology at Claremont, and her doctorate in “Ministry with the Poor” at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. She has served as the Director of Admissions for the School of Theology at Claremont, as the chaplain at a home for emotionally abused teenage girls in California, and for 20 years as a pastor in various congregations in Los Angeles and the Charlotte area.
Maria has been the Executive Director of Mecklenburg Ministries since June 2005. During this time, Mecklenburg Ministries has grown its congregational membership from 50 to 97 and has initiated many programs/councils including the In Our Own Backyard Interfaith Service Camp, Youth Leadership Council, annual Awards Breakfast, Interfaith Clergy Habitat Builds, Clergy Advisory Board, Liaison Council, “In Their Shoes” Homeless Awareness Walk, and Friday Friends program and festival. Attendance at the Annual Citywide Interfaith Thanksgiving Service has grown from 300 to more than 1,500, and Mecklenburg Ministries has collaborated to produce two award-winning documentaries, Souls of Our Students and Souls of Our Teachers, and will soon release the third installment in the series, Souls of Our Neighbors.
Maria serves on the Crossroads Steering Committee, The Benefit Bank Advisory Committee, The City’s Community Cabinet, the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Superintendent’s Interfaith Advisory Committee, and the Crisis Assistance Advocacy Committee.
Maria and her husband Tim have 3 children: Anna (a teacher in Baltimore), Brittany (a senior at Howard University) and Carey (a sophomore at Chapel Hill.)
“I am honored and excited to be part of this vital ministry in our city and build upon the legacy of the past 20 years. Today more than ever the mission of Mecklenburg Ministries is essential as we learn what it means to love God and to love our neighbor across our different faith traditions. What a difference we can make in our city as we partner together.”
Sarah Cassidy, Director of Communications and Data Management
Sarah is a marketing strategist with more than 15 years of experience. She has spent the majority of her career working in marketing, communications and project management within the investment industry.
After growing up in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, Sarah attended and graduated from Virginia Tech. She obtained her MBA in Boston, MA at Suffolk University.
Sarah has lived in Charlotte since 2007 and is a member of St. Gabriel Catholic Church, where she is part of their Christian Mothers Group. She is also an active member of the Junior League of Charlotte and serves on the board for the Junior League WearHouse thrift shop. Sarah and her husband have two young children.
Mary Hall, Director of Administration
Mary has lived in the Charlotte area since 2005. She and her husband Derrick have three daughters, Morgan and Megan (graduates of Spelman College and current graduate students at Georgia State University) and Maci (currently attending Spelman College). Mary holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Administration and worked a few years in her respective field, but chose to stay home with her daughters throughout their school-age years.
Mary has been involved with numerous community outreach projects, civic organizations and boards, as well as church and faith-based programs. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., RPO, Inc. and The Junior League of Charlotte. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for Alexander Youth Network, as Financial Secretary for The National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Queen City Metropolitan chapter and as Secretary/Treasurer for the Charlotte Chapter of the Tuskegee University Alumni Association. Mary and her husband are members of The Park Church.
Cassandra Jones, Director of Congregational Development
Dr. Cassandra Jones is a native of San Francisco, California where her family and church family developed and nurtured her passion for interfaith service and cross-cultural mission and ministry. As a high school student she began experiencing service globally, and that service has expanded to nearly 60 countries. She has served in leadership development through concerns of social justice, reconciliation, education, ministry and mission and continues to do so.
“Dr. J.”, as her students affectionately refer to her, is a life-long learner and educator. Her career began as a high school public school teacher in the Dallas (Texas) Independent School District where she taught choral music, musical theater, and public speaking. She is currently a Professor of Christian Education at two theological institutions: Shaw University Divinity School (online professor) and New Life Theological Seminary. One of her joys as professor is exposing her students to the multiple engaging areas of ministry beyond the pulpit.
The higher education of Dr. Jones includes: Spelman College (Bachelor of Arts), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Master of Arts in Educational Ministries) and Doctor of Philosophy degree from the same institution, where she made history as the first African American female to earn the PhD in the history of that institution.
Dr. Jones has lived in the area of Charlotte, NC since 2001 and she is actively involved in the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church (Dr. Clifford A. Jones, Sr., pastor) as associate minister, teacher, orchestra member (violin), International Children’s Outreach Ministry, and the Genesis Board. She is also involved in numerous professional organizations as well as board member for Rockbridge Theological Seminary and the world renowned global missions organization, SIM, USA since 2003. Although Cassandra has no children of her own, she is lovingly supporting her God-given South African daughter, Sanelisiwe Kumba.
Jason Williams, Director of Youth Programming
Jason is a co-founder and residential member of the Hyaets Community, an intentional community and faith-based nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire, enrich and embody community by building bridges across socioeconomic and cultural spaces. Since moving to Charlotte in 2005 to found Hyaets, he has worked as a music educator with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and as a youth minister. Currently, Jason also serves as pastor, co-director and coordinator and occasional editor for Conspire Magazine.
Jason did his undergraduate work in Music Education and Music Performance at West Virginia University and his Master of Divinity work at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA. He is passionate about young people, economic, class and food justice, liberative technologies, building community across differences, leadership development through community, and being a dad. Reading, gardening, teaching, and football are a few of Jason’s hobbies.
Jason is married to Joanie and together they have one adopted son, Kevin (17) and two daughters, Joy Kate (3) and Nora (1).
Anne VanNewkirk, Project Director, Soul to Soul
Anne VanNewkirk is an interpersonal skills consultant and sole proprietor of VanNewkirk & Associates, which specializes in diversity training and facilitation.
Over the past 14 years Anne has worked with Mecklenburg Ministries in various capacities including facilitator, volunteer, board member, and consultant, most recently as a contract project director of “Souls of White Folks” and the new “Soul to Soul” project.
Anne holds a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College and a master’s degree from Wake Forest University. She has lived in Charlotte for 25 years and is a member of Charlotte Friends Meeting.