Meet Our Leadership Team

Willie Russell

Willie Russell

Co-Founder

Willie Russell Jr., works in Business Development for Van Winkle Construction Company, in Atlanta, GA. He has a degree in Civil Engineering, and has worked in the Construction Management field for over 36 years overseeing construction projects for Government, Collegiate and Corporate Commercial clients. Mr. Russell sets the vision of the organization and guides its direction with appropriate programs, fundraisers and strategies.

Florine Russell

Florine Russell

Co-Founder

Florine Russell is the Executive Director and CFO, of both, Life Connection Ministries and Matthew E Russell Foundation. She has a degree in Business Administration and has worked primarily for large corporations managing finances and has 17 years of combined experience working in Construction Management, Banking, and Insurance industry. Mrs. Russell oversees finance and accounting, contracts, fundraiser planning and reviews the results. She sets the direction of the organization and determines the strategies set.

Jackie Russell

Jackie Russell

Fundraising & Marketing

Jackie Russell is a detail-oriented, hardworking marketer with a creative spirit. Jackie is the Founder of Art for a Cause, a key Fundraising Campaign for the foundation that promotes both the arts and literacy. Because of her love for the children, she organizes and manages special fun related energetic activities for the youth in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Faith Barnes

Faith Barnes

Executive Administrator

Having a Master’s Degree in Education as well as Urban Studies, Faith Barnes was passionately drawn to the mission of the Matthew E. Russell Foundation. Faith assists the organization with developing programs, gathering information and research, fundraising efforts, and leadership and team development. Her passion is to ensure all children have access to a quality education.

Board Members

Mark Fender

Mark Fender

Executive Board

Mark Fender leads the technology efforts for the foundation and each media-rich library deployed. Mark Fender holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the Barry University in Information Technology and a Master of Science degree from Kennesaw State University in Information Technology.

Meliza Fender

Meliza Fender

Executive Board

Meliza Fender is a conduit of love and hope and passionate about all children getting the best start in life. She has spent many years working in the Early Learning Education profession and continues to. Meliza currently works in Customer Relations for AdvancED, the largest community of education professionals committed to continuous improvement.

Mary Kay Kates

Mary Kay Kates

Executive Board

As a MERF Board Member, Mary Kay assists with the collection of books, supplies, and funds for the establishment of libraries in South Africa, as well as seeking and working with partners for the Foundation, and participates in annual mission trips to South Africa to set up the libraries.

Thomas Green

Thomas Green

Executive Board

Thomas Green shapes the direction of the social media aspects of Matthew E Russell Foundation. He provides assistance with social media getting the message out of what a vital work the MERF foundation does in South Africa.

Robert Harts

Robert Harts

Executive Board

Robert worked at Sasol North America for 25 years as a welder and 4 years as a process operator. Robert volunteers his talents to design, construct and assemble the various projects for the Matthew E. Russell Foundation. Robert, an active board member, spends numerous hours serving as a volunteer high school mentor and coach.

Dr. Veronica Harts

Dr. Veronica Harts

Executive Board

Dr. Veronica Harts serves as Vice-President of Innovative Learning at AdvancED (www.advanc-ed.org) in Alpharetta, Georgia, U.S.A. As a board member, Dr. Harts focuses on the library project training teachers and students in the use and function of libraries, eReaders, and computers. Veronica is passionate about increasing literacy in underdeveloped schools.

Julia Huprich

Julia Huprich

Executive Board

Julia Huprich is a training and development professional with over 10 years experience in libraries, most recently as the Director of Training and Continuing Education for the Georgia Public Library Service. She currently works as the Director of Content Strategy for Intellum, a software company headquartered in Atlanta that develops employee collaboration, performance, and learning tools for companies like Coca-Cola, Facebook, Nascar, Snapchat, and Home Depot. Julia assists the foundation with developing librarian training tools and curriculum for teachers and students.

Martin Ouellette

Martin Ouellette

Executive Board

Having known Matthew for several years and knowing his heart for the children of South Africa the foundation means a lot to our family. Martin Ouellette serves as a strong advocate for the foundation and the population it serves. He is a Business Owner and Investment Management Technology Consultant with an MBA from the University of Massachusetts and a BS in Marketing from Stonehill College.

Tracy Ouellette

Tracy Ouellette

Executive Board

Tracy is a Medical Assistant and currently works as an Administrator for PAC. Having known Matthew personally and sharing the love of reading with him, emphasizes the importance of literacy for the Children of South Africa who Matthew had such a desire for. “Being a part of this incredible organization and supporting it in many ways just feels right!” Tracy advises and assists with programs that focus on improving literacy within the community the foundation serves.