Meet the Team

Board of Directors

Tom Edwards

Board Chairman

Tom has been involved personally and professionally in the addiction treatment and recovery field since 1986. For the past 24 years, he has worked for Pavillon Treatment Center in Western. NC, most specifically with professional monitoring organizations and collegiate recovery communities. Tom also served on the Board of Directors for the Recovery Communities of North Carolina (RCNC.) 

Tom’s hope for RAI is to provide a place for collaborative conversations to continue to evolve across populations and take advantage of the cross-pollination possible when bringing many dedicated and passionate individuals together who might otherwise not have the opportunity to work together, creating and implementing real solutions. Tom believes that this will ultimately contribute to the creation and promotion of stronger, healthier communities.

Chris Budnick

Chris Budnick

Board Vice Chair


Chris Budnick is the Executive Director at Healing Transitions and has been working in the addiction treatment and recovery field since 1993. 

Chris has been an Adjunct Instructor with the North Carolina State University Dpartment of Social Work since 2002.  He also serves on the Recovery Africa Board.

Chris has conducted training and presentations nationally and internationally. Some of his most rewarding work has been collaborating with Mr. William White and Mr. Boyd Pickard on the history of mutual aid recovery fellowships.

Jim Van Hecke

Jim Van Hecke

Board Member

Jim Van Hecke has worked for over 45 years in public and private sectors, for large and small for-profit and nonprofit ventures. For the past 30 years he has served in a variety of leadership positions in North Carolina’s behavioral health field, specializing in program development and leadership training for prevention, treatment and recovery support initiatives.

He is a native North Carolinian, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and has done post-graduate work in theology, law, and business. He is an Integrative Health and Wellness Coach and a North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist.

Van Hecke and his wife, Marsha, have two children and three grandchildren.

Dan Shephard

Dan Shephard


Dan Shephard, a graduate of Alfred University with a B.S. in Accounting, currently operates a Business Consulting Business.  He recently retired as the Chief Financial Officer of Legacy Group where he was responsible for overseeing all aspects of the financial operations of the group’s business activities. Dan retired as Executive Vice President of Martin Marietta Materials Inc. in September 2011, where he also had been the Chief Executive Officer of the Magnesia Specialties Division. 

Prior to joining Martin Marietta Materials, Dan was a partner in a public accounting firm in upstate New York.

Dan has served on numerous business and non-profit Boards.

Administrative Staff

Lizzy Toler

Project Manager

Lizzy is a Certified Peer Support Specialist and a proud person in recovery since 2012.  Her own journey through recovery drives her to share her experience, strength, and hope with others.  She is a passionate advocate for the rights of all people with substance use disorders. 

Lizzy grew up in Tokyo, New Jersey, and Singapore, but her family have deep roots in the Quaker communities near Greensboro, NC.  She has B.A. in Asian History from New York University and has previously worked in visual effects and television production.  Her previous working and volunteering experiences have built a strong skill set in event planning, project management, community building, and community organizing.

Lizzy and her husband are the proud parents of two wonderful children.  In her spare time she loves baking, crossword puzzles, and volunteering in the substance use community. By putting her sobriety at the forefront, Lizzy has been given the gift of a life beyond her wildest dreams and for that she is truly grateful.
Mariel DiPalma.jpg

Mariel DiPalma

Project Manager

Mariel is a staunch recovery ally, having experienced directly the heartbreak and challenges of having multiple family members suffer from Substance Use Disorders. She grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, in a politically active family, and received her BA in English, History and Mass Communications. Over her career, she worked for several national advocacy groups and two major universities before turning to freelance writing and social media work after the birth of her first child. She has been published on multiple outlets, and has graduate level training in Teaching and Education. 12 years ago, she began working for Pavillon in community relations and social media coordination. 

Mariel worked closely with Tom Edwards as the ideas behind the Recovery Alliance Initiative took shape. The more she saw of it’s work, and potential for more, she became more convinced that bringing the entirety of the recovery community together is a bigger challenge than it seemed at first.  But she realized it was crucial to making real strides in changing how we as a larger society address this serious health crisis. 

Mariel happily relocated to NC 25 years ago and has been a volunteer at the Raleigh Rally for Recovery, at her local rec club, and in tutoring at the local elementary school. She lives in Cary with her partner, two children, 4 dogs, 5 cats and a guinea pig.
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