Meet Our Board of Directors
Founder, Executive Director
Bessie L. Johnson-Elmore is a born motivator. For over 25 years working in the field of self-help as a support group facilitator /counselor in domestic violence and advocating for those incarcerated and their families.Bessie is the Founder and CEO of Turning Corners Alliance a program designed for, Ex-Offenders, Victims of Domestic Violence and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. In March 2013 Bessie started Straight Talk Support Group a support group designed for family members who have a loved one in jail or prison and working with the men and women returning from prison. Staying true to her calling, service is truly the goal, the only goal. Working with several non-profits in Durham, Wake, Orange, and Chatham and Rowan County has offered the opportunity to spread her wings. Bessie’s has volunteered at the ACLU office in Durham , Durham County jail, Prisons including Butner Federal Prison and Troy House Federal transitional House in Durham.For more information please visit her profile on LinkedIn.
email Cheryl 919-599-3370
Cheryl A. McDonald is an Administrative Professional with over 20 years of experience working in private corporations and local government. She has been a facilitator with Turning Corners Alliance since 2002. Cheryl firmly believes that families should be educated with as much information available to them in order to help themselves and their loved ones who are incarcerated.
Susan Simone “Simone”
Simone is a writer, photographer, and oral historian. She began prison work as a volunteer for the Paul Green Foundation, coordinating the North Carolina Writers’ Network Prison Pen Pal project, matching professional writers with incarcerated writers. That work gave her the opportunity to teach writing classes in the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women, often working side by side with poet Jaki Shelton-Green. In 2008, Simone began leading a workshop at the Orange Correctional Center in Hillsborough, N.C. – an open-ended learning exchange on topics from re-entry and finances to poetry, jazz, films, and fine art. In 2013, William Elmore began attending the workshop and introduced Simone to his mother, Bessie Elmore, who was just forming the Straight Talk Support Group. After getting to know Bessie and learning about her work, Simone joined the Straight Talk team.
William sincerely believes that self-acceptance begins with genuineness and unconditional remorse. His story of truth, challenges and consequences transcends 24 years of controlled time and restricted space. During that time, with the support of his mother and sister, William took advantage of every opportunity to expand his intellect and life skills. He enrolled in classes to complete his GED, to learn about domestic violence, anger management, and parenting skills. He earned Honor Grade status, and moved to a minimum custody facility where he participated in outreach for troubled youth and shared his life experiences as a speaker in prison and in the outside community. On December 21, 2015, at age 45, William Elmore was released from Orange Correctional Center in Hillsborough, North Carolina. With a clean bill of health and he was paroled, and returned to his loved ones and to a new society as a rejuvenated entity.
Zelda Everson, author and entrepreneur, traveled to North Carolina from New Jersey to fulfill the next journey in her life. Her professional experience is in the public sector and telecommunications. She brings twenty-three years of experience in board responsibilities, organizing operations and program development as co-founder and executive director of a non-profit organization focusing on at-risk youth and female empowerment. Her motivation in leadership is driven by a John Quincy Adam’s quote “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Zelda’s keen awareness of the criminal justice system, social services and civic studies is resourceful in the advancement of Straight Talk Support Group and Resource Center.