Our team, our town.
Our city welcomes Our Place Nashville!
Jaco Hamman, Co-Founder and Board Chairman
Jaco is Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology and Culture and the Director of the Program in Theology and Practice at Vanderbilt Divinity School. A native of South Africa, where the seeds for our Friendship Houses were planted, he completed his academic studies and clinical training at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Stellenbosch University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and at the Blanton-Peale Graduate Institute (New York City). He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Jaco has authored five books, most recently Growing Down: Theology and Human Nature in the Virtual Age (Baylor University Press, 2017), Becoming a Pastor: Forming Self and Soul for Ministry (The Pilgrim Press, 2014) and A Play-full Life: Slowing Down and Seeking Peace (The Pilgrim Press, 2011). His research interests include vitality within Christian communities, the formation and wellness of religious leaders, play studies, contemporary masculinities, and humanity’s deepening relationship with technology. His hobbies include long-distance motorcycle travel and hosting a braai.
Carolyn Naifeh, Co-Founder and Executive Director
Carolyn has nearly 15 years of experience in international broadcasting and 20 years in non-profit management. With the exception of one year at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and one in South Carolina with Best Doctors International, her home base was in Washington, DC. She worked there primarily with Voice of America, at Ford’s Theatre, and as a consultant with arts and education organizations, including the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, the NEA Foundation and the Pearson Foundation. She moved to Nashville in April 2013 to open a regional office for the Pujols Family Foundation. After two years, she and Jaco spun their passion to provide affordable housing for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities into a 501c3 non-profit organization. Carolyn grew up overseas, the daughter of a U.S. diplomat. She holds a BA in English and an MA in Latin American Studies, both from Vanderbilt University.
Kimberly Black currently serves as the Director of Provider Supports and Services for Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD). Kimberly has been providing services to vulnerable populations for over 17 years. Her experience includes working with older adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia in a nursing home setting, working with patients of all ages in various hospital settings, and most recently, Kimberly has been working to serve adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since 2007, she has worked within the DIDD provider network facilitating direct care services, and providing residential and medical case management as well as program coordination supports. Kimberly has a B.S. in Health Education with a concentration in Community and Public Health and a minor in Psychology. She is married and has 3 children, one of whom is on the Autism Spectrum.
Kevin is a partner at Dickinson Wright. He practices in the area of insurance and serves as President of the Tennessee Captive Insurance Association. He also practices music and entertainment law and represents recording artists, songwriters and record and music publishing companies in connection with music agreements. Kevin went to Princeton University and Vanderbilt Law School. He is a member of the State Bars of Tennessee, Georgia and New York. He’s served on the Boards of the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee and Catholic Charities of Tennessee and is a member of the Rotary Club of Nashville.
Thom has been General Manager of the Holiday Inn Nashville-Vanderbilt since 2003. He has been involved in myriad community organizations, from MNPS high school committees, to hospitality groups, to organizations like the Arc Davidson County and Greater Nashville, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Catholic charities, and Kiwanis. Thom’s eldest child, Sean, has Fragile X, and Thom has become a strong advocate for adults with intellectual disabilities, particularly in the arena of employment. Thom earned his BS in Hotel Management from Florida State University and his MBA from California State Long Beach.
A native of Tennessee, Sadie helped found People First of Ohio in 1998. The organization focuses on helping individuals with disabilities become self-advocates: making sure that people with disabilities have the right to do what they want in their lives, are responsible for their own choices, and have the right to live and do things in the community like other citizens. In 2013, Sadie helped an 11-year-old boy named JJ achieve his dreams by becoming the director of a musical at the Memorial Theater in Mount Vernon, Ohio. A newly released documentary made on the film shows that JJ hopes his story will let others see that they too can achieve their dreams (http://thejjproject.org).
Tom worked with Loews Hotels for 35 years, most recently as the Managing Director of Loews Vanderbilt Hotel from 1997-2013. Later that year, he began serving as interim director of the Metro Human Relations Committee, a position he held until early 2015. He has served on nearly 20 boards and action committees, including Habitat for Humanity, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, the YWCA, Conexión Americas and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as taking a leading role on Nashville for All of Us, the initiative to defeat the "English Only" bill.
Avi is a retired school teacher and administrator from Chicago. But he is one of the busiest community activists in Nashville, involved in all things educational, liberal, cross-cultural, and anything having to do with poverty, affordable housing, or human rights. Here is a partial listing of his community boards and activites: A Voice (anti-poverty coalition), Rochelle Center (serves people who are developmentally disabled), Nashville Human Rights Commission, Coalition for Education about Immigration, Clergy for Tolerance, Nashville Poverty Reduction Council, Nashville Poverty Advocacy Council, Community Relations Committee/Jewish Federation of Nashville. Community Nashville (formerly the National Council for Christians and Jews), Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Nashville for All of Us (citywide effort to welcome immigrants), Tennessee for All of Us, W.O. Smith School of Music (lessons for children from low-income families), Circle of Friends/Father of Abraham (improving Muslim-Jewish communities relations), and Tennesseans Against Genocide.
Julia is an independent contractor for VF Imagewear, after having worked for the VF Corporation over 25 years, managing complex national/international uniform programs from conception to day-to-day management. She has served in various positions with The Nashville Food Project, Magdalene House, Habitat for Humanity, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Hands On Nashville. Julia has worked in the trenches to improve MNPS services for students with special needs as a member of the Family Advisory Council for Special Education. She owns the house leased by Lipscomb University’s IDEAL Program for its post-secondary male students, so in addition to their Lipscomb support team, these young men get the added bonus of a landlord who loves the disability community.