Staff Bios

Julie L. Doochin

In August 2019, Dr. Julie Doochin joined Dismas, Inc. as Vice President of Programs. She brings to the position an extensive background in non-profit leadership, program development and management, strategic planning and educational leadership, as well as more than eight years of experience working with incarcerated individuals and returning citizens.

Most recently, Dr. Doochin served as Foundation Director for American Paper & Twine Co., where she worked to deepen and expand the corporation’s social impact in the community. Prior to that, Dr. Doochin founded and served as Executive Director for the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI), a non-profit organization whose mission is, in part, to provide on-site, degree-granting college programs to incarcerated individuals in correctional facilities in Tennessee and to prepare these individuals for successful re-entry. During Dr. Doochin’s tenure as Executive Director, THEI, working in partnership with the TDOC and local community colleges, served more than 600 incarcerated men at three SACS-accredited “prison” campuses in two regions of the state, culminating in the first graduation of 23 men behind bars in Tennessee since the 1980s. THEI’s recidivism rate is less than 10% and to date, 52 students have earned A.S. degrees while incarcerated and 7 students have earned Associate’s or Bachelor’s degrees after returning home.

A Nashville native, Dr. Doochin earned a BA in History and Psychology (’94) from Vanderbilt University, a M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Vanderbilt Peabody College (’97), and a MA in European History (’03) from the University of Pennsylvania. In Dec. 2013, Dr. Doochin earned her Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Learning Organizations and Strategic Change from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN. Previously, Dr. Doochin taught high school history and psychology for nine years and served as Director of Education for the Tennessee Holocaust Commission before entering the corporate world as the Director of Marketing for American Paper & Twine Co.

Kleopatra Gaiter

Kleopatra Gaiter currently serves as the Admissions Manager at Dismas, Inc. She brings to the position 7 years experience working with underserved and at risk populations.

Born in Knoxville, TN, Kleopatra is a true Tennessean in the sense she has lived all over the state of Tennessee. She graduated with her Bachelors in Social Work from University of Tennessee, Martin. Post graduation, Kleopatra served as a Case Manager for the TN Department of Children Services. Following that role, she served as the Social Services Coordinator for The Salvation Army in Nashville, TN. During this time, Kleopatra decided she wanted to take her education further and made plans to pursue a graduate degree in social work at University of Tennessee. During the program, she collaborated with local grassroots organizations on advocacy campaigns geared towards local bills and policies that affect incarcerated individuals. She also researched and gained extensive knowledge on ACES(adverse childhood experiences) and worked to develop trauma informed care approaches for local agencies and organizations.  She graduated with her Masters in Social Work in May of 2018. 

Aside from formal positions, Kleopatra’s volunteer activities include serving in leadership positions for local programs aimed at supporting and mentoring minority youth including Nashville’s Daughters and Bullapalooza, a local music festival with proceeds going to youth aging out of foster care. Kleopatra also serves a doula, with a focus on providing services to low income and women of color.

Aside from her role at Dismas Inc, Kleopatra’s other most important job is being the best Auntie to her niece and nephew, Lacey and Lyndon. She enjoys spending time with them, traveling, reading, and baking.

Phillip Hill

Phillip joined Dismas House in April 2020 as Vice President of Operations.  He brings to the role a rich and varied background in operations management, project management, staff development, customer service, and interior design.

Originally from Athens, Tennessee, Phillip has called Nashville home since 1991.  He and his husband enjoy traveling the globe, caring for a multitude of dogs and Crossfit.

Throughout his personal and professional life, Phillip has aimed to be of service to others and lead by that example. He has seen the benefits of such programs as Dismas House through Project Return, Catholic Charities job training programs and Thistle Farms.

Dwanna Hughes

After living in Nashville for more than 30 years, Dwanna considers herself a Nashville native. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dwanna received a full ride track scholarship to the University of Northern Iowa. After braving the extreme winters in Iowa for two years, she was offered the opportunity to move to Nashville to attend Tennessee State University, where she was able to pursue her passion for music, singing. Her years at Tennessee State University allowed her to transition into the music business where she flourished for more than 20 years traveling with her band.

Upon having her first child in 2001, she decided it was time to change her life of the road and focus on her family. Not wanting to get a ‘job’, she decided to spend her time volunteering with Meals on Wheels, Second Harvest Food Bank, and the Middle Tennessee Council Boy Scouts of America. After volunteering with the Boy Scouts for a year and then working as a Program Aid in the organization, she was offered a position as a District Executive where she excelled for 5 years in the Nashboro District. Her experience at the Boy Scouts allowed her to forge timeless relationships with district and council volunteers and create valuable relationships in Nashville.

Dwanna is married to Theo Hughes and has two teenagers, Namiah (Hillsboro High School) and Justin (Lipscomb Academy). She enjoys walking, bike riding, playing golf, tennis, traveling, and reading. Dwanna is also a Holistic Chef, focusing on healing through food and a Notary Public

Celeste LaReau

Celeste joined Dismas House in July 2020 after 2 months of volunteering part time for the organization.  She found a heart for the mission after getting to know the staff and residents and decided to put her nonprofit experience to use by supporting the work of Dismas House as their Volunteer Coordinator.

Because she is most impassioned by meaningful work, Celeste founded the Tennessee Christian Chamber of Commerce in Nashville, TN in 2007 with entrepreneurial spirit.   One of her strengths as President was her ability to convey the vision of the TNCCC and harness the enthusiasm of committed volunteers.  Volunteerism was integral to the organization’s success which is still in operations today.

Celeste was the first Director of Marketing and Business Development for The Fairgrounds Nashville (formerly, the Tennessee State Fairgrounds) and their signature event, the Nashville Flea Market. 

She also assisted in formation and compliance for nonprofit organizations and spearheaded, an online education portal for new NPO’s.

Celeste led a hugely successful fundraising campaign as the Campaign Manager for a National Scripts Howard venture raising nearly $1 million for K-12 schools through a televised, community wide, volunteer effort in the Greater Cincinnati Area.

Celeste graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelors of Business Administration.  She is an active volunteer with Fifty Forward and the YWCA.  In her off time, Celeste enjoys cooking, refinishing furniture, yoga, kayaking and hiking.  She and her son, Nicolas have resided in Nashville, TN since 2001.

Brad Clark

Brad Clark is a Case Manager at Dismas House, joining the team in July 2020. As a Nashville native, he is thrilled to be returning to his hometown after five years of community-based social work in Washington, D.C. A passionate advocate, he has progressive experience navigating community resources and safety-net programs since receiving his Bachelor's in Social Work in 2014 from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. Prior to joining Dismas, he held case management and program coordinator roles in housing placement, substance use treatment, and assuring older adults can age in place.

Overall, Brad has a deep commitment to social justice. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife Breana Clark and their dachshund, Kira, and loves cooking, woodworking, and graphic design.

Gary Schwegmann

In April 2020, Gary joined Dismas as Facilities Manager.  He brings to this position a lifetime of management experience, and he is currently working to complete his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in IT technology.

Gary is married to Andrea and they have 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls, and three grandchildren.   Gary is originally from Southern Illinois and is a former resident of Dismas House.  Aside from being an avid family man, Gary has served as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.  He is passionate about flying, he also loves cooking and hiking.

Lolita Toney

Smart, authentic and fun – these three words are defining qualities of LoLita Toney, a local business and community leader driven by her passion for working with people and organizations on achieving their maximum potential. LoLita is a recognized philanthropy strategy expert in both the nonprofit and educational spaces. She develops and implements strategies to amplify her clients’ development efforts.

A native Nashvillian, LoLita was raised by strong women who taught her the importance of working hard and embodying a servant’s heart. Throughout her life, she has lived by these standards and continuously fought for others.

LoLita was a 17-year member of the Army Reserve and National Guard, serving on active duty with the U.S. Army in Frankfurt, Germany, and in the Gulf War.

With every opportunity, LoLita challenges the status quo by lifting the voices of other women and opening doors to empower a range of perspectives. She’s an advocate for equal opportunity and diversity in all their forms.

LoLita’s work in the Nashville nonprofit community reflects the dedicated woman that she is. She has served as past president or chair for the YWCA Junior Board (a board she co-founded), Nashville Cable, Nashville CARES, the Greater Nashville Chapter of the National Black MBA Association, Renewal House and others. She currently serves on the Academy of Country Music Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.

Numerous prominent organizations have recognized LoLita for her leadership. She is a recipient of the Nashville Business Journal’s Women in Music City Award, Power Moves Community Advocacy Award, and Nashville Cable Civic Outreach and Rising Star awards. She’s also been a nominee for both the ATHENA Award and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Davis-Galloway Award and was a finalist for the Nashville Business Journal’s Woman of Influence and Nashville Emerging Leader awards.