Board of Directors

Leslie Boyd

Mom o’ Mike, president and CEO

Leslie spent more than 25 years as a reporter for daily newspapers in New York, New Jersey and finally in Asheville, NC, covering social justice issues, religion and nonprofits for most of that time. After the death of her younger son, Mike Danforth, on April 1, 2008, from not having access to health care, she founded Life o’ Mike to pursue the cause of getting affordable access to quality health care for all Americans.

In August 2009, Leslie left her career as a journalist to advocate full-time and to develop services that will help people who have serious illnesses or disabilities and their families.   Leslie is married and has one surviving son and four grandchildren.

  Andrew D. Atherton  

Vice president

Andrew is a shareholder in the law firm of Patla, Straus, Robinson & Moore, P.A., where his practice focuses on developing and implementing comprehensive personal estate plans, assisting clients in navigating the estate administration and probate process, advising clients on how to deal with the costs of long-term care, asset preservation, insurance coverage, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, special needs trust development and implementation, and guardianship. Before moving to North Carolina, he completed a clerkship with the Kentucky Supreme Court.   He earned his undergraduate degree in Business Economics from WesternKentucky University and law degree from the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University in 2000.  He is licensed to practice law in Kentucky and North Carolina. Aside from his position on the board of Life o’ Mike, he is a member of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina’s Professional Advisory Committee, Land of Sky Estate Planning Council, the 28th Judicial District Bar, Kentucky Bar Association, North Carolina State Bar, North Carolina Bar Association, incoming Secretary of the Elder Law Section, Estate Planning & Fiduciary Section, American Bar Association (Probate and Property Section), and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Andrew has been a regular instructor for National Business Institute and the Elder Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association on topics such as Powers of Attorney, Special Needs Trusts, Trusts, Medicaid and Ethics in the Elder Law practice.

Marvin Chambers

Marvin is a retired engineer and a past Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina (Masons).

As a high school student, Marvin was a member of ASCORE, the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality, a group of students who worked from about 1960-1965 to gain racial equality.  Today he continues his work with the Masons and holds leadership training seminars.


 The Rev. Deacon Clare Barry,

Diocese of Western North Carolina

I have had a keen interest in health care ever since I was a teenager and volunteered on Capital Hill in Washington, D.C.  There I began to recognize the magnitude of the problem which has steadily worsened over time.  Many serious medical conditions if addressed in their initial stages could save lives and help to reduce the staggering medical costs.  Emergency rooms around the country are jammed with people who lack health insurance and cannot afford a doctor visit.

As an Episcopal deacon, my faith calls me to address this problem.  While I certainly do not begin to have all the answers, I feel it is vital to consider what would Jesus do to help those without access to medical care?  If one reads the Gospels, Jesus cared for those on the margins of society: the sick, the poor, the friendless and the needy.  Surely if we follow our faith, we are called to do the same.

Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett

 Keith Jarrett

Keith is senior sports writer and columnist at the Asheville Citizen-Times, where he has worked for 25 years.

A native of McCowell County, he lives in Asheville.


  Cheryl Orengo

Cheryl Thomas Orengo graduated with a degree in social work, with an emphasis in community organization in 1975.  She spent 30 years in public health as a health educator and retired from the Buncombe County Health Center, BCHC (now the Buncombe County Department of Health) in 2007.

During her health education career Cheryl helped to found: KISS-Kids in Safety Seats a Maryland state loaner program, while working for the State Health Dept. in Maryland; she developed a number of programs at the Health Adventure in Asheville; and as a BCHC employee she was on the committee to develop Children First, she developed and coordinated the Be Smoke Free for You and Your Baby, a maternal smoking cessation program, the BCHC Volunteer Doula Program which ultimately led her to found DAMA (the Doula Association of the Mountain Area, which serves WNC) and the BCHC Childbirth Education Program.

In 2009 Cheryl and three other former DAMA presidents decided to form a professional doula business, Peaceful Beginning Doula Services.  The business group provides birth and postpartum doula support to WNC families as well as doula trainings and community forums.

Cheryl  also works part-time as a childbirth educator with Mission Hospital and is the volunteer NC State Rep. for DONA International (a professional doula organization).

Cheryl has been married to Ruben Orengo, a city school music teacher, for 35 years and has two daughters who live in Asheville. In her spare time Cheryl enjoys time with her family and friends, she works as a volunteer organizer and Cheryl enjoys gardening, walking her little beagle Lucy and cycling-especially on bike tours with Ruben and the newest cycling member of the family, her younger daughter Lauren.

Chelsea and Baxter

  Chelsea Kouns

Chelsea is a certified birth and postpartum doula. She is our program director for Start from Seed and a tireless advocate for new mothers and their infants. She lives in Asheville with her dog, Baxter (pictured)

Jim Beggs

Jim Beggs is a retired Electrical Engineer with a degree from Yale in 1966.  He and his wife, Ann, moved to Asheville a year ago in December after40 years in Las Vegas. Jim has patents in powerline communications and designed control systems and data systems for high rise buildings.


Past board members:  

Shannon with Cassie and Liam

Shannon with Cassie and Liam

Shannon Frechette – Cousin o’ Mike , medical advisor

Shannon is a former member of the Rhode Island Army National Guard, working in the Drug Demand Reduction Program with community outreach groups. She was a counselor and then director for the R.I. Aviation Career Education camp and spent several years working in administration and training.

After getting married, Shannon relocated to North Carolina as a military spouse living outside Fort Bragg, and has two children, Cassie, 7, and Liam, 3.

Shannon went back to school and graduated with honors from the Associate Degree Nursing Program at Fayetteville Technical Community College and is now a Registered Nurse back at home in Rhode Island.

Carolyn with Colin and Louise   Carolyn with Colin and Louise

Carolyn Comeau, was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and moved to Asheville 11 years ago from Boston. She worked for 17 years in public relations and marketing for numerous nonprofit organizations, including Harvard University, the Unitarian Universalist Association and Asheville’s National Public Radio station, WCQS-FM.

As a three-year breast cancer survivor, she participates yearly in the Enka High School Relay for Life and is a member of a breast cancer support group, the Young and the Breastless.

She is active as a writer and speaker and tutors at Isaac Dickson Elementary School. She and husband Craig are the proud parents of Colin, 8 and Louise, 7. Carolyn is an active volunteer at First Congregational Church in Asheville. She still serves as a volunteer for Life o’ Mike.

Bill Jamieson

Bill Jamieson is president of the Micah Institute, a Center for Peace, Prayer and Prophetic Action in Asheville and an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church. He is one of the co-founders of the Church of the Advocate, a downtown-Asheville congregation of people who are homeless.  Before coming to Asheville he served as the Archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. Before that appointment, he taught in the Butler Chair for Church Administration at the School of Theology at Claremont, California where he offered courses in church management and leadership, and in spirituality. Bill has also worked as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University, teaching graduate-level courses in public management and ethics.

Bill served in two cabinet-level appointments in Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt’s administration.  Before that, he worked in Gov. Jimmy Carter’s administration in Georgia, where he was the Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources. Bill also served in the Carter administration in Washington, D.C.

He also serves on the board of Action for Children North Carolina, and is past chair of the board; and on the board of Children First/Community In Schools in Asheville, where he is chair-elect.

His past community service has included chairing the boards of the Arizona Child and Family Development Center, and Genesis, a Phoenix-area charter school for high school students who have struggled in the traditional system. He served on the executive committee of the boards of the Arizona Children’s Action Alliance and the Morrison Institute of Public Policy. He has also chaired the Arizona Governor’s Council on Children, the Governor’s Commission on Juvenile Justice, and the Arizona Foundation for Children. He co-chaired the Arizona Children’s Campaign and Arizona’s Kids Count program, and was on the board of the National Association of Child Advocates in Washington, DC.


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Visit our new web site

It's official! We are WNC Health Advocates.
Please visit our new web site, Visit WNC Health Advocates
The new name reflects what we do -- advocate for health care for everyone and help people access and navigate our current health care system.
While we still hold onto the memory and the generous spirit of Mike Danforth, we need people to be able to see our name and understand who we are.

Help Life o’ Mike

We need your help now more than ever. Your tax-deductible donation will help us get Patient Pals and Family Friends to more people in need of peer support. Please consider a gift in honor or in memory of a loved one.
Donate here or mail your donation to Life o' Mike, PO Box 1213, Asheville, NC 28802.

Patient Pals & Family Friends

Life o' Mike has a peer support program for people with one or more serious or chronic medical issues or disabilities.

We aim to reduce isolation and fear among people who have conditions, including psychiatric illness, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, mild dementia or other cognitive disorder or disability, thereby reducing depression and complications as people learn to improve self-management of their medical conditions.

Patient Pals help alleviate feelings of isolation and frustration. They can help people develop a list of questions to ask the doctor and then accompany the person to the doctor to make sure all the questions are answered, taking notes to be sure the person understands the doctor’s answers.

Our trained volunteers also accompany their “Pals” to art exhibits, movies and walks outdoors, meet for coffee, call to check in and more.

Our Pals have experienced weight loss, improvement in diabetes, HIV, psoriasis, depression and more, just because they have someone who cares about them. Some relationships develop into longer-term friendships; other Pals move on to more independent lives.

Family Friends are there to help caregivers and other family members grow into their new role.

We need volunteers, who are asked to donate a minimum of one hour a week. Training is free and includes information on active listening, ways to help and when to know more help is needed.

And of course, we need funding.

To learn more, call Leslie Boyd at 828-243-6712 or e-mail

Life o’ Mike honors Joe Eblen

Life o' Mike presented its first Michael T. Danforth Community Service Award to Joe Eblen at a luncheon on June 8, in the Friendship Hall of First Congregational Church, 20 Oak St., Asheville.
Joe, seen here with Leslie Boyd, left, and his wife, Bobbie, has spent his life helping children and families, both as a coach and game official for more than 60 years, and as founder of Eblen Charities.

Start From Seed

Life o' Mike has a new program- Start from Seed (SFS).
SFS is a volunteer doula program aimed at providing non-medical, comprehensive support to low income, high-risk women and families of Buncombe County focusing on three areas:

1. We help new doulas with certification and training in return for their participation as a volunteer doula for SFS

2. We mentor volunteer doulas with their first few clients

3. Our volunteer doulas provide birth and postpartum doula services to low income, high risk moms, providing support and tools to empower them as a new parent.

A birth doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; a postpartum doula provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Start from Seed clients are referred to us from the Buncombe County Department of Health’s Nurse-Family Partnership Program, Western North Carolina Community Health Services, and Mission Hospital. The Program is intended and designed for growing clients’ inner strength and helping them gain empowerment to help them cope with the emotional, physical and mental challenges of childbirth, labor, and motherhood.

Our new moms and their infants have many needs. If you would like to help them get off to a good start, please visit our Start from Seed web site: Start from Seed, or call Program Director Chelsea Kouns at 804-814-9946.

Events in the community

Free birth and labor classes

Peaceful Beginning Doula Services holds free birth forums, Peaceful Birth, 6:30-8 p.m. the last Thursday of every month (except November) at Spa Materna, 640 Merrimon Ave., above The Hop, in Asheville.
All are welcome, expectant women and their partners are encouraged to attend anytime during their pregnancy. We also encourage doulas and other maternal/child professionals to attend and share in the discussions. The forums are "birth circle" style, focusing on normal birth which follows the Lamaze Six Care Practices for Healthy Birth. The forums are led by certified and experienced educators.

NAMI Family-to-Family Class

NAMI of Western Carolina holds 12-week classes for families and caregivers of individuals with a severe mental illness 6-8:30 p.m. Mondays at Charles George VA Medical Center, 1100 Tunnel Road in Asheville. The course covers major mental illnesses and self-care. Registration required. Info at 828-299-9596 or

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