Meet The Team


Deric Kimler, Executive Director

Deric comes to Central Illinois FRIENDS with a degree from Drake University and a passion for helping people. He is a dedicated and hard working individual ready to take this organization to the next level in supporting those living with and affected by HIV. If he isn't at the office, you'll usually find him running around one of the many community theater's in Central Illinois, coaching baseball, in a Peoria area board meeting somewhere or in his hometown of Williamsfield, IL spending time with his family.

Chris Wade

Chris Wade, Director of Prevention Services

I do the work that I do as a passion; not only to ensure that the voice PLWHA’s does not get lost, but to educate my community about the history of HIV/AIDS in America, particularly in communities of color. History dictates the struggles and ultimate sacrifices of the PLWHA's who died so that those of us today have the quality of care and treatment that exists.


Kacinda Helfers, Accounting/Testing Counselor

Kacinda graduated from Methodist college in 2017 with her Bachelors in Health Sciences. She continues to expand her abilities and skills in the community by reaching out to people who need assistance with their healthcare needs and linking them to care. Kacinda is not only an active healthcare team member, but also an active Mother. She has two children that are involved in sports. She spends her extra time running them around and loves to be outdoors.


Mark Lasswell, Outreach & Testing Counselor

Mark Lasswell, of East Peoria, spent most of his career working and volunteering in the non-profit sector. His interests and causes are varied from serving on multiple local city commissions, serving almost 2 decades as a library board trustee, former board member of Illinois Very Special Arts and many other non-profit boards, HIV testing and outreach, and the serving on the Equality Illinois Statewide Advisory Group.


Darryl Pegus, Testing Counselor


Terrance Bailey, Testing Counselor


Renea Gatson 8-26-16

Outreach, Testing Counselor & Translator

Jimena Lopez is a Spanish interpreter by trade, but reproductive freedom has become her passion and the catalyst that lead to her activism. She is the current president of the Peoria ACLU, an active member of Change Peoria and she is a founding member of Peorians for Reproductive Health Care, and a patient advocate for Whole Women’s Health. She is a strong supporter of community education and a believer that an informed constituency is essential to a healthy democracy.

Renea Gatson, Testing Counselor

Renea is the Administrative Assistant at the Hult Center for Healthy Living and a graduate of Illinois Central College with an AAS Degree in Human Services. I enjoy being around and meeting new people, and have a passion for helping others. I love to travel and spend time with family and friends.


Deborah Helregal, Testing Counselor

Deb, an eight-time award winner for best Illinois HIV Education Team, was recognized in 2016 by IDPH for 20 years of outstanding service to the Ryan White Part B HIV Education Program.

Her educational presentations on HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and STIs weaved together facts and awareness while trying to abate stigmatism. She also wrote many entertaining plays infusing them with education and awareness.



Michael Edwards, Testing Counselor

A charismatic, fun loving guy who wants to help make a difference. Former Mr. Central Illinois Bear 2016 who is active in the community. Sits on the board of the River city Bears. Loves some Karaoke.


Becca Mathis, Testing Counselor


For profile

Amanda Marcanio, Testing Counselor

Amanda comes to Central Illinois from Florida. She has a degree in Health Promotion from the University of West Florida. As a Certified Health Education Specialist, Amanda has a passion for reproductive health. She joined Central Illinois FRIENDS to further her knowledge and experience when it comes to HIV. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, practicing yoga, cooking and spending time with her dog.


Jason Thomas, Testing Counselor



Shane Jones, Transportation

Shane Jones is a delivery driver for Monicals Pizza. He spends his free time singing, playing guitar, and performing in the Peoria community theatre scene. He is so happy to be a part of such a wonderful organization and to be working for such a wonderful cause.

Bert Schultz, Transportation

Michael Minton, Board Chair

Michael Minton, Board Chair

Mike has worked with LGBT focused groups in the community and came to FRIENDS in 2015 to lend his voice to those that can’t speak or those that are afraid to speak out. Stigma related to HIV is still prevalent in our society and those living with the illness are still treated like Rose, from The Golden Girls in the 80’s. This is a time to be a friend to those that need one and to remember that HIV isn’t a “gay thing” it is a “people thing”.


Kathleen Griffith, Board Vice Chair

Kat Griffith has her Masters in Social Work and works with women with addictions. Kat has served on several committees, including the Positive Women’s Network as a Steering Committee member, and now is a Board member of PWN-USA. Kat sat on the Curriculum Advisory Committee for the National Network to End Domestic Violence as a representative of PWN-USA and helped create a national curriculum on the intersection of violence and HIV in women and girls.


Micah Lavender, Board Treasurer


Jordan Borders, Board Secretary


Pam Ferguson_crop

Dr. Pamela Ferguson, Board Member

Dr. Ferguson had the honor of spending 18 years working as a bedside nurse focusing on medical-surgical patient care. After pursuing graduate education, Dr. Ferguson became a faculty member at Methodist College. This opportunity has led to multiple positions including her current interim role as Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and maintaining the Dean of Nursing position. Dr. Ferguson and Tom have 5 children and 12 grandchildren.



Dr. Elaine Hardy, Board Member

Elaine hails from the South Suburbs of Chicago; lived in Northwest Indiana, moved to an eastern borough of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is now a resident of Central Illinois. She is a doctorally prepared nurse, and is a nursing professor at a local college. She loves to mentor, motivate and encourage others to be the best they can be. She loves the natural beauty of central Illinois and is thrilled with capturing photos of the magnificent central Illinois sky.



Jonas Parker, Board Member

Jonas is a specialty pharmacist with a pharmacy doctorate from the Saint Louis College of Pharmacy.  He also has one year of residency training in specialty pharmacy in the community through the Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville College of Pharmacy.  He has been a board member with Central Illinois FRIENDS since 2015.

Bernice Gordan-Young, Board Member

2017.10.29. SwimRun.After waterfall

Jennifer Wolfe, Board Member

Because Jennifer has been active in programs and organizations that improve our community her entire life, joining FRIENDS in 2016 was a natural fit. Jennifer strives to be a positive influence and believes that one person is capable of making a difference when they are willing to try. Jennifer has been a civil litigation attorney since 1999 and can be frequently found with her family biking and running on the local trails.

Dr. Rita Ali, Board Member


Jonothan Harwood

Jonathan Harwood, Board Member

Jonathan Harwood joined the Central Illinois Friends board in July 2017 because as a health care provider, he supports and promotes its mission and goals of providing those living with HIV/AIDS the resources necessary to lead a better life.

Carole Hoke, Board Member


Anthony Gardner, Board Member