Becky Cunningham, Board Chair
One of LifeLine, Inc.’s first volunteers, Becky Cunningham, took her experience as a rehab nurse and combined it with the passion for children that she acquired while working at Shriner’s Hospital. Becky has served in multiple capacities throughout the years, beginning as an AWANA Cubbies club Director who made sure all kids were able to participate in activities and learn about God. Becky has mentored other ladies through Bible studies, sharing her own journey as she has grown her relationship with God. She currently works as a case manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. Her daughter Kiersey, pictured with her mother, is attending college and working part-time. Her adopted son Thomas, who is a beautiful, nonverbal young adult who has autism, significant developmental delays, and other medical issues, is featured in the story Saving-Room-for-Thomas. Becky has been a volunteer at LifeLine, Inc. since 2004, Board Member since 2006, and Board Chair since 2008.
Emily Calloway, Board Vice Chair/Secretary
Before becoming a Board Member, Emily contributed to LifeLine, Inc. by coordinating and providing childcare for many LifeLine, Inc. activities. She has also provided many hours of childcare for the Mattheiss family to enable them to serve families they could not have served otherwise. In the past, she has also provided childcare in her home for children with special needs when LifeLine, Inc. families could not find a daycare willing to care for their children. Emily also coordinated LifeLine, Inc.’s Meals Program for 4 years. Many families and LifeLine, Inc. benefit from her organizational abilities and gift of hospitality. Additionally, Emily’s editing skills are reflected in much of LifeLine, Inc.’s written documentation. She homeschools both of her children and teaches co-op and Ladies Ministry classes at her church. Emily has been a Board Member since January 2009, and was elected Vice Chair/Secretary in November 2009.
Martin Pierce, Board Member
Martin L. Pierce received his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, from Tennessee Technological University in 1978. He is licensed to practice law in Tennessee and Georgia, as well as before the U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Martin works primarily in the areas of (1) Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, Elder Law, Probate, Medicaid & VA Planning, Special Needs Trusts,Conservatorships, Guardianships and Charitable Planning, (2) Business Entity Law, including Corporations, LLCs and Partnerships, Nonprofits, Tax-exempt/501(c)(3) Organizations, Contracts, Leases and Agreements, (3) Employee Benefits, Retirement Plans, Cafeteria Plans, Health Savings Accounts, COBRA and ERISA, and (4) various other Tax law matters.
Martin has practiced law in Chattanooga for many decades. He began with Stophel, Caldwell & Heggie, P.C., in 1981. He moved to Chambliss & Bahner, PLLC, in 1984 (where he became a Partner in 1987 and was the Head of the Firm’s Tax & Estates Section). In 2002, Martin joined the national law firm of Husch & Eppenberger, LLC (where he was Head of the Estate Planning and Employee Benefits practice areas for the Firm’s three offices in the State of Tennessee). On January 1, 2005, Martin opened his own practice, Pierce Law Firm, PLLC, to more personally and cost effectively serve his clients.
Martin and his wife, Debbie, live in Hixson and have one son, Drew. Their experiences with educating Drew have led them to support organizations who serve families whose children learn differently. Martin joined LifeLine’s board of Directors in 2012.
Jeff Mattheiss, Board Member
In 1994, Jeff and Lisa Mattheiss were married, full of plans for their future and children. On September 11, 1999, God brought Emily Christene Mattheiss into their family. She was born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and almost thirty other secondary diagnoses. In 2006, his daughter Caroline was born. She shares Jeff’s love of reading. Jeff served 22 years in the Army National Guard before retiring due to Emily’s medical situation. He has held multiple civilian jobs in the bulk mailing business over the years, and has worked for the Hamilton County Government for almost two decades. Jeff is the servant’s heart of LifeLine, Inc.’s Equipment Exchange program, picking up and delivering supplies to families all over metro Chattanooga. He is also involved in the Chattanooga Scale Modelers. He has been an active part of LifeLine, Inc.’s Board since he and Lisa founded the organization in 2003.
Chuck White, Board Member
Chuck has a BSBA degree in Financial Management. He moved to Hamilton County to work for US Express as a pricing and networking manager. He has been involved in accounting, analysis, and management in the trucking industry since 1998. Chuck is the Father of 3 children. He became connected to disability when his first daughter started regressing developmentally at the age of 18 months after previously developing typically. Chuck got involved with LifeLine, Inc. when he relocated to Chattanooga for work and his daughter needed educational support and resources. LifeLine,Inc. quickly became his family’s “lifeline” to his new Tennessee community. Chuck is excellent at creating needs-based family solutions and encouraging everyone to “think outside the box”. He has first-hand experience with the life changes caregivers and families must make to accommodate their loved ones with special needs. His daughter, who is now a young adult, has not regained any words, but has been able to do many things the doctors said she never would. Through involvement in his daughter’s education, medical needs, and communication system, he has developed a great passion for children with disabilities and their growth and education. Through his communication and leadership skills, he has been able to speak into other’s lives with education and hope. Chuck’s professional background and personal experience offer much to the Board of LifeLine, Inc. in the area of finance, networking, program planning, and decision making in a variety of ways. Though Chuck and his wife Joni have relocated to Wisconsin, their support continues to help LifeLine, Inc. grow to meet the needs of families living outside of metro Chattanooga. Chuck has been on the Board since 2011.
Crystal Jordan, Board Member
Crystal Jordan has several connections to the disability community. While researching her daughter’s attention issues and obtaining her ADD diagnosis, she recognized her own attention challenges and got the same diagnosis. Additionally, her daughter Aly has Spina Bifida, Dyslexia, and Visual Processing Impairments. Crystal turned to LifeLine, Inc. for assistance with her family’s educational and medical needs. She’s a hair stylist who has used her chair as an opportunity to talk with others and refer them to LifeLine, Inc. and other disability-related resources. Though her husband’s job has moved them around the country and she currently resides in Winder, Georgia, she continues to be part of our Board because she helps us work on ways to support the needs of our families as they move out of our immediate service area into areas where there is no “lifeline”. Additionally, as a native Cuban, Crystal’s husband Javier contributes to LifeLine, Inc.’s services to families whose primary language is Spanish. Crystal has been active with LifeLine, Inc. since 2004 and has served on the Board since 2008.
Rachel Payne, Board Member
Rachel Payne moved to the Chattanooga area in 2007 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She grew up in a pastor’s home and attended a Christian school. She transferred jobs and was a front desk supervisor at the Read House Hotel in Chattanooga until she met and married Randy six months later. God brought LifeLine into her life in a very creative way – through Craigslist when she offered an old wheelchair to anyone who could use it. Although she was born with spina bifida, she never really considered herself to be disabled and never wanted to be associated with anyone that was. Through Lisa and some major life-changing surgeries, she has come to accept that no disability is a mistake. God still created her and everyone with disabilites in His own Image, and He uses those disabilities to bring glory to Himself. Rachel currently stays at home with her two boys, Aiden, 10 and Logan, 8. Rachel has volunteered for LifeLine in multiple capacities, but officially became part of the board in 2014. Rachel’s husband Randy was a gifted part of LifeLine’s board as well. Randy passed away in 2017 but Randy’s life left a legacy of compassion for families affected by disability that affected hundreds of families in metro Chattanooga.
Barry Jones, Board Member
Michal Jones, Board Member
Barry and his wife Michal were married over 30 years ago. They are the parents of four adult children the youngest of whom has Aspergers. Barry takes the role of a father very seriously and is actively engaged in all of his children’s lives but significantly in his youngest sons’ development and positive educational outcomes. Barry has held a variety of positions within local churches for over 32 years. Those include Minister of Music, and Interim Minister of Music, Children’s Sunday School Teacher, Youth Minister and Youth volunteer worker. Barry has recently retired after thirty years on his job as a Firefighter/EMT and has a variety of experiences and knowledge that he brings to LifeLine’s board. Following work in the business world as an administrative assistant, Michal’s advocacy work began with her youngest son’s diagnosis of Aspergers. In addition to having an extensive network of professionals that she has served alongside, Michal has served parents through the last 12 years with Walker County Schools coupled with 11 years as Parent Mentor for Georgia’s Department of Education. Michal has completed LifeLine’s ParentLink Parent Mentor program and fills in as a workshop trainer for Lisa Mattheiss as well. She coordinates LifeLine/Walker County’s joint northwest Georgia support group as well as scheduling all of the workshop topics and speakers. Michal’s advocacy work continues for her son with Aspergers who just recently graduated from high school and is navigating the adult services system including Vocational Rehabilitation services. Barry and Michal joined LifeLine’s board in 2016.
Advocacy began for Trish Cox in 2005 after attending the kindergarten readiness meeting at her son’s preschool where she was told Caelan would not “make it” at any public school. She would decide that summer that every child deserved to succeed or fail because they were afforded the opportunity to participate in the experience rather than imposing a judgement upon them based on a projection. Through the years Caelan was diagnosed with Asperger’s, Sensory Integration Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and ADD. For the past 15 years Trish has been dedicated to educating herself as well as the educators and fellow parents she meets along this journey God set her feet to. Trish became acquainted with Lifeline in 2006 when she needed a parent mentor for support at Caelan’s first IEP meeting. Over the next two years she gained a great deal of knowledge by attending numerous STEP and Lifeline training sessions and then became a Parent Mentor for Lifeline in 2008 by completing their 40 hour ParentLink Program and the 40 hour mentoring program at Vanderbilt. In 2008 she was one of the founding parents of the Chattanooga Autism Center where she has served on the board of directors and in various other capacities. She currently sits on the Inclusive Education Action and Opportunity Team of Chattanooga 2.0 and the board of LifeLine. In addition to attending IEP meetings with parents as a mentor and providing parent support on multiple social media platforms, she still actively advocates for children with disabilities in the public school and church setting. After Caelan, Trish’s passion is education because she believes that the key to success for children with disabilities is to educate the adults in their lives. Trish joined LifeLine’s board in 2017.
Lisa Mattheiss, Executive Director
On September 11, 1999, Jeff and Lisa became the parents of a child with special needs. Emily Christene Mattheiss was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus and has now accumulated almost thirty diagnoses altogether. Twenty years and 17 surgical procedures later, Emily has multiple disabilities including mobility impairments, multiple medical diagnoses, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities. Lisa is also the parent of a typically developing thirteen year old that she homeschools. Since the beginning of their family’s journey, Lisa has been actively involved in learning all that she could and sharing all that she learned with others who found themselves to be caregivers to someone with a special need.
At various times, Lisa has served as a Parent Advisor or Council Member at TCThompson Children’s Hospital, Walter Boehm Birth Defect Center, Siskin Children’s Institute, Creative Discovery Museum, and Oakwood Christian Academy. She is a parent trainer for Project DOCC. She has served on the board of STEP, Inc. and also helped launch Chattanooga’s chapter of the Tennessee Respite Coalition. Lisa was appointed to the National Council on Disability by President George W. Bush in 2006 and served in that capacity for 4 years.
Besides community involvement, Lisa has over 20 years of experience in working with Awana Clubs, Sunday School Classes, and Academic Classes. She has served as an Awana Commander, Director, Leader, and a buddy for clubbers with special needs. She has taught Sunday School classes and Bible studies for children and adults. She has experience serving as a paraprofessional in a Christian School academic environment as well as completing several hundred hours of training since she cofounded LifeLine, Inc. in 2003. Lisa has been instrumental in the launch and/or development and growth of multiple church special needs ministries and non-profits serving those with disabilities. Lisa’s personal experience and education as well as her professional experience uniquely qualify her to provide training to parents, teachers, schools, churches and the community.
While Lisa has been involved in several different community, local, and national projects and organizations, she primarily spends her time developing this ministry to families with special needs.
Even though they have had many opportunities to impact other families, Jeff and Lisa still consider Emily, and their younger daughter Caroline, to be their greatest accomplishments.
Besides serving as the Executive Director of LifeLine, Inc. Lisa also currently holds positions as Special Needs Ministry Coordinator at Christ First Church in Ringgold, and as the Georgia Parent Fellow for Understood.org. Lisa serves on the leadership team of Chattanooga Inclusive Education coalition, and is part of the Southeast Youth Partners.
Lisa was honored for her contributions to the region in April, 2014 as a recipient of the Pay It Forward award. http://newschannel9.com/features/pay-it-forward/lisa-mattheiss—a-lifeline-to-local-families. She received the award again in July, 2017. http://newschannel9.com/features/pay-it-forward/a-bridge-for-families-of-children-with-disabilities
Joni White, Board Member
Joni White is a Registered Dental Hygienist. She was also the Children’s Ministry Director of a local church body in Missouri where she was in leadership & worked closely with that local body’s Special Needs Ministry called Through The Roof. Special emphasis was placed on creating an atmosphere where all children regardless of ability could take part in both Christian Education and Worship. She has worked with a variety of people with disabilities in dentistry, ministry, and at home. All of this was groundwork for what was coming.
In 2011 a huge transition took place for Joni and her husband Chuck. After much prayer they knew they were to move. In Fall of 2011, Chuck accepted a position at a local Chattanooga based trucking company. Their lives changed nearly overnight as Joni began her plans for transitioning from Missouri to Chattanooga. She found LifeLine’s website and spent hours with Lisa on the phone preparing for their family’s move.
As the parent of a now 21 year old daughter with Rett Syndrome, this was no small task, but Chuck and Joni also have two other children, Joseph (13) and Eliana (10), each with their own allergies and medical concerns. Joni connected with multiple LifeLine mentors when she moved to Chattanooga, and immediately plugged her family into activities and events with LifeLine.
While her family lived in Chattanooga for five years, Joni shared her extensive experiences with others through developing the resource that meant so much to her – other Mentors. She is also involved in supporting LifeLine’s Special Needs Ministry Development activities.
Chuck and Joni moved to a new job in Marshfield, WI but the White family continues to serve families and churches through service on LifeLine’s board and in their own community. Joni joined the board in 2011.
Cynthia Young, Christian Education / Special Education Consultant
Cynthia Young, M.A. Special Education. Cynthia and her husband, Dr. Bruce Young, met and received their initial degrees in Education at Covenant College. They married and began their family more than 40 years ago. They now have eight children, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law, and ten grandchildren with more on the way. They however had no idea how their seventh child would completely change their view of education. They are passionate believers in Christian education, launching their careers by helping start a Christian School for At-Risk students in Berkeley, California. When Isaiah was born with Down syndrome, Bruce and Cynthia providentially gained access to a void in Christian schools, where kids with special needs are excluded more often than not. Cynthia took her knowledge of Isaiah, and her conviction that all of her children have access to a Christian education at a Christian school, combined it with a degree in Special Education from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and became Isaiah’s Inclusion teacher. She has spent more than 15 years advocating for inclusive cultures and practices in Christian schools. Cynthia is an Adjunct Professor for Special Education at Covenant College, and supports other Christian schools with her knowledge and experience as a parent, teacher, and professor. Cynthia is also a published poet.
Jackie Leach, Website Administrator and Board Consultant
Jackie is wife to Andy and mom to two boys, Grant and Owen. Her oldest son is on the Autism Spectrum. She works full time for a software development company. Jackie became involved in LifeLine in 2011 when she began attending trainings on special education services. Most recently she participated in the Same Lake Different Boat, where she felt the Lord calling her to aid in the development of a Special Needs Ministry at her own church. She devotes her extra time to supporting LifeLine with her gifts of technology and development. Jackie contributed extensively to the development of this website.
PJ Crouch, Special Needs Ministry Staff
PJ Crouch has Cerebral Palsy, but it doesn’t define who he is. He is a college senior at Moody Bible Institute with plans to work in special needs ministry mission fields. Working with LifeLine is an important part of his life because he feels that God is leading him to work with others who have faced the same challenges he has. PJ says that “the training that God is providing me will always be with me. Matthew 5:13-16 is my favorite scripture passage. I am not always the salt and the light, but working with LifeLine has shown me what that statement truly means. It means you don’t always have to preach the gospel with your words, but you can always show it through your deeds. My life isn’t always easy, but I am enjoying showing others that no matter how hard it gets, there is always a life line to hold onto through Christ.” PJ has held internship positions in various Joni & Friends field offices as well as working short term missions at Joni & Friends Family Retreats. PJ Crouch joined the staff of Christ First Church in Ringgold, Georgia in August 2019 to begin development of a fully inclusive young adult ministry called Forward.
In August, 2014, PJ was honored by a local television station in the Pay It Forward Program for his inspirational attitude.