Our Staff

John Wingerter of Council on Aging
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Karen Wallace-Meigs, Executive Director
Ext. 1312
Team member since 2023

“Years ago, my parents moved in with me. When my mother passed away, I continued to support my father for 12 more years until his passing. By then, I had two small children. I know the privilege of caring for family but also know it’s difficult to find the resources they – and you – need. Serving at the Council on Aging of Buncombe County feels like coming home while working alongside a devoted, creative, and talented team.

A NC native, I was formerly Teacher of the Year of the Durham Public Schools before joining the Orange County Dispute Settlement Center. I have been an advancement officer at UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Asheville, and Pisgah Legal Services, and overseen public information, volunteers and grants for Orange County (NC) Schools. I was previously executive director of the Community in Schools of Orange County and Girls on the Run of Western North Carolina, and have served on dozens of local and statewide committees, including the North Carolina Council for Women.

My spouse and I are the proud parents of two amazing human daughters and three canine children. I love to listen to music, travel, play Jeopardy, and attempt to figure out mysteries.”

Rachel Miller, Director of Community Services
Ext. 1305
Team member since 2022

“As a multi-generation family caregiver, I am passionate about caregiver support and simplifying resource navigation.  I’m a Buncombe County native proudly living on the same plot of land where I was raised. I am a graduate of Western Carolina University with a BS in Communications / Public Relations.  I am part of the Buncombe Aging Services Alliance, past representative for the Buncombe County Aging Advocacy committee, member of the North Carolina Coalition on Aging, and participate on the Buncombe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day committee.”

Emily Benson, Director of Congregate Nutrition
Ext. 1316
Team member since 2021

“I started my journey of working with older adults at age 12 volunteering with the Adult Life Center in Conover, NC, and fell in love. I knew from that moment I wanted to make a difference in the lives of older adults. Working with the Council on Aging’s senior dining program does just that. Offering nutritious meals, activities, and solicitation with people in the same age group feeds people’s bodies, minds, and spirits.

I grew up in Hickory, NC then attended UNC Charlotte for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I graduated with a Master’s in Gerontology. For the last 20 years, I lived in Charlotte and the surrounding area. Previously I ran a similar program in Iredell County.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my cat, listening to podcasts, and reading. I am really looking forward to exploring my new home!”

Susan Wilson, Affordable Care Act Program Director
Ext. 1321
Team member since 2013

“I began working for COA bc during the first open enrollment period for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Marketplace. 

Needing a new challenge and burned out on domestic law, I joined the Council as one of the first Navigators helping people get insurance through the ACA Marketplace.  As challenging as the first year was with technical snafus and confusion over the new program, the relief expressed by people with preexisting conditions able to purchase health insurance made it all worthwhile.  Every year brings new challenges and changes but the gratitude of my consumers keeps me energized.

My wife and I live in a bi-species household of dogs and a cat.  We have nine (9) wonderful grandchildren who keep us entertained even if only on Zoom calls.”

Abby Landry, Medicare Program Manager
Ext. 1304
Team member since 2023

“With more than 14 years of experience under my belt, as a Wellness Director in a retirement community, I have enjoyed positively impacting the well-being of older adults. I have learned just as much from them as they have from me – they truly inspire me in many ways.

I am a proud native of Western North Carolina and a graduate of Appalachian State University. My connection to the outdoors is what keeps me going, as I frequently immerse myself in nature through activities like mountain biking, hiking, trail running, paddling, and climbing.”


Marina Kovalyova, Resource Coor.
Ext. 1315
Team member since 2022

“After spending over 17 years in aging services with non-profit and government agencies in Henderson Co., I am delighted to join the team at COAbc. I moved to Hendersonville in 1997 from the UK, where I graduated from Keele University with a joint honors BA in Social Work and Russian Studies.   

Outside of work, I like to spend time with family, friends, and my dog Bella. I practice yoga, enjoy painting, travel, cooking, and swimming. I am a native Russian speaker and a Human Rights advocate.”


Erin Spreng, Resource Coor.
Ext. 1323
Team member since 2021

Erin holds a Master of Social Work degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has a background with AmeriCorps, departments of aging, hunger initiatives, and in clinics.


Steffie Duginske, Family Caregiver Support Specialist 
Ext. 1303
Team member since 2022

“My career has focused on health and wellness through public health programs pre-K through centennial including as a health educator, health coach, and with Meals on Wheels. 

I’m a first-generation college graduate with a BS in Kinesiology from Indiana University.  I have a Health Coaching Certificate from UNC-Greensboro  and certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist through UNC-Chapel Hill/Duke.  I’m a Midwestern Indiana Hoosier at heart and have enjoyed living in the south – calling it home for over 20 years.  I like being creative, crafty, and spending time with my family.”


Vance Goodman, Benefits Enrollment Specialist
Ext. 1314
Team member since 2019

“I am a native of Asheville.  When I started at COAbc, I began as a Service Coordinator at Vanderbilt Apartments in downtown Asheville before assuming the role of Benefits Enrollment Specialist.

Prior to my time with COAbc, I pursued a Masters in Divinity and worked as an interfaith chaplain in a trauma-one pediatric hospital in Dallas, TX.  I am glad to be back in WNC, closer to family and the mountains I adore. 

 When I am not assisting lower income adults with benefits enrollment, I am on my bicycle, hiking, reading good books or writing poetry.  I have an amazing family and super friends.  I also enjoy films and engaging speaker events.”


Michael E. Sprengelmeyer, Affordable Care Act Navigator (English & Spanish)
Ext. 1324
Team member since 2022

“Before moving to the Asheville area in 2018, I spent 30 years as a newspaper reporter and publisher. That calling took me all over the world, including Washington, D.C., the battlegrounds of Afghanistan and Iraq, and even to a scrappy little newsroom in Santa Rosa, N.M. In journalism, I got an up-close view of some of the struggles people face in their everyday lives, and I wrote stories to cast light on issues society needs to face. Still, I craved a chance to help people more directly. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about my new role.

I’m a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where I majored in journalism with minor concentrations in political science and Spanish literature. In my spare time I am an avid bird-watcher, photographer, songwriter, accordion player, student of American Sign Language and artist who transforms discarded laundry soap jugs into colorful ‘plastrickery’ mosaics.”


Maggi Mendoza, Affordable Care Act Navigator (English & Spanish)
Ext. 1327
Team member since 2023

“I grew up in California, the youngest girl in a family of 5 siblings. My father was a bracero and worked in the agricultural industry. I attended 13 schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. I knew at 9 years old that I would serve people and be a helper.

I was a military spouse. As part of a special pilot program, I was afforded the opportunity to serve the public in multiple government programs across this country and abroad. I learned how to adapt to changes quickly and I fell in love with humanity. Every person I interacted with, in service, was like receiving a gift of knowledge and wisdom. I thrive on going to where the people are and providing information and resources. I also bake a mean lasagna.

In 2019, we moved to NC to take part in a transplant program at UNC. I met and connected with many diverse community groups with the same vision of helping the public. My partner passed away in Feb 2023. In May, I decided to stay here to continue my work with the communities of WNC and I joined the ACA Navigator Team at COAbc.”


Kelley Pierce, Affordable Care Act Navigator (English & Spanish)
Ext. 1317
Team member since 2022

“I love educating folks about health insurance literacy, helping people enroll in coverage on the Marketplace, and doing outreach in several WNC communities. Before changing careers in 2019, I was an adult educator for many years who frequently traveled and lived in Central and South America to learn Spanish and teach English. My undergraduate degree from UNC-Asheville is in Environmental Studies, and my master’s degree from Western Carolina University is in English specializing in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. 

Outside of work and taking care of my teen daughter and little dog. I love to read, garden, travel, and participate in outdoor sports.”

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