Executive Committee

Last Updated: 10/22/2020 7:27 PM

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The CARE Team Executive Team gives overall direction to iCARE. The Executive Committee members meet monthly to guide the implementation of the program goals and direct the work of the Director and Assistant Directors. 

The Executive Team is composed of the following representatives:


JOHN R. ALLER, PCC, LICDC, Executive Director of the Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery, has a bachelor of arts in Psychology and a master of education in Community Counseling from Kent State University and currently holds both Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (L.P.C.C.) and Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor III (C.C.D.C. III) credentials. He has extensive experience in diagnosis and treatment of chemical dependency and mental health issues and has experience with focus on dual-diagnosed population. He has expertise in the holistic care of clients including implementation of treatment plans, diagnosis of clinical disorders, appropriate clinical interventions, short/long-term therapy and consultation and collaboration with appropriate community resources. Mr. Aller sits on various local and state committees and was recently appointed to the Governor's Advisory Panel for Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.

Mr. Aller joined the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Stark County in January 2002 as the Director of Program Services and in May 2006, was appointed the Executive Director. On January 1, 2008, the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board combined with the Mental Health Board to form the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Stark County and Mr. Aller was appointed as the executive director to lead the new board. John brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience of the behavioral health system and a compassion for quality that will be instrumental in helping the new board meet its goals.


DEBORAH FORKAS, M.Ed., is the Executive Director of Stark County Job & Family Services (SCJFS).  Deborah has over 30 years of extensive experience and commitment to children, including previous employment as Director of Children, Youth and Families in Fairfax County, Virginia; Director of Children and Family Services for Cuyahoga County, Ohio and Deputy Executive Director for Social Services for Summit County, Ohio.  

As the Executive Director of SCJFS, she is responsible for a triple combined agency that includes Human Services, Child Support and Children Services.  The agency provides a variety of programs and services including Medicaid, Food Assistance, Child Care, Ohio Works First, establishment, enforcement, collection and disbursement of child support orders, assessment of child abuse and neglect, foster care and adoption services. Deborah is active on many committees and boards at the local level, including a board member of Stark County Family Council and Stark County Community Action Agency.

Deborah grew up in Lakewood, Ohio and graduated from Lakewood High School.  She earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toledo, and a Master’s in Education from John Carroll University.  Deborah is married to Ronald A. Perger who is also from northern Ohio.


MARIA HEEGE has over 38 years of experience in the non-profit sector. She is the President & CEO of the United Way of Greater Stark County and has been with the United Way for over 35 years. During her tenure, Maria has served as Chief Operating Officer, overseeing daily operations of the agency; Executive Vice President, overseeing the community investment division of United Way; Executive Director of the Voluntary Action Center; Director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Director of the Volunteer and Special Projects Department; and Executive Member of the Stark County CARE Team.

With a lifetime commitment to community service, Maria has been intimately involved with volunteerism, not only locally, but also nationally through the Points of Light; Volunteer the National Center and the United Way of America. She has planned and conducted volunteer and nonprofit organizational trainings on the state and national level.

Maria is also active in the community. Currently she is a Board Member of the Stark County Family Council and President of The Jackson Rotary.  She is past President of the Junior League of Canton and the Alzheimer's Association. She was inducted into the National Registry of Who's Who of Non-Profits in 1999. Maria received the Lifetime Educator Achievement Award at the 2017 Education Celebration.


JUDGE MICHAEL L. HOWARD was elected to the bench of Stark County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division (Stark County Family Court), commencing January 1, 2005. Judge Howard first served the Court from 1974 to 1979 as an Intake Officer and Law Clerk for Judge W. Don Reader. He returned to the Court in 1991 to serve as a Magistrate and in 1999 he was appointed Chief Magistrate.

Judge Howard is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and The University of Akron School of Law. He was a Certified Public Accountant and Senior Tax Manager at the international public accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche in Seattle, Washington. While living in Seattle, Judge Howard was a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for abused and neglected children. In 2007, Judge Howard was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to the Board of Character and Fitness, which oversees admission to the practice of law in Ohio. Judge Howard is a Trustee Emeritus of the Canton Museum of Art, secretary of the Stark Education Partnership, and chair of the Stark County Traumatized Child Task Force. He serves on the Board and Executive Committee of United Way of Greater Stark County and chairs the Leadership Committee. The Judge serves on the Advisory Board of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. 

Judge Howard and Dr. Robin Tener are the co-authors of “Children Who Have Been Traumatized: One Court’s Response” which appeared in the Fall 2008 special edition of the Juvenile & Family Court Journal

The Judge is also a co-author of “Complex Trauma and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents Placed in Foster Care: Findings from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network” which appeared in the 2011 special issue of the Child Welfare Journal, and “Trauma Exposure, Psychiatric Disorders, and Resiliency in Juvenile-Justice-Involved Youth” which appeared in the July 2013 issue of Psychological Trauma: Theory Research, Practice and Policy.

The Judge is a member of the North Canton Alumni Association and Faith United Methodist Church. He and his wife Debra have been married for 35 years and are the parents of two adult daughters.


DAN GICHEVSKI is the Executive Director of Stark County Family Council. Dan became the Executive Director in October 2017. The vision of Stark County Family Council is that, “All children and families thrive and succeed with healthy communities.” Dan has the responsibility to serve the Board of Trustees and oversee the planning, direction and implementation of all Family Council programs and policies. Dan is tasked with providing leadership and guidance to the work of Stark County Family Council. The Stark County Family Council is a leader in community planning, working to promote a system of care that protects and enhances the well-being of children and families by building community capacity, coordinating systems and services, and engaging and empowering families.

Dan earned a Masters of Arts in Non-Profit Administration from John Carroll University. He completed his undergraduate studies, also at John Carroll University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a Criminology Concentration. Dan is a graduate of the Spotlight Stark County program.

Dan has worked in the non-profit field since 2005, where he began his career as a program manager for men returning to their community from prison. In 2008, he began employment with Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority as the Section 8 Supervisor. As he continued in subsidized housing, Dan was appointed as the Executive Director of Harrison Metropolitan Housing Authority in 2012.

Dan is committed to many state and local committees that work towards providing opportunities to youth and their families and help to build a stronger, healthier community.


JIM NICODEMO is an Assistant Superintendent of the Stark County Educational Service Center.  He attended Glenwood High School in Canton, Ohio, and graduated in 1973.  Jim received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in 1977.  He spent most of his career in the classroom, teaching social studies to middle and high school students for 22 years.  In addition to teaching, Jim coached numerous sports and served as the GlenOak High School boys basketball coach for 12 years.  Jim made the transition from classroom teacher to building administrator in 1999 where he spent five years as the Principal of Woodridge Middle School.  In 2005, he became the Marlington High School Principal.  From 2007-2012, Jim served as the Superintendent of the Marlington Local Schools.


KIRKLAND NORRIS believes in open communication between the public, clients, customers, and community partners to achieve the betterment of health and safety within the Stark County community.  Kirkland has experience in collaboration, consultation, team building, professional development, strategic planning and implementation, and health planning.  Kirkland has over 26 years of public health experience and first started as a front line inspector working his way up through the ranks to Stark County Health Commissioner at the Stark County Health Department.  Kirkland holds an undergraduate degree in Chemistry and a Masters of Public Health through the Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine consortium – The University of Akron.


DR. TERESA PURSES currently serves as the President of the Stark Education Partnership, a non-profit organization that works in collaboration with educators, business, community and civic leaders to expand and enhance education access and opportunities cradle through career.  Previously, she has been an educator for over thirty years serving as a teacher, gifted coordinator, principal, curriculum director and superintendent as well as a state consultant to school districts. A lifelong Stark County resident, Teresa is a wife, mother and grandmother and a church and community volunteer.

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