Our Team

DeWayne Barton

I’m still chasing the memories of my childhood – when community members created opportunities and showed consistent patterns of support to not only the young people, but the entire community. It was an extended family. That support came in the form of their time: always volunteering a encouraging word; their treasure: only given for report cards, odd jobs and running errands; and finally, their talent: I can recall countless days of elders sharing their skillset to all those who would listen. Growing up with a father who was very active in the Washington DC area gave me another example of helping others and the daily maintenance communities sometimes need. Since that time, I’ve always been drawn to grassroots leaders that use what they have to improve their environments. No matter where I was in the world, I sought out these leaders and I was always a UI (under instruction). It wasn’t until I moved back to Asheville that I felt forced to step up into a leadership role of helping to transform my neighborhood, initially serving as president of our community association. What started with picking up garbage led to the creation of the Peace Gardens, the co-founding of Green Opportunities and the creation of Hood Huggers International.

Safi Martin

Like DeWayne, I grew up in deep community – filled with collective work and collective fun. As I grew older, however, I noticed a dark shadow hovering around the edges of this deep community: unacknowledged and untreated trauma – both individual and collective. This launched me into a 20+ year career in the field of child & adolescent mental health where I learned that “behavior problems” are often survival skills and that trauma can affect brain development with impacts which, left untreated, can last a lifetime. As a mental health professional, I also know the power of gardens and green spaces to heal and restore, to transform a wounded spirit and bring us home to ourselves. So in 2003, DeWayne and I created the Peace Gardens – which has evolved into both a healing space for transforming trauma and a social enterprise that provides opportunities for neighbors and visitors alike. And, in 2021, I made the leap from a career in public mental health to join DeWayne in the ever-growing work of Hood Huggers International.

Angie Hines
Administrative Specialist & Hood Tours Manager

I’m a wife and mother of 4. I have spent 24 years in the medical field, advocating for adult, elderly and children’s health, as well as continuing to advocate for equal education for African American students and students with medical disabilities within the school system. Joining Hood Huggers International in 2017 gave me the opportunity to also support my brother DeWayne’s vision and help make a difference in my hometown of Asheville, NC.

Jolene Mechanic
Administrative Coordinator

My interests and ultimate education drew me down the path of Philosophy where I learned critical thinking skills and began to realize that there are many ways to solve issues and improve the quality of life for ourselves and those around us.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”  What we do, matters.  It is an honor and a privilege to work for an organization that understands this and strives daily using a variety of methods to bring communities together, by working conjointly, learning from and teaching each other

Daniel Suber
Hood Tours Guide

Daniel Suber is a tour guide with Hood Huggers International. Daniel is someone who has gone through amazing experiences that led to him meeting many people here in Asheville that have shown him how important community is. He grew up in the city and graduated from UNC Asheville with a degree in Sociology. He wants to connect communities with support and resources in a way that can help to better our city as a whole. Daniel values how people smile when they are a part of positive change and when they feel that they are appreciated. And so he wants every little kid to have the things that they need to be great as they learn who they want to be. All the while, Daniel may be found gazing into the deepness of the stars and pondering the dreams of this planet with both joy and sadness in his heart.

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