Meet Our Team

Our staff brings a multitude of talent and passion to serve the North Raleigh Community.


Donna Pygott
Executive Director
Donna Pygott brings more than 20 years of nonprofit experience in executive leadership, fiscal management, and operational strategy. Ms. Pygott is a strengths-based leader with extensive knowledge in balancing programs with a sound and sustainable infrastructure. Her success comes from her ability to unify staff, volunteers, teams, and board members around a common goal: to make a difference in people’s lives. Prior to accepting the Executive Director position at North Raleigh Ministries, Ms. Pygott served as Vice President/CFO for Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina where she oversaw all aspects of operations as well as program development, grants and contracts, resource development. Ms. Pygott holds an accounting degree, which she applies to organization budgeting and fiscal management to ensure viable service delivery. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and two dogs, entertains friends, volunteers, and enjoys traveling.
Lesley Franciscy
Director of Programs

Lesley Franciscy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 15 years of experience in case management, family therapy, supervision and program development. She has done extensive work with individuals and families with immediate crisis needs as well as developed prevention programs for at-risk populations which have obtained measurable success outcomes. Most recently Lesley was the National Director of Treatment Services and Outcomes for The Bair Foundation Child and Family Ministries. Lesley is excited about incorporating staff, volunteer, board member, stakeholder and direct neighbor input into developing our new programming.
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Zach Palmer
Store Manager

Zach is originally from Asheville, NC but grew up in Raleigh. He started volunteering at North Raleigh Ministries in 2014 and he currently serves as the Store Manger with NRM Thrift Shoppe. Zach attends NC State University where he is pursuing a degree in Business Administration. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball and working on cars. Zach loves working with people and serving the community.
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Michael Olesen
Development Strategist

Michael Olesen is a retail manager by trade and most recently worked for Lowes Home Improvement as a department manager. He also worked in management at other large retail stores such as Home Depot and World Market where he established his abilities to develop retail operations for efficiency and profitability. After leaving his 7-year career as a store manager and committee member for Goodwill of Central Arizona, Michael moved to Raleigh to be closer to family. In addition to retail management, Michael is a regular outdoors-man who enjoys camping, mountain bike riding and other outdoor sports. Most recently, helped to open and develop the TROSA thrift store in Durham, N.C. Currently, he resides in Cary with his daughters, Margot and Maryanne.
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Kara Gravinese

Engagement & Communications Manager

Engagement & Communications Manager
Kara Gravinese is a non-profit professional who has worked in faith-based organizations focused towards effective poverty alleviation since 2008. She is passionate about transforming local and global communities through developing leaders and growing programs. Most recently Kara worked for The Sheepfold, a Christian domestic violence shelter managing intake and donor relations. She previously led ministries in the inner-city, Mexico and Haiti for Mariners Church in Orange County, California. She attends Church on Morgan with her husband and likes exploring the local Raleigh food scene, hiking and enjoying life with her dog.
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Jenny Kearney
Operations Manager

Jennifer has a diverse professional background which provides her with a variety of skills that support her role as operations manager. Her earlier experience includes software tester, small business owner, communications consultant, and website developer. In 2014, she discovered a passion for nonprofits, joining Triangle Aphasia Project Unlimited as office manager. Jenny loves blending her experience and skill set with her innate desire to create order from chaos to benefit her community.

Jenny holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from University of Mary Washington. She loves spending time with family & friends, doing anything outdoors, or reading a good book. Jenny lives in Raleigh with her husband, son, daughter, and their dogs.
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Elizabeth Ballard

 Program Assistant

Elizabeth Ballard holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in biblical counseling. She is most passionate about walking with people through difficult circumstances and pointing people to the truth and hope of Christ through the beauty of God’s creation and human creativity. She spent two years teaching English and working with an evangelical church in Italy before pursuing a master’s in counseling. Her nonprofit experience includes two years serving as a session leader and scheduling coordinator at Hope Reins, an organization that pairs rescued horses with hurting children to provide opportunities for hope and healing. She enjoys long walks, all things artsy, and being married to the love of her life!
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