Family Center on Deafness (FCD) provides a wide variety of programs for families throughout Pinellas County. Participants come from households that include at least one individual who has significant hearing loss. Services are consumer-driven, and determined by the current needs of the clients. An advisory Council composed of community members of all hearing levels determines its service and program priorities. The families themselves also take an active role in planning and hosting group activities. FCD has a formal, written collaboration with Pinellas County School Board and a number of other community / educational service providers.
What We Believe
1. Hearing loss should be viewed from a cultural rather than a medical perspective.
2. D/HH* individuals are equal to their hearing peers and are
entitled to accommodations, as outlined in the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), which allow them to maximize their potential.
3. The unique culture of the Deaf Community should be acknowledged
and respected, while recognizing the individual’s capabilities.
4. Parents and other significant people in the homes of D/HH* children and adults benefit from:
a Accurate and unbiased information regarding educational programs and modes of communication.
a Encouragement and programs to develop literacy, good communication and family involvement.
a Interaction with successful role models and a peer support group.
5. Children in these households make developmental progress when provided with:
a Activities that foster the development of appropriate social, emotional, literacy and language skills.
a Interaction with peers and positive role models.
a Opportunities to build a personal sense of identity and self esteem while exploring how they fit into society at large.
Board of Directors
Noel Cherasaro, President
Anthony Verdeja, Vice Presedent
Valerie Strickland, Secretary/Treasurer
The FCD staff is uniquely qualified in the field of deafness, with
an expertise in the social, psychological, developmental and educational
impact of hearing loss. Their knowledge of Deaf Culture, American Sign
Language make it possible to assist the needs of the community. The
staff at FCD constantly strive to insure that participants are made
aware of and are able to access potential resources in the community.
Julie Church, Executive Director
20 years experience working in the Deaf community. She was
most recently Executive Director of the Deaf and Hearing Connection for
Tampa Bay. Before that, she was the Development Director at Friends of
the Deaf Service Center. In addition, Julie is the parent of a
23-year-old son, who is culturally Deaf and a recent graduate of Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. Julie served as the
Chair of the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of
Hearing and as the President and Treasurer of the Deaf Service Center
Association of Florida. She is currently the vice president of the Deaf
Service Center Association of Florida, a member of the Florida
Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and a member of
the Sign Language Interpreting Program Advisory Committee for St.
Petersburg College. She holds a bachelors degree from the
University of Florida in Public Relations and a Masters Degree from
Hodges University in Management. Julie is married and also has two
daughters, who are hearing. She lives in Dunedin.
Jennifer (Jenny) Banner, Youth and Family Support Specialist
Jenny serves as the youth and family support specialist for middle school students. She received her bachelor’s degree in Professions in Deafness, with a concentration in interpreting, from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She interned in various settings including: Helen Keller National Center in New York, Communication Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Greensboro, and Guilford County Schools. After Jenny received her EIPA certification, she interpreted for a number of students at the high school level in Greensboro for one year. She was also involved with the deaf community in North Carolina for the past five years. Jenny and her husband now live in St. Petersburg and are excited to see what new adventures Florida has to offer.
Jennifer Boggess, Lead Youth and Family Support Specialist
Born and raised in rural Indiana, Jennifer Boggess became deaf as a result of spinal meningitis at age six. The only deaf
person in her hearing family of six, Jennifer moved to Chicago in 1992
to continue her education at University of Illinois. Raised in an oral
educational environment, Ms. Boggess began signing at age 21, while
employed at the Center on Deafness in Dundee, Illinois. After working
ten years as a Team Leader and interim Supervisor at the Center Point
residential program with Deaf mentally challenged and mentally ill
adults, Jennifer moved to Florida in 2000 and has an Associate of
Science degree in Pre-Psychology and a Bachelors Degree in
Buisiness and Organizational Management
Jennifer's passion is providing a role model for deaf and hard of
hearing children in hearing families, in order to “reassure deaf kids
that they can achieve anything they want." She says, "They should
be proud of who they are, and of their culture. I feel that the children
can identify better with someone who has spent time in a situation
similar to theirs.”
At the FAMILY CENTER ON DEAFNESS,
Jennifer works with families whose children are in elementary school.
She oversees the REACH after-school program and KIDS KLUB activities for
deaf and hard of hearing children, their siblings and CODAs (children
of deaf adults). Jennifer also runs certain summer activities for these
youth at FCD, collaborating with other organizations to provide the
richest experiences possible for these youth. Jennifer lives with her
18-year-old son in Dunedin.
Cynthia Hoglind, Youth and Family Support Assistant
Cynthia (Cindy) was born Deaf and raised in an oral environment
in Ohio. She was mainstreamed throughout school and didn't learn
American Sign Language until her senior year in high school. She
attended college at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester,
NY, where she received a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in graphic
design. After graduation, she had various jobs in art and deaf
education which prepared her for her role in working with children at
Cindy is married to her college sweetheart, Jonathan, who is
also deaf, and they live in Largo. She has two children ages 23 and 20, and a son-in-law. When she is not working or being a mom,
Cindy enjoys creating art. She is FCD's resident artist and helps our
children to create wonderful arts and crafts projects as well as working
in the REACH program and with FCD's literacy program
Kathy Kemp, Office Manager
Kathy has more than twenty years of work experience in the office
of a Pinellas County elementary school. Her recognition as a
semi-finalist for the PCSB Support Service Person of the Year for
2005/2006 clearly demonstrates her outstanding professionalism, people
skills and dedication to helping others. She has mentored a number
of ESE students and built special bonds with children, parents and
staff alike. Kathy attended St. Petersburg College, studying Hospitality and
Tourism. Her interest in community service and children began in
Michigan in early 1970. She has served in a number of community
and civic organizations, school advisory councils, service clubs, and
overseen several community and school sporting teams as her sons were
growing up. As Office Manager Kathy wears many hats at FAMILY
CENTER ON DEAFNESS, overseeing volunteers, fundraising for the agency,
Human Resources, serving on Cross Bayou’s School Advisory Council, and
assisting the FCD staff with technology and office needs.
Hearing loss is nothing new to Kathy. She has faced the
challenges of being hard of hearing for many years and understands what
being hard of hearing entails. Kathy has two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a new grand baby girl. She lives in Seminole.
Gwen Sand, FTRI Program Manager
Gwen Sand has been working in the Deaf and hard of hearing community for almost 20 years. She graduated in 1996 from SPJC with an A.S. in interpreting. She has worked with deaf and hard of hearing clients in a number of roles including: case manager and office manager. For the past years, Gwen has served as supervisor of the FTRI (amplified phone program), and takes great pleasure in helping people keep the lines of communication open. Gwen is married and lives in St Petersburg. She has two grown children and a Chihuahua.
Sally Shortz, Program Support Specialist
Sally was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. She attended the Indiana
School for the Deaf. After graduating from high school, Sally moved to
Pinellas County in 1986 and attended St. Petersburg Junior College and
graduated with both Associates of Arts and Associates of Science
degrees. She worked as the finance assistant at Friends of the Deaf
Service Center from 1994-1998 then stated working as an ASL teacher and
lab assistant at St. Petersburg College. She continues at SPC as an
adjunct professor. Since 2009, Sally has been the program assistant at
FCD. Sally currently lives in Largo and her hobbies include photography,
playing Scrabble and Soduku and hanging out with friends. She also
Tammy was born in Bethesda, MD, and lived there until she was in high school, when her parents decided they wanted to live where it did not snow and they bought a house in Largo. Tammy has more than 20 years working in quality control and administrative roles. She started volunteering in the Deaf and hard of hearing community in 2008. Shortly thereafter, Tammy was offered a job working with the Florida Telecommunication Relay, Inc. (FTRI), at the local regional distribution center. She loves working with senior citizens and others who are in need of amplified telephones and equipment. In 2012, Family Center on Deafness absorbed the FTRI program, and Tammy has worked as a Distribution/Outreach specialist since that time. She is the mother of two (four, if you count her cat and dog) and lives in Largo.
Franklin Smith, Youth and Family Support Specialist
Franklin serves as the youth and family support specialist for
middle and high school youth. He was born and raised in Upperglade, WV.
Franklin is the only deaf person in his family and his deafness was
discovered when he was two. Following high school, he attended Rochester
Instutute of Technology when he received an Associates Degree in
Computer Information Management, a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts, and a
Masters Degree in Human Resources Development. As a graduate student,
Franklin worked at the Rochester School for the Deaf as a substitute
teacher. It was there that he found his passion in working with deaf and
hard of hearing children. Franklin moved to Ft. Lauderdale after
graduate school, where he worked in a variety of retail management
positions. He also worked for the Deaf Family Literacy Academy where he
served as a deaf child and family mentor in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
Franklin moved to Tampa in 2011, where he worked as an Employment
Specialist for the Deaf Service Bureau. When that agency closed its
doors in late 2012, Franklin joined the staff at FCD. He loves working
with deaf and hard of hearing teens and brings a great deal of
enthusiasm and excitement to the program.
Dawn Varner, Youth and Family Support Specialist
Dawn serves as a youth and family support specialist, working with
families who have children birth to age 5. She grew up in a small town
in West Virginia and moved to Florida in 2003. Dawn is a graduate of the
Interpreter Training Program at St. Petersburg College and most
recently worked for Pinellas County Schools as an interpreter. Dawn is
married and has four children, ages 18, 16, 14 and 10. She is expecting her fifth child in September. Dawn lives with her family in Largo.