Our Staff

John Nehme, President & CEO
John became the first President & CEO of Allies Against Slavery in 2013 after leading the organization in a volunteer capacity for two years. Allies is an innovative nonprofit that builds slave-free cities by mobilizing communities, supporting local trafficking survivors and promoting large-scale system change. Under John's leadership, Allies launched the Slave-Free City Network, an initiative that coordinates and resources multi-disciplinary partners across eight sectors in the city of Austin. His vision also inspired the Texas Slavery Mapping Project, a groundbreaking research partnership with the University of Texas Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault and the University of Texas Bureau of Business Research. John is the Producer of American Love Story: A Community In Search Of Freedom, a forthcoming documentary from Trade In Hope about a former slave and an unlikely group of citizens who come together in an effort to create the first slave-free city in the United States. John has a degree in Human and Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University where he studied as an Ingram Scholar, and he earned his MA in Political Economy from the University of Sydney, Australia, as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. His background in cross-sector community development, including posts at the Centre For Social Justice think tank in London and the international non-profit Blood:Water Mission, deeply shapes his believe that ending slavery means addressing the interrelated, root-cause challenges affecting the marginalized and oppressed.

Elizabeth Gaines, Associate Director of Collaborative Programs
Elizabeth is a human rights professional with considerable experience in the fields of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC). Prior to joining Allies, Ms.Gaines worked for Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) in New York City for seven years. GEMS is the largest organization in the country serving girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. While there, she designed and implemented an education program to re-engage members with school, provide educational counseling and practical solutions for members and connect members with professional mentors. Ms.Gaines also worked internationally in both Hong Kong and Cambodia, examining the nexus of commercial sex, exploitation and trafficking. 

Torey McDaniel Tipton, Associate Director of Key Relationships
Torey is deeply passionate about seeking justice for all people, and leverages her experience as a professional in the social sector in pursuit of that goal. She joined the Allies Against Slavery team after learning about the immense problem human trafficking presents to society. Torey believes in the power of collaboration to influence change, the importance of innovation, and loves working on the Allies team in pursuit of the Slave-Free City vision. She brings both a breadth and depth of social sector experience and training including grant writing, board development, fundraising, policy research, policy development, public finance, and economics. Torey has a Master’s in Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Government and Public Service and Bachelor’s in Political Science from Texas A&M University. She lives in Austin with her husband, Craig, and their dog Rory. 

Board of Directors

Kyle McDaniel, CPA, Chair  
Kyle is the Managing Director of Strategic Research & Partnerships for Whitebox Advisors which manages $5 billion in multi-strategy hedge funds. He holds a Bachelor's degree in both Finance and Accounting from Texas A&M University. During his time at A&M, Kyle was a proud member of the Corp of Cadets and the Ross Volunteers program. Kyle brings over 25 years experience leading diverse teams, managing complex accounts, and risk assessment. He is proud to join the Allies board and serve the community by applying his talents and network to combat human trafficking. Kyle lives in Austin with wife of 26 years, Terra, and their dog Edie. 

Paula Wendling, CPA, Treasurer
Paula is a member of Flieller, Kruger, Skelton & Plyler, PLLC, a leading Austin CPA firm that provides sophisticated tax planning and compliance services as well as analysis and strategic planning for business matters. Paula graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, emphasis K-8 education, from The University of Northern Colorado in 1994, and she earned her Master in Professional Accounting from The University of Texas at Austin in 2002. Paula began her public accounting career with what is now Flieller, Kruger, Skelton & Plyler in 2003 and was admitted to the partnership in January 2011. While with the firm, Paula has gained extensive experience providing tax compliance and advisory services to high net worth individuals, businesses and investment entities. Her focus areas include oil and gas taxation, estate/gift/generation-skipping transfer tax planning, partnerships, and exempt organization compliance and consulting. Paula is deeply committed to serving the Austin community, and she volunteers with community organizations in several capacities.

Grace Dai, Secretary
Grace Dai has a strong technical background, graduating with a B.E. in Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech.  However, a desire to round out her technical side took her to Columbia University, where she received her M.B.A.  Her studies have led her abroad to France, where she began her career in telecommunications at Orange/France Telecom, working with teams in Europe, Africa and North America.  Upon returning to the U.S., Grace moved on from telecommunications to software and internet applications, working for companies such as Amplify (a subsidiary of News Corporation, formerly Wireless Generation), The XO Group (formerly The Knot), and most recently, Thomson Reuters.  She has a heart for survivors of trafficking and served on the board of Restore NYC from 2010 to 2013. Grace recently served as the Allies treasurer, and she previously served on the Allies Advisory Council for two years.

John Nehme, President

Strategic Advisory Board

Rebecca Powers
Rebecca Powers is well known in the Austin community for her philanthropic passion and empowering people to help others.  In 2003, Powers founded Impact Austin, a collective giving organization whose concept was simple and inspirational - bringing women and their financial resources together to make a profound impact in Central Texas. To date, Impact Austin has raised over $5 million on behalf of those in need in Central Texas. Powers speaks nationally inspiring women to connect their capacity to give with their confidence to do it well. She also serves on the National Board of the Jeremiah Program - helping young moms and their kids move from poverty to prosperity. Powers graduated from the University of Richmond in Virginia with a B.S. in Business Administration in 1976 and worked as a sales rep with IBM until 1990 when she retired to focus on her family. She and Phil have two grown children, Brad and Claire. In her spare time, Rebecca cheers wildly for her World Champion Chicago Cubs and the Green Bay Packers.

Noël Busch-Armendariz, PhD, LMSW, MPA
Dr. Busch-Armendariz has more than 19 years experience working to end violence against women and their children, and she has worked with the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking since it's founding in 2003. She is the Associate Dean for Research & Professor at the University of Texas School of Social Work. She is also the Director & Principal Investigator of the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA). Since joining UT more than 13 years ago, Dr. Busch-Armendariz has directed research for the National Institute of Justice, the Office for Victims of Crime, the Office on Violence Against Women, Office of the Attorney General of Texas, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Her areas of specialization are interpersonal violence, refugees, asylees, and victims of human trafficking, and international social work.

David Harakal
David has over 25 years experience in software pricing and business management, including 10 years of mergers and acquisitions with IBM and pricing leadership roles at other US software companies, currently working as Pricing Director with Epicor Software.  New to the Allies team, he is focused on helping develop a sustainability model and pricing strategy for a software-based screening tool created by Allies.  David holds Bachelor of Arts-Plan II Honors, Bachelor of Business Administration and Masters of Business Administration degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, is an elder in his church and a long-time volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America Capitol Area Council.  He is excited to have the opportunity to work with Allies to end human trafficking.

Shelton Green
Shelton is the Chief of Staff for a State Representative and the Founder & CEO of Good &Fair Clothing, Inc., a fair trade and organic clothing company that has brought slave free clothing alternatives to American markets since 2010. He regularly speaks about social enterprise, labor trafficking, and the economic dimensions of the global slave trade. In 2008, Shelton launched the human trafficking awareness campaign called "What's Your Response?" Through the campaign, teams distributed over 81,000 drink coasters containing the stories of freed slaves in bars and coffee shops across Texas to raise awareness and motivate action. Shelton is one of the founding members of Allies, and he served on the Allies Advisory Council for three years prior to becoming Chair of the Board.

Dr. Laurie Cook Heffron, PhD, LMSW
Laurie is one of the founding members of Allies Against Slavery and she has served on the Allies Advisory Council since 2010. Laurie is an Assistant Professor St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and she has interest and expertise in the areas of forced migration, domestic and sexual violence, and human trafficking, and her research explores the experiences of, and relationships between, violence against women and migration.  As former Associate Director for Research at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA), she has contributed to multiple research projects since 2001, including a program evaluation for services to victims of human trafficking, a statewide domestic violence prevalence study, program evaluation of Texas’ Non-Report Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Program, and a national pilot program to develop professional and organizational resiliency among child welfare workers. Laurie has both direct social work practice and research experience with a variety of immigrant communities, including refugees, survivors of human trafficking, and asylees. Currently, she provides assessments and serves as an expert witness in immigration cases of women and children seeking T visas, U visas, and asylum based on domestic violence. Laurie earned a master's and a doctoral degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and an undergraduate degree in Linguistics from Georgetown University. She has studied in Santiago, Chile, and in Quito, Ecuador, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, West Africa. above all a mother of two energetic and creative children.