Staff

Headshot of Matt Cherry

Matt Cherry (he/him) | Director of Philanthropy

During three decades building movements for social change, Matt Cherry learned the power of philanthropy to multiply the impact of all the talent, passion, and hard work within civil society.

Matt spent 13 years as an executive director in the humanist movement and served three terms as president of the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. In 2013, Matt moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to become executive director of Death Penalty Focus. There, he raised more than $7 million for a ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty in California.

While working at the UN to protect the fundamental right to communicate, Matt’s twin daughters were diagnosed with Autism. His work for Ability Central helps provide the practical support that many people, including his daughters, need to realize their right to express themselves.

Matt has spoken at hundreds of meetings; interviewed extensively for print, radio, and TV; and his writings have appeared all over the world, including in The Guardian, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post. He is the co-author of four books, including an Amazon bestseller.

Headshot of Jessie Galloway

Jessie Galloway (she/her) | Associate Program Officer

Jessie Galloway is a published poet and educator with over 15 years of nonprofit development and program management experience. As a person with disabilities that has a sister with disabilities, she is passionate about working in philanthropy to direct funds supporting communication access for the community. Jessie believes that self-expression is vital. She believes her life’s work is to ensure more people have the opportunity to express themselves.

She facilitates creative writing classes with elders to tell their own stories through Litquake Foundation and writes grants and fosters community partnerships to ensure more multi-marginalized LGBTQ+ writers are uplifted as Development Director of the award-winning LGBTQ+ literary press, Foglifter.

She holds a B.S. in Psychology, an M.A. in English, and an M.F.A. in Writing. She came to Ability Central in 2017, following her work as a Research Grants Administrator for the Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley and as a Communications Project Manager working on video ethnographies with end-of-life patients at Kaiser Permanente. She currently serves as the Associate Program Officer for Ability Central Philanthropy where she manages the grantmaking activities including reviewing grant applications, fostering and maintaining relationships with grantees, and evaluating grant projects for impact. Also, on behalf of Ability Central, she co-hosts the Exponent Philanthropy Disability Funders Peer Circle with Ryan Easterly of the WITH Foundation.

Headshot of Grant Barringer

Grant Barringer (he/him) | Communications Manager

Grant Barringer is the Communications Manager for Ability Central. He leads brand development and general communications for the organization, providing direction and support in key areas including marketing, public outreach, design, and accessibility standards throughout Ability Central’s various initiatives.

Most recently serving as the Creative Manager for the Bar Association of San Francisco and the Justice and Diversity Center, Grant has a history of dedicated work with nonprofit organizations, working locally and nationally in a variety of fields. He is passionate about empathy and equity, aiming to ensure every individual has the right to be seen, heard, and above all, valued.

Grant is excited to be working with Ability Central, bringing visibility and voice to historically underrepresented communities.

Headshot of Alyah Thomas

Alyah Thomas (she/her) | Philanthropy Program Associate

Alyah Thomas joined the Ability Central team as the Philanthropy Program Associate and is the “Jackie of all trades”, connecting various facets of the organization. Her responsibilities include reviewing grant applications, developing and maintaining relationships with grantees, evaluating grant projects for impact, supporting fund development for the organization, outreach, content creation, and more.

Since 2010, Alyah has developed a professional philosophy centering equitable access as a human right and using her privilege to uplift the perspectives of under-represented communities. With a background in Deaf Studies, American Sign Language, and working for nonprofit organizations including the LightHouse for the Blind of San Francisco, Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind, Senior and Disability Action, and the San Jose Sharks Foundation, Alyah is eager to contribute to the mission of Ability Central.