Meet the Staff

Greg Puckett
Executive Director

A native southern West Virginian with a passion for prevention, Greg Puckett has worked tirelessly to bring special projects and initiatives to the area in the hopes of preventing the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs amongst youth. In 2001, he began serving as Director for the Mercer County Drug Free Community Support Program, a special initiative of CommunityConnections Inc. Together with community partners from the local community anti-drug coalition, he has been successful in reaching across county and state lines to help guide the prevention process. He led the charge to support funding for Teen Courts throughout West Virginia and has advocated for the establishment of Local Coordinating Councils in every county.

As Executive Director of Community Connections, he advocates for strong public policy and leads others to combat the opioid epidemic and community revitalization/stabilization efforts. He currently serves on several state committees including the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Corrections: Juvenile Justice Subcommittee, the WV Tobacco and Cessation TaskForce, the WV Volunteerism Board, and serves on the Board of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), where he is a past recipient of CADCA’s National Advocate of the Year award. In 2010, Puckett also assisted CADCA in securing funds to host the first-ever, statewide National Youth Leadership Initiative.

In his role as County Commissioner in Mercer County, Greg has encouraged reinvestment wit hits local community mental health system and diversifying funding to combat the Hepatitis B/C and HIV problems due largely to the health emergency left by the drug problems in the area. Since being elected in 2014, the Commission has invested millions of dollars into its local infrastructure, parks and recreation department, and courthouse improvement strategies. They have reinvested funding to its local community mental health system and under Puckett’s leadership, the Commission also placed a heavy emphasis on the county’s litter problem and has been awarded over $1.5M by the WV Department of Environmental Protection for its community based, award winning “Keep Mercer Clean” and incredibly successful dilapidated structures initiative.

In addition, he currently serves on the Board of the National Association of Counties (NACO) Board of Directors and is Chair of the National Rural Action Caucus. He has served as one of only ten county officials on the National Opioid Taskforce, and is on their policy team as Vice Chair of the Healthy Counties initiative, Juvenile Justice and Arts and Culture Subcommittee, the Arts and Culture Subcommittee, and is Chair of the Mental Health Subcommittee. He is a long-time advocate for effective policy change at the local, state and federal level. He works in close partnership with Federal Legislators and other national organizations such as SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) to carry out a host of national initiatives and pilot programs, and is a long-time advocate for effective policy change at the local, state and federal level. In 2020, he was awarded the Louis Gorin Award for Outstanding Leadership in Health Education from the National Rural Health Association and currently serves on the Rural Justice Collaborative, a partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

For the past decade, he has traveled throughout the United States to train communities on community sustainability and locally has worked with funders from the Benedum Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and others to revitalize his hometown of Princeton, West Virginia. Through the “Princeton Renaissance Project” the group has been actively using culturally effective change strategies to leverage over $1.3M in community donations to revitalize its local downtown theater. The project is also a community engine to reduce substance abuse, reinvigorate hope in its young people, and engage the future, while embracing its past.

He is the father of two children, Lauren and Joseph, who keep him dedicated to making positive changes and leaving a legacy for the next generation to follow.

Candace Harless
DFC Program Coordinator / Clinical Director

Candace Harless works as the Drug Free Communities Program Coordinator to establish collaboration between community sectors and reduce substance use in Mercer County, in addition Candace is also the Chairperson for the Mercer County Coalition for Healthy Communities and Camp Mariposa Clinical Director for Community Connections Inc. Candace Harless acquired a Bachelor of Social Work from Concord University.

Native to Southern West Virginia, Candace has spent the past five years working with at-risk youth and substance use prevention on a micro, meso, and macro level throughout rural communities. Her goal is to support and empower youth, provide resources, and create a strong, healthy living environment. Candace has a passion for mental and physical health. In her free time, she enjoys attending community events and exploring the outdoors with her two dogs.

Michelle Sparks
IdentoGO Technician

Michelle Sparks serves as the fingerprint Technician through Identogo. As a channeling agent through the FBI and State Police she provides reliable and quality service in a timely fashion. Born in Wyoming County, she is a proud resident of southern West Virginia and enjoys the outdoors by camping, hiking, 4 – wheeling, and researching local history. As a member and registrar of the Matthew French Chapter of the DAR, she enjoys helping preserve local history, genealogy, and serving the community.

Michelle enjoys working with the 200+ monthly applicants she serves through Identogo

Rhonda Helmondollar
Project Director

Rhonda Helmondollar is a program director at Community Connections, Inc. After working full time at Community Connections since 2006, Rhonda “retired” from her HR, Financial, and Office Management
position to serve part time as the Blessing Box Project Coordinator.

In her role, Rhonda works as the leading contact to install and maintain the area blessing boxes. As well as making sure they
are filled to help the needs of the community. She has also served in various other positions – including HR, Financial, and Office Manager,
educator of the proven-effective All-Stars Curriculum in Mercer County middle school classrooms, and 10+ years involvement with SADD
(Students Against Destructive Decisions) including serving on the West Virginia State Advisory Board.

Rhonda has a heart for people and her community and regularly seizes opportunities to serve her community – including supporting
her church, Cumberland Road Church of God.

Rhonda is married to Terry Helmondollar, and lives in Montcalm, West Virginia. They have three adult children and three “children in loves”: Travis and Victoria, Joshua and Sarah, and Audrie and Trevor. They have one grandson, Oliver, who calls them Lolli and Pop. Rhonda and Terry enjoy traveling and spending time with their family.

Kathy Brunty
Prevention Specialist

Kathy Brunty, BA in Early Childhood Education Lee University Currently, the Partnerships for Success Coordinator serving Wyoming, McDowell and Raleigh Counties. Dedicated the past 16 years to build the Prevention Coalitions and implementing evidenced based prevention programs.
She has empowered youth by serving as a SADD Advisor since 2011. Wyoming County SADD earned National Chapter of the Year 2015 and she was chosen SADD Advisor of the Year 2016. Kathy has presented across the nation, including Puerto Rico,to empower communities to build stronger youth programs.

In Wyoming County, Kathy has lead prevention by opening two youth centers, increasing SADD membership from 8 students to over 700 students. In the past two years she chaired the Prevention Task Force to bring the Future Leaders Program with National Guard and the Prevention Resource Officers to both high schools, obtained funding to purchase evidenced based curriculum for every school and has helped establish the Communities in Schools Programs in Wyoming County under the leadership of First Lady Cathy Justice.

Andrea Cook
Community Outreach, Resource, and Education Specialist

Andrea Cook has lived in West Virginia most of her life. She is trained as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist and a Prevention specialist. She has 26 years of experience in the Substance Use Field. Through her experience she has developed such a passion to help the community heal from substance use disorder and help educate the community about the reality of mental health. She has worked in the business administration field as well. Through her experience she designed and implemented a recovery support organization and transitional living facility in Nicholas County.

Andrea has helped be a key role in the establishment of the Nicholas Intervention Coalition in Nicholas county where she Co-Chairs the collaboration of organizations. She is the president of the Sozo Recovery House Inc.

Andrea’s greatest passion is her family. She is married with two beautiful healthy children. She has 3 very lovable dogs, 3 happy chickens, and a rambunctious rabbit. They enjoy everything that this great state has to offer with so many amazing outdoor activities to explore.

Jamie Styons, PhD
Assistant Director

Jamie currently serves as the Assistant Director of Community Connections, Inc. As a prevention advocate and member of our agency’s leadership team, Jamie’s goal is to develop new and strengthen current substance misuse prevention efforts on the local, regional, state, and national levels.

 With a career spanning over 20 years, Jamie has held clinical and administrative positions in community behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment, higher education, and in the primary prevention sectors.  As a former behavioral health director, he has helped develop and implement our region’s first Quick Response Team (QRT) and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program, which successfully brought together local, state, and national agencies to help combat the opioid epidemic in Southern West Virginia.

Academically, Jamie holds a Doctorate in Human Services, specializing in Mental Health Administration. Additionally, he has earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in forensic psychology, sociology, criminal justice, and communications. Jamie holds certifications in neurocriminology, positive behavior support, counseling, healthcare administration, public health, and is a member of the Reaching Rural Fellowship inaugural class through the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau for Justice Assistance. In addition to his duties at Community Connections, Jamie serves on numerous boards and committees in and around West Virginia.

A native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Jamie transplanted to southern West Virginia during his adolescence. An avid explorer, Jamie enjoys traveling to experience the wonderful ‘melting pot’ of cultures across our nation. Although he spends a great deal of time in West Virginia, Jamie and his family reside just across the border in beautiful Tazewell County, Virginia.

Natalie Keaton
Financial Services / Human Resources Director

Natalie Keaton is the Financial Services / Human Resources Director for Community Connections., Inc. and serves as program coordinator for the West Virginia Teen Court Association and CADCA grants. She has several years of experience as an administrative assistant, notary public, and program coordinator.

Natalie holds a Master of Healthcare Administration and several certifications including Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist, NREMT – Basic, Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor, Narcan Administration Instructor, Crisis Prevention and Intervention, Freedom from Smoking Facilitator, INDEPTH and N-O-T Facilitator.

In her free time, Natalie enjoys reading, camping, fishing, and travel. She currently resides in Princeton with her husband, son, and three rambunctious dogs.

Cheryl-JoneseCheryl Jonese, MSCP, PSII
Partnerships for Success Program Coordinator

Cheryl Jonese was born in West Virginia and has lived here for most of her life. She has over 40 years of experience in the field of Substance Use Disorders. She worked thirty of those in the Treatment and Recovery portion of the Continuum of Care as a therapist working in West Virginia, Virginia, Arizona, and Hawaii. Serving both youth and adults, Cheryl has worked in various settings to include In patient, Residential, Outpatient, Drug Court, Day Report, and Youth Health Expanded School Mental Health.

She designed and implemented a Co-ed Residential Program in Yuma AZ called “Crossing House”. Through the use of various counseling theories and educational components of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, residents of “Crossing House” practiced living in the present moment, a lifestyle inconsistent with addiction.

The last 15 years she has worked on the Prevention portion of the Continuum of Care as a Prevention Coordinator at the community level working with youth and adults. In this capacity she has worked in Region 6 covering 11 counties in southern West Virginia. Her work has included helping communities in five West Virginia counties establish community anti-drug coalitions, coordinate evidence – based programming in schools, create partnerships with key stakeholders and develop environmental strategies that prevent and reduce the abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Counseling Rehabilitation from Marshall University and a Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology from Chaminade University. She is also a WV certified Prevention Specialist II.

She is a member of the Board of Directors of Allegheny Mountain Radio, a community radio station that serves Pocahontas Co in WV and Bath and Highland Counties in Virginia.. She is married with three adult children. She considers her most blessed accomplishment raising her healthy, happy, successful children!

Chelsea French
Region 6 Drug Control Policy Coordinator

Chelsea serves as the Region 6 Coordinator for the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), working directly with Mercer and Raleigh Counties (WV designated “hot spot” counties). The goal of the ODCP coordinators is to connect with local stakeholders and community organizations to help identify gaps and barriers in each county and work together to overcome them. ODCP works with local community mental health centers, law enforcement, QRT’s, and community coalitions monthly to conduct and implement outreach events in the proper locations to meet the needs of the
targeted population needing assistance. Our role is to help existing organizations in the action counties to close the gaps in our community with visual tools, data, and collaboration to help create a faster response to areas with high overdose numbers and trends to help reduce overdose related deaths.

Chelsea previously held a position in a clinical and administrative position in a community behavioral health and substance use treatment. Chelsea helped develop the region’s first Quick Response Team (QRT) and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program to help combat the opioid epidemic in Southern West Virginia.

Chelsea holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Concord University and is a southern West Virginia Native. She currently resides with her family in Princeton, West Virginia.

Christina Smyth
Community Outreach, Resource, and Education Specialist

Christina Smyth is the Community Outreach, Resource, and Education Specialist for Wyoming County. Christina has been involved in prevention since high school where she was a part of the Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) chapter. Throughout that journey Christina developed a real passion for all things prevention. 

Christina graduated from Wyoming East High School and is working on a degree in Education through Grand Canyon University. She is a proud mother of 4 incredible children and it is her hope to help make our community a drug free space for them.

Eden Scruggs
Director of Camp Mariposa / Community Outreach and Resource Education Specialist

Eden Scruggs is the director for Camp Mariposa, a year-round camp for children 9-12 who have been affected by substance use disorder, as well as the Community Outreach and Resource Education Specialist (CORES) for Mercer and McDowell counties.

Eden has a BA in Social Science, with a concentration in Psychology from Bluefield State University. While fairly new to the prevention world, starting as a Camp Mariposa mentor in January 2022, she has a strong passion for helping her community and working with children. She was born in Bluefield, WV and currently resides in Falls Mills, VA with her husband and two spoiled dogs.

kathrn-kandasKathrn Kandas
Programs & Development Director

Kathrn A. Kandas, MBA serves within the role of Program Director/Grants Manager and has 24+ years of experience working with non-profit and Tribal entities providing grant writing, grants management, program evaluation and oversight, and reporting services. Kathrn has a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management and Development from Bluefield College and Master of Business Administration with a focus in Entrepreneurship from Franklin University.

Kathrn is the point-of-contact for Region VI’s Prevention Without Borders’ community coalitions and partner organizations across the 11 counties in Southern West Virginia.

Additionally, Kathrn partners with local law enforcement agencies to coordinate the Police Explorers Programs in Mercer County (Princeton, Bluefield, Bramwell, and Athens): McDowell County; Wyoming County; Summers County; and Monroe County. Kathrn also partners with the Matoaka Vol. Fire Dept. to coordinate the Junior Firefighters Program. And, collaborates with youth-serving agencies including Children’s Home Society of WV and The Wade Center to provide unique programming.

Kathrn serves on the Advisory Board Committee for Children’s Home Society of WV-Princeton Site. Kathrn has also served as co-host/co-coordinator of the Food Truck Frenzy events in 2019, 2021, & 2022
– and coordinated Music in the Mountains at Glenwood Park in 2021.

Kathrn’s role within the agency also includes co-facilitation, financial grants management, social media and media, and data collection and aggregation.

Kathrn has served as a Peer Reviewer for the Departments of Health & Human Services; Justice; Homeland Security; and was recently selected by the Department of Interior to review and make funding recommendations for Tribal applications.

Beth BaileyBeth Bailey
Director of Collaborative Programming 

Beth Bailey is currently the Director of Collaborative Programming at Community Connections, Inc. Beth grew up in Mercer County, WV, and graduated from Mercer Christian Academy. After graduating from Johnson University in Knoxville, Tenn., she returned home to Mercer County. For the last twenty years she has worked as a social worker and addiction counselor across multiple settings. Beth’s passion is addiction treatment and connecting people to the resources they need.

Beth and her husband and two children reside in Princeton.

Brandon Whitehouse
QRT Outreach Coordinator

Brandon Whitehouse was born in Ripley, WV, and currently lives in Princeton, WV. Previously, he worked with The West Virginia Collegiate Recovery Network at Concord University and the HCV Team Lead. He has worked as a recovery coach off and on for 13 years. He has been a facilitator of the WVLA since 2015, and is a facilitator of Smart Recovery, DBSA, Smart Rx U, Campus Connection’s, and State Recovery Coach Trainer.

He is currently in the process of obtaining an ADC certification through the state of WV. Past employment: Recovery Point WV, Gate Way Homes Inc, Bomar Drop-N-Center. Brandon is happily married with one daughter. Helping people help themselves is his life’s work.

Megan Hicks
Bluefield State University Peer Support Specialist

Bio pending…

Crystale Farmer
Family Support Center Liaison / Community Outreach, Resource, and Education Specialist

Crystale Farmer is currently the Family Support Center Liaison for Community Connections, Inc. In addition to her duties as FSC Liaison, she also serves as the Summers County Community Outreach, Resource, and Education Specialist (COREs). Crystale has worked in Non-profit for over 7 years and holds a Bachelor’s in Business Management. Crystale enjoys empowering people and helping them see they can flourish to new heights and overcome their obstacles.

Crystale is a Southern West Virginia Native and currently resides in Rock, WV. She has three grown children and two amazing, smart, adorable grandbabies.

When she is not loving on the grandbabies in her spare time, she is coaching the Richlands High school Auxiliary teams or off traveling and finding new places to explore.

Jennifer McMeekin
Community Outreach, Resource, and Education Specialist

Jennifer currently serves as the Community Outreach, Resource, and Education Specialist for Monroe County. Alongside that, Jennifer works as the new Chief Operating Officer at Compass Counseling in Beckley. She has spent over 20 years helping others with addiction issues, mental health disorders and serving the public with substance abuse prevention, intervention and recovery. Jennifer holds multiple degrees such as a Bachelor’s of Science, Master’s in Professional Studies, and a Master’s in Leadership.

Jennifer also sits on the Monroe Daycare Center Board of Directors; the Coalition for Children and Families for Monroe County; and the Compass Counseling Board of Directors. Jennifer is happily married with 3 beautiful daughters and 3 wonderful grandchildren.

Heather Green
Partnerships for Success Coordinator / Community Outreach, Resource, and Education Specialist

Heather Green is the Community Outreach, Resource and Education Specialist (CORES) for Fayette County.

While new to Prevention, Heather has had the desire to work for a non-profit or ministry and enjoys serving others. Most of her career has been in human resources, prior to that having also spent about two years working as a Program Aide for children with autism and behavioral challenges. She is happy for the opportunity to work with a non-profit and is thankful for the chance to gain experience and knowledge in the area of Prevention, particularly because her husband is working towards a career in the Recovery field.

Heather has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is a Maryland native. She and her husband both love the beach. Since moving to the West Virginia, they have gotten to enjoy some of the scenery and nature the state has to offer. In 2023, their goal is to make 20 stops on the West Virginia Waterfall Trail!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!