Shara Smith, she/her/hers
Chief Executive Officer
Shara is the CEO of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. She brings over 10 years of nonprofit management experience to Interfaith, including advancing interfaith initiatives in Delaware, managing money in politics programming in California, and overseeing national affiliates for cancer research. Shara began her career in academia, overseeing programs at institutions like MIT, Boston University, and a teaching affiliate for Harvard Medical School. She later began her own consultancy aimed at helping social justice oriented nonprofits enhance their operations, programmatic work, communications, and fundraising. Shara also brings solid media experience to Interfaith, having managed various communications initiatives across multiple organizations, as well as having previously run one of the fastest-growing independent media companies in the US. Shara is an animal lover and self-described March Madness fanatic.
Melissa Charnes, she/her/hers
Director of Advocacy & Programs
Melissa Charnes is IAC’s new Director of Advocacy and Programs, overseeing Interfaith’s public policy agenda and programmatic work. Prior to joining Interfaith, Melissa was an Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia, helping the office litigate major cases in administrative forums and courts. Previously, Melissa worked as a staff attorney and disability rights advocate at the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, where she investigated allegations of abuse and neglect, advocated for policies and practices aimed at protecting individual rights, and occasionally provided comment to legislative committees. She graduated with her JD from The College of William & Mary Law School, and lives with her husband, Paul, a corporate litigator whom she met in law school, and their four cats.
Trina Griego, she/her/hers
Trina joins Interfaith as its new Community Organizer and Events Planner, assisting with programmatic and operational functions for IAC. Trina previously worked for Interfaith as an organizer in rural communities for our successful No on 115 campaign. Ms. Griego also has extensive experience in the hospitality industry, overseeing multiple restaurants as a manager at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel. She also worked with Governor John Hickenlooper’s office in 2013 to open a comprehensive homeless facility in Southern Colorado. In her spare time, Trina enjoys spending time with her puppy, Douglas, and trying new restaurants with her partner, Troy.
Emma Hudson, she/her/hers
Emma Hudson is the Owner and Principal of Emma Hudson Consulting, LLC, a mission-focused communications and public affairs firm, and serves as Interfaith Alliance of Colorado’s contract lobbyist. Emma’s background spans nonprofit and government experience as an advocate and a government relations strategist with specialization in business, health care, and social justice policy arenas. Emma holds a Master’s of Public Health from the University of Wisconsin-School of Medicine & Public Health and a Master’s of Public Affairs from the La Follette School of Public Affairs, with a graduate certificate in consumer health advocacy. When Emma isn’t advancing meaningful policy solutions at the State Capitol, she spends her time teaching yoga at a local domestic violence shelter, hiking in the mountains with her dogs, and gardening in her yard alongside her chickens and bees.
Alanna Hunter-Lawley, she/they
Development & Communications Coordinator
Alanna is a passionate advocate for social justice, and is excited to bring an inclusive perspective on language and storytelling to IAC’s team as the Development & Communications Coordinator. They have a Bachelor’s degree in Theater from Bethany College in West Virginia and a Masters in Social Justice and Ethics from Iliff School of Theology. A creative at heart, Alanna enjoys knitting and crocheting and spending time with her spouse Nick and their two cats.
Nathan Wellman, he/him/his
Media and Communications Consultant
Nathan Wellman is a video producer, journalist, actor, and playwright. Nathan’s writing has been published in USUncut.com and GritPost.com, and cited by The New York Times and The Intercept. Nathan is the creator of a popular film analysis YouTube channel, which currently boasts more than 123,000 subscribers and over five million views. He was raised in Kentucky, where he studied at Morehead State University. Nathan has also performed in television, reality shows, local PSAs and national commercials, along with the critically acclaimed Sacred Fools and SkyPilot theaters.
Board of Directors
Jill Wildenberg, Chair, she/her/hers
Jill Wildenberg started working on campaigns in 1972 on the George McGovern presidential race, and continues helping campaigns. In addition to being an elementary school teacher and professional artist, Jill was the Neighborhood Team Leader for downtown Denver for the Obama 2012 campaign, then worked as Chief of Staff to Colorado State Representative Crisanta Duran (Joint Budget Committee Chair) from 2013 – 2014. In 2016 she led Colorado Faith Leaders for the Clinton campaign and was also the Co-Captain of House District 5A Democrats. The former Education Director of Congregation Beth Evergreen, Jill led the congregation for 22 years. She was the first Public Policy Director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and now serves on the boards of Cobalt (Pro-Choice Advocates), The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, J Street Colorado’s Executive Board, and Faith 2020. With a passion for “Tikkun Olam” (Hebrew for repairing the world), she’s fulfilling her dreams of making the world a better place for all.
Rev. Dr. Valerie L. Jackson, Vice Chair she/her/hers
Pastor Jackson is an unapologetic, visionary faith and community leader, womanist, homiletician, author, and advocate for the sacred worth and potential of all human beings. She was ordained an elder in full connection in the United Methodist Church in 2018 in Ogden, Utah. On January 1, 2020, Dr. Jackson became the first African American and out queer lead pastor of Cameron UMC in Denver and congregational resource minister for the Mile High Metro District of the Mountain Sky Conference. She is also adjunct faculty at the Iliff School of Theology. Rev. Dr. Jackson has lived in Denver since 2009.
Melinda Quiat, Treasurer, she/her/hers
Melinda Quiat is the CEO of The Quiat Companies which invests in commercial Real Estate, Private Equity, and energy. Melinda serves as the Anti-Defamation League’s National Chair of the Religious Freedom Committee and Vice President of the Judaism Your Way Board. She has served in a variety of leadership positions in the past including Board Chair of the Mountain States region of the Anti-Defamation League, Advocacy Co-Chair of Jewish Community Relations Council (Jewish Colorado), and as a Board Member for Colorado Public Radio. Melinda is a fourth-generation Colorado native who enjoys endurance bicycling, world travel, birding, scuba diving, and being in nature.
Arash Jahanian, Esq., Secretary, he/him/his
Arash serves as Director of Policy and Civil Rights Litigation at the Meyer Law Office in Denver. He uses legal advocacy to protect and advance the civil rights of Coloradans, including immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, and other victims of discrimination and police abuse. Arash has also worked as a staff attorney at the ACLU of Colorado, an attorney for the Denver civil rights firm Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, a judicial clerk for the Honorable Wiley Y. Daniel of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and a middle school teacher in Chicago through Teach For America. Arash has served as president of the Colorado LGBT Bar Association and chair of the Denver LGBTQ Commission. He is a Kansas City native who enjoys music, sports, and running.
Jennifer Carty, Esq., she/her/hers
Jennifer Carty is an Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Appeals Section of the Colorado Office of the Attorney General handling felony convictions for crimes against persons and property, crimes of violence, fraud, computer crimes, wrongs to children, domestic violence, drug offenses, and organized crime, as well as sentencing appeals on behalf of the State of Colorado. Prior to becoming an AAG, she worked as a family law attorney at Robinson & Henry, P.C., as well as a law clerk for the Honorable Steven Bernard on the Colorado Court of Appeals. In her pre-law school life, Jen spent five years as an active duty maritime inspections officer for the United States Coast Guard conducting regulatory compliance on the shipping industry, overseeing search and rescue operations, and responding to maritime disasters. Jennifer continues to serve as a JAG Officer in the Coast Guard Reserve. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, the Board of Governors for the Colorado Bar Association, and as a member of the LGBT Bar Association. Jennifer is excited to start working on a Masters of Divinity in the near future.
Dr. Nabeeh Abdurrahim Hasan, he/him/his
Dr. Hasan is the director of the Colorado Muslim Speakers Bureau (CMSB), an affiliate of the Islamic Networks Group (ING). Nabeeh also serves on the Colorado Muslim Leadership Council and on the Steering Committee of Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism (MILA). He is active in speaking at and facilitating interfaith efforts, youth development and training speakers. These include speaking about Islam and answering audience questions at “Open Mosque” events, speaking in classroom settings to enhance student learning with regards to learning about Islam and Muslims, training and improving public speaking abilities of Muslims and non-Muslims, and discussing the relationships between science and religion for clergy and laypersons alike. Nabeeh is also a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Council and a biomedical researcher at National Jewish Health, specializing in genomics of infectious lung diseases. Through speaking about Islam, health and science, Nabeeh has given cultural competency training and hundreds of presentations to primary schools, universities, churches, hospitals and professional societies. In his spare time, he enjoys amateur automobile racing, cooking and traveling with his family.