About FCD


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

Chris Antinori

Beth Carlson

Katrina Chisholm

Brandon Dopf

Elizabeth Engleman

Jennifer Francisco

Sue Rosenbluth


Our Staff

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



Julie Church has 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 FCD. 
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 loves dolphins!

Tammy Shuman, FTRI Distribution/Outreach Specialist




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.