Staff Directory

712 H Street, NE · Suite 1478 · Washington, DC 20002
Phone: 1-888-ASK-NVFC (275-6832) Email:

Sarah Lee, CAE

Chief Executive Officer
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Growing up in a fire service family, Sarah developed a strong affinity for those who give back to their community. Combined with her 25-year dedication to the nonprofit sector – serving most in the fire and emergency services – Sarah found her calling at the NVFC in 2005. After serving as deputy chief executive since 2006, Sarah became CEO in 2021. She oversees all of the organization’s operations, from membership to programs, and loves the sense of community and giving back her position provides.

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, Sarah has a master’s degree in public administration and nonprofit management, is credentialed as a Certified Association Executive through the American Society of Association Executives, and holds a certificate in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Sarah serves as the membership chair with the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Department in Virginia, where she helps with recruitment and retention. In her spare time, Sarah can be found planning her family’s next camping adventure, volunteering at her kids’ schools, or buried in a good book.

Dr. Candice McDonald

Deputy Chief Executive Officer
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Candice has been active in the volunteer fire service for almost two decades, serving as a firefighter, EMT, inspector, and instructor. The NVFC was the first fire service organization she joined. That initial membership led to a passion to volunteer with the NVFC as the Ohio Fire Corps state advocate in 2009 and later become the deputy chief executive officer. Before coming to the NVFC, she spent twenty years working in government, with the last decade being spent at NASA. Candice has a strong love for relationship building and creating social change.

The volunteer fire service led Candice to find a network of mentors who encouraged her to obtain a doctorate in business administration, with a specialty in homeland security. In addition to a doctorate, she has a master’s degree in organizational leadership, bachelor’s degree in organizational management, and an associate’s degree in health and human services. Candice has a strong love for travel and is known for taking photos with traffic cones to promote the “Slow Down, Move Over” message. She even has a photo with a cone taken on top of a glacier while dog sledding in Alaska!

Ryan Woodward

Chief of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs
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Ryan joined the NVFC in 2022. He is available to assist NVFC members with any questions or concerns related to federal legislation or regulations, is the staff liaison when it comes to standards and codes setting committees, and actively promotes the interests and priorities of the volunteer emergency services to Congress and the Executive Branch. Ryan came to the NVFC with a decade of policy experience. Before joining our staff, Ryan worked on the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ government relations team for two years and worked for former Congressman Peter King for eight years, including as legislative director. Rep. King is the former chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security and the former co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.

Ryan grew up on Long Island in a public safety family; his father is a former volunteer firefighter and retired police chief. Ryan has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Gettysburg College. He is an Eagle Scout and a black belt in karate. When Ryan is not walking the halls of Congress, he can be found near water where he enjoys kayaking and paddleboarding.

Kimberly Quiros

Chief of Communications
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Want to learn more about the NVFC’s programs and initiatives? Kimberly can help! She is the voice behind the NVFC’s newsletter, web sites, advertising, and other outreach endeavors. She also fields media inquiries and is the organization’s primary editor. Her work communicating the NVFC’s messages puts her at the forefront of many of the NVFC’s initiatives, helping create campaigns involving health and safety, recruitment and retention, and much more.

Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree from The College of William and Mary with a major in history – and her love of history, culture, and the arts makes her an avid traveler, frequent museum visitor, and fan of live performances. She received her master’s degree in public communications from American University and worked at a newspaper in Newport News, VA, and at another DC-based nonprofit before joining the NVFC in 2006.

Cierra Orlyk

Communications Coordinator
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Cierra was delighted to join the NVFC team in 2022. As communications coordinator, she is intertwined with the NVFC’s messaging and public outreach. She manages the NVFC’s social media accounts, writes newsletter and email content, and facilitates the live panel discussions you know and love.

Growing up with a firefighter as her dad, Cierra developed a deep respect and admiration for emergency responders. Before coming to the NVFC, she gained valuable association management experience. She received her bachelor’s degree in communication studies from the State University of New York College at Oneonta. In her free time, you’ll find her taking day trips, reading the latest fiction novel, or cuddling with her cat.

Rachel Buczynski

Chief of Training and Education
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Rachel is passionate about creating impactful, accessible lifelong learning opportunities for everyone. She oversees the NVFC’s in-person and virtual training and educational activities, including conferences, webinars, and the Virtual Classroom. Rachel brings to this role over 15 years’ experience working with local, national, and international nonprofits on educational events and program development, including the NVFC and other fire service organizations. Her instructional design work has earned a ClearMark award for plain-language educational content.

She holds a master’s degree in adult education and human resource development from James Madison University, a certificate in event management from the George Washington University, and a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Texas A&M University. In her free time, she works in her local community as an English teacher for adult immigrants. She also enjoys spending time with her spouse and dogs hiking and exploring and can often be found bopping around the East Coast in their travel trailer.

Alyssa Dara

Membership Manager
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Alyssa is the membership manager for the NVFC, so she makes sure all the members are taken care of. Whether it’s helping someone join or renew their membership, mailing a membership card, or working with state fire associations, she is there to help with any membership inquiry. She also brings with her marketing and communications experience as a communications specialist for multiple trade associations.

You can call her the “membership manager” at home, too. She makes sure all the members in her family – husband, kids, three dogs, and two cats – are taken care of as well. Her bachelor’s degree in political science and her passion for politics has allowed her to intern at Capitol Hill and campaign for several political candidates. Her other passion is animals, and she loves being a foster mom to dogs in need of a second chance.

Laura Towers

Membership Coordinator
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Laura is delighted to assist prospective and current NVFC members with everything from benefit questions to renewals.  She also enjoys serving as community manager for Volunteer Voices, the NVFC’s members-only online community. She likes to tout the members in Volunteer Voices as friendly, knowledgeable, and supportive, and she hopes that’s how they find her and the NVFC staff, as well!

Laura received her bachelor’s in communication studies from Alfred University and her master’s degree in media and cultural studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If she has a few minutes to spare, her family might find her working on a crossword puzzle, fussing with her plants outside, or baking some sort of yummy dessert.

Lori Shirley

Program Manager
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Lori started her career with the NVFC in 2006. She dedicates her time working on both corporate and federal partnerships and is the point of contact for many of the NVFC’s programs. Lori’s volunteer roots in the fire and emergency services date back to her time at the University of the Ozarks, where she served at the grassroots level as the Fire Corps team leader for Johnson County Rural Fire District #1 in Clarksville, AR (her home state), while earning her degree in marketing.

When Lori isn’t managing the world, she enjoys hanging out with the loves of her life: four rowdy kiddos, husband, and their dog. She loves the outdoors and you will often find her hiking or camping with the family. She also has a passion for sports and roots for all Cleveland sports teams, and of course, the Arkansas Razorbacks!

Caroline Stachowiak

Program Manager
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Caroline joined the NVFC in 2019. Her passion for helping others, particularly in the health arena, are put to use coordinating NVFC’s online training platform as well as the Share the Load and Make Me A Firefighter programs. Her prior experience managing state and federal grant contracts and working with private and public partners are useful skills to have in our line of work.

The fire service is “all-in-the-family” as her husband is a wildland firefighter and her toddler is a wildland firefighter in training! An avid outdoors woman, Caroline enjoys hiking, swimming, paddleboarding, and skiing.

Meg Goldberg

Engagement Manager
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Meg gets asked frequently – “What is an engagement manager and what do you do?” Never short on words, she responds by saying that she gets to work with NVFC’s corporate members, partners, and supporters and connects them to the great benefits and marketing opportunities the NVFC offers such as affiliation, meeting sponsorships, specialized campaigns, and…. okay, okay we get it! Her fear of snakes is right up there with public speaking, which makes planning and running the NVFC’s spring and fall board meetings a piece of cake.

She brings with her 17 years of not-for-profit association marketing and event management experience, in addition to being known as the “Church Lady” of a large church and having the distinction of “sailor in another life” at a conference management company. One of her proudest achievements – other than being a mom to three girls and surviving – is hiking down into and back up the Grand Canyon.

Lorraine Higgins

Office Manager/Executive Assistant
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A native of the Maryland/DC area, Lorraine is the glue that keeps the NVFC office running, provides administrative support for the NVFC team, and handles all general inquiries. She also manages the correspondence and condolences for every firefighter who falls in the line of duty.

Her background as a legal secretary makes her an expert in multitasking and the flow of paperwork. Always ready to hit the water in her kayak, Lorraine is an avid bowler and hopes to one day study falconry.