Staff and Key Volunteers

Julie Wiggins

AAA Director
828-265-5434 ext. 122

Julie's commitment to delivering a high quality of care to older adults is evident through her role as Director. She brings a level of professionalism, compassion and commitment to the AAA that is truly inspiring. Julie recognized her interest in working with older adults during a college sociology class that focused on the "graying of America." Coupled with her experiences spending time visiting relatives in long term care facilities during her youth, she decided to pursue this goal. Julie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a Master of Arts in Gerontology from Appalachian State University. She has worked with the North Carolina Disability Determination Services as a Disability Examiner and Long Term Care Ombudsman for the High Country AAA and is a graduate of the n4a Leadership Institute.

Nicole Hiegl

Aging Services Coordinator
828-265-5434 ext. 113

Nicole brings a dynamic background and experience in both for and not-for-profit agencies to her role with the AAA. Her professional portfolio includes the development and management of a small, international business paired with program administration and implementation with local non- profit agencies has allowed her to excel in the role of Aging Services Coordinator. Nicole has a passion for promoting health and wellness for older adults which drives her desire to improve and increase the services provided at the AAA and by our contracted service providers. Recently, Nicole was selected to present her knowledge to a national audience on marketing and brand awareness at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) conference.

Brenda Reece

Family Caregiver Specialist
828-265-5434 ext. 128

Brenda's impressive energy level and passion for service empowers her to go above and beyond in creating a model partnership between the Family Caregiver Support Program and the High Country Caregiver Foundation. Brenda brings more than 15 years of experience working in the aging and healthcare fields, previously serving as the Director of Social Work at Cannon Memorial Hospital and as a case manager for the Community Alternatives Program (CAP) a degree in Social Work with a focus in Gerontology. Brenda's work with the High Country Caregiver Foundation and Family Caregiver Program continues to create regional and national attention. Most recently, Brenda was recognized by the National Associations of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) as a 2015 Aging Innovations Award recipient.

Stevie John

Long Term Care Ombudsman
828-265-5434 ext. 126

Stevie brings a wealth of experience to her role on Long Term Care Ombudsman, advocating for older adults in various capacities.  Stevie has worked in long term care facilities, offering residents person-centered care plans and facilitating multidisciplinary teams to provide optimal care to each individual. She has also been part of several significant initiatives aimed at reducing senior hunger and improving health through nutrition, as well as improving access to health services and support systems for LBGT older adults.  Stevie holds an MSW from Appalachian State University and loves living in the mountains.

Diane Tilson

Aging Program Assistant
828-265-5434 ext. 141

Diane is a true gem and "jack of all trades." Her willingness and ability to step in on any project and take it to the next level is vital. Diane has been an active contributor to the High Country community for almost 40 years and worked with the Area Agency on Aging since 2010, offering a wealth of knowledge and experience with Advocacy and the Senior Tar Heel Legislature, programmatic monitoring and special projects.

Pat Guarnieri

Caregiver Program Coordinator
828-265-5434 ext.139

With glowing recommendations, Pat joined the High Country Area Agency on Aging (AAA) as the Caregiver Program Coordinator and oversees the statewide, Lifespan Respite Program.  The role of the Caregiver Program Coordinator is quite varied and entails having a robust organizational and communication skillset.  Pat certainly exceeds these requirements, holding two Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Communications as well as a Master’s degree in Financial Planning.  Pat recently retired from a 28-year career as a certified financial planner in Charlotte, NC and is enjoying her new life with her husband in their hand-built, mountain home.  As a family caregiver, Pat has a personal connection to the mission of the AAA and High Country Family Caregiver Foundation and enjoys helping others heal through Reiki and healing touch.