Our Leadership

Imagine a world without violence

Maisha Colter, Chief Executive Officer


With more than 14 years of service to AVDA, Maisha Colter became AVDA’s Chief Executive Officer on August 1, 2019. She has dedicated her professional life to advocating for the needs of children and families in crisis.

After attaining a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Public Policy as well as a Masters in Social Work from New York University, Colter became a licensed social worker in Brooklyn, NY, where she tirelessly worked with children and families involved with the Child Protective Services.

After a few years, she pursued her law degree from Rutgers University and graduated in 2001. In 2003, she moved to Texas, learned about AVDA, and reached out to the Executive Director to volunteer and was instead hired as the agency’s only staff attorney in 2004. She remained with the agency for almost four years and returned in 2012 as Director of Litigation to lead a staff of attorneys and paralegals who fight on behalf of victims of abuse, later becoming Director of Legal Advocacy Program.

Barbara Stalder, Managing Attorney for Harris County Office

B Stalder


Barbara J. Stalder was elected as judge of the 280th Family Violence Protective Order Court in November 2018.  Prior to the election, Barbara worked in private practice where she represented survivors of domestic violence, mediated divorce and custody disputes, and was appointed as Amicus Attorney in high conflict custody matters. Barbara was also a staff attorney at AVDA from 2006-2008 where she represented men, women, and children in family violence protective orders and family law matters. In 2008, she joined the UH Law Center Civil Legal Clinic as a supervising attorney/clinical professor where she spent eight years supervising law students in a variety of civil matters, including family violence divorce and custody matters. Barbara began her legal career as a distinguished Equal Justice Works fellow where she created a nonprofit organization representing children in abuse, neglect, and family violence cases.

Barbara completed her term of office as the Judge of the 280th in December 2022 and joined AVDA as the managing attorney of the Houston office in February 2023.


LeJoi Toliver, Managing Attorney for Fort Bend County Office

L Toliver


LeJoi joined AVDA in 2021 as a Staff Attorney and now serves as the Managing Attorney of the Fort Bend County office. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin and her Juris Doctor from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. LeJoi has practiced law for over 10 years and prior to AVDA, maintained a private practice focused on family and civil disputes, child welfare law, and mediation/alternative dispute resolution.

Allison Guerra, Director of Battering Intervention and Prevention

A Guerra


Through her passion for social change, Allison has risen through the ranks of AVDA’s Battering Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP). She began work at AVDA in 2016 as the part-time BIPP Program Assistant. She immediately expressed interest in group facilitation and began to assist in the Spanish BIPP groups. Eventually she became full-time staff, and while working, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology and masters of education in counseling and development.  She recently became a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate.

Brenda Estrada, Director of Advocacy Services

B Estrada


Brenda Estrada joined AVDA in June of 2014 after having served her community as a social worker for about six years. She began assisting victims directly as a Bilingual Client Advocate. She continued to serve AVDA’s mission as an advocate until she became the Director of Advocacy Services in March of 2020. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Houston-Downtown. While an undergrad, she interned at the Office of the Mayor in Houston, Texas, where she assisted with proclamations of notable organizations and individuals in the community. Prior to AVDA, Brenda provided case management for various populations ranging from those who suffered from mental illness to those living with HIV.

Nicole Franklin-Jones, Director of Outreach

N Franklin Jones


Nicole Franklin-Jones has been with AVDA since 2014. A native Houstonian, Nicole holds degrees in Child Psychology (BA) from Texas Southern University and in Art and Organizational Management (MA) from the University of Phoenix and is a Youth & Family Certified Life Coach. She has 30+ years of experience working and founding community efforts to broaden opportunities for today’s at-risk youth. As AVDA’s Outreach Director, she is dedicated to educating the community on the effects of domestic violence in an effort to end intimate partner abuse for adults and youth.

Karen McWhorter, Director of Development


Karen joined AVDA in September 2023. With over 30 years of experience gained working in Child Protective Services and nonprofit spaces focused on education, social support, mental health, substance abuse, and individuals living with special needs, Karen brings a systems-oriented, strengths-based, collaborative mindset to her work. Karen is passionate about strengthening children and families, promoting systems change to ensure equity and access to the social determinants of health, especially for marginalized and oppressed individuals in the communities she serves.

Karen completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at Baylor University and went on to complete a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Houston’s Graduate School of Social Work. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), Certified Nonprofit Executive (CNE), Certified Development Executive (CDE), and Certified Nonprofit Consultant (CNC).

Contact Karen for questions about fundraising and special events.

Elizabeth Galante, Director of Marketing and Public Relations

E Galante


Elizabeth Galante joined AVDA in July 2022 after six years of non-profit marketing experience. She leads our digital marketing initiatives and public relations efforts. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Southern Methodist University and a Master of Education in Reading and ESL from Dallas Baptist University. Prior to entering the non-profit sector, Elizabeth was an elementary school teacher specializing in reading intervention and dyslexia. She volunteers with several local charities and serves on two boards.

Contact Elizabeth for press inquiries or community iniatives.