About Us

A Place for Me

At the Open Arms Home for Children, we believe that healing and learning take place when a child's deepest needs are met, both physically and mentally. We are dedicated to helping children who have been abused and neglected by recognizing their emotional, behavioral and familial problems and providing quality short-term residential care that includes access to life enrichment and character building programs.

Director
Sharon Hanna
Sharon Hanna

We'd like to welcome our new director, Sharon Hanna. Sharon comes to us from Cincinnati, Ohio where she was a teacher for over 20 years. She has been with us since April and looks forward to many years at Open Arms.

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HSP/Assistant Director
Teresa Matthews
Teresa Matthews

Teresa Matthews began her employment with Open Arms as a Child Care Worker and moved to Lead CCW in a short period of time. Teresa is now the HSP (Human Services Professional) and Assistant Director. Teresa was born and raised in England and has the accent to prove it!

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Lead Child Care Worker
Lisa Jarrett
Lisa Jarrett

Lisa Jarrett began as a child care worker and quickly excelled to Lead CCW. Lisa was born and raised here in Blue Ridge, Georgia. She is our guide to many areas around town.

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Executive Board
Dianne Mallernee - President
Dianne Mallernee

In 2004, Dianne was recommended to the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce by her peers to represent Fannin County in the 2004 Fannin County Leadership Program. Participation in the is program is by invitation only and it is administered through the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce and in conjunction with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership at the University of Georgia. After attending several classes, it became clear to Dianne that local children (children neglected and abused), here in Fannin County and neighboring Gilmer, Union and Towns County, were in dire need of assistance.

A desire to help these local children became overwhelming and Dianne was determined to make a difference. "I felt I needed to come out of my shell (a shell I felt I had been in for so many years) and get involved somehow to help protect these children." That spark led to formation of Open Arms of Blue Ridge.

A short time later, Dianne, along with several others, started a 501c3 non-profit organization called Open Arms of Blue Ridge. Through Dianne's leadership, the team created an Executive Board and then set out on a mission to make a difference. The team rolled up their sleeves and went to work raising awareness of the abuse and neglect of children in the area. Today, as a direct result of Dianne's enthusiastic leadership, Open Arms of Blue Ridge is a thriving organization that recently completed a major renovation of a residential structure and has also furnished that structure in anticipation of it becoming an Child Advocacy Center for abused and neglected children here in north Georgia. The organization is debt- free and it continues to develop new campaigns to raise awareness and funding to further the Open Arms cause.

Dianne has been married to Dwight "Tuse" Mallernee for 34 years and has two beautiful daughters, Carla and Missi. Dianne is also blessed with having four grandsons; Josh 14, Jack 10, Jace 6 and Blaine 11. Dianne works for ERA - The Real Estate Connection as Office Manager and is currently attending CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) classes to become a CASA Volunteer. Dianne is also an active member of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Alzheimer's Association, and Relay for Life.

Peter Knutzen - Vice President
Peter N. Knutzen

Peter brings an executive level sales and marketing career to the Open Arms Board. Peter's sales and marketing experience comes from 23 years working for American Home Food Products (now ConAgra), the Lipton Tea Company, and Golden Books Family Entertainment (now Random House). Peter is also a successful entrepreneur and real estate land developer.

Since moving to Blue Ridge full-time in 2003, Peter has involved himself in many child-focused programs and associations. As a past Board Member with the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association, Peter helped launch a complete menu of children's art programs. Peter is also a founding member of Project Healing Waters, Blue Ridge, a national organization dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings. Peter is also a past Executive Committee Member for the Georgia Children's Health Alliance; a non-profit alliance headed up by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta focused on statewide childhood obesity and child maltreatment issues.

Peter is a 2009 graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development - Leadership Program, a 2007 and 2008 graduate of the University of Georgia Fanning Institute Leadership Program, and is currently Director of Business Development for Contata Solutions, an advanced technology solutions company that enables stakeholders to collaborate on the achievement of greater business goals.

Peter and his wife Kim (Broker, Harry Norman, REALTORS®, Blue Ridge) have two grown sons and a 16 year old puppy - Sammy!

Linda Mahan - Treasurer
Linda Mahan

Career Path: Polk County Schools, Bartow, Florida; High School Business Teacher; High School Marketing Teacher; Federal Programs Administrator; Business Owner - Skeenah Mill, Inc., Fannin County Family Connection - Executive Director

Professional Affiliations: Polk County Vocational Association - Founder and President, Florida Vocational Association - Vice-President, Florida Marketing Teachers Association - President, National Educators Association, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association - President, Appalachian Health Alliance - Board Chair, Appalachian Children's Center - President, Fannin County Child Abuse Protocol Committee - Board Chair, Local Interagency Planning Team - Board Chair, Board of Realtors Citizen of the Year

Brenda Morgan - Secretary
Brenda Morgan

Brenda has had a long career serving children, their families and the community. Brenda worked for 31 years with Gilmer and Fannin County's Head Start/Pre-K Programs. She worked closely with several community agencies serving on the Family Connection Committee, Fannin County Child Abuse Protocol Committee, and the Local interagency Planning Committee.

She retired from Fannin County Head Start/Pre-K in 2012, and started her second career with Hayes James & Associates, an engineering and survey company.

Brenda is an active member in the local Fannin County Chamber of Commerce. She is currently the chairperson of the Chamber Ambassadors and a member of the Chamber's Lunch N Leads Group. Brenda is also a member of the Department of Labor Employer's Committee and is a volunteer events coordinator for Appalachian Children's Center. She served as a Team Captain for her team in the 2016 Fannin County Relay for Life.

Brenda was recognized in 2014 for her many volunteer hours as an Ambassador by receiving the honor of being Fannin County's Ambassador of the year.

She was also invited to participate in the 2015 Fannin County Leadership Program administered through the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

Brenda has been married to Jack Morgan for 36 years and they have two wonderful sons, Jeremy and Zachary. They also have one amazing daughter-in-law, Lara.

Through her work with Open Arms of Blue Ridge, Brenda plans to continue her life's goal of helping children and their families find a brighter future.

Board Members
Linda D'Angelo
Linda D'Angelo

Linda is a passionate advocate for children. She began serving children, their families and communities while in college. Currently she is a CASA for the Appalachian Judicial Circuit and joined our board in 2014.

As a successful business executive, Linda brings to the Open Arms Board expertise in strategy, operations, marketing, finance and leadership. Recognized as an international expert in Learning, Training and Education, she co-chairs our Fundraising Committee and will also assist our Community & Education Committee. Linda has a Bachelor's of Science degree from the University of Florida and an MBA from Nova University.

Linda has enjoyed her weekend escapes to north Georgia, where she hikes, boats and savors the beauty of the mountains, since 1990. In 1999 she bought a small cabin in Blairsville, which has been transformed into a home where family and friends relish in our mountains, lake and wildlife.