Karina Association, founded in March 2009, is a non-profit organization headquartered in Timonium, Maryland. Karina serves families in Baltimore City and surrounding counties. A vital role of Karina is building acceptance and inclusion for those who are disabled in a society where most people take inclusion for granted. K.A.R.I.N.A. stands for Knowledge, Awareness, Recognition, Inclusion, Nurturance and Acceptance. Each of these factors plays an important part in our strategy to raise the conscience of society to integrate people with disabilities into the community.
Our Board and Staff
Founder and Executive Director
Biliana is a founder of Karina Association and created the executive leadership team in September, 2011. She reports to the Board of Directors, directs the Day program, develops fundraising strategy, oversee the budget, organizes special events, recruits employees and volunteers, and leads public relations efforts. She was born in Bulgaria and now lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Biliana has a Master's Degree in Fine Arts and Fashion Design from Bulgarian National Art Academy. In Bulgaria, she worked as a Costume Designer for the Bulgarian National Film Studio. Biliana came to the United States in 1991 to study at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. She graduated with a major in Christian theology, and she established the non-profit organization, Karina Association, in 2009, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Her work with disabled young adults has inspired her to start a special program with Expressive Arts Therapy for families with disabled children here in the Baltimore area. Currently Karina's services are based in Baltimore County, Maryland where the program reaches adults with disabilities.
Josh is a Senior Consultant at Clearview Group in Owings Mills. At Clearview, Josh specializes in internal audit, Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance and Consulting, IT Audit and internal control testing, risk management consulting, and internal control process implementation and improvement. Josh also has extensive external audit experience in financial statement audits, financial statement reviews, financial statement compilations, agreed-upon procedures, fraud investigation audits, and employee benefit plan audits. Josh graduated Cum Laude from Towson University with his BS in Accounting in 2012. Josh is also the Treasurer and a member of the Leadership Committee of the Red Shoe Crew of the Ronald McDonald House of Maryland. When not volunteering time at local not-for-profits or playing softball, Josh enjoys spending time with his son, Jaxson, and wife, Rumi.
Dina El Mahdy
Dina El Mahdy is an associate professor of accounting at Morgan State University. She received her Ph.D. in Accounting in 2011 from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her publications have appeared in Accounting and Finance, Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, International Journal of Accounting and Information Management, Journal of Accounting and Finance, and others. She taught at Georgetown University, American University, Cairo University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. She is on the Editorial Advisory Board of Journal of Forensic & Investigative Accounting (JFIA) and Corporate Governance and Sustainability Review (CGSR) Journal. Her intellectual work was featured/cited by Bloomberg, WalletHub, Credit Card Insiders, Columbia Law School, and the Global Financial Markets Center at Duke Law School. She is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified Advanced Tax Preparer and Reviewer. El Mahdy received numerous competitive research grants, including a pilot NIH grant. She is currently volunteering with the CASH Campaign of Maryland. El Mahdy is a public speaker, locally and internationally, on topics related to Gender Equality, Cyber Violence, and the Advancement of Women’s Rights in the Digital Age.
Deepak is part of the Exelon Utilities IT team and one of the senior managers responsible for large Customer programs. Immigrant from India, he has many years of software development and IT application architecture experience. He is passionate about talent development and enjoys working on complex projects. He has a BS in Engineering from India. Deepak resides in Ellicott City, MD with his wife Sarita and son Arnav. He joined Karina because it gives him a sense of purpose, giving back to community gives him fulfilling feeling and he is eager to help utilizing his technical skills in any which way possible.
Lisa M. Belcastro, BOD
House of Delegates, District 11 Baltimore County
John was a Vice President at T. Rowe Price, one of the world’s largest asset managers, where he was responsible for evaluating the firm’s investment opportunities in the Consumer Staples sector. Prior to T. Rowe Price, John worked at Legg Mason Capital Management and First Annapolis Consulting. He has a BS in Financial Economics from UMBC and an MBA with Honors from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. John and his wife, Carolyn, have two beautiful children, Nathan and Emily. He joined Karina because he is passionate about giving back to those in need and wants to use his business skills to help grow the organization.
Delegate Belcastro is a Member of House of Delegates since March 10, 2020. Member, Health and Government Operations Committee, 2020 (government operations & health facilities subcommittee, 2020-; public health & minority health disparities subcommittee, 2020-); Study Group on Economic Stability, 2020. Member, Women Legislators of Maryland, 2020. Member, Oversight Committee on Quality of Care in Nursing Homes and Assisted-Living Facilities, 2020-.
Legislative Aide to Israel C. (Izzy) Patoka, County Council, Baltimore County, 2019-20.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, September 24, 1988. Slippery Rock University, B.S. (science health & physical education), 2012. Adapted physical education teacher, Prince George's County Public Schools, 2012-. Assistant field hockey coach, Goucher College, 2012-17. Regional Director, Summit Camp and Travel - Weekender Program, 2012-14. Volunteer coordinator, Izzy Patoka for Baltimore County Council, 2017-18. Member, Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee, 2018-. Member, Prince George's County Educators Association; Maryland State Educators Association; National Educators Association; SHAPE America; SHAPE Maryland; Maryland Adapted Physical Education Consortium; 1000 Friends of Pikesville; Sudbrook Park, Inc.; Special Olympics Maryland.
BOD and Advocate
Hi! I’m Olivia-- I like to be called Liv for short. I enjoy painting, DIYing, hiking, and writing poetry. I have autism, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), early childhood trauma, dissociative identity disorder (DID), dyslexia, and bipolar disorder. Because of what I go through with my mental illnesses, my poetry is often about spreading knowledge and awareness about mental illnesses and neurodiversity and my artwork promotes positive messages about peace, love, and unity. I often teach the participants at Karina painting techniques. I also help the participants at Karina by encouraging them and boosting their confidence so they can achieve their goals. Also, I like to advocate for them when they can’t do it themselves. During my time at Karina, I gained a family and a home and because of that, it’s important to me that all the participants know that I’m there for them and have their back!
Co-Founder/Horticulturist IT Director
William graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a BS Degree in Horticulture in 1979. After college Rhodes worked for the Virginia Dept of Agriculture for 4 years then worked as a Horticulturist for 4 years. In 1987 Will went to work for USDA for 10 years. In 1997 Will served as President of Global Solar and Electric where he worked for 10 years designing and installing Photo-voltaic solar systems throughout Maryland. More recently Rhodes spent 15 months in Afghanistan with the Foreign Agricultural Service. At this time Will holds a Secret level Security Clearance. He started as a volunteer in our organization because he has a passion for helping children with disabilities.
In Afghanistan he assisted children who needed medical aid with their physical disabilities. He also saw a real need for an intensive Master Gardening model that is one of the most effective methods in giving a child the maximum opportunity to make developmental, functional, and behavioral gains early in life. William strives to create real and lasting relationships with families affected by disabilities in our community and provide a network of support to all.
Rev. Tony Lawson
After enlisting in the United States Marine Corp, Rev. Tony Lawson worked for the United States Government while attending Pennsylvania State University and earned his college degrees from United Christian Bible Seminary, Southern Baptist Seminary and in 2012 from Liberty University. Rev Lawson is a member of the Baltimore Alumni Chapter of Liberty University, member of The National Council on Independent Living, United States Delegate of WIN (World Independent Network), Commissioner for Baltimore County and former member of the Maryland State Rehabilitation Council. In August of 2015 Rev. Lawson was appointed by the Governor of the State of Maryland Lawrence J. Hogan Jr to the Maryland Statewide Independent Living Council where he served as the first African American chairman. He currently holds the position of Chairman of The Veterans Committee (NCIL) in Washington, DC. Rev. Lawson is responsible for every religion and denomination in Maryland for those who are living with disabilities. Rev. Lawson travels across Maryland, works with The White House, Annapolis State Senate and House of Representatives.
Dr. Denis Gracanin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech.
He is also a steering committee member of the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research and its Technology Core area director.
His research interests include efforts to effectively integrate neurotechnology, devices and applications within an ASD and neurodiverse specific framework.
His overall research includes human-computer interaction, extended reality, cybersecurity and smart environments.
Standing Committee QA Chair
Kaelyn currently serves as the QA Chair for Karina Association. She graduated from Towson University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree. During her time at Towson University, she helped at the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism, which sparked her interest in working with individuals on the autism spectrum, teaching social and daily living skills. After college, Kaelyn worked as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) at Proud Moments ABA, in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). She worked with young children on the autism spectrum, implementing behavioral support plans. She joined Karina Association as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) and quickly formed strong relationships with our staff and participants. Kaelyn was promoted to Program Manager, where she is able to utilize a variety of creative and professional skills to support the needs of Karina Association. She enjoys learning about disability rights to better support the individuals she serves. In her free time, Kaelyn likes watercolor painting, designing greeting cards, cooking, and hiking. She currently lives in Baltimore City with her friends and her cat, Chloe.
Waldie Jolie Diabate
Walde Jolie currently serves as the Program Manager of Karina Association and joined the company February 2023. She studied Special Education at The City College of New York and took a few classes at Howard University in 2017. She has worked with many non-profit organizations from New York, Washington DC and Maryland where she played management roles. Walde is an advocate for undocumented immigrants and has worked with The City College of New York professors and students to published a short documentary in 2012, titled “Living Undocumented: High School, College and Beyond”. In 2012, Walde was given an opportunity to run an afterschool girls’ groups at Bronx International and International Community High Schools in New York City, where she provided sexual and reproductive education to groups of young Muslim West African women. She later received grants from Columbia University and partnered with doctoral students to conduct research on Force and Early Marriage in New York City in African Communities. The research led to the publication of “Speaking Up, Reaching Out: The Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of Immigrant Youth in New York City. Walde began training medical providers, school counselors, worship groups, etc. to breaking the taboos around sexual and reproductive conversations with the youth and be culturally sensitive.
In 2015 moving from NYC to Maryland, Walde developed a strong passion for people with disabilities and began working with autism children and adults. She is trained on Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration and Office of Health Care Quality policies and regulations. She has worked with several DDA providers and service coordinators in order to developed person-centered services to the supported individuals.
Walde speaks Mandingo, Bambara, French, some Arabic and English. She is family oriented, and she anticipates starting a family of her own. She is an animal lover who currently owns a cat named Alexeea that she absolutely adores. Walde is excited to join Karina Association family.
Her favorite quote from Audre Lorde, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences."