Reverend Gio Simpson- Co Chair

Pastor Gateway to Heaven Church


Although he grew up a military child and lived all over the country, Pastor Giovanni Simpson is a native of Rocky Point, NC. He graduated from EA Laney High School in 1983 and earned his Bachelors Degree in Philosophy and Religion from UNCW in 1988 (Deans list). He was privileged to attend the US Naval Technical School where he graduated in 1990 as their top graduate. He is a veteran of the US Navy and served as a reservist “Seabee” from 1990-1998. He served as a technician (NH/Pender County) at Bellsouth Telecommuications 1998-2007 where he provided telecommunications services through many hurricanes and storms locally, around North Carolina, and the country (including Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans Area).


In 2014, Pastor Simpson graduated from UNCW with a masters in education. He has a spent nearly 26 years combined as a christian and secular educator/minister. From 1999 until present, he has served as the Pastor of Gateway to Heaven Christian Fellowship in the Wrightsboro Community. From the onset of Florence, Pastor Simpson has devoted his time to helping hurricane victims throughout the area and he looks forward to serving Pender county residents in our long term recovery efforts. He is blessed to be married to his beautiful wife of 30 years, Felicia, and they have been graced to have two sons.

Olivia Dawson – Co-chair

Pender County Department of Tourism


Oliva Dawson is a native Pender County resident who proudly served as the Director of the North Carolina Blueberry Festival for the last seven years. In 2017, she first joined Pender County as a part time tourism assistant, helping promote Pender county to the fullest. Olivia has been working with Pender County Tourism and has been assisting with recovery efforts from Hurricane Florence serving as the Disaster Relief Coordinator for the county. She continues to help promote and enrich her community and its events serving as a supporting board member of the North Carolina Festival & Events Association and is the Director of The North Carolina Blueberry Scholarship Pageant. She was nominated as a Woman to Watch in 2018 by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.


Olivia is a graduate of Pender High School, and still resides in the town of Burgaw. She is happily married to her husband who is a member of the United States Nation Guard, and a mother of two young children. Olivia enjoys church, exercising, & involvement within the community, while cultivating a life lived with integrity, service, love, and compassion to grow personally and professionally.


Olivia Profile Pic.jpg

Tommy Taylor – Treasurer

Executive Vice President for the United Way of the Cape Fear Area


Tommy Taylor was born in Mansfield, Ohio, but shortly after moved to Greensboro, NC where he received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology.  Tommy’s first job was a Crisis and College Counselor at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va.  After four years and increasing college acceptance rates from 60% to 96%, Tommy moved to his favorite vacation spot, Wilmington, NC.


Tommy’s history includes working at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC for 6 years and after tripling food distribution and doubling revenues, and then he went on to accept the role of Vice President of Community Impact at the United Way of the Cape Fear Area. He now serves as the Executive Vice President, and he is thankful to be able to see the good side of the world that many people do not get a chance to experience and to be able to be part of the solutions to our community’s deepest problems. He is now a MPA student focused on nonprofits at UNCW and planning to graduate the fall of 2019.  He owns a hobby farm in Pender County where he raises goats and chickens and grows blueberries and asparagus.  In his free time, he enjoys the beach or attending shows at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre with his wife, Buffy, who also works in human services for Coastal Horizon.  


PLTRG Committees: 

Unmet Needs 


Community Outreach

Volunteer & Special Events