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Our Staff

Who we are

The small staff here at GCOA is committed to advocating for the seniors of Georgia. We rely heavily on our Council Members and their time and efforts and we are always looking for more people who are interested in advocacy for seniors. If you would like to volunteer for us in any capacity, please complete this form and submit it to us so we can get you started!  

" Unity is strength...when there is teamwork and collaboration

wonderful things can be achieved."

- Mattie Stepanek

Debra Stokes, Executive Director

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Debra Stokes brings more than four decades of professional, non-profit, and government relations experience to the role. While the positions have changed, her value to each organization has been defined by her ability to coalesce the many resources necessary to achieve defined goals. To achieve the mission of the Council effectively and efficiently, bringing together multiple stakeholders is critical.

Among other positions, Ms. Stokes spent eight years “Under the Gold Dome” supporting the members of the Georgia General Assembly as they traverse the Legislative process to provide for the needs of all the citizens of our State. More recently, she served as Executive Director of the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center (GRHIC) at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon. GHRIC was created to specifically address the healthcare needs of citizens living in Georgia’s rural communities.

Ms. Stokes currently lives in Marietta and is married to Ralph Stokes. The couple has been married for 46 years and have two adult daughters and two teenage granddaughters.

Nikaela Frederick, Deputy Director

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Nikaela Frederick discovered her passion for gerontology while in undergrad at Emory University in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since. She has spent the last 10 years in the aging realm.

After college, she spent a year and a half serving as an AmeriCorps Vista Activity Coordinator at a senior high rise in the Atlanta area. Nikaela then went on to earn a Master of Public Health degree in Gerontology and Health Promotion & Behavior at the University of Georgia. She spent the subsequent six years working at the Athens Community Council on Aging keeping older adults active and engaged, while simultaneously volunteering with the likes of Wesley Woods of Athens and the Georgia Gerontology Society. Making her way back to Atlanta last year, Nikaela spent a stint at the Atlanta Regional Commission working in the Aging and Independence Services group. After participating in Senior Week at the Capitol the last few years, Nikaela is excited to officially join the Georgia Council on Aging team as Deputy Director.

When she is not working, you can catch Nikaela spending time with family and friends, traveling, or taking a dance class.

Patrice Parker, Communications Specialist


Patrice Parker received her undergraduate degree in Business Administration at Florida A&M University in the spring of 2006.


She then relocated to the Atlanta area and earned her Master of Science degree in Accounting from Strayer University. Being born into a large family she is very passionate about applying her skill set to a worthy cause such as assisting with the concerns of the elderly as they deal with the process of aging.


She is a mother of two teenage children and enjoys family outings.

Internships Available

Internships for students in MSW, Gerontology or Public Policy programs are encouraged to apply if they have an interest in the older adult population, advocacy and policy development. The internship terms vary based on the requirements of your degree program. If you would like more information about our internships available please contact us via the Contact Us page. 

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