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OUR

Nuestra

PEOPLE

STAFF

Marcos Vargas

Executive Director (he/him/el)

Patricia Solorio

Associate Director (she/her/ella)

fund website update

Andres Armenta

Office Manager / Executive Assistant (he/him/el)

Alina Rey Keswani

Development & Communications Manager (she/her/ella)

Kathleen Knight

Capacity Building Manager (she/her/ella)

David Melendrez

YMC Coordinator (he/him/el)

fund website update

Alex Murkison

Development Associate (he/him)

Tania Reyes

Grant Programs Manager (she/her/ella)

INTERNS

Nancy Avoce

(she/her)

Peyton Bivona

(she/her)

Naz Haidarian

(she/her)

Angela De La Vega

(she/her)

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Rev. Julia Hamilton

President (she/her)

David Landecker

Vice President (he/him)

Gloria Soto

Vice President (she/her/ella)

Andrew Oman

Secretary (he/him)

Susan Wax

Board Liaison to GMC (she/her)

Ruth Ackerman

(she/her)

Anna Everett

(she/her)

Diane Fujino

(she/her)

Jennifer Hooten

Secretary (she/her)

Chelsea Lancaster

(she/her/ella)

David Pellow

(he/him)

Erica Reyes

(they/she)

Cuco Rodriguez

(el/he/him)

Ted Rhodes

(he/him)

John Steed

(he/him)

Grant Making Committee

Jennifer Navarro Rios

Co-Chair
(she/her)

Suzanne Valery

GMC Liaison to Board (she/her)

Rachel Johnson

GMC Liaison to Board (she/her/ella)

Lyiam Galo

(he/him, they/them)

Bailey Needham

(she/her)

Juliana Neel

(she/her)

Wendi Pacheco

(she/her/ella)

Rich Sander

(he/him/el)

Vickey Smith

(she/her)

Bob Thiel

(he/him)

Chuy Valle

(they/them)

Youth Making Change - North County

Youth Making Change - South County

Honorary Board

Kate Adams 
(in Memoriam)

Sevren Coon

David Peri

Herman Warsh
(in Memoriam)

Nancy Alexander
(Founder)

Nancy Franco
 

Susan Rose

Nancy Weiss

 

Bob Bason

Susan Jørgensen

Selma Rubin
(in Memoriam)

Susan Bower
(in Memoriam)

Don Olson

Naomi Schwartz
(in Memoriam)

Carnzu Clark
(in Memoriam)

Katy Peake
(in Memoriam)

Sarah Shoresman
(in Memoriam)

Marcos Vargas

Executive Director

Dr. Marcos Vargas has served as the Executive Director of the Fund for Santa Barbara since 2015. Prior to coming to the FUND, he served as the founding Executive Director of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), and as the Executive Director of El Concilio del Condado de Ventura.

His volunteer leadership service has included serving on numerous local, regional and national boards and community campaigns, including the founding chairperson of the Ventura County Living Wage Coalition (1997-2001), and on the board of directors of the McCune Foundation, the Common Counsel Foundation, the Partnership for Working Families, and the Ventura County Workforce Development Board. Marcos has received numerous awards in recognition of his community work, including the 2014 Outstanding Citizen Award from the California Federation of Teachers, the Cesar Chavez 50 in 50 Leadership Award from the United Farm Workers of America, El Concilio Latino Leadership Award, and Earth Summit Leadership Award from the Ventura County Citizens for Peaceful Resolution (CPR). His work on behalf of the rights of low-wage working women, including his publication of the 2001 report on the Feminization of Poverty in the California Central Coast, won him the 2003 Leadership Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus of Ventura County.

Among his accomplishments over his years with the FUND, Marcos has led in an effective progressive regional response to the impact of the national political crisis since the 2016 elections, including the expansion of the FUND’s emerging need grants program, establishment of the field-of-interest Immigrant Legal Defense Fund and the convenings and support of emerging coalition and collaborative efforts around immigrant legal defense, environmental justice and regional equity. Under Marcos’ leadership, the FUND has seen a dramatic increase in foundation partnerships and individual donor support.

Patricia Solorio

Associate Director

Patricia has been with the FUND since 2017 and currently serves as Associate Director. A mother of two, she has a passion for issues related to families and youth and as a daughter of immigrants from Mexico, she has a first-hand understanding of the need to protect and uplift immigrants. Patricia is a bilingual and bi-cultural community leader and native of Santa Maria who has a profound understanding of communities in North County. Prior to joining the FUND, she was with Future Leaders for over 12 years, including as Executive Director for Central Coast Future Leaders. Among her numerous recognitions, in 2016 Patricia received the Working Families Award from the Santa Barbara County Action Network for her many efforts to improve the lives of working families in the region.

Andres Armenta

Office Manager / Executive Assistant

Andrés moved to Santa Bárbara County from San Diego in 2014 to attend UCSB, and prior to that he spent 8 intermittent years in the rural hometown his parents are from in Sinaloa, México. Having spent multiple years in different regions he was able to see how the environment shapes individuals and this ethnographic lens was later refined as he completed his B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. Similarly, the adversity he faced as a child alongside the violence against women he witnessed instilled an affinity for issues revolving around youth, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Alina Rey Keswani

Development & Communications Manager

Alina is a proud product of Santa Barbara’s interconnected community. As a first generation Mexican American cultivated in a home led by educators and community advocates, themes of social justice and educational equity have always played a central role in her framework. Believing firmly that communication and access to information are the fundamental keys to awareness, mutual understanding, and relationship building, Alina strives to amplify the FUND’s voice and vision for our community(s) in her role as Development and Communications Manager

Kathleen Knight

Capacity Building Manager

Kathleen is driven to help create a more just and sustainable world rooted in compassion and recognition of our interconnectedness, which is heavily influenced by her background as a tropical conservation scientist and community activist. An avid traveller, she is influenced by different cultures and peoples when working collaboratively to create foundational change that is as diverse as the world we hope to create. She enjoys surfing deserted beaches, cooking food for others, and reading with a hot cup of tea.

David Melendrez

YMC Coordinator

David Melendrez is a Santa Maria Native who is passionate about social justice and youth empowerment. David values giving back to his community through community involvement and youth advocacy, just as he was supported by mentors throughout his own experience. David is a graduate of UCSB with a BA in Sociology and a minor in education. Outside of his role of Youth Making Change Coordinator, David is a Board Member of Truth In Recruitment.

Alex Murkison

Development Associate

Alex grew up in Lompoc and is one of five siblings raised by a single mother. He earned a degree in Business Administration from Allan Hancock College and decided to stay in Lompoc to give back to the community where he was born and raised. He is a local advocate and activist who is passionate about social justice and mental health support in schools. With these passions, as well as the turmoil of the world in 2020 and the future uncertainties it caused, Alex found ways to bring folks together to ensure that the voices of the community’s sizable population of underrepresented and disadvantaged individuals were heard, respected, and valued.

Tania Reyes

Grants Program Manager

Tania is a Santa Barbara native with deeply intertwined Mexican roots. Having immigrated to Santa Barbara at an early age Tania offers a uniquely insightful perspective into the issues affecting our communities and the intersectional frameworks that connect us all. As the FUND’s Grants Associate Tania supports our most vulnerable community members by fostering strategic partnerships aiming to address the root causes of issues directly impacting them. She is a proponent of social justice and progressive change and plays a crucial role in leading grantmaking efforts and coordinating grantmaking programs.

Rev. Julia Hamilton

President

The Rev. Julia Hamilton serves as the Lead Minister of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara. Born in Santa Barbara, raised in New Orleans, she has also lived in New York City, Boston, Jersey City, and Los Angeles. A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, one of her primary passions is spiritually grounded social justice work and bringing people together to build a more compassionate community.

David Landecker

Vice President

David has a B.A. from Claremont Men’s College and a J.D. from Georgetown University. He practiced law in Santa Barbara, was President and Owner of Menda Scientific Products and Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and the Environmental Defense Center among others. David has been a campaign manager, elected official, and appointed official at the City, County and State levels and has served on more than a dozen local nonprofit boards.

Gloria Soto

Vice President

Gloria had dedicated her young professional career to serving her community. She is the Executive Director of Future Leaders of America (FLA), one of the largest Latinx youth-serving organizations on the Central Coast. Before joining the FLA team, Gloria served in various positions at Planned Parenthood California Central Coast (PPCCC), including education, public affairs, and development. In 2018, Gloria became the youngest woman elected to the Santa Maria City Council as part of the national wave of young women of color seeking representation in local governments.

Andrew Oman

Despite being discouraged by some in his school system, Andrew was able to attend college (in the U.S. and Mexico), and graduate school. After many years as a newspaper reporter, he spent 17 years as a teacher of Spanish language. Always involved in his union and in social justice issues, he became a California Teachers Association staff member in 2009. In Santa Maria he works with teachers and classified staff in 13 union chapters in northern Santa Barbara County. I am a husband and father of two college graduates.

Susan Wax

Board Liaison to GMC

Susan has spent over 30 years working with individuals and families navigating the transitions through the life cycle. Over the years, she has taught undergraduate and graduate classes at Antioch University and supervised psychology students at UCSB Hosford Clinic and currently, at New Beginnings Counseling Center. In addition to serving on the FUND’s board, Susan has served as a Founding Board Member of Court- Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in Santa Barbara, a Board Member of the Children’s Creative Project.

Ruth Ackerman

Ruth is a social worker and psychotherapist working locally since 1970. With her MSW (U.C.Berkeley, 1967) and PhD in Human and Organizational Development,  she has been faculty at  U.S.C., Antioch and Pacifica. She founded  Project Recovery  (with an initial grant from The FUND!),  has served on boards of ACLU, CALM, Centro Familiar, CPA, SBCAN among others, and is currently a County Behavioral Wellness Commissioner. A past president, this is her fourth term on the FUND Board.

Maria Garcia-Cacique

Maria Garcia-Cacique grew up in México and graduated from UCSB. Maria taught at La Patera Elementary in Goleta and worked at the Santa Barbara County Education Office for 15 years serving migrant families. She now teaches in Lompoc. Maria is passionate about being of service to others and expanding educational opportunities. Currently, Maria is President of the Lompoc Cooperative Development Project, Secretary with Cahoots in Lompoc Project, and Vice-President for the American GI Forum Education Foundation of Santa María.

Eric Cárdenas

Eric Cárdenas is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of LOACOM, a movement-based marketing agency that cultivates, connects, and activates ecosystems of change-makers to build vibrant communities and nurture a thriving planet. Eric has expertise in marketing, community organizing, facilitation, policy development/design, and event management/production, and has worked at the Board/Staff/Advisory level with the Ag Innovations Network, Johnson Ohana Foundation, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Roots of Change, and others.

Anna Everett

Anna Everett is an Emeritus Professor of Film and Media Studies at UCSB. While at UCSB, she served in various leadership roles including as Director of the Center for Black Studies, Department Chair, and Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Academic Policy, and more. Social justice and feminist advocacy are among her passions. For more than a decade she has been active in several women’s organizations including serving two-terms as a Commissioner on the County of Santa Barbara Commission for Women, a long-term Board member on the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, and her 2020 election to the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees. 

Diane Fujino

Diane Fujino is a professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s interested in how ordinary people imagine a liberatory world and work collectively to create that change. She teaches, studies, and writes about Asian American activism, Black Power, and Afro-Asian solidarities. She’s been active with Cooperation Santa Barbara, Ethnic Studies Now! Santa Barbara, La Casa de la Raza, and UCSB MultiCultural, and is working to promote health and wellness at the university and beyond.

Jennifer Hooten

Secretary

A nonprofit executive turned org designer and leadership coach, Jenn resources the people and process of transformation. She founded (Re) Engage Consulting to support individuals, teams, and organizations as they navigate change, transform conflict, and integrate personal values with business objectives. Jenn works in the United States and abroad, with clients in nonprofit, government, education, tech, pharma, healthcare, and hospitality industries. She makes her home in Los Alamos with her husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs.

Chelsea Lancaster

Chelsea Lancaster is an educator, organizer, and single mother whose labor has been dedicated to co-creating opportunities, dignified support systems, and a culture of radical collective care among historically-excluded families in Santa Barbara. Chelsea proudly founded El Centro SB, a BIPOC-led activist space located in the Lower West Side, where many a local vision and movement have been birthed and nurtured, and regularly acts as a strategic co-conspirator with others in the struggle for collective liberation.

David Pellow

Dr. David N. Pellow is the Dehlsen Chair and Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the Global Environmental Justice Project UCSB where he teaches courses on social change movements, environmental justice, human-animal conflicts, sustainability, and social inequality. He has published a number of works on environmental justice issues in communities of color in the U.S. and globally. He earned his B.A. in Sociology and Religious Studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University.

Erica Reyes

Erica A. Reyes is a self professed politics and policy nerd. Currently serving the Central Coast as District Director with Congressman Salud Carbajal, she enjoys advocating for constituents and keeping her pulse on the local political scene. A Central Coast native, she grew up in Nipomo, California and after circumnavigating the globe, lobbying in Washington DC, and obtaining her BA in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz, she returned home to work with the community. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Administration from CSUN.

Cuco Rodriguez

Refujio “Cuco” Rodriguez is the Program Officer at Hope and Heal Fund. He previously served as a Program Officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and was a member of the foundation’s Racial Equity and Community Engagement team. Most recently, he led efforts to integrate racial equity principles into technology initiatives, including working on collaborative platforms and developing a racial equity-focused grantee application. Cuco has worked with communities spanning issues of reproductive health, youth violence, mental health, and community engagement. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering technology and a master’s degree in education with concentrations in counseling and guidance, both from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Ted Rhodes

Ted Rhodes lives with his wife, Joni, in Carpinteria, where they have raised two children, Jesse and Rachel, now grown. A retired Hollywood Key Grip, Ted has been an activist, fundraiser, political strategist, and community leader on a number of local grassroots issues including saving the Carpinteria Bluffs. His activism began back in the late sixties with his involvement in the peace and civil rights movements. When times get tough, Ted blows his harp with his band, the Americana Cats.

Mahil Senathirajah

Mahil is a healthcare analytics and policy consultant with a focus on improving the quality, equity, and cost of healthcare principally within California and at Federal government-levels.  Mahil was born in London, England; grew up in Toronto, Canada and moved to Santa Barbara in December of 1999.  Among his community activities, Mahil has served on the Board of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, has been active in local politics and participated in the Santa Barbara film festival. Mahil has an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and an MBA. 

John Steed

JOHN H. STEED (B.S., 1974, Brigham Young University; J.D., 1977, Harvard Law) practiced international corporate law for 30 years. After the birth of his first grandchild in 2007, he rededicated his efforts to bequeath a healthy environment and a more just society to future generations and transitioned away from legal practice to environmental and social activism. John is a member of the Advisory Council to the Environment and Human Rights Division of Human Rights Watch and a member of the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Jennifer Navarro Rios

Jennifer’s passion for social justice stems from her experiences as a first-generation Mexican woman. She is particularly interested in intersectionality among social justice issues, including immigrant rights, mental health, equity in education, and reproductive justice. Jennifer received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from UCSB in 2015. While in college, Jennifer was the grant-making intern for The FUND! Jennifer currently works as a Crisis Care Specialist for Casa Pacifica in Santa Barbara. She is also enrolled at Antioch University and working on her Master’s in Clinical Psychology.

 

Suzanne Valery

GMC Liaison to Board

Suzanne moved to Central Coast in 2004 to become the director of grants for Allan Hancock College. As such, she learned of the challenges and obstacles faced by north Santa Barbara County communities and she brought in over 100 projects to support students’ needs. Now retired, she is an active member of the GMC having service as the co-chair and now as the liaison to the Board. She is also a member of SURJ-SM and the League of Women Voters.

Rachel Johnson

Co-Chair

Rachel Johnson (she/her/ella) serves as Co-Chair of the Fund’s GMC, and is the Chief Program Officer at the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College. Her professional and volunteer work is deeply rooted in social and educational equity, and guided by her core values – justice, wonder, health, collaboration, authenticity. Rachel’s work at the SBCC Foundation supports programs and community collaborations that address a broad spectrum of issues, including educational access for disproportionately impacted populations, basic needs support, sustainability projects, and more.

Lupita Cervantes

Guadalupe was born in Metepec, Hidalgo, Mexico. Her family moved to the Santa Maria Valley area in 1995 in search of better opportunities. She was a part of the Pioneer Valley High School’s first graduating class (2007) and continued her studies at Allan Hancock College. Guadalupe is always looking for ways to be part of her community despite her disability. Through a paid internship program for people with disabilities, she is acquiring work skills that she hopes will make her more employable and break stereotypes often imposed upon her because of her disability.

Lyiam Galo

Lyiam Galo is a first generation Honduran immigrant and UCSB alumnus. A lifetime volunteer and optimist, he strives to foster an equitable community with a focus on the historically underserved — specifically the unhoused, the LGBTQ community, and people of color. Lyiam coordinates a county-wide United Way AmeriCorps program that serves veterans and people experiencing homelessness. He supports accessible resources for monolingual Spanish speakers, advocacy for undocumented folks, and creative food security initiatives. Lyiam rents in downtown Santa Barbara with his partner and 23 plant children.

JP Herrada

JP is a local from the city of Goleta and attended Dos Pueblos High. In 2010 JP founded PALABRA, a non-profit that serves at-risk youth in the county of Santa Barbara providing Gang Intervention and Prevention programs, also doing gang mediation to minimize violence in the community. He was the first to bring restorative justice to the mediation process working with the gang population in Santa Barbara County. He is an Outreach Coordinator for Alternatives to Violence Project where he continues to work with the same population.

Dr. Leonie H. Mattison

Dr. Leonie H. Mattison, Ed.D., MBA or “Dr. Lee” as she is known, is a published Author, International Speaker, and Organizational and Leadership Development Practitioner. She has over 20 years of multi-entity experience across nonprofit, government, and corporate environments and currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer with CommUnify. The common thread in her work has been her focus on helping individuals, teams, and organizations achieve intentional transformation through workforce development, process improvement, and cutting-edge innovation.

Bailey Needham

Bailey Needham is a Santa Barbara County native raised in Santa Maria and a graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara. Her passion for social justice stems from her experiences as a first-generation college student, advocate for sex education, consumer of mental health resources, and employee in the human services and health care sectors. Bailey works as a Direct Support Professional for Behavior Respite in Action (BRIA) in Santa Maria where she provides specialized, in-home care services to children and young adults with developmental disabilities.

Juliana Neel

Juliana was born and raised in the Santa Maria Valley. After graduating from Ernest Righetti High School in 2018, she attended Allan Hancock College, where she graduated with degrees in Political Science and Behavioral Studies, and she currently attends the University of California, Berkeley. Juliana got her start in the social justice community working with the Women’s March of Santa Maria Valley as their social media manager. She has since worked with various organizations to push for progressive and equitable change in the Santa Maria Valley.

Wendi Pacheco

Wendi is a product of immigrant parents from Oaxaca. She was born and raised in Santa Maria, CA and is a first generation college graduate. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in Psychology and a minor in Latin American/Latino Studies. At a young age she became an active member in the community in the areas of financial empowerment, social equality, immigrants’ rights, and education. She currently serves as a College Site Coordinator for UCSB providing students college access and information.

Rich Sander

Rich Sander has more than a decade of experience as an executive leader and strategist in the Southern California region and has lived in Santa Barbara for nineteen years. He serves as the founding Executive Director at SB ACT where he has grown the organization from a volunteer food distribution into a 501(c)3 organization. Rich currently sits on the Santa Barbara City Community Formation Commission, a commission dedicated to creating systems of transparency and accountability for local law enforcement in response to nationwide issues of systemic racism and violence. 

Vickey Smith

Vickey Smith moved to California in September of 2006 and fell in love with the Central Coast. She graduated in 2011 with a Master of Public Administration w/Nonprofit Management concentration. Currently she is the Interim Coordinator of Community Education at Allan Hancock College. Vickey is an advocate of social justice, women’s rights, education, animal welfare, and pursuing one’s passions. She enjoys spending time with her son, cuddling with her 3 cats, connecting with friends, exploring the Central Coast, and reading to her heart’s content.

Bob Thiel

Bob is a retired project manager with the State Coastal Conservancy, where he focused on wetland and stream restoration and adaptation strategies to address climate change. Previously, he managed a watershed restoration program at the Community Environmental Council and helped coordinate programs for the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of Texas Law School and holds masters degrees in landscape architecture and environmental law from the University of Washington in Seattle. He currently serves as a board member of the Santa Barbara Alternatives to Violence Project.

Chuy Valle

Chuy was born and raised on Chumash land (Carpinteria, CA) to migrant parents. After attending college on Ohlone Territory (Berkeley,CA) and backpacking through Central America they resettled in Santa Barbara to reconnect with their history and build a more inclusive community. Chuy is an organizer, mixed-media storyteller, and “Do-It-Yourself” Artist who actively participates in building cooperative and participatory structures that support people power. Their work is centered around (re)imagining our futures through stories and action to honor our interconnectedness and (re)build our relationship to land and one another.