Coordinator, Professional Learning & Family Philanthropy, SoCal Grantmakers
Monica Banks supports programming and content development for both the Professional Learning and Family Philanthropy Team. She manages event coordination for signature programs such as Fundamentals of Effective Grantmaking and the Family Philanthropy Conference.
Monica graduated with a BA in Economics from Occidental College. She is a first-generation college graduate who is passionate about issues pertaining to health care access, intergenerational trauma, mental health and immigration.
President and CEO, SoCal Grantmakers
Christine Essel joined SCG as President and CEO on February 1, 2013. As president, she sets the strategic direction and priorities for the organization, overseeing programming, communications, member services and public policy. Prior to joining SCG, Essel held leadership roles in the government, corporate, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, where she has shaped legislation and public and corporate policy. She brings a wealth of experience to SCG including a deep knowledge of the region and a passion for forging creative solutions to complex community challenges, along with extensive relationships and expertise in corporate philanthropy, finance, real estate development, government and community relations. For over three decades, she worked at Paramount Pictures, serving as Senior Vice President, Government and Community Affairs, a department she built from the ground up. In that role, she was responsible for the studio’s philanthropic efforts and for shaping Paramount’s civic presence while managing all political and legislative activity, corporate social responsibility and fundraising activities. During her tenure she was also responsible for overseeing in excess of $500 million in real estate development projects on the studio lot.
Most recently, she served as CEO for the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA/LA), with an annual budget exceeding $600 million, a staff of 260 employees and 32 project areas throughout the City of Los Angeles. In response to a statewide call by the legislature, Essel's leadership helped lay a critical foundation for the dissolution of the agency, leading to a successful redistribution of resources for schools and local governments, while ensuring the completion of many crucial affordable housing projects and other developments vitally important to the economic growth of the region.
She has been named to numerous Boards and Commissions over the years, serving as chair of the California Film Commission, the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, the Hollywood Community Advisory Council, Alternative Living for the Aging and Central City Association. She also served as Vice‐Chair of the California Workforce Investment Board and FilmLA and was a member of the powerful Los Angeles World Airports Commission, Grand Avenue Project Joint Powers Authority and Los Angeles Development Fund. Essel has been honored by esteemed organizations such as City of Hope, National Women’s Political Committee, Alternative Living for the Aging, Weingart Center Partners, Central City Association and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. In 2016, she received the Leader of the Year Award from the Southern California Leadership Network. She has been named to the Non‐Profit Times “Power and Influence Top 50” for the past two years (2016 and 2017).
VP, Professional Learning & Family Philanthropy, SCG
As Vice President, Professional Learning & Family Philanthropy, Kameron plays a significant leadership role in developing and implementing SCG’s Professional Learning strategy and programs for members. This includes managing the day-to-day operations of SCG’s Professional Development portfolio, Family Philanthropy offerings, and relationships with peer and affinity groups. Kameron is also responsible for ensuring high quality professional learning experiences are made available to enable SCG members to continually increase their knowledge, skills, competencies, career development and networks.
Kameron is a member of The Prytanean Women's Honor Society, the Alliance for Women in Media, and is a member of the Board of Directors for Central City Neighborhood Partners (CCNP), a leading non-profit organization committed to advancing systemic change to benefit low-income communities through collaborations. Kameron graduated from The University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Media Communications.
Manager, Public Policy & Government Relations, SoCal Grantmakers
Emily Michels provides leadership and strategic direction on SCG’s public policy priorities and actions, as well as programmatic and communications planning. She is responsible for developing and maintaining external relationships with partners, members, and elected officials, and plays a key role in executing public policy strategy, as well as cross-team collaboration. She leads the planning of SCG’s annual advocacy trips and serves as the liaison and point of contact for the Public Policy Advisory Committee.
Prior to joining SCG in 2021, Emily worked as the Ethics and Communications Officer for a small technology company, developing internal policies for safe work practices and standards philosophies for efficient workflow. Previously, she worked as a health policy analyst in Denver, CO, conducting legislative research, drafting, lobbying, and analysis with a focus on consumer rights, access to health care, and social determinants of health. She has published research on policy solutions for ethical community-driven public health interventions, fair research practices, narrative ethics, and equitable resource distribution. Emily graduated from Emory University with an M.A. in Bioethics and Colorado College with a B.A. in Bioethics & Public Policy.
Coordinator, Equity, Organizational Culture, & Dialogue, Southern California Grantmakers
Sequoia supports the Vice President of Professional Learning & Family Philanthropy, by managing the development and implementation of programs and events in coordination with outside partners and other SoCalGrantmakers staff. She oversees programmatic, logistical, and administrative aspects of programs to support the Programs and Conferences team.
Sequoia is a Senior Trainer for the Los Angeles County Lesbian Bisexual and Queer Women’s Health Collaborative. She has experience facilitating interactive dialogue about intersectionality, racial healing, gender identity, and has spoken on international panels including the 2017 Opportunities for a more Inclusive Higher Education with the former Dutch Minister of Education, Jet Bussemaker at Universiteit Van Amsterdam. Sequoia incorporates storytelling to humanize the difficult discussions that individuals and society at large are not having. This pairing of storytelling and administrative decolonizing creates a powerfully impactful ambiance for transformational and sustainable change.
Sequoia is passionate about dedicating to being a part of healing the hearts of those affected by systemic anti-Black racism, challenge the institutions who overtly and/or covertly perpetuate it, and continue to challenge ourselves so we don’t perpetuate this systemic plague that separates us.
President, David Bohnett Foundation
Michael Fleming is the Executive Director of the David Bohnett Foundation, a grantmaking foundation charged with "improving society through social activism".
Fleming has served on numerous boards and commissions including the Los Angeles Board of Water Power Commissioners―the five member panel that oversees the nation’s largest public utility. He previously served as the President of the East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission and as a Commissioner on the Board of the Los Angeles Convention Center. In 2010, President Barack Obama named Fleming to the White House Council for Community Solutions.
He is the immediate past Chairman of the Board of public radio powerhouse KCRW, a Trustee of the NPR Foundation and is an adjunct professor of organizational development and public policy at UCLA and NYU.
Senior Program Officer, Homelessness, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Seyron Foo leads the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s programmatic and advocacy goals on realizing a Los Angeles where homelessness can and should be rare, brief and non-reoccurring. Previously, he served as senior advocacy officer for the Foundation, managing advocacy strategies for the Homelessness, Foster Youth, and Opportunity Youth Initiatives. Prior to the Foundation, Seyron oversaw public policy and government relations at Southern California Grantmakers and Philanthropy California, where he led initiatives that strengthened philanthropy’s partnerships with state and local governments. He has experience in various government sectors, including the California Senate Majority Leader’s Office and the City of Long Beach.
In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom re-appointed Seyron to the California Board of Psychology, a state board that protects consumers of
psychological services by
regulating the practice of
psychology, and supporting
the evolution of the
profession. He served two terms as Board President, the first public member to do so in more than a decade. He earned his master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs and his bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and political science from the University of California, Berkeley.
President, Amgen Foundation
Scott Heimlich is President of the Amgen Foundation and Executive Director of Corporate Affairs for Amgen. The Amgen Foundation is the main philanthropic giving arm of Amgen, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies. He is a well-respected leader in philanthropy and corporate citizenship, and responsible for the strategic direction of the Foundation portfolio locally and globally. He was the principal architect of the Amgen Scholars Program in addition to leading and managing numerous other Foundation initiatives, including the Amgen Biotech Experience and the LabXchange platform with Harvard. The Foundation’s overall commitment now stands at over $425 million to date, with the following aspiration central to the Foundation’s giving: Everyone Needs Science, and Science Needs Everyone.
Scott engages in numerous other citizenship and STEM organizations, including The Conference Board’s Corporate Citizenship Leadership Council, the STEM Funders Network, and Southern California Grantmakers. Prior to joining Amgen and the Amgen Foundation in 2005, he served in positions at the University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Pierce College, University of Southern California, and at the K-12 level in Japan. He holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate in education from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Interim President and CEO, Weingart Foundation
Joanna S. Jackson
Driven by her commitment to racial and social justice, Joanna has over 25 years of experience in the social sector at a range of institutions. Currently serving as Vice President of Programs at Weingart Foundation, Joanna is a member of the Leadership Team responsible for the management of the Foundation’s primary grantmaking program, as well as oversight of the Foundation’s learning and planning. Joanna joined the Foundation in 2008 as a program associate, and most recently held the position of Director, Grant Operations.
Prior to joining Weingart Foundation, Joanna spent over a decade in the nonprofit, philanthropic and public sectors. Joanna serves on the Board of Southern California Grantmakers and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. Joanna earned a master’s degree in public administration from Baruch College, The City University of New York, where she was a National Urban Fellow. She is also a proud HBCU graduate having received her bachelor’s degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Originally from New York, Joanna lives in Mid City Los Angeles with her husband and two children, who are the joy of her life.
Managing Director, Programs & Operations, Social Good Solutions
Felicia Jones is the Managing Director of Programs & Operations with Social Good Solutions and is responsible
for leading program strategy, development, and implementation across the firm’s portfolio of services; and
ensuring operational effectiveness in the firm’s business practices.
She has extensive experience as a non-profit leader, she has spearheaded and facilitated multiple collective impact efforts bringing communities and institutions together to advance racial equity through creation of new institutional policies, practices, and investments in racial equity. In her former role as Deputy Director with Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), she co-lead a community effort leading the county of San Bernardino to declare racism a public health crisis and to initiate a series of internal reforms to address racial equity.
While serving as a co-chair, she helped to establish the Black Equity Fund, a pooled fund effort and partnership between the Inland Empire Community Foundation and the Inland Empire Black Equity Initiative to strengthen and scale Black-led and empowering organizations’ sustainability and capacity to lead regional systems change work. She also served on the design and implementation committees and now the interim governance board of a new entity, the Innovation-Center (i-Center). The i-Center is a effort to build infrastructure through a network of Centers to deepen the capacity, impact, and sustainability of California’s grassroots movements for racial and social transformation
She was born and raised in South Los Angeles and is a graduate of Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles, California. She resides in San Bernardino county.
John E. Kobara
Chief Facilitator, Random Acts of Progress
John co-created SCG's Executives and Trustees Network.
John is the wildest American dream of his immigrant grandparents who came to this country with nothing. A third-generation Japanese-American. Married over his head to a woman he met on a plane. A proud father of three college graduates with no student debt. A struggling poet. A humbled activist who still is trying to change the world and not grow up.
John’s destiny was forged in the internment camps of 1942, where his grandparents and parents were stripped of all their rights and possessions and incarcerated in the desolate desert of Poston, Arizona for more than 4 years.
His Dad, in his awkward Asian fatherly way, expected John to become a "public person". It took John many years to understand that a "public person" was someone his father wasn't — A person who was social, networked, engaged in the American community, was a good communicator and to have the courage to say what he thought. His mother, a late blooming artist, taught him how to notice the world and to be generous with one’s gifts.
John headed to Los Angeles to attend UCLA which started his 45-year love affair with the imperfect paradise of the City of Angels. His quest to be a public person took him on a career traversing all sectors. His role at the California Community Foundation is his 18th job. He survived three start-ups in three different decades. He worked primarily in the so-called non-profit arena or what he likes to call the “for-purpose” field, interrupted by for-profit and public-sector jobs. He has held big titles and important positions but usually not at the same time. His early work with juvenile felons in maximum security prisons pushed him to become a Big Brother for 10 years and study and eventually teach mentoring all over the world. His work with at-risk youth and recently released felons fulfills him today. His education, both formal and experiential, has empowered his open-mindedness and open-heartedness. He is obsessed with understanding and releasing the unexpressed and untapped human potential in himself and in others. The “public person” journey his father put him on, is infinite. John is grateful for the opportunities to sustain the dream of his grandparents by dedicating his life to helping others build a more joyful, equitable, just, and compassionate world.
President & CEO, Community Partners
Alicia Lara is the President and CEO of Community Partners, a nonprofit fiscal sponsor and intermediary based in Los Angeles. Community Partners is home to creative ideas powered by the innovative leaders that seek fiscal sponsorship and intermediary services to support their communities.
She has worked in non-profit and philanthropy sector for the past 25 years including time at The CA Endowment and United Way LA and United Way Worldwide. Alicia began her career as an advocate for the health and well-being of women of color. As a Director for California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, she cultivated and led a statewide network of advocacy experts from the Native American, Asian Pacific Islander, Black and Latinx communities to influence health care policies to reduce disparities in health outcomes.
She formally served on the board of directors for the Ms. Foundation for Women and currently serves on the board of directors for Funders Together to End Homelessness, and CADRE in Los Angeles. Ms. Lara received a B.A. from San Diego State University and a Master of Public Health (MPH) from UCLA.
Program Officer, Weingart Foundation
Dana Henry joined the Weingart Foundation as a Program Officer in 2020, focusing on the Foundation’s grantmaking and broader funding strategy in South Los Angeles. Dana is currently the Director of Black Justice and Healing; she leads the strategic development and implementation of partnerships with Black-serving organizations in Southern California.
She brings more than 20 years of experience working with and expanding opportunities for vulnerable children, youth, and families in Los Angeles and other cities in the region. Dana previously worked at Communities In Schools (CIS), a national organization focused on helping children and their families access and navigate the maze of school systems. Dana served as a regional lead in developing and building capacity among CIS affiliates in the Western U.S. She also played a key role in implementing the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. She holds a bachelor’s degree in American Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Founder & Chief Architect, Social Good Solutions / Black Equity Collective
Kaci Patterson is the Founder and Chief Architect of Social Good Solutions (SGS), a Black-woman-owned and operated boutique consulting firm working at the intersections of philanthropy, racial justice and community. Kaci brings over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors and is widely recognized for her expertise in equity-centered grantmaking and community-driven design. In her role as Sr. Director for the LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment, Kaci organizes philanthropic engagement for the LA County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative (AAIMM), a public-private-community partnership working to advance joyous and healthy births for Black mothers and families in LA County. She is also the Founder and Chief Architect of the Black Equity Collective, serves on the board of Social Justice Partners Los Angeles, Tides Advocacy and was an appointed state commissioner serving in the CA Department of Consumer Affairs for eight years. Kaci is a graduate of Pepperdine University and holds an MBA in Organizational Management & Leadership from the University of LaVerne.
President & CEO, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
Jennifer Price-Letscher grew up in a household of strong, determined women. Raised by her mother, grandmother, and older sisters, Jennifer developed a sense of purpose and creativity from a young age. Her mother was a first-generation college graduate who worked tirelessly to serve others as an educator, social worker, and criminal justice legal advocate. Her grandmother was a concert pianist who gave her a keen ear, nurturing Jennifer’s musicianship and cultivating an awareness about the power of artistic expression. Jennifer’s home life fostered a sense of creativity and justice, and she credits her mother with teaching the importance of seeing the humanity in everyone. It is no surprise that Jennifer dedicated her life to arts, education, and social change.
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jennifer began a career in the social impact sector following a visit to her sister’s home in Los Angeles in the early ‘90s. Her trip coincided with the city’s civil unrest, as countless Angelenos organized to demand racial justice. Seeing Los Angeles and its potential to be a place for all things possible, challenging, and just, Jennifer decided to stay. Soon after, Jennifer started working in the arts and became involved with prominent artists and art organizations, including 18th Street Arts Center and Highways Performance Space. Jennifer found herself immersed in a community of people exploring their identities and artistic voices at the height of the culture wars of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Jennifer advocated alongside these artists who demanded that marginalized voices in mainstream theater have equitable access and a seat at the table. “One of art’s greatest qualities lies in its capacity to elicit greater understanding and empathy, why wouldn’t we want to hear more voices?” Jennifer reflected. This experience building empathy and power shoulder-to-shoulder with underrepresented artists would later guide her work in the nonprofit sector.
Jennifer started her philanthropic career at the Whitecap Foundation, where she led capacity building programs before joining the Sterling-Dorman Foundation and spending a decade focused on college access and success. “Education can be a profound lever for transforming lives and lifting people out of poverty,” she noted. Today, Jennifer is Vice President for Grantmaking and Initiatives at The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, where she manages its responsive grantmaking and efforts focused on collaboration, organizational effectiveness, and systems change. Her grantmaking philosophy aspires to weave together all the strands necessary to create a strong community fabric. To realize her vision, Jennifer taps into a long-standing “spirit of inquiry” that allows her to listen to her nonprofit partners deeply and with humility and curiosity. She credits SCG and early philanthropic mentors with helping her see the importance of building strong relationships founded on trust. “Our nonprofit partners and their constituents know what's best for their communities and what’s needed to accomplish transformational change.” While she recognizes that not all foundations can immediately enact a comprehensive trust-based strategy, she is hopeful that the sector will gradually embrace more of its principles. “I hope some of our funder colleagues will let go of the ‘power over’ framework reliant on directives and bureaucracy and shift toward a ‘power with’ model founded on a collaborative spirit and willingness to make change together. Community transformation requires all hands on deck.”
Given the devastation wrought by the crises of this year, Jennifer is proud of the bold actions The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation has taken to support their nonprofit partners. At the beginning of the pandemic, they signed onto the Council of Foundation’s pledge advocating for more flexible and equitable grantmaking, canceled all their grant reporting, and distributed ne
Program Officer, ECMC Foundation
<p>Jonathan T. Reid is a Senior Program Officer at the LA84 Foundation, a private foundation that creates sports opportunities for all kids and promotes the importance of sports in positive youth development. As a legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games, LA84 has over 30 years of on-the-ground experience and has supported thousands of Southern California youth sports organizations through grantmaking, while also training coaches, commissioning research, convening conferences and acting as a national thought leader on important youth sports issues. At LA84, he works to ensure alignment of external activities, programs and grantmaking with the strategic vision and organizational goals of the Foundation. </p>
<p>A native of Bronx, New York, Jonathan completed his B.A. and M.P.H. degrees at New York University and has spent the last decade working on grant-funded nonprofit projects and higher education implementing programs focused on health education and community engagement. Prior to joining LA84 in 2017, Jonathan led youth-based programming development at Beach Cities Health District. His experience also includes Playworks, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. </p>
<p>Jonathan’s career is defined by working collaboratively on initiatives that actively empower under resourced communities to pursue access to the best possible quality of life. Currently, he serves on the Playworks Leadership Council and is also a Co-Chair of the Los Angeles Chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) steering committee. Jonathan is also an Eagle Scout and is committed to helping others. An avid runner, Jonathan has completed marathons in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. He enjoys traveling, museums, and quality time with family and friends. </p>
Grants Director, Specialty Family Foundation
Carol Rowe currently serves as the Grants Director for the Specialty Family Foundation where she oversees grant making in the Foundation's focus areas of education and housing. Carol joined the Foundation 13 years ago after serving as a Director of Marketing and Development for the Catholic Schools Consortium, an inner-city Catholic education initiative established and supported by the Specialty Family Foundation. She is an alumnus of Ernst & Young’s Management Consulting Systems Practice. Carol also served as the ED of Growing Great and as the ED of the Manhattan Beach Business Association.
Jennifer Vanore, Ph.D.
President & COO, UniHealth Foundation
Jen joined UniHealth Foundation in 2015 and was appointed President and COO in 2018. She is responsible for overseeing all grantmaking and the day-to-day functions of the Foundation. In addition, she previously served as a Program Manager for The California Endowment’s Center for Healthy Communities, and has worked in clinic, hospital and social service settings. She is a native Angeleno, loves science fiction movies, and loves cooking homemade pasta with her family.
Senior Program Officer, Health, California Community Foundation
With 24 years of experience in health promotion, Rosemary Veniegas currently serves as Senior Program Officer for Health at the California Community Foundation (CCF). CCF’s mission is to lead positive systemic change that strengthens Los Angeles (LA) County. Dr. Veniegas serves on the Healthcare Delivery and Disparities Research Panel of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which was established as part of the Affordable Care Act. She is a member of the LA County Commission on Hospitals and Healthcare Delivery and the California Department of Health Care Services Behavioral Health Stakeholder Advisory Committee. Previously, Dr. Veniegas was an implementation scientist and researcher in academic departments of family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, psychology, and psychiatry. She received her Ph.D. in social psychology from UCLA.
Executive Director, S. Mark Taper Foundation
Adrienne Wittenberg serves as Executive Director of the S. Mark Taper Foundation. She has worked at the Foundation for the past 20 years in both financial management and grantmaking positions. Wittenberg is a member of Southern California Grantmakers’ Finance and Audit Committees. Prior to joining the field of philanthropy, she earned her license as a Certified Public Accountant while working as a tax consultant with the public accounting firm, Deloitte and Touche. Wittenberg is a member of the AICPA and the California Society of CPA’s.