Our team of experienced professionals provides you with the highest level of service and support. Strategic, focused and committed, we are stewards who partner with our donors as they engage in high impact giving that reflects their interests and passions.
Vanessa Bechtel, AIFA, CSPG, serves as President and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF). Over the last five years, because of the support of thousands of generous donors, the foundation has been able to grant over $111 million in service to our community, advancing a wide range of causes, including access to education, health care, housing, the environment, animal welfare, arts and music, disaster relief and response, and so much more!
Prior to her work with VCCF, Bechtel served as executive director of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation. She co-founded Monarch Wealth Strategies in 2008 and was honored as Business Woman of the Year by the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce in 2010. Bechtel was recognized as Nonprofit Leader of the Year by the Ventura County Leadership Academy in 2019 and Humanitarian of the Year by the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation with her spouse, Jim. In December 2020, Bechtel was named Woman of the Year for 2020 by both the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce and the 19th Senatorial District and 37th Assembly District.
Bechtel graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Law and Society. In 2016, she received her master’s degree from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. She also received her master’s certificate from the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Onati, Spain in 2002.
In her spare time, Bechtel enjoys hiking, practicing the piano and violin, and is an avid reader.
Bonnie Gilles serves as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for VCCF. Her responsibilities include oversight of the VCCF’s more than 600 donor-advised, donor-designated, scholarship, field-of-interest and agency endowment funds, as well as the foundation’s investment portfolio, its operating budget and its annual grants and scholarship budget. Bonnie has been able to apply her 20-year tenure in real estate development and management to provide oversight of the VCCF Nonprofit Center. In addition, she oversees the Foundations insurance and human resources.
Prior to joining VCCF in October 2014, Bonnie was the Vice President of Finance for Total Woman Gym + Spa, managing finance and accounting for a portfolio of 16 locations with over $35 million in annual revenues. Before Total Woman, she was Controller for Fore Property Co., a national development/property management firm focused on low-income housing communities, with 40 locations in 15 states. Since 2018, Bonnie has served as a business representative on the Pleasant Valley School District Citizens’ Oversight Committee for the $119,000,000 Measure C Bond Measure, and currently serves as Chair.
An actively licensed California Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Bonnie graduated magna cum laude from California State University, Northridge, with a BS in business administration-accounting. Bonnie is Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst (AIFA) certified.
Says Bonnie of her job,
Mike Silacci recently joined the Ventura County Community Foundation team as its Chief Philanthropy Officer, responsible for growing relationships and creating more pathways into our community foundation to continue to grow philanthropy in our region.
Mike is leveraging his prior deep experience with the VCCF having had the privilege of serving on its Board of Directors for 14 years, with half of that service as Board Treasurer and serving as chair of the Board Finance/Administration and Investment committees.
Prior to joining the VCCF team, Mike completed a 40-year career with AT&T, where he served in various management assignments in Corporate Accounting, Information Systems, Finance, Regulatory Compliance, and External/Government & Community Affairs (EA). He spent the final 25 years of his career representing AT&T to local, state, and federal government officials and community leaders and community/civic organizations across the greater Los Angeles region, covering Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Kern counties, including nearly 10 years leading the AT&T greater LA EA team as its Regional Vice President.
Over the past several years, Mike has been active on over two dozen community non-profit boards, mainly in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, including having the privilege to serve as board chair for the Economic Development Collaborative, Ventura County Economic Development, El Concilio del Condado de Ventura, Ventura County Civic Alliance (Inaugural Chair), United Way of Ventura County, CSU Channel Islands Alumni & Friends Association, Ventura Chamber of Commerce, Ventura County Library Foundation, and Economic Vitality Corporation of San Luis Obispo County.
Mike is a native of San Luis Obispo and graduated from California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo, in 1981, with a B.S. in business administration/finance emphasis. He and his family have lived in Newbury Park for over 25 years.
Tracy Tagawa serves as the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) for the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF). She has over 20 years of experience in Risk Management. She is passionate in developing strong relationships while ensuring compliance and risk policies are being followed throughout the organization. Her responsibilities include the oversight of the VCCF Corporate Compliance Program and the adherence of VCCF’s fiduciary responsibilities with its clients and future fund holders.
Prior to joining VCCF in Sept 2020, Tracy was Vice President – Regional Brokerage Supervisor for Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC for 14 years. Her region included cities within Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, and Los Angeles County. She worked diligently in identifying potential risks in advance, analyzing them, and taking precautionary steps to reduce risk in the future. She was also responsible for all internal and external audits within her region.
Tracy grew up in Marin County, California and graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a major in Business Economics. She enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, and son. Both of her children play competitive sports and they travel to different states throughout the year to compete in national and state tournaments. Tracy also enjoys spending time with friends and family and they love attending professional sporting events when possible.
A life-long resident of Ventura County, Jim Rivera has over 30 years of experience in nonprofit executive management and fund development. He joined VCCF as the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) in June 2015. His prior professional positions include serving as Chief Operating Officer and Interim CEO for the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, Vice President with Netzel Grigsby Associates, Inc., a management and consulting firm; Vice President of Administration for the Santa Barbara Foundation; and President & CEO of Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara’s largest home health and hospice provider. Jim began his career in nonprofit management as a United Way professional in both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Organizations he has volunteered for include Mary Health of the Sick, Rancho Camulos Museum, Hutton Parker Foundation, Santa Paula Art Museum, Museum of Ventura County, Cultural Affairs Commission for the City of Ventura, Ventura County AIDS Partnership, Santa Barbara Hispanic Achievement Council, and El Concilio. Jim is certified in Fiduciary Essentials for Foundations and Endowments (FEFE).
Jessica Proctor is the Building Services Coordinator for the VCCF Nonprofit Center, providing information on the center’s resources and tenant services. Aside from greeting and directing visitors as they arrive at the building, she also manages meeting space and room reservation requests for over 125 eligible nonprofit organizations in Ventura County. In March of 2019 she became certified in Fiduciary Essentials for Foundations and Endowments (FEFE).
Prior to joining VCCF in 2012, Jessica was a graphic artist for 16 years in Los Angeles county, digitally coloring children’s cartoons for daytime television. Her credits include “Strawberry Shortcake”, “Horseland”, “Liberty’s Kids” , “Dino Squad”, “Sabrina the Animated Series”, and Emmy Award winning “Madeline”.
Jessica recently received her AA in Anthropology with Highest Honors from Oxnard College in 2015 and plans to transfer to a CSU Channel Islands in the future. When she is not working or studying, Jessica enjoys spending her free time with her son and creating art.
My inspiration for working at the VCCF Nonprofit Center is an appreciation for social diversity and interaction between nonprofit organizations collectively engaging in one place.
Lauren Graf is the Marketing & Communications Officer at the Ventura County Community Foundation. She combines her passions for design, communication, and community service through her current role at VCCF.
Lauren is currently based remotely out of Seattle, WA but was born and raised in Carpinteria, CA. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from California Lutheran University, where she received bachelor’s degrees in both communication with an emphasis in advertising and public relations, and art.
Lauren is also a lifelong volunteer, first accompanying her parents to Rotary projects while growing up, and later helping at projects for Conejo Valley Rotaract, where she was the club’s 2020-2021 president as well as marketing coordinator. She has also worked at nonprofits like the Alcazar Theatre, Rotary Club of Carpinteria, and the Carpinteria Arts Center. Currently, she volunteers on design projects for Pride Across the Bridge, her local LGBTQ+ advocacy and support group.
In her free time, Lauren loves playing table-top roleplay games, reading fantasy books, and doing arts and crafts.
Cuca Ruiz is the Staff Accountant at the Ventura County Community Foundation. Born and raised in Ventura County, she calls Santa Paula home. She has a passion for helping others and being involved in her community and makes this possible through volunteering.
Cuca received her B.S. in professional accountancy from California State University, Northridge and since then has worked in the public and private sectors. Prior to joining VCCF, Cuca worked at the City of Santa Paula for three years as an accountant.
In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family—especially traveling with her son and daughter, catching up with friends and being out in nature hiking local trails. Cuca is excited to be working for VCCF “as it is an organization whose goal is to support Ventura County, and helps many achieve great things.”
Aaron Weissman is the Database Manager for the Ventura County Community Foundation. Aaron was born in Woodland Hills but has lived in Ventura since he was a toddler, so he considers it his hometown. Aaron graduated with a B.A. in psychology from California State University, Channel Islands in 2019. During his time at CSUCI, he helped coordinate events with PSI CHI, and served as treasurer for a year. He has some previous community-oriented experience working at Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation through an internship program, as well as teaching college preparation at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility.
Before joining VCCF, Aaron worked at Calavo for 3 years, and it was during this time that he decided to go all-in on learning about data. After he resigned from his position at Calavo, Aaron left with a strong understanding that a well-maintained database can provide endless potential. He wanted to leverage that understanding and experience into something more purpose-driven, and thus gladly accepted the job offer extended by VCCF.
From traveling at a young age to local sports meets, to his love of hiking, Aaron has seen most parts of Ventura County. He grew to appreciate the natural beauty and lively culture each city has to offer, and hopes to give back the county through this position. In his free time he likes to create art, take walks, or enjoy a night in. Aaron has always been driven to innovate, and he hopes to bring that enthusiasm to the team at VCCF.
Kirsti V. Thompson
Kirsti joined the Ventura County Community Foundation in August of 2022.
Kirsti was born and raised in Ventura and has worked serving our county in the nonprofit and social service fields for over 30 years. Prior to joining VCCF as the Scholarship Director, Kirsti was the Director of Programs in California for a national nonprofit in the mental health field. Prior to that, she managed a statewide prevention grant that provided family strengthening and capacity building services to nonprofits and government agencies throughout California.
Kirsti graduated from San Jose State University and lives in Camarillo with her husband, son, and her spoiled pooch Rosie.
Calleen Pardinas, Philanthropic Services Officer & Board Liaison at the Ventura County Community Foundation, relocated to Ventura County in 2019 from Arizona. Born and raised in Mesa, she sees the importance of being involved within your community. Previous work in corporate philanthropy led her to her passion for collaborating with local nonprofits growing philanthropy in the community.
Calleen organizes the Donor Peer Network at VCCF, a community of philanthropists that serves as a network for members to connect through collaborative learning, exploring opportunities and best practices to effectively address issues to improve Ventura County.
Our donor clients have taught me so much during my time at VCCF. I am continuously inspired by their generosity to create a strong nonprofit sector and a thriving community.
With a degree from Arizona State University in Communications and Sustainability, she helps to lift VCCF’s environmental initiative. Internships with organizations like the Audubon Center, Calleen’s personal philanthropic interest is the importance of educating youth on conservation and the environment.
In her free time Calleen loves to travel the world, being outdoors in the sun or snow, exploring with her husband, son, and their two dogs.
• Certified Specialist in Planned Giving (CSPGCM)
• Fiduciary Essentials® for Foundations and Endowments (FEFE)
• Effective Grantmaking, Southern California Grantmakers
• UC Climate Steward, Community Environmental Council
Emily Marostica is the Scholarship Coordinator at the Ventura County Community Foundation. Born and raised in the City of Ventura, Emily is passionate about serving and growing the community that she resides in.
Emily shares a love for nonprofit organizations. She has spent her life volunteering and working for nonprofits in various capacities. Before coming to VCCF in January 2023, she started her career at the YMCA in 2016 working in Childcare and Youth Sports, then moved to Interface Children & Family Services in 2020 working with the 211 department as a Resource Specialist, and later serving as the 211Ride Transportation Coordinator. She has volunteered for organizations including Give an Hour, Gold Coast R.A.D., the Channel Islands YMCA and more.
She received an associate degree in administration of justice from Ventura College, and later moved on to attend Arizona State University, completing her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, spending time with loved ones, and listening to live music. Emily is excited to be working for VCCF to continue her lifelong goal of supporting Ventura County, and helping others achieve great things.
Julia M. Stermer
Julia Stermer is the Executive Assistant to President & CEO, Vanessa Bechtel, at Ventura County Community Foundation. Born and raised in Camarillo of Ventura County, Julia is thrilled to enter the nonprofit field to help her home community after many years in the travel industry.
In her high school and early college years she raised money for, and attended, volunteer work abroad in Romania, Turkey, China, and Brazil where she mostly taught English and assisted in finding solutions to pressing needs of the local communities through an organization known as IMPACT. After completing her Associate Degree of Arts at Ventura County Community College, she began the Bachelor of English program at California State University of Channel Islands before family illness and financial need caused her to postpone study and enter the workforce fulltime. Based on her passion for travel from her volunteer work, she joined the travel industry where she spent many years within a river cruise company, progressing from Reservationist to Groups Reservationist, to Communications Coordinator & Administrative Assistant, to Executive Assistant of the Vice President of Sales. She was inspired to join Ventura County Community Foundation, because of their Vision, Mission, and Values: trust, transparency, compassion, equity, tenacity, excellence, and authentic connection. Her personal mottos are “pack patience and kindness on every trip; always maintain a student mindset; and we cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”
When not working, Julia volunteers as a re-enactor at Renaissance Fairs, exhibiting historical attire and handiworks from the 15-1700s which included the Middle Ages, Elizabethan Renaissance, and the Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Golden Age of Piracy. Outside of these events, she enjoys hiking, board games, and spending time with friends, family, and her cat, Athena.
Born and raised in Chatsworth, Kinsey has lived in Ventura County on and off since her freshman year at CSU Channel Islands in 2013, where she received a B.A. in Psychology. An avid sailor, Kinsey also holds an OUPV Captain’s License/Merchant Mariner Credential. Prior to joining the VCCF team, she was the Development and Programming Assistant and a Program Instructor at a nonprofit located in Oxnard aboard a 110. ft tall ship. Kinsey spent her childhood summers sailing on Huntington Lake at Gold Arrow Camp but really fell in love with sailing when she joined her varsity sailing team at CSUCI, where she was the captain for three years and a sailing instructor for youth and adults at the CI Boating Center. She found a passion for teaching kids how to sail when she was a counselor for two years back at GAC and a sailing instructor for the CIBC summer camp. Kinsey is ecstatic to bring her unique experience to VCCF and contribute to the incredible impact that the foundation brings to Ventura County. When not working or sailing, Kinsey loves to knit and crochet, read, explore Disneyland, and brag about her cat, Anya.
Sylvia Barron serves as the Director of Accounting for the Ventura County Community Foundation. Her responsibilities include oversight of VCCF’s accounting and finance functions of the organization, reporting to the CFO, ensuring compliance with all applicable tax and accounting regulations, and managing more than 600 funds in compliance with laws and best practices.
Prior to joining VCCF in January 2024, Sylvia served as the Financial Controller at ShelterBox USA, an international disaster nonprofit where she oversaw and managed financial, forecasting, budget, audit, and accounting aspects for this organization for over four years. Prior to ShelterBox USA, she served as the CFO for Generation Rescue where she played a key role in overseeing financial, audit, budget, HR, and accounting matters for this autism nonprofit organization for 12 years. Prior to Generation Rescue, she was an accountant at the International Myeloma Foundation where she oversaw the day-to-day financial, budget, forecasting, audit, and accounting responsibilities.
Beyond her professional roles, Sylvia has actively contributed to nonprofit governance as a Board Member for Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County. She served on the Board of Directors as the Treasurer and participated in the Risk Management, Executive, and Finance & Audit Committees. She also served as a Board Member for Community Outreach Alliance (COA) where she held positions as the CFO and Treasurer.
Sylvia’s educational background includes a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, specializing in Accounting and Finance. Additionally, she has lectured part-time at National University, sharing her expertise in the School of Business and Economics (SOBE) and the Department of Finance, Economics, Marketing, and Accounting (FEMA).
“Working at VCCF provides me an excellent opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the community by taking small steps contributing to the large goal of positive change.”
Aidan Miner is the Marketing and Communication Intern at VCCF. Raised in Thousand Oaks, Aidan got involved in community service at a young age through Cub Scouts and Boys Scouts of America. His passion to help others only grew as he progressed through the ranks and eventually achieve Eagle Scout.
As a current student of California State University, Channel Islands, he is pursuing a degree in communication studies. Through Channel Islands, he worked with VCCF on the Isabella Project. After the project, he realized all the good he could continue doing through VCCF. He is looking to graduate in the fall of 2024 while continuing his work at VCCF.