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.
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).
Claudia was born and raised in Germany. She fell in love with a US Army officer in 2002, got married, and moved where the Army stationed her husband whenever she could. Since she left Germany in 2006, she moved to Texas, England, Virginia, and now California. That makes 3 trans-Atlantic and 1 cross-country move.
Claudia also likes to be active and is quick to try new sports depending on where she lives. So of course, she recently added surfing to her list of sports. She also enjoys roller derby and has been playing for 1 ½ years. She loves how derby provides a balance of exercise, excitement, and a feeling of community among the league. She started training in Virginia and is now plays for the Ventura County Derby Darlins in Camarillo.
Claudia has a German CPA license and has worked in CPA offices in Germany and Texas. She enjoyed CPA work, but once Claudia found her first employment with a non-profit organization in England in 2012, she never looked back. She has been working in non-profits ever since. Claudia said that it is very rewarding to help support a team that is truly trying to make a difference in people’s lives and to witness the positive impact. Claudia is certified in Fiduciary Essentials for Foundations and Endowments (FEFE).
Lauren Graf is the Marketing & Communications Officer at the Ventura County Community Foundation. A graduate of California Lutheran University, she is pursuing her lifelong passion of supporting community-based nonprofits. Some of her prior nonprofit work experiences include the Alcazar Theatre, Rotary Club of Carpinteria, and the Carpinteria Arts Center.
Born and raised in Carpinteria, Lauren has actively participated in community volunteering for her hometown. She came to Cal Lutheran in 2017, fostering her passion for nonprofit work as well as promoting access to art education and environmental advocacy. While on campus, she worked as a department assistant for the university’s art department, serving both faculty and students for three years. In her free time, Lauren served as president for her school’s Green Club, vice president for the Lord of Life student congregation, and as a marketing coordinator for Conejo Valley Rotaract. She graduated in 2021, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in both art and communication with an emphasis in advertising and public relations. Lauren anticipates a future of serving her community through her work at VCCF.
In her free time, Lauren enjoys creating art, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and visiting museums.
Elyssa Varela is the Community Impact Officer/Executive Assistant to the Chief Philanthropy Officer at the Ventura County Community Foundation. Born and raised in Ventura County, Elyssa now calls Santa Paula home. She is committed to assisting others and has a passion for supporting local animal rescues – whether it be through donating supplies or fostering as many dogs as she can.
Prior to joining VCCF, Elyssa worked at the City of Oxnard for five years as an Administrative Assistant with the Community Development Department and City Manager’s Office. Elyssa was previously a Planning Commissioner for the City of Santa Paula from 2018 to 2022. During that time, she saw the impact nonprofits provided to local communities and inspired her to seek opportunities where she can be of greater assistance to those in need.
She received a B.A. in communication from San Diego State University. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family—especially running around with her toddler son, catching up with longtime friends and relaxing on the couch with a good book when she can.
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.
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.
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 at GoDaddy led her to her passion for working with local nonprofits growing philanthropy in the community. Calleen leads 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 donors have taught me so much during my time at VCCF. I am continuously inspired by their generosity to create a strong nonprofit sector and community.
With a degree from Arizona State University in Communications and Sustainability, she helps to lift VCCF’s environmental initiative. Interning in college 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 and their two dogs, Cleo and Loba.
- Certified Specialist in Planned Giving (CSPGCM) in progress
- 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.
Robin Bissett, Executive Assistant to the President & CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, relocated to Ventura County in 2021, and is enjoying its breathtaking natural beauty and temperate climate. Born and raised in Los Angeles County, Robin worked primarily in the field of Early Childhood Education as a Teacher and an Administrator for 25 years. She has an AS degree(equivalent) in Early Childhood Education and earned a Site Supervisor Permit from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. She values the incredible benefits that a quality education makes in the life of a child during their first five years, and the positive impact it can have on the entire family.
She and her husband have five grown children and five grand-children and love being an integral part of their lives. Over the years they’ve enjoyed going on family vacations exploring the coastal regions of California in the summer, and skiing in the winter. Her family gathers often for celebrations and holidays at their home.
She is very happy and thankful to join the VCCF team and eager to learn more about the community that they serve.
Kirsti V. Thompson