Staff

Equipping Latinos and other DC-area residents with the skills and financial tools to create a better future for their families and communities.

Staff

Though we draw from different places, passions, and experiences, we are united by our belief that the Washington region is stronger when all families have the opportunity to achieve financial independence and join with their neighbors to improve their quality of life.

So here's a little about us – email us if you have any questions.

Gustavo Velasquez, Executive Director, gvelasquez@ledcmetro.org

Gustavo F. Velasquez serves as the Executive Director of the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC). Previously, Velasquez served as the Director of the District of Columbia’s Office of Human Rights where he led enforcement of the DC Human Rights Act and managed investigations of human rights violations for seven years.  During his career in DC government, including three years as Director of DC’s Office of Latino Affairs, Velasquez ensured that the rights of residents, workers and visitors to the Nation’s capital were upheld.  Before his mayoral appointments in the DC government, Velasquez was Director of Operations and Director of the Division of Children, Youth and Families at Congreso de Latinos Unidos, the leading social service provider to Latinos in Philadelphia.  In this capacity, he managed contracts and grants related to child welfare, wellness promotion, housing counseling, workforce development and financial literacy.  Velasquez received both a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Public Administration as well as a Masters Degree in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.  He also completed the Executive Program on Strategic Planning and Business Transformation at the Wharton School of Business. He lives with his wife and two young children in the District.

Rod Ilagan, Chief Financial Officer, rilagan@ledcmetro.org

Rod joined LEDC in December 2013 after four years working as Chief Financial Officer at the Capital Area Food Bank. Under his financial stewardship, Rod helped to double the food bank's operations to 45 million pounds of food per year and grew its operating budget by one-third to $50 million. Rod feels especially close to the Latino community. For many years now, he has been working pro bono as a principal at Sherpa Financial to help his Latino neighbors in Annapolis to integrate into the community and achieve the goals of homeownership and financial independence. From 1997 to 2006, Rod started his own business of franchise restaurants, building up sales to $1 million and employing 35 individuals. In his free time, Rod spends time with his family, including three wonderful grandchildren, reading, and taking walks in the community daily.

Rossana Espinoza, DC Small Business Coach & Trainer, respinoza@ledcmetro.org

Rossana Espinoza is the DC Small Business Coach for the Small Business Development Team at LEDC. As coach, Rossana works to help entrepreneurs start and expand their businesses in DC by providing bilingual technical assistance in the areas of business planning, incorporation and licensing as well as holding trainings on topics pertinent to small business owners. Rossana has been at LEDC for two years since first joining as Outreach Coordinator for the Housing Department in 2011.
 
A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park with a Bachelors degree in Government and Politics, Rossana has worked for student-led organizations on campus advocating for the inclusion and retention of Latino students. As a student, Rossana was an intern to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) as well as Montgomery County Council member, Valerie Erwin. Her undergraduate experience culminated by completing a study on factors that most affected students’ college enrollment as a research fellow at the Urban Institute. Rossana has worked on community development in a professional setting and volunteer basis and currently utilizes the skills gained to help minority and low-income small business owners.


Leda Hernández, Controller, lhernandez@ledcmetro.org

As Controller at LEDC, Leda Hernández is responsible for all bookkeeping and procurement activities as well as managing and reconciling all bank accounts. Leda has been working at LEDC in this capacity for the past ten years. Prior to joining LEDC in June 1998 she worked for the City Tavern Association where she served as an accountant. She received a B.S. in Accounting with a minor in Business Management from Strayer University in 1997. Leda says “my observation and experience of the under-representation in the government and the poor quality of life that is prevalent in so many communities has inspired me to consider the role I can play in making changes in these situations.” Leda serves the community with passion. She enjoys partaking in DC’s various cultural activities.


Ash Kosiewicz, Director of Communications akosiewicz@ledcmetro.org

Ash Kosiewicz joined the LEDC team in August 2009 after graduating from Georgetown's School of Foreign Service with a Master's Degree in Latin American Studies. Ash entered the world of communications advocacy and fundraising in 2004, traveling to Guayaquil, Ecuador to work with a local foundation and rice farmers to raise funds for the construction of a health center in the rural canton of Santa Lucia. Ash returned from Ecuador and worked for two years as development associate and communications director at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. During graduate school, he traveled to Lima, Peru and worked with the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team to help the organization expand its communications toolbox through the incorporation of information communication technology (ICT) tools, including blogs, vlogs, and other electronic communications. Ash enjoys how communications advocacy allows him to fuse his two passions - human rights and journalism - and is excited to continue his work with community-based organizations. As Communications Director, Ash shares the impact of LEDC's work with a variety of stakeholders. Ash loves to play basketball, learn about his Polish heritage, follow Latin American politics, and is an avid watcher of Sunday news programs.


Marla Bilonick, Director of Small Business Development mbilonick@ledcmetro.org

Marla Bilonick is LEDC’s Director of Small Business Development and rejoined LEDC in 2012 after first working at the organization in 1999. As director, she works with her team to provide high-quality bilingual training and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners. In graduate school at Johns Hopkins SAIS, she took an interest in microenterprise development and microfinance and was awarded a fellowship to study the effectiveness of national and local-level policies in Mexico aimed at supporting small businesses post-NAFTA. In New York, she worked with small businesses in Lower Manhattan that were impacted by the attacks of September 11th, helping to re-focus small businesses in the wake of tragedy. As previous director of the Upper Manhattan Business Solutions Center, Marla’s team was able to work closely with thousands of small businesses in Harlem to launch and expand their businesses, bridging gaps to critical resources including information and financing. Her work in the international arena in settings such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama provides her with cultural sensitivity and awareness that is useful for working with Latino participants. Marla believes that the communities that LEDC serves are vibrant and embody the entrepreneurial spirit that is required to take great ideas and bring them to life. In her free time, she spends time with family and friends, likes to travel, and arrange flowers.


Marjorie Nemes, Development Manager mnemes@ledcmetro.org

Marjorie Nemes brings ten years of experience conducting research and evaluation in the social justice field to LEDC’s Development Department. Marjorie helps LEDC raise funds and understand who we serve and assesses our impact in order to strengthen our program models and the effectiveness of our comprehensive approach to community-based economic development. She especially enjoys LEDC’s work to strengthen opportunities for financial security, independence, and civic engagement. She identifies her mixed racial, ethnic, and religious background, her father’s experience as a Holocaust survivor, and her own experience as an ethnic minority in the United States as a lens and perspective that has been critical to her work. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland College Park, MD in Psychology and a Master of Science in Cross-Cultural Psychology from Brunel University in London, UK.


Cesar Lopez, Director of LEDC's Community Asset Fund for Entrepreneurs clopez@ledcmetro.org


As Director of LEDC’s Community Asset Fund for Entrepreneurs, Cesar has worked in more than 25 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia as well as with private, government and international organizations in the field of microfinance. Before joining LEDC, Cesar worked for 15 years with ACCION International, a private, nonprofit organization, serving multiple posts including vice-president of operations for Latin America, vice-president and head of the Department of Financial Services, and vice president and program manager of Global Programs. Cesar's belief in LEDC's mission is grounded in his appreciation and respect for new immigrants who are working to reach the American Dream as many other generations before them. Cesar believes immigrants infuse new energy in our communities and bring diversity and new skills that enrich our lives. As chief executive officer for CAFE, Cesar helps current and future micro and small entrepreneurs to reach their potential by helping them to create jobs and increase their quality of life. Cesar likes to travel and learn about different cultures, enjoys swimming and spending time with family, and also enjoys teaching underprivileged high school kids to prepare for college.


Carlos Garcia Rada, Small Business Lending Officer cgarcia@ledcmetro.org


Carlos Garcia is a Small Business Lending Officer with LEDC. He has developed a solid reputation for excellent client service and customized financing solutions. He works out of LEDC’s Montgomery County hub in Wheaton, Maryland. Prior to working at LEDC, Carlos cultivated a career in financial service provision in the private sector, working for entities including SunTrust Bank where he served as a Business Relationship Manager. He also worked for banks in his native Peru, including Banco Santander and Banco Solventa in the areas of marketing and sales. There he developed, launched, and grew critical brands and products for those respective banks. Carlos holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Lima in Lima, Peru.


Carlos Arango, Senior Small Business Lending Officer carango@ledcmetro.org

As Senior Small Business Lending Officer, Carlos works closely with small businesses owners in the DC metropolitan area. An industrial engineer with a M.A in Economics from John Hopkins University, Carlos joined LEDC in Fall 2009; he enjoys working with people from diverse backgrounds. Carlos understands the challenges of being an entrepreneur/small business owner and feels proud to work in a place that open doors of opportunity for all immigrant and underserved communities. In his free time, Carlos enjoys vegetarian cooking, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and taking long walks in the city. Carlos' favorite reading subject is history.



Angela Buitrago Neira, Senior Small Business Manager aneira@ledcmetro.org


Angela moved to the United States in January 2008 from her native Colombia. Since arriving, she has worked in many banks and appreciates the complexities of navigating the financial system that immigrants face. Before moving to the United States, she worked for Microsoft as a Contact Center manager where she enjoyed assisting clients. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in International Marketing, and she is currently completing an Associate’s Degree in International Business. As Senior Maryland Small Business Coach and Trainer, Angela is responsible for working closely with aspiring and established small business owners in Wheaton and other parts of Maryland. She enjoys being with her husband, sharing good food with family and friends, walking, jogging, traveling, dancing and listening to music.


Christina Stockamore, Senior Small Business Lending Officer cstockamore@ledcmetro.org

Christina Stockamore joined the LEDC team at the start of 2010 as the Business Outreach Manager for the Wheaton, Maryland office. Now, as Senior Small Business Lending Officer, she works to help small businesses in DC access credit through LEDC’s Community Asset Fund for Entrepreneurs. A graduate of Georgetown University with a Masters degree in Latin American Studies, Christina is eager to combine her passion for economic development and entrepreneurship to improve the wealth-building capacity of others. After completing her graduate work, Christina spent a year working for National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations. She hopes to bring her experience running a summer camp for at-risk youth in Costa Rica to her position and in the process strengthen the community in which she lives. In her spare time, Christina can often be found riding her road bike, practicing yoga, cooking, or planning her next travel adventure.



Diana Avellaneda, Portfolio Manager davellaneda@ledcmetro.org


Diana Avellaneda brings 15 years of experience to LEDC working in the field of finance in areas such as cash management, accounting, and investing with institutions including Citibank and Santander Bank. As Portfolio Manager, Diana is responsible for the management, administration and accounting of LEDC’s portfolio which has reached $1.5 million and more than 150 clients. She supports and develops all back office operations for LEDC's Community Asset Fund for Entrepreneurs to ensure LEDC business loans are repaid and adequately processed. She loves working at LEDC because of its work to help people not just tackle the challenging world of business but achieve success. Diana loves spending time with her family, skiing, and eating Italian food.


Walda Yon, Homeownership Manager wyon@ledcmetro.org

Walda Yon brings six years of experience working with the Latino community in Washington, DC. Prior to working with LEDC, Walda worked in administrative and outreach capacities with Health Services for Children with Special Needs, Carlos Rosario International Career Center & Public Charter School, International Migrants Development Fund, and Alfa Omega Tax Service. Originally from Guatemala, Walda came to the US in 2000 with solid work experience in customer service and procurement at one of the leading sugar refineries in the country.  Walda attended the Business Administration School at the Mariano Galvez University in Guatemala. In her position as Senior Housing Counselor Walda educates clients on the credit system, financial literacy and the home buying process.  Also, Walda works with homeowners at risk of losing their homes to avoid foreclosure. She can also be seen in the community leading workshops at off-site venues. Walda is motivated by the fact that she is helping to improve the financial health of the community. She knows that by providing the tools for wealth-building to each client, she is helping their families and the community as a whole. Walda in her spare time enjoys keeping up to date on information related to her work. She also likes to take walks and enjoy the scenery of Rock Creek Park.


Wendy Alvarenga, Senior Bilingual Foreclosure Housing Counselor walvarenga@ledcmetro.org

Wendy is a Senior Housing Counselor in LEDC’s Wheaton Maryland office. Prior to coming to LEDC, Wendy worked for Wells Fargo assisting homeowners over the age of 62 with reverse mortgages. Wendy has also worked with Housing Counseling Services as an Intake Specialist and assisting counselors with the HPAP applications, as well as with the Greater Washington Urban League as the Document Control Process or Coordinator of the HOPWA program. Wendy enjoys shopping, going to the movies, dance, and spending time with her daughters. Wendy says, “The most exciting thing is when you see the faces of families go from bitter sweet to happiness because you were able to help them.”


Patricia Belbusti, Senior Bilingual Foreclosure Housing Counselor pbelbusti@ledcmetro.org

Originally from Argentina, Patricia is a bilingual housing counselor in the LEDC’s Wheaton, MD office. Patricia formerly worked in real estate and holds a real estate license in both MD and DC. She has also acted and played the guitar as part of LEDC’s teatro callejero, bilingual, musical plays performed in the streets at outdoor festivals, telling the story of a family trying to improve their housing situation.


Beatriz Zapata, Senior Bilingual Foreclosure Housing Counselor bzapata@ledcmetro.org

Beatriz Zapata is originally from Cali, Colombia. She graduated from Santiago University in Cali with a degree in Public Accounting. Beatriz has four years of experience as a dedicated housing counselor providing foreclosure prevention counseling and financial coaching for Montgomery County residents. Beatriz has attended and completed different continuing education courses and holds all certifications and courses required by HUD, including Certification in Foreclosure Intervention and Default Counseling, Post- Purchase Homeownership Education, and Financial Coaching. Before joining LEDC, Beatriz worked as a staff Program Assistant for the Carlos Rosario International School in Washington DC for more than six years, where she started as a student and advanced to become a receptionist, administrative assistant and a program assistant. When Beatriz was a student, she is very proud to have received many “Perfect attendees” award which are given to the most dedicated and punctual students. Beatriz enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.


Maria Godoy, Bilingual Housing Counselor mgodoy@ledcmetro.org

Born in Los Angeles California but raised most of her childhood in El Salvador.  Maria joined LEDC November 2010 as a Bilingual Foreclosure Housing Counselor.  Prior to LEDC, Maria worked for two years as a Loan officer for Bank of America and for three years as a Title Closer for RGS Title.  Maria has had an active license as a title insurance producer for five years.  Maria successfully completed Neighborworks Foreclosure Intervention and Default Counseling Certification in February of 2011.


Farah Fosse, Director of Housing Department ffosse@ledcmetro.org

As Director of the Housing Department, Farah coordinates the work of the affordable housing preservation and homeownership programs to educate renters and homeowners on their housing rights, assist residents in preserving their housing as affordable, and advocate for affordable housing policies in DC. Farah Fossé joined LEDC in October of 2005 in this role. Farah has served as a representative on Mayor Fenty’s Tenant Advisory Council and Mayor Grey’s Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force Coalition. Farah is a graduate of Smith College in Northampton, MA with a BA in Latin American Studies and Economics. During college she studied in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico and has traveled extensively in Latin America. Farah is originally from Connecticut but her diverse family hails from the Midwestern United States and Puerto Rico. Farah has lived in Northwest DC since 2000 and is passionate about preserving DC’s diversity and preventing the displacement of low and moderate-income residents, particularly Latinos, from the area.


Tamira Ramirez, Bilingual Tenant Organizer tramirez@ledcmetro.org

Before working at LEDC, Tamira Ramirez interned at the School of Americas Watch where she worked to close the School of Americas. Tamira worked for the closure of this institution through lobbying, research and organizing communities across the western hemisphere. Her passion to help the Latino community and other immigrant communities comes from her own experience growing up in El Salvador during the 12 year long civil war. She moved to the United States in 2002 and ever since then she has dedicated her academic and professional career to learn about the needs of Latino and other immigrant communities in the US. Tamira’s goal is to work towards improving the quality of life for Latino and other immigrant communities. She is excited to be part of the Affordable Housing Preservation Team at LEDC because it gives her the opportunity to use her leadership, organizing and advocacy skills to help families in DC stay in their homes and live in a decent, safe and affordable place. In her spare time Tamira loves spending time with her family, loved ones and friends.

Yesenia Rivera, yrivera@ledcmetro.org

Yesenia joined LEDC in 2013. She grew up between New York and Puerto Rico but has been calling DC home for almost 15 years. Yesenia has a Bachelor in Science from the University of Puerto Rico and a Law degree from the University of the District of Columbia- David A. Clarke School of Law.  She joins LEDC after having worked as a Student Attorney at the Community Development Legal Clinic at the law school. It was during her time at the clinic that she witnessed the effects of the affordable housing crisis in DC, particularly in the Latino community. The clinical experience fueled her passion for community development and she is thrilled to have joined the Affordable Housing Preservation team where she can help further empower the Latino community in DC.