- Marla Bilonick, Executive Director and CEO
- Isis Salmeron, Director of Finance
- Sonia Castro-Maya, Accounting Manager
- Emi Reyes, Director of Operations & Risk Management
- Marjorie Nemes-Galarza, Chief of Development & Strategy
- Monica Martinez, Communications Manager
- Brittany Jackson, Human Resources Manager
- David Bonilla, Executive Assistant
Small Business Programs
- Omar Velasco, Director of Small Business Development and Lending
- Susana Gómez Portugal Monroy, Loan Portfolio Manager
- Daniel Friedman, Loan Operations Manager
- Zara Cabrera, Senior Loan Portfolio Supervisor
- Ana Guzman, Loan Portfolio Clerk & Customer Representative
- Carlos Brown, Intake and Loan Processor
- Oscar Guillen, Loan Officer and Underwriter, DC
- Carlos Garcia Rada, Senior Loan Officer and Underwriter, MD
- Rene Llanes, Loan Officer and Underwriter, MD
- Antonio Tabora, Loan Officer and Underwriter, Baltimore
- Daniel Ayala, Senior Loan Officer and Underwriter, Puerto Rico
- Valerie Santos, Loan Officer and Underwriter, Puerto Rico
- Small Business Development
- Sergio Von Horoch, Small Business Development Intake Coordinator
- J.B. Behrens, Senior Small Business Coach & Liaison, DC
- Javier Sanchez, Small Business Coach & Liaison, DC
- Karla Posada, Small Business Coach, DC
- Laura Bentley, Small Business Coach & Liaison, DC
- Maria Godoy, Senior Small Business Coach & Trainer, MD
- Luis Prieto, Small Business Coach, Baltimore
- Resilient Business Corridors
- Javier Rivas, Program Manager, MD
- Alexandra Samaniego, Small Business Coach & Liaison, MD
- Melissa Romero, Small Business Coach & Liaison, MD
- Empowered Women International (EWI)
- Alexandra Boycheck, Regional Program Manager
- Nicole Andonie, Regional Program Coordinator
- Walda Yon, Chief Housing Programs Officer
- Housing Counseling
- Katherine Canales, Housing Education & Financial Empowerment Manager
- Angelica Rufino, Housing Counseling Program Manager, DC
- Maria Rosa Jimenez, Housing Counselor, DC
- Fernando Martinez, Housing Counseling Coordinator, MD
- Karen Torrico, Bilingual Housing Counselor, MD
- Karen Serfis, Program Manager, Housing Counseling, VA
- Affordable Housing Preservation
- Citlalli Velasquez, Senior Organizer and Organizing Lead, DC
- Victoria Gonçalves, Senior Organizer and Campaigns Lead, DC
- Veronica Mosqueda, Senior Organizer and Program Oversight Lead, DC
Marla Bilonick was named LEDC's Executive Director in 2014. As Executive Director, she leads LEDC's regional efforts to drive the economic and social advancement of low- to moderate-income Latinos and other D.C. and Baltimore area residents by equipping them with the skills and tools to achieve financial independence.
Prior, she worked for Seedco with businesses in Lower Manhattan affected by the 2001 attacks of 9/11 so that they could be retained and grow. As director of the Upper Manhattan Business Solutions Center, her team worked with entrepreneurs in Harlem to launch and expand businesses. With DAI, she worked on microfinance projects in Bolivia, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and her native Panama. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received her MA from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies-SAIS.
Marla is a former Aspen Institute Emerging Leaders in Microbusiness Fellow and is a graduate of the Citi/Opportunity Finance Network (OFN)'s Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance at Wharton. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the following organizations: National Association of Community Asset Builders-NALCAB; National Housing Trust’s ICE-Institute for Community Economics; Enterprise Community Partners’ Loan Fund; and the Opportunity Finance Network-OFN.
Isis Salmeron is LEDC’s Director of Finance. She is responsible for maximizing the return on financial assets by establishing financial policies, procedures, controls and reporting systems. Isis oversees cost and general accounting, accounts receivable/collection and payroll and risk management and ensures legal and regulatory compliance for all accounting and financial reporting functions. Isis has held different positions throughout her tenure at LEDC, having served as LEDC’s Lending Operations Manager and Senior Loan Officer, respectively. Isis holds a BA in Finance and Business Administration from the University of New Orleans, and a Master of Science in Finance from Johns Hopkins University. Originally from El Salvador, Isis has more than nine years of experience working with small businesses and low-income populations in the DC Metropolitan area.
Sonia Castro is LEDC’s Accounting Manager with over 28 years of experience in accounting and finance, including 16 years of experience in her native Colombia where she was Director of Finance for Contactar, a leading economic development and microfinance organization. Sonia comes to LEDC with a strong background in finance and accounting. Working closely with the Director of Finance, Sonia is responsible for all areas relating to financial reporting and accounting. Prior to joining LEDC, Sonia worked for nine years as Accounting Manager at Centronia and DC Bilingual Public Charter School. Sonia received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Public Accounting from Marian University in Colombia and holds a certificate in Management and Administration.
A native of the Brightwood neighborhood in DC, Emi Reyes has years of involvement in the restaurant industry. Born into a family of Salvadoran immigrants who became restaurant owners, she has experienced firsthand the difficulties of owning and operating a small business. Prior to joining LEDC, she worked with restaurants in New England as well as the DC area. She has also worked throughout Central America with farmers and organizations looking to establish an eco-tourism co-op. Emi graduated from Bennington College in Vermont with a concentration in political science and foreign languages. After two years in the Small Business Lending Department, Emi joined the administrative team at LEDC as Director of Operations and Risk Management. Emi also serves as a member of the Mayor’s DC Food Policy Council.
Ms. Nemes comes to LEDC with over 17 years of experience in the community development field. As LEDC’s Chief of Development & Strategy, in partnership with the Executive Director/CEO, she oversees the sustainability and growth of the organization. Ms. Nemes is responsible for building and executing the organization’s development, communications, and evaluation plans; implementing information technology systems to support development, evaluation, and communications functions; managing funder relationships; monitoring government, foundation, and corporate reporting; and organizing special events. Prior to joining LEDC, Ms. Nemes’ work focused on assessing the needs of vulnerable and marginalized communities and the programs designed to minimize the social inequities these communities face. She has directed, consulted, and supported research and evaluation projects related to immigrant and refugee integration, public health, community change processes (policy change, race, and ethnic relations, organizing, advocacy), and economic development. Ms. Nemes is bilingual and has extensive experience conducting field work with ethnic communities- gaining access and recruiting community members in the research process, and designing and administering culturally and linguistically appropriate data collection instruments. Having served as a research consultant to foundations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations, Ms. Nemes is well versed in the program development and organizational capacity building. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland College Park in Psychology and a Master of Science in Cross-Cultural Psychology from Brunel University in London, England.
Monica is LEDC's Communications Manager. In that role, Monica manages the organization's communications and marketing efforts, including producing the organization's newsletter, assisting in the production of annual reports, writing press releases, managing the organization’s social media platforms, and overseeing department-wide marketing and advertisement efforts. She joined LEDC in 2018 as a Communications Associate. Prior to joining LEDC, Monica worked as a Congressional Intern for the office of former U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings. Monica is a magna cum laude graduate of Bowie State University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Communication. There, she worked with other students to launch WOKE Magazine, which delivers social justice news and views to HBCU students. In May 2019, Monica received a Master of Arts in Communication from Johns Hopkins University. Monica was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Brittany is LEDC’s Human Resources Manager with over a decade of experience in employer branding, employee engagement, and benefits administration. Brittany manages LEDC’s day-to-day HR functions, including onboarding and policy implementation and improvement. Brittany previously lived in Atlanta, Georgia where she obtained vast experience and knowledge in HR while studying at Clark Atlanta University. She is an advocate for radical justice, ending homelessness, and supporting small businesses owned by minorities. When she is not on the clock, she is either on a plane to somewhere new, back to Atlanta or screaming at the top of her lungs on 400-foot drop rollercoasters. An avid book lover and writer, her interests include critiquing movie angles, water sports, creative writing for television and traveling. She plans to see 10 new countries before 2023.
David Bonilla is the Executive Assistant at LEDC. In that role, he manages the executive director's schedule, serves as a liaison to the board of directors, and facilitates board, leadership and staff meetings. David comes to LEDC with vast experience in the nonprofit world, including fundraising, quality assurance, data entry, and facilities/operations. He is currently enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia. David was born in La Union, El Salvador, and currently resides in the Brightwood neighborhood of Washington, DC. When he's not working, David is advocating for the rights of tenants as the vice president of his tenant association.
Small Business Programs
As LEDC’s Director or Small Business Development and Lending, Omar brings over a decade of experience in business development and entrepreneurship, and over three years of experience in consumer and small business loans, to the organization. As a business advisor, he has provided business consultancy and technical assistance to more than 200 entrepreneurs and business owners. His main areas of expertise are financial analysis, business modeling, and digital marketing. Throughout his career at LEDC, he has helped small businesses in all stages of growth, including providing small business advice, pre-loan technical assistance, underwriting, and credit analysis. Omar is an Industrial Engineer with a master’s in process optimization from the Industrial University of Santander.
Susana is LEDC’s Loan Portfolio Manager. She oversees the liquidity of LEDC’s loan funds, supervises the lending program financial operations, and manages relationships with banks and clients. Before becoming the Loan Portfolio Manager, Susana worked as a Loan Officer and Underwriter for LEDC. Susana is a professional with international experience and exposure in Forbes 500 Companies (Mattel and Johnson & Johnson) who has transitioned to the nonprofit sector. She loves to work in diverse cultures contributing to empowering communities to create sustainable, positive feedback loops. Prior to joining LEDC, she worked at Conexion, a small non-profit organization based in Boston focused on empowering Latino professionals in corporate positions, while also working as a Microfinance and Fintech collaborator at Accion East. Susana holds a BA in Accounting with a Specialization in Taxes. She also holds an MBA and a master's in International Marketing from Hult International Business School, as well as a Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate from Georgetown University. Susana speaks Spanish, English, and French. She enjoys learning, traveling and meeting people from different cultures.
Daniel was born in Takoma Park, MD, and graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a BA in Spanish Language, Literatures, and Cultures. At LEDC, Daniel has worked in both the Small Business Development and Small Business Lending Programs. In his current role as Loan Operations Manager, his responsibilities include supervising loan officers, implementing underwriting policies, developing new loan products, and more. On the weekend, you can find Daniel working for Twin Springs Fruit Farm at local farm markets, a part-time job he has held since high school.
Ms. Cabrera is currently the Portfolio & Data Administrator for LEDC. As Portfolio & Data Administrator, Zara performs functions of sending invoices, collecting and processing payments, perfecting collateral, calling clients, organizing and maintaining client files, and tracking and reporting key performance indicators. Zara manages LEDC’s loan tracking software and provides regular reports to the manager of our lending program on the performance of the portfolio. Zara started with LEDC as an Administrative Assistant and was soon promoted to her position as Portfolio & Data Administrator in August 2014. Zara's previous work experience includes working as an administrative assistant at H&R Block and Rosemount Center.
Ana was born and raised in DC. Her parents are from El Salvador. Before joining LEDC as the Loan Portfolio Clerk & Customer Representative for the lending team, Ana worked for a telecommunications company where she provided tech support to small businesses and individuals. She graduated from Bell Multicultural High School in the Columbia Heights neighborhood and attended the University of the District of Columbia.
Carlos is LEDC’s Intake and Loan Processor. His role is to help generate leads and build relationships with new and existing clients, as well as to help small businesses with the loan application process. He also supports the lending team with outreach initiatives in the DMV area. Carlos has worked in the interpreter, casino, recruiting, and aerospace industries. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in International Studies. Carlos was born in Mexico but moved to Florida at a young age.
Oscar Guillen is a Loan Officer and Underwriter with LEDC in Washington, DC. He is originally from Nicaragua and has lived in the Silver Spring area for most of his life. He has experience in banking, hospitality, retail, and telecommunications. Before joining LEDC, he worked at AT&T for over 12 years as a Senior Sales/Business Consultant managing client accounts. Oscar graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. His interests include sports, music, art, technology, and spending time with his family.
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 providers 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.
Rene Llanes is a Small Business Loan Officer and Underwriter with LEDC in Wheaton, Maryland. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and raised in Miami, Florida, where he worked in retail at Florsheim for over 15 years. He also has experience in the hospitality industry, specifically in food service where he was a restaurant manager. In 2017, Rene relocated to Maryland where he worked as a banker for Bank of America in Washington, DC. He is a graduate of Grand Canyon University, with a B.S. in Business Management. His interests include sports, music, cooking, working out, and family time.
Antonio Tabora is a Small Business Lending Officer with LEDC in the Baltimore area. Born and raised in Honduras, he graduated from University of San Pedro Sula with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and recently completed an MBA in Finance at Loyola University Maryland. Antonio has accrued seven years of management experience across several industries including air transportation, corporate banking, and most recently electronics retailing. As a lending officer for FICOHSA Honduras, he sourced, developed, and materialized leads to sell financial products and online banking services for prospective clients in the middle market and corporate business communities. As a country manager for Samsung Electronics LATAM, he was responsible for increasing country revenue by developing sales and marketing/retail strategies, which included business development, retailer and vendor relationship management, and team leadership. Antonio has always had a passion for helping and empowering underserved communities outside of work. As a teenager, he was an active church youth leader and supported several charities and volunteering initiatives. Most recently, he was involved in volunteering through Notre Dame of Maryland University by supporting charities like My Sister’s Place Women’s Center, Earl’s Place Transitional Housing, and Habitat for Humanity Restore. His interests include technology, securities and investment research, family and fitness.
Daniel Ayala is the Senior Loan Officer and Underwriter helping to lead LEDC's expansion to Puerto Rico. Daniel began his career in social work as a behavioral health counselor for at-risk youth and families. Prior to joining LEDC, he served as the Director of Social Services and Housing and Stabilization Services at FamilyAid Boston. He also worked as a consultant helping to develop a grassroots organization with a social justice mission focusing on underserved neighborhoods in the Boston area. Daniel holds a master's in Social Work from Binghamton University and a second master's in Public Administration from Suffolk University. Prior to joining the LEDC family, Daniel and his partner relocated to Puerto Rico to assist in the development and recovery of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Valerie Santos is a Loan Officer and Underwriter in Puerto Rico. Prior to joining LEDC, she worked as a loan processor for an affordable, non-profit housing agency in Central Florida. She brings several years of experience assisting many low-income families achieve their dream of homeownership. Her passion to advocate for individuals and families that continue to struggle in the face of poverty and social injustice comes from her low-income community roots and her understanding that hard work does not always guarantee safe affordable housing or non-predatory lending for small businesses. Valerie is committed to helping LEDC take some giant steps towards accomplishing their objectives in Puerto Rico and looks forward to seeing Puerto Rico rise up and continue to be an amazing place to live and work.
Small Business Development
Sergio is LEDC’s Small Business Development Intake Coordinator. Sergio graduated from the University of Maryland with a master's in Applied Economics with a specialization in developmental economics. Before joining LEDC, Sergio worked as an intern at the Institute of International Finance (IIF) and as a Global Meeting Services Analyst at the Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS). Having moved to the DMV area at a young age, Sergio is passionate about helping the underserved communities in the region. As a member of LEDC, he is eager to keep working towards a better future for our community.
J.B. joined LEDC in 2020 after 14+ years of managing operations for a furniture manufacturer based in Fairfax, VA. J.B. is excited to be part of the LEDC team to help entrepreneurs in DC reach their goals. Prior to his years in furniture, J.B. worked in restaurants and law firms in DC and software marketing in Scotland. J.B.’s undergraduate studies were done at the University of Pittsburgh and the Universidad Laica Vincente Roca Fuerte (Guayaquil, Ecuador). J.B. next studied International Business at the University of Stirling in Scotland. J.B. enjoys organic gardening, cooking, and traveling.
Javier plays a key role in LEDC’s Resilient Business Corridor project in Wards 7&8 in Washington, DC. He works with small business owners in the field to evaluate their business needs and long-term goals and connects them with expert consultants in areas such as bookkeeping and marketing. In this capacity, he’s also able to assist small businesses in accessing DC government incentives and assistance through programs including the DMPED Great Streets grant and CBE certification offered by DSLBD. Javi Sanchez has an extensive range of talents and experience from a variety of positions in the fashion and eCommerce world in New York City serving multiple hats from fashion marketing to logistical roles. He was instrumental in helping launch the first-ever online men’s brand for 5’8” and below; Peter Manning NYC as an early operator on the ground floor of this successful men’s brand serving an underserved niche in the retail space. Javi served in the United States Navy from 2000 to 2007 onboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and on the 4-star general’s staff of US Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, VA. He also runs a boutique consultancy experienced in the branding, communications, marketing, and the business development for e-commerce fashion & lifestyle brands.
Karla is a former small business owner and senior operations manager with more than 15 years of private-sector experience in the retail, apparel and fuels industries, giving her insight into many of the challenges faced by business owners. As a Small Business Coach with LEDC, she is passionate about helping aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in the District successfully develop and execute their own business plans. Karla is a graduate of the Mathias Delgado University in San Salvador with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a master’s degree in International Commerce from the University of Alicante, Spain. Karla is bilingual in English and Spanish.
Laura has recently returned to the United States after working in Argentina as a Tax Technology Consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she designed automated financial databases and performed economic analysis in the field of transfer pricing. Passionate about entrepreneurship as a catalyst for social change, she was previously involved with organizations such as the Barcelona-based AFAEMME and the Boston-based Center for Women & Enterprise, which assist women in business to grow their companies and realize their full potential. She is excited to support the DC community in their business aspirations as a part of LEDC. A Boston native, Laura holds a B.A. from Connecticut College in Economics and Hispanic Studies.
Maria Godoy joined the team in November 2010. As a small business coach, Maria helps entrepreneurs start or expand their businesses in the Washington metropolitan area by providing them with the tools and resources to address their business needs. Maria served in other capacities focused on economic development within the organization prior to transitioning to the small business team. The skills and operational knowledge she has gained throughout the years in economic development have built her professional experience. Now more than ever, she is able to help minority-owned small businesses and women-owned businesses reach their overall operational goals.
Luis Prieto is a Small Business Coach for LEDC in the Baltimore area. Luis graduated from the University of Puerto Rico - where he is originally from - in 2011 with a Bachelor of Business Administration and a concentration Finance. Prior to joining LEDC, Luis worked for a Federal Credit Union for 7 years as a Sales Executive and Credit Analyst for consumer loans. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs achieve their business goals.
Resilient Business Corridors
Javier Rivas joined LEDC in February 2019. Having owned and operated two businesses in Washington, DC, he comes to the Business Resilience Program with a wealth of entrepreneurship experience, ready to bring support to business owners facing challenges resulting from the rapid development and growth in the greater DMV area. As a self-taught owner of two coffee shops, he enjoyed the process of learning a craft, tackling problems and constantly finding more efficient ways of achieving his goals. More than anything, he is proud of having been able to serve his community, making long-lasting connections, and helping his employees gain confidence, vocational training, and personal growth. He spent his childhood in El Salvador and has been a resident of the DMV area since 1989. Javier holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia.
Alexandra Samaniego brings several years of experience in business and economic development to LEDC from her work in Ecuador, where she is originally from. There, she founded and managed a handcrafts store helping indigenous communities sell their work. Alexandra also worked with the Bank of Ecuador, helping small businesses improve their finances and access low-interest loans. Alexandra is inspired to work with entrepreneurs to help them to achieve their goals. She holds a certificate in Project Management from UMUC and a BA in International Business from Ecuador. She lives in the DC metro area with her husband and 2 boys.
Melissa joined the LEDC team and took on the role of Small Business Coach & Liaison in 2019 with the mission to make a greater positive impact in her community. Melissa grew up in the small historic town of Takoma Park, MD. She is a business graduate from the University of Maryland where she earned her degree in Supply Chain Management. Since graduating, Melissa has taken on roles in various areas of business including marketing and sales, business development, and accounting. She is passionate about helping her community and chose LEDC because it allowed her to fulfill her self-imposed civic duty while also allowing her to continue building on her business knowledge and experience. When she is not tending to her professional and civic duties, she likes to play sports, dance bachata, and hike.
Empowered Women International (EWI)
Originally from Romania, Alexandra came to the United States in 2012 to pursue her dream since childhood, to live and study in the big apple, New York. She studied at the Spanish American Institute in New York City and after moved to Alexandria, Virginia. Alexandra has been an integral part of Empowered Women International’s growth and development over the past five years. From volunteer to intern to student to Program Manager to her latest role as Regional Program Manager of Women's Empowerment Programs with the Latino Economic Development Center. Her experience in these various positions gives her a deep understanding of the nuances of EWI programs and allows her to respond to the needs of our clients with agility and grace. As a manager, Alexandra cares deeply about her staff and works hard to provide a good balance of direction and freedom to innovate.
Alexandra is a graduate of Babes- Bolyai University in Cluj- Napoca, Romania, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing and later her Master of Arts degree in Advertising. Her passion for being engaged in the work of a non-profit organization started when she was in college. She managed the Strategic Planning Department of her student marketing organization, ASM (Association of Marketing Students), which included training and team building. Her experience with the organization left a strong impression on her and developed her leadership skills.
Nicole Andonie is a bilingual professional with more than 10 years of experience in U.S. & Latin American Markets. Having lived and worked abroad in Honduras for 6 years, Nicole is excited to leverage that experience and help Latina/o/x small business owners in the DC Metro Area. She holds an MBA from Universidad Francisco de Vitoria in Spain and a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Johnson & Wales University. Nicole considers herself a lifetime learner and is passionate about personal growth, Latinx and women’s issues.
Walda Yon has 13 years of experience working at the Latino Economic Development Center. Prior to working with LEDC, Walda worked with various nonprofit organizations in the DC area such as Carlos Rosario International Career Center & Public Charter School. Originally from Guatemala, Walda came to the U.S. in 2000 with solid work experience in procurement at one of the leading sugar refineries in the country. Walda started her career at LEDC as a housing counselor focusing on foreclosure, pre-purchase, and financial education. After 8 years of working in this position, she was promoted to Housing Counseling Manager overseeing all of these programs. She holds multiple certifications from NeighborWorks and NCLR in topics related to Housing Counseling, Foreclosure Prevention, and Financial Capability. Walda attended the Business Administration School at the Mariano Galvez University in Guatemala. Her most recent accomplishment at LEDC was her promotion to Chief Housing Programs Officer in 2018.
Katherine joined LEDC in September 2014. She is of Ecuadorian and Salvadorian descent. A recent graduate of Trinity Washington University, Katherine majored in International Affairs, concentrating on global migration, and minoring in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Having demonstrated academic excellence by graduating with several honors she was inducted into three honor society chapters: Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Alpha Theta, and Sigma Iota Rho. Katherine believes that her customer service work experience and education has helped her develop outstanding interpersonal communication skills and cultural sensitivity, which aids her in helping create financial independence for LEDC's clients.
Angelica Rufino comes to LEDC with almost 7 years of nonprofit experience, having spent the last 5 years working in the housing counseling industry in Washington DC. She is a native Washingtonian of Dominican heritage. She is a certified housing counselor with experience in homebuyer education, foreclosure prevention, and credit counseling. Before becoming a housing counselor, she was an intake specialist helping the public know about the various programs available for the community in DC. She was also a former member of the LEDC family as a receptionist, where she was introduced to the housing counseling field and all the housing programs in DC.
Maria has 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit area in Washington, DC. Her experience includes outreach, housing, and tenant organizing. She holds a Bachelor's in Communications and Photography from the Ibero University in Puebla, Mexico. Maria is very excited to be part of LEDC and to support immigrant families to live in decent and safe housing.
Fernando Martínez was born and raised in Colombia and is now a resident of DC. He graduated from Javeriana University in Colombia and received an MBA from Strayer University in DC. He has three years of experience in property management and 11 years in the banking sector working as a personal banker at Citibank. During these years he has been very involved with the Hispanic community and other minorities by helping them with their basic personal financial planning, covering aspects such as starting credit history in the US, budgeting, and savings, guiding them to avoid bad debt and use good debt to create wealth for them and their families. He is enthusiastic about helping the community with educational initiatives that will end up improving their quality of life.
A first-generation native of the District, Karen has spent the last 6 years providing Housing and Financial Counseling to low-to-moderate income individuals in the metro area. She joined LEDC in March 2019 to contribute to the Housing Team and continue working to empower people and communities. Karen brings over 15 years of nonprofit and government contract experience, where her roles allowed her to wear many hats in credit-building loan development, graphics and web design, communications, marketing, and outreach. She also established her own events production businesses and produced festivals that promoted culture, music, sports, and community. Her dedication to the community runs in the family, and she finds inspiration from her parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Bolivia and were able to establish successful careers while teaching a dedication to help others along the way. Her Housing Counseling certifications include Pre-Purchase, Post-Purchase, and Financial Capability Counseling from NCHEC - NeighborWorks America. An origami enthusiast, seeker of nature, travel, and adventures, she also converses in 3 languages and hopes to add to the list.
For over twenty years, Karen Serfis has worked to increase homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate- income households who wish to purchase their first home in Arlington and our surrounding communities. She teaches Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) homebuyer education classes and provides pre-purchase, post-purchase and foreclosure prevention counseling.
Karen is a member of VHDA’s Homeownership Advisory Board and a co-chair of Arlington County’s Homeownership Working Group. In 2007 and 2008 she served on Governor Kaine’s Virginia Foreclosure Prevention Task Force. In May 2004 she received an Award of Excellence from the Virginia Association of Housing Counselors. Karen is a graduate of James Madison University where she received a BBA in International Business. Karen is a certified housing counselor and has earned NeighborWorks NCHEC certifications in Homeownership Education and Counseling, Pre-Purchase Homeownership Education, Post-Purchase Homeownership Education, Foreclosure Intervention and Default Counseling, Financial Capability, and Homeownership Counseling for Program Managers and Executive Directors. Prior to working with first time home buyers, Karen worked in the banking industry for eight years.
Affordable Housing Preservation
Citlalli Velasquez joined LEDC as a VISTA bilingual tenant organizer in 2017. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2017 studying Arabic and Philosophy and has since stayed in DC. While at Georgetown she organized with students to make Georgetown a “sanctuary” campus and establish an affinity space for Latinx students. Citlalli’s upbringing in East Los Angeles and exchange years in Egypt and Jordan fueled her to fight for justice through an anti-imperial lense as she realized that the current and historical state of people of color in the U.S. is parallel to those in historically colonized countries. Citlalli strongly believes justice should be sought through a racialized lens because imperial and colonial violence is and has been racialized. She looks forward to building power with Section 8 tenants to challenge our institutions and ourselves by demanding better housing conditions in order to live and thrive in healthier communities.
Victoria Gonçalves was born in Caracas, Venezuela and raised in Miami, Florida where she became engaged in local politics from an early age. She has lived in DC for the last 6 years where she graduated from George Washington University as a political science major in 2017. In her undergraduate career, she was heavily involved in the Latinx and queer communities which she helped organize around political and campus issues. She is passionate about organizing for justice, most recently organizing in solidarity with farmworkers through the Student/Farmworker Alliance. Victoria Joined the Affordable Housing Preservation team in March of 2018 and is excited to continue to help tenants exercise their rights, take collective action and advocate for affordable housing.
Veronica joined LEDC as a Bilingual Tenant Organizer in 2018. She has five years of related professional experience and a lifelong passion for justice and public service. Her experience ranges from advocating for and working with children, at-risk youth in the foster care system, immigrant and bilingual communities, and teen parents. She has served as case manager for young adults in homeless and housing services, educated and advocated for suicide prevention organizations, developed support groups in high schools in Austin Independent School District, fought for immigrant rights and against anti-sanctuary practices in Austin, TX, and collaborated in implementing a drop-in center for survivors of human trafficking.
Veronica is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico and grew up in Texas. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, English Literature, and Spanish.
As an immigrant and someone with lived experience navigating the challenges the community faces, she is aware of the power of representation in building trust and rapport, and most importantly, in understanding the specific needs of a population. She is proud to be part of a team that advocates for city-wide policies that reflect the needs of the community and empowers tenant associations to exercise their rights to preserve and improve their affordable housing.