- Marla Bilonick, Executive Director
- Muna Omar, Executive Assistant
- Leda Hernández, Chief Operating Officer (COO)
- Dimitar Mavrodiev, Senior Staff Accountant
- Rosana Sandoval, Accounts Payable & Payroll Administrator
- Marjorie Nemes-Galarza, Chief Development Officer (CDO)
- Monica Martinez, Communications and Development Associate
- Gabriela Balbuena, Human Resource Manager
Small Business Programs
- Lending Program
- Rodrigo Cordon, Director of Lending
- Isis Salmeron, Lending Operations Manager
- Emi Reyes, Risk Manager
- Zara Cabrera, Senior Loan Portfolio Supervisor
- Ana Guzman, Loan Operations Clerk & Customer Representative
- Daniel Friedman, Lending Officer, DC
- Carlos Garcia Rada, Senior Business Lending Officer, MD
- Susana Gómez Portugal Monroy, Small Business Loan Officer and Underwriter, MD
- Alejandro Arizaga, Lending Officer, Baltimore
- Antonio Tabora, Lending Officer, Baltimore
- Small Business Development Program
- Tamira Benitez, Director of Small Business Advisory Services
- Omar Velasco, Program Manager - Small Business Development
- Bibiana Stevens, Small Business Coach and Lead of LEDC CrediFirst Initiative
- Nicole Andonie, Small Business Coach & Liaison, DC
- Javier Sanchez, Small Business Coach & Liaison, DC (Ward 7 & 8)
- Maria Godoy, Small Business Coach, Wheaton
- Luis Prieto, Small Business Coach, Baltimore
- Resilient Commercial Corridors Program
- Richard Cisneros, Program Manager, MD
- Javier Rivas, Small Business Coach and Liaison, Montgomery County
- Empowered Women International (EWI)
- Alexandra Boycheck, Regional Program Manager
- Walda Yon, Chief Housing Officer (CHO)
- Housing Counseling
- Katherine Canales, Housing Counseling Coordinator, DC
- Pedro Luna Valencia, Bilingual Housing Intake and Support Staff
- Angelica Rufino, Housing Counselor, DC
- Maria Rosa Jimenez, Housing Counselor, DC
- Julia Sarmiento, Senior Housing Counselor, MD
- Fernando Martinez, Housing Counseling Coordinator, MD
- Karen Torrico, Bilingual Housing Counselor, MD
- Karen Serfis, Program Manager, Housing Counseling, VA
- Affordable Housing Preservation
- Rob Wohl, Tenant Organizing Manager, DC
- Citlalli Velasquez, Tenant Organizer, DC
- Victoria Goncalves, Tenant Organizer, DC
- Veronica Mosqueda, Tenant Organizer, 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.
A Jordanian-born Palestinian, Muna was raised in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah. While pursuing her undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Studies at the University of Utah, Muna was a major community organizer and activist, focusing on human rights, police brutality, anti-war activism, combating Islamophobia, and facilitating interfaith dialogue. She moved to DC in Fall 2018 and is now in her second year of the Master's of International Affairs program at the American University's School of International Service. Muna is very passionate about social justice and community development across all populations and hopes to move back to the Middle East after graduation to work in social, political, and economic redevelopment, specifically in refugee communities. Muna is fluent in Levantine Arabic and hopes to develop a wide vocabulary in Spanish while at LEDC.
Leda Hernández joined LEDC in 1998 and has worked in LEDC's Finance & Administration Department for the past 18 years. More recently, as Controller, she spent a decade leading all bookkeeping and procurement activities at LEDC as well as managing and reconciling bank accounts for the organization. On August 1st, 2016, Leda was appointed Chief Operating Office-COO, overseeing strategic and long-term initiatives for LEDC. 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.
Dimitar joined LEDC in April 2018 as a Senior Staff Accountant. Dimitar brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in all areas of accounting gained over more than 20 years of experience as Chief Accountant and Managing partner of a private accounting services company in his native Bulgaria. He holds an MSc in Accounting from the UNWE in Sofia, Bulgaria.
As a recent immigrant himself, Dimitar understands the mission and supports the goals of LEDC to provide financial training, skills, and support to the local immigrant communities for their social and economic advancement. He enjoys being part of LEDC multicultural staff working and learning about other cultures and sharing common goals and hopes for the future.
Rosana has more than ten years of experience in Business, Human Resources, and working as a Special Projects Coordinator at a Senior Management level. Rosana has excellent written and oral communication skills, problem resolution abilities, and maintains a high level of confidentiality regarding work-related issues. Rosana started with LEDC in 2009 as a Bilingual Default Foreclosure Counselor and was promoted after 5 months to become Financial and Human Resources Specialist. Rosana has over 4 years of experience working in the Administration department at LEDC and over 20 years of background experience. She has recently returned to LEDC’s Finance Department where she continues to exercise her well-developed skills in Human Resources administration, office management, bookkeeping, and finance.
Ms. Nemes comes to LEDC with over 17 years of experience in the community development field. As LEDC’s Chief Development Officer, in partnership with the Executive Director, 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’s of Science in Cross-Cultural Psychology from Brunel University in London, England.
Monica Martinez was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and is fluent in both English and Spanish. She joined LEDC in August 2018 as the Communications and Development Associate. In that role, Monica writes the organizations newsletter, assists in drafting annual reports, writes press releases, manages the organization’s social media platforms, leads the organization's individual giving efforts, and assists with proposals. Monica is a magna cum laude graduate of Bowie State University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Communication. In May 2019, she received her Master of Arts in Communication from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining LEDC, Monica worked as a Congressional Intern for the Office of U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD). During that time, she drafted press releases, compiled daily press clips, and assisted a policy advisor with education issues. During her undergraduate career, Monica worked with other students to promote the launch of WOKE Magazine, which delivers social justice news and views to HBCU students.
Gabriela Balbuena is LEDC’s Sr. Human Resource Manager who comes with over 10 years of experience in supporting business operational functions in Human Resources, Accounting, and Business Administration. She is a native Washingtonian who graduated from The University of Maryland College Park with a dual degree in Economics and Criminal Justice. In 2016 she fulfilled one of her passionate goals and earned her certification in Life Coaching. Outside of work she enjoys traveling, exploring different cultures and listening to music.
Small Business Programs
Rodrigo Cordon is LEDC’s Director of Lending. He reports to and advises the Executive Director on strategy and policies related to the organization’s work on the small business lending space. Among other responsibilities, Rodrigo is in charge of managing the organization’s loan fund portfolio, designing and implementing growth strategies and monitoring the long-term risk performance of the loan fund. Rodrigo has held different positions throughout his tenure at LEDC, having recently served as LEDC’s Risk Manager and Senior Loan Officer, respectively. He holds a B.B.A in International Business and an M.B.A in Finance from Loyola University Maryland. He recently obtained the Economic Development Finance Professional license from the National Development Council. Additionally, Rodrigo has working international experience in Lima, Peru and Lusaka, Zambia, where he performed his internships with Chemonics International. Rodrigo is originally from Guatemala and is passionate about economic development and the intersection between microfinance and technology.
As LEDC’s Lending Operations Manager, Isis monitors the liquidity of LEDC’s loan fund and the program’s operations, with a portfolio of over $3 million. Ms. Salmeron manages relationships with banks and ensures compliance with banks and LEDC’s guidelines. She is also responsible for overseeing data collection and reporting for the program. Originally from El Salvador, Isis Salmeron brings seven years of experience working with small businesses and low-income population in the DC Metropolitan area. She received her bachelor degree in Finance and Business Administration from the University of New Orleans, and her Master of Science in Finance from Johns Hopkins University.
A native of the Brightwood neighborhood in DC Emi Reyes has years of involvement in the restaurant industry. Born into a family of Salvadorian immigrants who became restaurant owners she has experienced firsthand the difficulties of owning a small business in DC Prior to joining LEDC, she worked throughout Central America with farmers and organizations looking to establish an eco-tourism co-op. Most recently she worked for Chipotle Mexican Grill in various capacities both in the DMV area as well as in Albany, New York. Emi graduated from Bennington College in Vermont with a concentration in political science and foreign languages. After serving as a microfinance intern at LEDC she decided to join the team as a Small Business Lender to have a greater impact in her community.
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, Ana worked for T-Mobile where she got to learn about all different kinds of businesses. She graduated from Bell Multicultural High School in the Columbia Heights neighborhood and attended the University of District of Columbia.
Daniel was born in Takoma Park, MD and graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a B.A. in Spanish Language, Literatures, and Cultures. At LEDC, he has transitioned from Small Business Development Bilingual Intern to Outreach & Program Coordinator to his current role as Lending Officer. On the weekend, you can find Daniel as a Market Assistant with Twin Springs Fruit Farm, a job he has held since high school.
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.
Susana is a professional with eight years of 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 Accounting Degree and a Specialization in Taxes from a Mexican University. She also holds an MBA and a Masters 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.
Alejandro Arizaga is a Small Business Lending Officer with LEDC in the Baltimore Area. Alejandro is originally from Ecuador. He will be completing his undergraduate studies from the University of Baltimore in Spring of 2019 with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Business Administration. Before joining LEDC, Mr. Arizaga worked for Pharmaceutics International Inc., at the Logistics and Purchasing department as a Logistics support associate. Alejandro has a passion for community work and believes that such passion can be turned into thriving businesses.
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.
Small Business Development Program
Tamira brings 10 years of economic development experience from her work in Washington, DC and San Diego, California to LEDC. In DC, she worked with LEDC’s Affordable Housing Preservation team to preserve affordable housing opportunities and improve housing conditions. Her work with DC immigrant communities helped pass legislation to obtain licenses for undocumented community members and strengthen language access rights. In San Diego, she worked with local economic development organizations to activate underutilized spaces in underfunded communities to increase walkability, safety, and overall economic activity. She also provided business development assistance to starting and existing San Diegan entrepreneurs. As a business owner, Tamira believes that access to business development assistance and funding are essential for entrepreneurial success. In her current role, Tamira helps to start, grow, and fund entrepreneurs through small business technical assistance and workshops.
Tamira holds an MA in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the University of San Diego. She also holds a BA in International Relations as well as a BA in Japanese Language and Culture from Beloit College. She is a DC resident where she shares a home with her wife and dog.
Omar has more than nine years of business experience. He spent two years as a leader in quality management and strategic planning for the Cardiovascular Foundation of Colombia, and six years as a manager and owner of a food manufacturing company, which is still operating. In addition to managing and operating his company, Omar was a business coach at the Chamber of Commerce of Bucaramanga, where he coached 180 entrepreneurs with the objective of turning their ideas into sustainable companies. As an entrepreneur, he knows firsthand the setbacks of starting and running a company and he learned that every difficulty is in fact, an opportunity. Omar is an Industrial Engineer in process optimization from the Industrial University of Santander and certified auditor for integrated management system ISO 9001 ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. He is very happy to be part of LEDC and to have the privilege of serving the community.
As a Small Business Coach, Bibiana is responsible for providing one-on-one technical assistance to business owners in the DC area. Ms. Stevens received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Jose Vasconcelos University in Oaxaca, Mexico, and her Masters of Arts in Applied Economics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain. She previously worked at the Community Foundation of Oaxaca, where she coached indigenous entrepreneurs in rural Oaxaca. Ms. Stevens is also experience in supporting the Washington area Latino Community through her time with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, where she was a bilingual case manager for the Central American Minors program, a program which sought to reunite minors from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala with their parents in the United States. Mrs. Stevens speaks Spanish, English, and Hungarian.
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 Latinx 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.
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.
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 Commercial Corridors Program
Richard Cisneros was born in San Miguel, El Salvador. Richard holds a BS in Business Management from George Mason University and an Associate of Science degree in Business Administration from the Northern Virginia Community College. Richard worked for two years as the Marketing Manager at the Mariposa Cultural Foundation. Before this, Richard used to work as the Assistant Producer for Accent Media, Inc., and as the General Manager for Three Pigs Barbecue. Richard feels blessed to work with business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. He feels inspired to work with motivated-hardworking individuals. He gets to help foster and develop ideas into functional businesses. Richard provides one-on-one coaching for small business owners, builds the client base and fills courses through outreach, and organizes trainings on business topics. Richard is proud to hear the success stories of his clients.
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.
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.
Walda Yon has 11 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 into Director of the Housing Programs in July 2015.
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.
Pedro Luna is originally from San Salvador, El Salvador and is now a resident of DC. Pedro has worked in non-profit organizations like the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School since 2016 when he first moved to the US. He attended the Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas" (UCA) in El Salvador where he studied psychology and marketing. Pedro is passionate about providing support to immigrant communities in the greater DMV area.
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 Washington 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.
Julia was born in El Salvador and completed most of her education in the United States. Julia obtained her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science with a Minor in Latin American Studies from the University of Maryland. Julia has six years of work experience in foreclosure, home-buyer education, financial literacy, community service, and outreach work. Julia has also worked with youth and families to promote education through physical activity.
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
Rob Wohl joined LEDC as a tenant organizer in 2015. Rob has 4 years of experience working on labor, environmental, and corporate accountability campaigns, including the movement against deadly sweatshops in Bangladesh, the effort to limit deforestation in the global palm oil industry, and the drive to raise wages and other labor standards at Walmart. Since coming to DC from Tucson, AZ in 2011, Rob has been involved in local activism through a variety of organizations, including Jews United for Justice, where he has served as co-chair on the affordable housing and Paid Sick Days for All campaigns.
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 Goncalves 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.