Our Team

Administrative

Direct Community Investments Program

Small Business Programs

Housing Programs

Administrative

Emi Reyes
Emi Reyes
Chief Executive Officer

Meet Emi—a nonprofit executive, financial strategist, and force for good. As LEDC’s CEO, Emi brings more than a decade of strategic leadership experience including five years at LEDC. With a passion for entrepreneurship and small business, Emi’s career has focused on transforming nonprofit and for-profit organizations by catalyzing change and fueling growth.

Born to Salvadoran immigrants who operated a family-owned restaurant, Emi’s foray into the world of small business and entrepreneurship started at a young age. While pursuing her degree in political science at Bennington College in Vermont, Emi co-founded the college’s first student farm, trained women entrepreneurs in South Korea in business communications and English, and organized hundreds of volunteers as a campaign fellow for Obama for America. Emi played a pivotal role in Chipotle Mexican Grill’s expansion strategy across New York, Maryland, and Washington, DC, spearheading operations across eight locations while directing up to 56 employees and multiple budgets of up to $12M.

Joining LEDC in 2017 as a Microfinance Lending Intern, Emi swiftly assumed positions of increasing responsibility, serving recently as Director of Operations & Risk Management and Chief of Operations, Risk & Investments. Strategizing with key leaders across the organization, Emi has steered funding and expansion initiatives while stewarding organizational assets and government funds with the utmost diligence.

A champion for small business, Emi chairs the Entrepreneurial & Food Jobs Working Group for the Mayor’s Food Policy Council to support the growth of minority food businesses in low-income areas. She resides in Washington, DC.

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Sonia Castro-Maya
Sonia Castro-Maya
Accounting Manager

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 of Arts in Public Accounting from Marian University in Colombia and holds a certificate in Management and Administration.

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Eduwiges_Arciniega
Eduwiges Arciniega
Senior Staff Accountant

Eduwiges Arciniega is LEDC’s Senior Staff Accountant. As part of the finance team, she is responsible for managing all financial and accounting transactions for the organization, including reporting, assisting in annual budget preparations, and managing grant resources. She brings over nine years of experience working with non-profit organizations in the areas of accounting and finance. Eduwiges holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) and a Master of Science in Accounting. Eduwiges enjoys listening to all types of music, traveling, doing outdoor activities, and meeting people from around the world.

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Pamela_Adkins
Pamela Adkins
Finance Specialist

Pamela Adkins is a Finance Specialist at LEDC. She supports the finance department with accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank reconciliation, expense reporting, audit, and other duties. Pamela is originally from Lima, Peru. She has more than fourteen years of experience working for the federal government of Peru in finance and management and has experience working with non-profit organizations. Pamela holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the National University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru. She is currently enrolled in the accounting program at the University of Maryland Global Campus. Pamela enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors with her family.

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Hector Santiago
Director of Operations

Hector was born in Puerto Rico, where he lived and worked in Sales, Marketing, Human Resources, and Operations. He brings over 20 years of Leadership experience managing various private businesses on the island. Hector has a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master’s Degree in Materials Management from Ana G. Mendez University of PR. He is also OSHA Certified and Lean Six Sigma Certified. After relocating with his family to the DMV area in 2021, he worked as Operations Director for a private Immigration Law Firm based out of Washington, DC, helping hundreds of immigrants living in the US get work permits, legal documents, and US Citizenship. In his current role as Operations Director at LEDC, Hector provides Administrative and Operational support to all the offices within our organization. Hector likes to spend time with his family, listen to Latin music, and watch basketball and volleyball games in his free time.

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Gerardo Hernandez
Gerardo Hernandez
Operations Associate

As the Operations Associate, Gerardo supports the organization's daily operations by performing administrative and clerical tasks, including coordinating and supporting IT projects, data entry, and documentation. Gerardo has over 10 years of experience working in IT, technical support, development, webmaster, and administrative tasks. He began his career in 2010 at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare in El Salvador. There, he helped create a system to orient people who didn't know how to find jobs. Gerardo received a computer science degree from the University of Gerardo Barrios in El Salvador in 2012. He moved to the United States in 2018, and joined LEDC in 2020.

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Claudia Ramirez
Receptionist and Executive Assistant

Claudia was born in New York City and raised in Guatemala. With 19 years of total work experience, Claudia first became a Graphic Designer Assistant leading her to obtain her degree in Communications and Graphic Design at Galileo University in Guatemala City, Guatemala. After moving back to the United States in 2007 and during the last five years before joining LEDC, Claudia worked with a Property Management Company (The Barac Co.) as a Customer Service Representative and Supervisor in Washington DC. She has also held other jobs as the Senior Administrative Assistant for the San Diego Housing Commission in San Diego, California, and as a Real-Time Analyst in Xerox Guatemala, now Conduent for the UPS account. In her current role as Receptionist and Executive Assistant to the CEO/ED, Claudia provides administrative support to the organization and oversees the CEO’s schedule. In her free time, Claudia likes technology and learning about new cultures and languages. She also possesses two additional certifications from Google IT Support and Digital Marketing.

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Sofia Darsin
Sofia Darsin
Grants and Evaluation Associate

Sofia is LEDC’s Grants and Evaluation Associate. In this role, she manages active grants and coordinates organizational compliance requirements. She also supports LEDC’s Development Team with evaluation and proposal writing. Sofia has a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Florida and a Master of Science in Development Management from the London School of Economics. She completed a dissertation researching international education policy and the effects of international scholarships on the human capital development of the global south. Sofia has three years of experience in the economic development and nonprofit field. She has consultancy experience providing research for Save the Children UK on public-private partnerships in terms of social and economic impact. Before coming to LEDC, Sofia worked for a nonprofit, providing resources to individuals experiencing homelessness in Baltimore City. Sofia is passionate about providing resources to underprivileged communities. In her free time, you can find her at the gym, at the dog park with her dog Karma, or binging the newest Spanish Netflix series.

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Direct Community Investments Program

Laura Bentley
Laura Bentley
Direct Community Investments Program Manager

As Manager of the Direct Community Investments Program, Laura coordinates various privately and publicly funded grant programs, facilitating the processing and disbursement of grant awards. Prior to the creation of the Program, Laura supported business owners as a Coach with LEDC's Small Business Development department.

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 LEDC community through financial assistance initiatives with the Direct Community Investments Program. A Boston native, Laura holds a BA from Connecticut College in Economics and Hispanic Studies.

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Ellie Owen
Helen (Ellie) Owen
Direct Community Investments Senior Associate

As Senior Associate with the Direct Community Investments team, Ellie currently serves as the chief builder of DCI's grant portals, relational databases, and automation, creating custom application experiences to maximize efficiency and meet program needs. Joining LEDC at the beginning of the pandemic, Ellie was involved in processing LEDC's first Covid relief project on behalf of the DC government. Over the lifetime of the DCI Department, she has taken lessons learned from each other's programs to innovate ever more streamlined solutions. Passionate about resource access as a tool for empowerment, Ellie previously worked with Ayuda's Language Access Program and the Scholars' Latino Initiative in Richmond, VA. Born in Atlanta, GA, Ellie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Richmond with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and a concentration in Development. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, journaling, and painting.

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Rene Llanes
Rene Llanes
Direct Community Investments Associate

Rene Llanes is currently a Direct Community Investments Associate at LEDC. Before joining the DCI team, Rene was with the LEDC Small Business Program as a loan officer and underwriter. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and raised in Miami, Florida, where he worked in retail for over 15 years. In 2017, Rene relocated to the DMV, where he worked as a banker for a large financial institution in Washington, DC. He is a graduate of Grand Canyon University, with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Rene is currently enrolled with the Leadership Montgomery: Emerging Leaders Program class of 2022. His interests include sports, music, cooking, working out, and family time.

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Manuel Cude-Pacheco
Manuel Cude-Pacheco
Direct Community Investments Associate

Manuel is a Direct Community Investments Clerk at LEDC. In his role, he collects and processes data to facilitate the disbursement of grants. He is passionate about extending formative aid that crosses socioeconomic and cultural boundaries to reach communities in need. Manuel graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Art in Art History and a minor in Spanish Language and Literature. Prior to joining LEDC, he lived in Atlanta where he worked in non-profit art education that served bilingual audiences. More recently, in DC, he supported programs related to the DC Housing Authority to ensure minority and at-risk tenants receive fair living conditions. When he is not behind the keyboard, he enjoys watching soccer, learning about behavioral economics, and finding different ways to brew coffee.

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Arlyn_Rosario
Arlyn Rosario
Direct Community Investments Associate

Arlyn Rosario joined LEDC in 2021 as a Direct Community Investments Clerk. Her responsibilities include document collection, applicant vetting, and reporting. Arlyn brings nearly four years of experience in the nonprofit sector. Prior to joining the team, she was an operations associate for a nonprofit organization. Arlyn obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2017 from Lehman College. She is currently pursuing a master’s in business and expects to graduate in June 2021.

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Nicolle Yaranga
Nicolle Yaranga
Direct Community Investment Associate

Peru native Nicolle Yaranga brings over four years of experience working in the private consumer goods industry, where she learned the complex interdepartmental systems put in place to leverage business growth. As a previous operations manager, she worked on supply chain management, inventory forecasting projects, and domestic and international sales analysis. This experience and her dedication to spending much of her free time volunteering have tapped into her curiosity for operations management in the public, nonprofit sector. Nicolle has learned team management skills, organizational skills, SOP document creation, and financial/accounting reporting that adequately transfer and aid LEDC. Ultimately, she wants to share her strengths acquired in the private sector with the public sector. Nicolle received a Bachelor of Science in Financial Mathematics and Statistics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Public Finance from American University. Nicolle enjoys running, hiking, reading, and antiquing in her free time.

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Carlos Brown
Carlos Brown
Direct Community Investments Associate

Carlos is a Direct Community Investments Clerk at LEDC. In this role, he collects and processes documentation to facilitate the disbursement of grants to small businesses. Prior to joining the team, Carlos was with the LEDC Small Business Program as a loan officer and underwriter. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in International Studies with a focus in business. Carlos was born in Mexico but moved to Florida at a young age.

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Isabel Delgado
Direct Community Investments Associate

Before joining the DCI team as an Associate, Isabel was a part of LEDC's Baltimore Tenant Services Team, helping clients in need of rental assistance in Baltimore. During her time in Baltimore City, Isabel was in charge of submitting rental assistance applications, reviewing all tenant documentation seeking aid, and reaching out to landlords. Isabel's knowledge gained while working in Housing Programs at LEDC has equipped her to understand the community's needs better. Isabel's passion for helping the community extends to her education, as she is currently studying Radiology at Fortis Institute. Isabel also enjoys cooking, traveling, and attending concerts during her free time.

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Small Business Programs

Omar Velasco
Omar Velasco
Chief of Small Business Services & Lending

Omar is a nonprofit executive with over 12 years of experience in business development and entrepreneurship. As LEDC’s Chief of Small Business Services & Lending, Omar oversees a team of 30+ professionals providing small business development services to over 1300 clients annually across five offices servicing 42 counties in the DMV area and Puerto Rico. 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 process optimization. Throughout his career at LEDC, he has designed and managed several small business development initiatives, including women-focused programs, storefront improvement projects, industry-focused incubators, business accelerators, credit-building programs, and small business lending programs. Omar is an Industrial Engineer with a master’s in process optimization and a certified auditor (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OSHAS 18001).

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Lending

Susana Gómez Portugal Monroy
Susana Gómez Portugal Monroy
Loan Portfolio Manager

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.

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Sergio Von Horoch
Sergio Von Horoch
Senior Portfolio & Data Administrator

As a member of the portfolio team, Sergio is responsible for the processing of loan payments, for the quality assurance of transactions, and for generating closing reports. Originally from Paraguay, Sergio is a graduate 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.

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Zara Cabrera
Zara Cabrera
Risk Management Clerk

Ms. Cabrera is currently the Risk Management Clerk for LEDC. In that role, 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. Zara's previous work experience includes working as an administrative assistant at H&R Block and Rosemount Center.

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Ana Guzman
Ana Guzman
Loan Portfolio Clerk & Customer Representative

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.

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Yanina Edith Chumpitaz
Yanina Edith Chumpitaz
Loan Officer and Underwriter, DC

Yanina’s role at LEDC is to help guide clients and small businesses through the loan application process. She assists clients with underwriting small business loan transactions, including business plan reviewing, financial and credit analysis, and recommending memos for review and approval. Prior to LEDC, she worked as a universal banker at BB&T. Yanina brings leadership and marketing experience to the role through her work at the Archbishop Borders School and Univision. Yanina has a wealth of professional skills from her time working in Peru, where she served as a director of communications, journalist, and key account manager. She is highly motivated and results-oriented in sales, marketing, and public relations roles. She strives to maintain the best customer service practices through her strong background in analyzing client issues, successfully negotiating solutions, and building exceptional internal and external relationships that consistently achieve LEDC´s objectives. Her hobbies include running, biking, boxing, traveling, cooking, and reading with a nice glass of wine.

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Carlos Garcia Rada
Carlos Garcia Rada
Senior Loan Officer and Underwriter, MD

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.

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Alejandro Arizaga
Alejandro Arizaga
Senior Loan Officer and Underwriter, Baltimore

Alejandro Arizaga is a lending officer at the LEDC. Originally from Ecuador, Alejandro obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Baltimore in 2019 with a major in criminal justice, and a minor in business administration. Before joining LEDC, Alejandro worked for City First Enterprises (CFE) as a Loan Officer and Underwriter. His current role at LEDC is to underwrite small business loans, refer clients to business advice, and continue to develop professional relationships with other local organizations. Alejandro has a passion for community work and believes that such passion can be turned into thriving businesses in Baltimore and the surrounding metropolitan areas.

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Juan Zabala
Juan Zabala
Small Business Coach and Loan Officer, Arlington

Juan is the Small Business Coach and Loan Officer in the Arlington, Virginia market. In his role, he works with small business owners to advise them on growth strategies and assist them in accessing capital. Juan was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania. Having grown up in his family's bodega, he is familiar with small businesses. He credits his passion for giving back to the Latinx community to a Latina woman who assisted with his father's first business plan, which got him funding to open his first business. He hopes to do for others what was done for his family. He attended Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics. After college, he opened up a family restaurant and worked as a real estate agent and entrepreneur. He served on multiple boards and authorities in his hometown. He was the Vice- Chairman of the Reading Redevelopment Authority, Treasurer of the Berks County Latino Chamber of Commerce, and a board member of Neighborhood Housing Services. He is currently pursuing his master's in real estate from Georgetown University.

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Brian Rivera Santana
Loan Operations Manager, PR

As a Senior Small Business Loan Officer and Underwriter in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Brian generates a constant inflow of new lending clients and underwrites small business loan transactions. Before joining the team, Brian worked as an Attorney Advisor for the US Small Business Administration (SBA), authorizing deeds for disaster survivor secured loans. Brian holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree with a concentration in Finance from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico and a Juris Doctor from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law. In his free time, Brian enjoys watching movies, going mountain biking, exploring new local restaurants, and spending time with family and friends.

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Glorivette Crespo
Glorivette Crespo
Loan Officer and Underwriter, PR

Glorivette is a Small Business Loan Officer and Underwriter in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. She has 15 years of experience working with successful television advertising campaigns; coordinating events and workshops for small and medium size businesses; and producing and moderating a radio program aimed at entrepreneurs and small businesses in western Puerto Rico. Glorivette has had experience as an Enrollment Coordinator for the Short Careers Institute of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. In this work, she connected with people and supported disadvantaged communities in developing their professional technical careers. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master of Business Administration with a specialty in Marketing, from the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico.

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Giovanni Rojas
Loan Officer and Underwriter, PR

Giovanni Rojas graduated from the Interamerican University of San German, Puerto Rico, with a BBA in Accounting. He has been working as an Accountant in Professional Accounting Services in Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico, for the last three and a half years, specializing in Business Accounting and helping clients maintain a healthy and prosperous business. Part of his job duties in that role included data entry, making financial statements, State and Federal tax returns, and assisting clients with the permissions and licenses of their business and their customer services. Now, as a Loan Office & Underwriter for Puerto Rico, he will be helping potential clients through their loan process to expand their small businesses and services. Giovani likes his current role at LEDC because he can encourage the dreams entrepreneurs who want to own a business while improving the lives of existing small business owners who want their businesses to thrive.

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Ronal Castillo
Small Business Senior Loan Officer

One of LEDC's Lending Officers, Ronal Castillo, has more than 20 years of experience in different aspects surrounding financial institutions. During his career, he has functioned in several capacities, including management of placement processes, administration of loan recovery, overseeing administrative and accounting aspects, and overall management and evaluation of risks for financial institutions. His experience also includes developing work in private companies and government institutions dedicated to auditing, supervision, and risk rating processes for financial institutions. Originally from El Salvador, Ronal gained a bachelor's degree from the University of El Salvador in 2000 in Public Accounting and Finance.

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Small Business Development

Alexandra Samaniego
Alexandra Samaniego
Program Manager, Small Business Development

Alexandra Samaniego is a bilingual professional with several years of experience in business and economic development from her work in her home country of Ecuador, where she founded and managed a handicrafts store helping indigenous communities sell their work. Alexandra has also worked with the Bank of Ecuador, helping small businesses improve their finances and access low-interest loans. As Program Manager for the Small Business Development program, she leads a team of coaches in planning and implementing program activities in DC, Arlington, VA, and Baltimore, MD. This includes supporting small businesses in all stages of growth, registration, licensing, obtaining qualifying certifications, marketing, and sales strategies, operations improvements, and facilitating access to capital. Alexandra holds a Project Management Certificate from UMUC and a BA in international business from Ecuador. She lives in the DC metro area with her husband and two energetic boys.

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Michael Parrott
Michael T. Parrott
Small Business Intake Coordinator

Joining LEDC in 2021 as the Small Business Intake Coordinator, Michael’s responsibilities include providing support to the small business program manager, leading the Small Business Marketing Committee, and assisting with outreach initiatives and content generation. Michael is Colombian-American and was born in Lima, Ohio, and raised in Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2021 with a dual degree in international studies and Spanish. Passionate about the nonprofit sector and engaging with Latin-American communities, his previous professional experience includes working in various international programs promoting both intellectual and community development. Michael enjoys writing, meeting new people, and going on spontaneous adventures in his free time. He is most excited to engage directly with passionate Latino entrepreneurs looking to start new businesses and achieve their dreams.

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 J.B. Behrens
J.B. Behrens
Senior Small Business Coach & Liaison, DC

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.

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Francisco Javier Jimenez
Francisco Javier Jimenez
Senior Small Business Coach, DC

A native of Puerto Rico, Francisco Javier Jimenez recently joined LEDC after more than 25 years in the federal market sector. After a 10-year military career, Francisco Javier entered the private sector achieving great success in areas of technology implementation, project and program management, business development, and for the past 11 years, as the owner and principal of his own business consulting firm. In this most recent role, Francisco Javier has been instrumental in coaching, mentoring, and guiding businesses to achieve their objectives and reach their personal and professional goals in the very competitive federal contracting arena. Having achieved great success in the private sector, he joins LEDC in a new capacity to focus his efforts on directly helping and developing small businesses of diverse, and sometimes underrepresented, socio-economic categories. In this role, he assists entrepreneurs and businesspersons by leveraging all his years of experience and using every tool available to him to have budding small businesses realize their goals. Francisco Javier has conducted undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez and the University of Maryland Global Campus. He is a member of various national and international business and professional organizations. He and his wife Sharon are sponsors and benefactors to several nonprofit health organizations.

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Molly Terry
Molly Terry
Small Business Coach, DC

Joining LEDC in 2021, Molly is a Small Business Coach serving clients in the DC area. In this role, Molly works alongside a team of highly motivated business coaches to help entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses in DC.  Passionate about empowering small and minority-owned businesses to achieve their goals, Molly previously worked in roles where she assisted small businesses in navigating programs and relationships between the private and public sectors. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Molly graduated summa cum laude from Mississippi State University with bachelor’s degrees in marketing and Spanish and specializations in international business and supply chain management. In her free time, Molly enjoys hiking, grilling, and playing guitar.

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Maria Godoy
Maria Godoy
Senior Small Business Coach & Trainer, MD

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.

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Javier Bisbal
Senior Small Business Coach, Puerto Rico

Javier Bisbal joined LEDC with years of experience helping several communities and individuals in Puerto Rico. For two years, Javier Bisbal worked as a Team Leader and Center Manager working with the Puerto Rico Housing Department's R3 Program. During his time in this program, Javier helped all districts of Puerto Rico enhance resilient, safe housing for families and secure businesses to avoid future natural disaster emergencies. Javier also has experience working with the Puerto Rico Planning Board; for about a year in this role, Javier was able to help individuals with the regulation of construction codes and permits for businesses and housing. Furthermore, Javier was an Employee Assistance Program Coach that aided local private companies with the training and development of their employees. As a Senior Small Business Coach for LEDC in Puerto Rico, Javier has the responsibility to help local business owners grow and further develop their ideas and businesses. Javier holds a Bachelor's Degree in Music with a Minor in Education and a Master's Degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. Moreover, Javier is currently working on his dissertation titled "Music as a Moderating Variable Between the Big Five Personality Traits and Self-Assessment Performance" to obtain his Ph.D. in Industrial Organization Psychology. Javier loves to spend time with his family during his free time, practice skateboarding, go to the gym, and travel worldwide.

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Valeria_Lopez
Valeria Lopez
Small Business Coach

As LEDC's Small Business Coach, Valeria provides professional consulting services in different industries such as beauty, services, and retail. Her passion is to help entrepreneurs develop and model their ideas and grow their established businesses through innovation. Since 2017 she has served clients from Latin America, the United States, and beyond. From strategic planning to innovative solutions, her focus is always on building an efficient and results-driven relationship. Valeria has a Bachelor's Degree in Management and a Master's in Digital Transformation and Business Development from Universitat de Barcelona.

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Jose Vargas
Senior Small Business Coach

José Enrique Vargas’ work has been dedicated to improving the quality of life of working people through economic development, workforce development, and small business development. He was also a business developer in the residential solar industry, which offset fossil fuel use, saved consumers money, built homeowner equity, and created green jobs. His work in the independent and private sectors in the workforce development and small business development space has improved economic outcomes for many working families. Through his endeavors, he has increased employment, career development, and small business development, creating economic stability for working families and building intergenerational wealth. Jose Vargas has a Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship from UMD College Park, R.H. Smith School of Business. He is also a proud Boricua born in New York City and is married to his wife, a beloved arts educator, and administrator in the DC Public Schools. They have three children born in DC who also love the arts, and in his free time, Jose enjoys hiking, martial arts, listening to music, and experiencing different cultures.

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Resilient Business Corridors

Javier Rivas
Javier Rivas
Program Manager, MD

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 Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Virginia.

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Maria Llanos
Maria Llanos
Senior Small Business Coach & Liaison, MD (Purple Line)

Maria Llanos joined LEDC in 2021 as a Small Business Coach & Liaison. In that role, Maria works to support the businesses impacted by the Purple Line construction in Wheaton, Maryland. Her responsibilities include monitoring the impacted businesses' possible needs, advising and connecting them with LEDC's consultants (legal, marketing, designers, financial, etc.), and process design to improve the relationship between LEDC and these clients. Maria is an industrial engineer and has a master's degree in management from UNEXPO University in Venezuela. She is proud and enthusiastic to share her knowledge and experience with small business owners and be a point of support and positive impact to help them achieve their goals. In her free time, Maria enjoys taking photos, painting with oil, and spending time with loved ones.

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Patrick Gannon
Patrick Gannon
Small Business Coach & Liaison, Prince George’s County

Patrick is a Small Business Coach & Liaison in the Prince George's County area, where he provides business consultancy and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and business owners. Raised in Silver Spring, MD, Patrick has more than 15 years of experience in business development, strategic consulting, and banking. Early in his career, he worked for a boutique consulting firm that provided strategic counsel to a diverse group of high-profile clients, including corporations, trade associations, federal agencies, think tanks, and nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining LEDC, Patrick worked as a business development and mortgage finance consultant for various credit unions and banks throughout the DC area. He holds a bachelor's degree from Mount St. Mary's University and a master's degree from Universidad de Navarra.

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Celeste_Banda
Celeste Banda
Small Business Coach & Liason, Wheaton

Celeste Banda is a Small Business Coach & Liaison in Wheaton, MD, where she provides technical assistance to business owners located in the Wheaton Triangle. A native of Cameron, Texas, Celeste is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Before joining LEDC in 2021, Celeste worked as an Organizer on Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign in Iowa and as a Workforce Development Specialist in rural Texas. Those experiences allowed her to work with Latino and immigrant communities, gaining outreach and community engagement experience. Celeste has a Bachelor of Arts in Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, a Certificate in International Security from the European Academy of Diplomacy, and a Certificate in Economic Development from the University of Oklahoma. Celeste speaks English, Spanish, and Czech. She enjoys traveling and reading in her free time.

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Maria Martinez
Small Business Coach & Liason, Baltimore

Maria A Martinez is a Small Business Coach at the LEDC. Originally from Cuba, Maria obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland College Park with a major in General Studies. Before joining LEDC, Maria owned her own real estate company Aurora Real Estate specializing in first-time home buyers. Her prior corporate experience includes Human Resources, Marketing, and Branch management for Bank of America and Hilton. Her current role at LEDC is to provide advice and guidance to entrepreneurs, refer individuals to other LEDC services, and continue to develop professional relationships with other local organizations. Maria has a passion for serving our underserved communities and believes that our hard work will generally impact the Baltimore community and the other communities where we are present.

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Empowered Women International (EWI)

Alexandra Boycheck
Alexandra Boycheck
Regional Program Manager

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 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 in Marketing and later her Master of Arts 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.

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Nicole Andonie
Nicole Andonie
Regional Program Coordinator

Nicole Andonie is a bilingual professional with more than 10 years of experience in US & Latin American Markets. Having lived and worked abroad in Honduras for six 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.

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Anette Kaminski
Women's Small Business Coach & Program Associate

Originally from Brazil, Anette has over ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector, mainly supporting entrepreneurs in developing/launching small businesses and accessing early-stage funding. Before joining LEDC in January 2022, as the Women's Small Business Coach & Program Associate for the Empowered Women International (EWI) Program, Anette has been a part of significant projects in the United States and Latin America interconnected with a gender and race perspective. Some of Anette's previous roles include Project Coordinator for British Council Brazil (Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies Program), Project Coordinator for the Brazilian Small Business Support Agency, and Coordinator for Social Enterprise World Forum / SEWF2012. 

Fluent in several languages, Anette holds a Journalism degree from Brazil and an International Relations and International Economics Master's degree from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). In her free time, Anette is interested in amateur astronomy and cosmology.

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Housing

Walda Yon
Walda Yon
Chief Housing Programs Officer

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 US 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 eight 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 UnidosUS 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.

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Housing Counseling

Angelica Rufino
Angelica Rufino
Housing Counseling Program Manager, DC

Angelica Rufino comes to LEDC with over seven years of nonprofit experience, having spent the last five 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.

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Diana Garcia
Diana Garcia
Housing Intake and Support Specialist

As the Housing Intake and Support Specialist, Diana provides administrative and customer service support to the housing department and its counselors. In addition, she assists the housing staff with group workshops, presentations, and special events. She also provides information to clients about the services and programs that LEDC offers. Diana joined LEDC in 2020. Prior, she worked with Finish Line in a supervisor role, where she learned valuable professional growth skills such as customer loyalty, working independently, and time management. Diana is currently working to become a HUD-approved housing counselor.

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David Guerra-Restrepo
David Glickman-Restrepo
Bilingual Housing Counselor, DC

David has more than eight years of combined experience working in the nonprofit sector in Colombia, Washington DC, and New York City. Prior to joining LEDC, David worked at Mil Mujeres Legal Services. He has also worked with Councilmember Brianne Nadeau conducting and resolving constituent needs in Ward 1. With a bachelor’s in law from his native Colombia, David has supported immigration attorneys working on asylum cases at the office of Catholic Charities in DC. In addition, David was a legal intern at the General Colombian Consulate in New York in 2011. Before he received his law degree, he was awarded the best legal intern that year at the Consulate. Under his role as a Bilingual Housing Counselor at LEDC, he encourages first-time homebuyers to apply to all the affordable housing programs, teaches clients to understand the purchasing process, and guides them through foreclosure prevention programs in Washington, DC. David is a housing counselor certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). His favorite hobbies are learning about new cultures and making new friends.

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Magaly Moreno
Bilingual Housing Counselor, DC

Magaly has over six years of background working in the Washington, DC area. Magaly's previous experience includes working at the local government office to determine the eligibility of County residents for various programs that assist individuals, families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities needing financial assistance, medical assistance, and other support services. Her work in non-profits includes assisting individuals in the Permanent Supportive Housing and Rapid Rehousing Program in DC. Magaly graduated from Trinity Washington University with a B.A degree. Magaly is grateful to be a part of the LEDC team to continue educating others about various programs available for the community in DC.

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Julian Talero
Julian Talero
Bilingual Housing Counselor, DC

Julian is LEDC's Maryland Tenant Education and Service Coordinator. Originally from Colombia, he emigrated to the DMV area as a child. From a young age, he has always had a passion for community building, grassroots social movements, and empowering disenfranchised communities. While completing his bachelor's in sociology at the University of Maryland, he worked as a part-time Spanish interpreter in school systems and hospitals throughout the DMV area. Julian was also a part-time bartender in DC for over 7 years. After the pandemic shut down most service industry jobs, the logical step was to move into a role where he could better serve and empower local communities. LEDC was the perfect match. In his free time, you can find him playing bass, riding his bike, doing yoga, or learning about nondualist teachings from Buddhist and Vedanta spiritual traditions.

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Fernando Martinez
Fernando Martinez
Housing Education & Financial Empowerment Manager, MD

Fernando Martinez 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.

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Fernanda Galindo
Fernanda Galindo-Pruett
Housing Education Coordinator and Community Outreach

Fernanda has six years of experience working in the financial sector, including public administration for the Mexican government in Budget Management and Transparency and I.T. finance consultant for banking. After emigrating to the U.S., she worked as a teacher/nanny, using this experience to work on business development strategy and founding a team at Startup to serve the caregiving community. Some of her experience also involves contracting jobs for other Non-profit organizations like Unidos U.S. and Grassroots International and as an interpreter and a translator for presidential electoral Campaigns.
At LEDC, Fernanda initially worked as a Tenant Services and Eviction Prevention Specialist for Baltimore City in November 2021. In this role, she served different communities facing financial hardship and at risk of losing their homes in Baltimore City. In her current role as the Housing Education Coordinator and Community Outreach for Washington, D.C., and M.D. at LEDC, she serves different communities by providing training and resources on housing opportunities. Fernanda holds a bachelor's degree in Economic Science from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) and is pursuing her HUD certifications.

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Karen Torrico
Karen Torrico
Bilingual Housing Counselor, MD

A first-generation native of the District, Karen has spent the last six 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 US 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 three languages and hopes to add to the list.

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Karen Serfis
Karen Serfis
Program Manager, VA

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 Bachelor of Business Administration 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.

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Tenant Services and Eviction Prevention

Julia Sarmiento
Julia Sarmiento
Tenant Services & Eviction Prevention Program Manager

Julia returned to LEDC in January of 2021 as a Tenant Services & Eviction Prevention Program Manager. In that role, she leads a team of motivated professionals charged with helping Baltimore and Montgomery County tenants access eviction prevention resources and other services to help them achieve stable housing. Julia previously worked at LEDC from 2015 to 2019 as a Housing Counselor in DC and as a Housing Counseling Manager in Maryland. She is a HUD-Certified Housing Counselor and brings over a decade of experience to the organization. Julia started working as a housing counselor back in 2008 during the foreclosure crisis. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in political science. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outside, going to the mountains and rivers during the spring and summer, and spending time in nature.

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Leo Elias
Leo Elias
Tenant Education & Services Coordinator, Montgomery County

Leo Elias is LEDC’s Tenant Outreach and Education Specialist. In that role, he assists in educating and organizing tenants, providing general case management and referral services for all tenants in need of assistance, and advocating for affordable housing policies that benefit low-income renters. Leo has been volunteering and working for nonprofit organizations since 2015, beginning with the Latino Student Fund. For the past two years, he coordinated the College Prep Program at the Latino Student Fund in where he supported 11th and 12th-grade students on a pathway to college and a potential career. Prior to the Latino Student Fund, he was the Activities Manager at Education First (EF) International Language Campuses in Washington, DC. Leo holds an associate degree from Montgomery College in International Studies. He enjoys spending time caring for his plants, traveling abroad, and practicing different languages in his free time.

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Mary Jane Regalado
Mary Jane Regalado
Bilingual Tenant Services Coordinator, DC

Mary Jane Regalado joined the Latino Economic Development Center in 2020 as a STAY DC Connector. They supported tenants applying for emergency rental and utility assistance to avoid displacement. Before working with LEDC, Mary was a full-time musician and a co-founder of the Union of Musicians & Allied Workers. With UMAW, they organized musicians and advocated to create a fairer and more just music industry. Mary is a first-generation Mexican-American, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. They volunteered at Neighborhood Legal Services in LA, assisting low-income residents with filing criminal record expungements and wage claims for the workers' rights clinics.

They graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a Bachelors in Gender & Women's Studies with a concentration in Law & Public Policy. As tenant services coordinator, Mary helps DC tenants overcome technological, literacy, and language barriers, so the resources available to DC residents are more accessible to all, regardless of race, class, age, immigration status, and education. Mary wants to ensure that DC residents have the resources and support to thrive. She assists DC residents with SNAP, Medicaid, rental, and utility assistance applications and connects folks to resources such as food support, legal aid, mental health services, and mutual aid groups. Mary loves to garden and play chess. As a musician, she has toured internationally, from New Zealand to Mexico, and has volunteered as a band coach for Girls Rock DC youth summer camp.

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Daniela Garcia Corrales
Tenant Services Coordinator

Daniela joined LEDC in 2021. As Tenant Services Coordinator, she helps the community by assisting tenants in filing applications for rental assistance programs in the District of Columbia, supporting tenants virtually and in person, and providing referral services for all tenants in need of assistance, linking them to the appropriate resources. Before joining the team, Daniela was with LEDC as a STAY DC connector. Some of her responsibilities included doing outreach events, covering clinics, assisting tenants with filling out applications for the STAY DC program, uploading documents, and contacting landlords. She is currently pursuing her degree in Business Administration from the University of the District of Columbia. Her hobbies include watching sunsets, playing the saxophone, and traveling.

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Affordable Housing Preservation Program

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Lauren Taylor
Manager, Affordable Housing Preservation Program

Lauren Taylor (LT) joined LEDC in May 2020 as a bilingual tenant organizer and currently works as the Affordable Housing Preservation Program Manager in DC. In this role, they support an incredible team in organizing DC tenants to defend their rights, improve conditions and decide what happens to their building when it is for sale. LEDC’s tenant organizers use grassroots organizing, popular education, and advocacy to preserve affordable housing, prevent displacement, and fight for safe, affordable, and dignified housing for all. Originally from Indianapolis, LT studied history and political science at Indiana University, Bloomington. They bring over ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector, including harm reduction, reentry support and advocacy, gender violence prevention, and survivor support. Prior to joining LEDC, most of their organizing experience has been part of movements working to dismantle mass incarceration and immigrant detention and deportation.

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Ricardo Gallardo
Senior Bilingual Tenant Organizer

Ricardo Gallardo is a Senior Bilingual tenant Organizer working with LEDC at Affordable Housing Preservation Program since December 2021. Ricardo has more than 20 years of experience combined as an Organizer with Labor Unions, holding positions as Senior Organizer and Organizational Development Specialist. His job in those positions was primarily to assist and advise the Organizing Director and Local Governance to launch campaigns to increase membership and market share for Local Unions, Regional offices, and National Campaigns. Ricardo immigrated from Peru back in 1989. I studied economics at the San Martin Porras University of Peru and hold a certification of Microsoft System Engineer at Howard University with a specialty in Networking. He is a father happily excited to become a grandfather near soon. Currently, he is preparing for a glorious day in which his son will become a father to seal his family’s continuation. Also, one of his favorite hobbies is music; he dedicates his spare time to playing guitar and occasionally performing in cultural and social events exposing his roots in art and culture through songs and poems from his country and region.

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Awad Bilal
Awad Bilal
Tenant Organizer

Awad Bilal is a third-generation Washingtonian who joined LEDC as a Tenant Organizer in 2021. He supports tenants in exercising their TOPA rights and preserving affordable housing in the city through advocacy and outreach. Before working with LEDC, Awad spent ten years in the service industry, working from New York City to Albuquerque and returning to Washington, DC, in 2018. Outside of LEDC, Awad is a musician in the bands Clear Channel and Too Free and radio DJ on WOWD-LP 94.3FM, a community radio station in Takoma Park, MD, where he hosts “The Flex.” He is also a member of the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW), which advocates for fair pay and better conditions for musicians. In addition, Awad has been championing the opposition to the displacement of low-income and working-class families. Including gentrification for over ten years and the rights and protections of service industry employees in DC for more than four years.

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Gustavo Vargas
Bilingual Tenant Organizer

Gustavo Vargas is a Bilingual Tenant Organizer at LEDC. He joined the team in April 2021 and has been working with tenants across the city, supporting them in exercising their rights, improving their living conditions, and fighting for dignified, affordable housing. Gustavo is a 20-year resident of the DC area and has also been involved in organizing, mobilizing, and doing activism working with anti-imperialist organizations and anti-fascist Bolivian diaspora in the DMV. Gustavo is also a musician, educator, and cultural advocate with DC’s Son Jarocho collective Son Cosita Seria and Wayta Andean duo.

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Clara Lincoln
Bilingual Tenant Organizer

Clara Lincoln (she/they) is a second-generation Washingtonian who graduated from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative American Studies in 2017. She has been interning, volunteering, and working for nonprofit organizations in Washington DC since 2014. In 2021 they joined the LEDC team as a Bilingual Tenant Organizer. In that role, she organizes affordable housing buildings to assist tenants with exercising their rights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act and their rights to safe, affordable, dignified housing. They also participate in coalition spaces to preserve affordable housing across the city. Before LEDC, she managed the Academic Support Programs at the Latino Student Fund for three years and served as a human rights accompanier with NISGUA in Guatemala for one year. Clara is skilled in outreach, leadership development, campaign strategy, and intercultural relationship-building. In addition to her BA from Oberlin College, she is a graduate of the Rising Leaders Program of 2020 from Leadership of Greater Washington.

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Tara Maxwell
Tenant Organizer

Tara Maxwell is a Memphis native with a wealth of knowledge in the community, union, and political engagement and outreach, who has also worked in outreach and community affairs within law enforcement. Tara's time in the foster care system and public education led her to a career in advocacy and community service. Her foster care parents were civil rights community leaders who sparked her passion for service and being a servant leader, especially for at-risk families and children. She is a retired law enforcement officer with 30 years of experience and a BA.Sc. in Criminal Justice. Tara's knowledge and expertise on numerous political and issue campaigns will be invaluable in her work at LEDC.

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Azul Torres
Azul Torres
Bilingual Tenant Organizer

Azul Torres has worked as a Bilingual Tenant Organizer at LEDC within the Affordable Housing Preservation Program since early May of this year. Azul was born and raised in Houston, Texas but has ancestral familiar ties to San Luis Potosi, Mexico and San Miguel, El Salvador. She graduated from American University with a B.A. in Political Science and has resided in Washington D.C. since her semester program during high school. Azul previously organized politically for numerous causes, including a vigil for fallen solider and daughter Vanessa Guillen, against police brutality, political campaigns, immigration, and much more. Azul also enjoys reading, weightlifting, and finding new picnic spots during her free time.

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Mary Jane Builes
Mary Jane Builes
Bilingual Tenant Liason

Mary Jane Builes graduated from American University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and a certificate in Community Based Participatory Research. Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, with familial roots in Colombia, Mary Jane is proud of her upbringing and has worked hard to empower Latinx communities in NC and Washington, DC. She has worked on several topics, such as food insecurity for DC’s senior residents, first-generation accessibility to higher education, and Latinx youth victimization, which has connected her to various communities and organizations across Washington, DC. She recently joined LEDC’s Affordable Housing team as a Bilingual Tenant Liaison, where she provides outreach support and assists tenants and tenant organizers. You can catch Mary Jane at the farmers market’s every weekend selling dumplings or the gym working on her weightlifting skills.

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