Deborah Lielasus

Deborah’s long career has been in pursuit of helping the people served by nonprofits. She began as a volunteer in a women’s shelter and, through on the job training and courses in the field, worked her way up to being a development and executive director.

Prior to working for Elevate, Deborah had a consulting business writing grants and providing program development and project management support to nonprofits across the U.S. Her areas of interest and experience include physical and behavioral health integration, mental health, substance use, employment, education, job training, immigration, environmental issues, justice, housing, food security, literacy, equity, HIV/AIDS, child development, violence prevention, parenting, the arts, and many others.

When not working, Deborah enjoys watching films and plays, perusing art galleries, listening to music, taking architectural tours, and being absorbed in nature. She is an avid reader and New York Times crossword puzzle and spelling bee doer. Deborah lives with her writer husband, Joel, in Chicago but has lived in 10 U.S. states including Alaska and Hawaii. She considers herself bi-coastal. As a blended family, Deborah and Joel have five grown children ages 24-45.

Alix came to Elevate from the arts and culture sector, where she has had over a decade of experience collaborating with nonprofit companies and artists to lift up their unique and essential stories. As a champion of innovation and imagination, Alix is motivated to build and redistribute resources, create an even playing field, and promote the latest and greatest ideas that celebrate our humanity and challenge us to move forward to a more just and equitable world. Prior to joining Elevate as a Director, Alix served as a fundraiser for several theaters in the Philadelphia region, using her skills as a creative strategist to increase their capacities while encouraging resource development through community-centric models and a lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access.

Alix continues to be very active in the arts community, and she recently served as the Regional Vice President of Philadelphia for the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas. She has also been a guest artist and lecturer for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and the University of the Arts. Alix earned her BA in Drama from Vassar College and her MA in Theater from Villanova University, and she is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. 

When she isn’t working with Elevate clients or on a creative project, she can be found reading, spending time with her partner and cat, or attempting to perfect her challah recipe. 

Dillon has several years of grant writing, communications, and fundraising experience for nonprofit organizations. He is passionate about participatory planning, conservation, international development, and community health initiatives. Before Elevate, Dillon worked as a Fundraising and Communications Coordinator for Colorado West Land Trust (CWLT), where he helped build a robust communications program to generate new conservation projects, strengthen ongoing financial support from donors, and allow for deeper engagement with the organization’s stakeholders. Prior to CWLT, Dillon was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama, where he raised funds and built a large eco-stove project to reduce the amount of smoke inhaled as women cooked each day. He still thinks about his time in Panama daily.

Dillon holds a master’s in regional planning from Cornell University, where he researched participatory planning and communications strategies for local governments. He also holds a bachelor’s in business administration from Lander University, where he was a member of the Alpha Chi and Beta Gamma Sigma honor societies.

In his spare time, Dillon enjoys reading, rock climbing, backpacking, trail running, and visiting old friends in far-flung places.

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Laura has over 20 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. She is passionate about supporting individuals and organizations through periods of change. She spent her early career as a therapist, working first at a community mental health center and then at a shelter for women and children survivors of domestic violence. She went on to become the director of a preschool, where she put her training and experience to use in different ways. Laura is a longtime supporter of the arts, and spent the last several years working as a development coordinator at a multidisciplinary contemporary arts center. In this role, she performed background research for new projects and initiatives, managed the organization’s grants program, and refined the organization’s development strategy.

Laura holds an MA in Counseling Psychology from Arizona State University and a BS in Psychology from Guilford College. Her training in active listening, conflict resolution, and group dynamics has served her well in all of her professional roles.

Laura loves to travel: Costa Rica is next on her wish list. When she’s at home in Memphis, she can be found trying out new restaurants, seeing live music shows, and browsing through her favorite vintage stores in search of mid-century furniture and the wildest 1960s and 70s dresses she can find.

 

Pronouns : she / her / hers

Driven by empathy and authenticity, Jaclyn looks beyond the data to see the comprehensive story of the people behind it. She has spent the past 20 years as a documentarian and small business owner, cultivating relationships and developing long-term growth and sustainability strategies. Most recently, she developed the database, marketing, and fundraising strategies for the Liberty African American Legacy Memorial, a grassroots campaign to honor the Black members of the community who were buried in mostly unmarked graves. The memorial is designed to further educate the public about the segregation of historic cemeteries and promote the protection and preservation of Black cemeteries throughout the country.
Jaclyn is a member of The Outdoorist Oath, a nonprofit committed to individual action for planet, inclusion, and adventure in the outdoors. Climate change advocacy and inclusion efforts are an integral part of her daily life as she continues to volunteer her time and skills towards local organizations.
In her spare time, Jaclyn thrives when spending time outdoors with her husband, two teenagers, and a dog (who is more like a tame goat). As a cooking enthusiast, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and sharing meals with friends and family. Or you may find her cuddled up on the couch with a cup of tea and a stack of books (usually a mix of insightful memoirs, historical critiques, social or climate justice essays, and unbelievably cheesy young adult fantasy novels).

Pronouns : she / her / hers

Neal Montoya has a childlike curiosity that guides her and a background in facilitating multiple projects while building community. Before Elevate, she served an AmeriCorps VISTA term with Food Recovery Network (FRN). When she began working at FRN, Neal had limited knowledge about the food justice sphere, but her love for learning new things gave her the confidence to take the role. As a result, she learned about food insecurity and food recovery while building robust systems for the FRN Network and fostering relationships with students and alumni across the nation. 

Neal attended the University of Maryland, College Park, and received a BA in English Literature with a minor in History. During her undergraduate years, she interned at the Dickinson Electronic Archives, participated in two Alternative Break trips, and served as a production assistant on student films.  

When she’s not working, you can find Neal reading a book, playing video games, taking random photographs of her surroundings, or practicing songs and scales on her beloved bass guitar. 

Pronouns : she / her / hers

Donna has been passionate about advocating for others by putting pen to paper throughout her career. This led her to a career in Social Work, where she focused on writing to serve individual clients combating disease, injustice, and poverty. As a Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Program Officer at Americares, Donna wrote over a dozen mental health trainings for frontline COVID-19 healthcare workers and helped administer a grant program for Federally Qualified Health Centers and Free and Charitable Clinics.

Donna currently volunteers as a grant writer for a small NGO called “Together We Can Guatemala” and a rescue farm called K-Stone Rescue Ranch. She is also a member of the NYC branch of “Shut Up and Write!” and her local Rotary Club. Donna earned an MS in Social Work from Columbia University and a BS in Social Work from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She has published articles in Grief Digest and First Things.

When she is not writing for causes, Donna enjoys working on her memoir with a hot mocha, architecture walks in Manhattan with her Great Pyrenees (and a hot mocha), and writing in the café at the American Museum of Natural History. She also loves building custom shelves and furniture from used pallets, fueled by, of course, a hot mocha.

Pronouns : she / her / hers

Cheyenne has a strong passion for helping underserved and marginalized populations achieve a better quality of life. Before Elevate, she made her debut in the nonprofit world first as a volunteer at an affordable housing and services provider in Ventura County, CA. She gave hundreds of hours of her time to low-income students and their daily academic needs. When a staff position opened up, she jumped on the opportunity and became a direct youth services provider. Over the course of several years, she developed and refined many impactful programs for her students.

In 2015, she decided to jump on another opportunity at the organization, diving deep into the world of fundraising and grant writing. Tapped for her excellent writing and research skills, she soon became a Grant Manager and was eventually put in charge of the grant program for the entire organization. In this role, she penned hundreds of proposals that helped fund a variety of important causes, including food assistance, case management, after-school programs, housing, summer camps, financial literacy training, and more.

Cheyenne currently volunteers for the Organization for Transformative Works, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of fanworks. She graduated summa cum laude with the highest honors from California Lutheran University. She earned a BS in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies. She also holds a Certificate in Professional Fundraising from Boston University.

Once a California native, Cheyenne is now happily living in North Carolina. She is an expert cat wrangler, a beginning gardener, and a truly subpar violinist in her own time.

Pronouns : he / him / his

Theo is passionate about writing and facilitating the distribution of wealth to organizations working to uplift marginalized communities and create artistic beauty in the world. His work in the field of grant writing includes jobs with the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee, a Black civil rights history and civic engagement organization, and Stories Without Borders, a nonprofit that uses the power of personal narrative to effect positive social change in areas of immigration and mental health. Previous to his nonprofit development work, he was a Digital Crisis Counselor with The Trevor Project, where he provided compassionate support and resources to LGBTQ+ youth on their text-based crisis hotline. 

He is a curious person and lifelong learner who has studied grant writing through Prescott College and holds a self-designed BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Psychology from Naropa University. 

Outside of work, he enjoys many pursuits, including cooking, working out, reading vast numbers of books, and sharing quality time with his loved ones, including his beloved dog, Nomi.

Pronouns : she / her / hers

Raquel has always felt drawn to public service and charity and spent almost a decade at a free dental clinic, first as the Director of Institutional Advancement before being promoted to Executive Director. She has experience working with nonprofits in public health, education, and libraries. As a Supervising Director at Elevate, she ensures the staff’s alignment to company goals, priorities, and expectations for client services.

Raquel is a long-time volunteer with her local Tots for Tots campaign, donating her time as its social media presence coordinator. Raquel earned an MS in Library & Information Science at Drexel University and a BA in Political Science at East Stroudsburg University.

When unplugging from helping to save the world, Raquel enjoys trying local coffee brewers and shops, walking along the canal towpath with her boyfriend and rescued black lab with a cold brew coffee, and renovating her late 1800’s historic home.

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