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.

Rachel comes to Elevate with a lifelong passion for education and equity. She received a Bachelor of the Arts in Education from the University of Akron in 2015. Since graduating, Rachel’s primary focus throughout her career has been service, especially for communities in need.

Prior to joining the Elevate team, Rachel taught high school English in Cleveland for two years through Teach For America. She then transitioned into the nonprofit world where she continued to work toward closing the achievement gap in education. As she gained experience in the nonprofit world, she came to find that her most valuable skill set was her knack for organization and logistics. Her final chapter prior to joining Elevate was working as an administrator for The Public Interest Network, a national nonprofit focused on environmental and consumer issues. She wore many hats in this role and gained some experience with grants, which led her to Elevate!

Outside of the work, Rachel enjoys spending time with her two cats, watching sports, and trying out new dinner recipes.

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. 

Sabina began grant writing in college with a proposal to fund her archival, preservation, and translation of letters and artifacts belonging to a Czech Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, to connect the survivor’s South Alabama family with their grandfather’s story. Since then, she has written for a variety of nonprofit organizations, including hospital systems, social service providers, educational equity services, workforce training programs, and mental health counseling agencies. Grant writing allows Sabina to advocate on behalf of nonprofit organizations doing invaluable work, and that passion – to “elevate” the voices of those uniquely serving their diverse communities – drives her work at Elevate.

Sabina earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Alabama in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a Depth Study in Applied Linguistics. During that time, she minored in Russian and studied abroad in Germany. Her volunteer service has included education, disability rights, and social justice causes.

Outside of writing, Sabina can be found making abstract art and taking long walks in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with her partner and her golden retriever, both of whom have learned a bit of German.

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.

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Rebecca comes from the heart of the country (Wichita, KS)  with over a decade of nonprofit experience. She brings her background of event sponsorship, grant-writing, and donor relationship management to Elevate along with program development and outreach. Most recently she was the Arkansas River Project Coordinator for the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, where she executed a grant-funded project to increase recreation and awareness of the Arkansas River National Water Trail. She also was the Marketing Specialist for Angel Flight South Central, which kept her busy with social media, fundraising support, and community outreach. 

Rebecca is passionate about volunteering for nearby organizations including the Kansas Humane Society, ICT Food Rescue, and the local chapter of Free Mom Hugs. She earned a Master of Education in Educational Psychology from Wichita State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Conservation Biology from Kansas State University. 

Exploring new hobbies is Rebecca’s biggest pastime as she is constantly learning and trying new things. A lot of this happens in the kitchen whether cooking dinner for her husband and kids or baking desserts. She loves being outdoors, gardening, playing with her dogs, and traveling.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Greg believes that entanglement across sectors – arts, politics, healthcare, science, technology, among others – is a core to building healthy, self-sustaining communities. Greg has worked as a consultant to numerous arts, heritage, and cultural institutions; helping them deepen community ties, better define their purpose, and surface and organize around mutual self-interests. He previously served as an analyst at AMS Planning & Research and was the 19-20 Allen Lee Hughes Directing Fellow at Arena Stage. Along with those roles, he has been fundraising for universities and arts organizations since 2014.

In the field, Greg also works as a director for theater, opera, film, and games. His artistic practice closely resembles Elevate’s — working with an array of collectives or organizations to help advance their mission and goals through (only instead of through grantmaking, it’s through artistically excellent storytelling — which tends to attract the grants!) He serves as the Producing Director for the Helen Hayes-winning 4615 Theatre Company. Greg holds a BFA from the University of Michigan.

Raised between wintery Michigan and sunny Shanghai, Greg can shovel a driveway with ease and was sipping on Boba before it was cool. You can catch him at the premiere of a new show, cooking big group dinners, or sobbing somewhere over the lack of a sophomore SZA album.

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