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Staff & Board
Michael Blecker, Executive Director
Michael has been associated with Swords to Plowshares since 1976. He is a co-founder of the California Association of Veterans Service Agencies and the National Association for Homeless Veterans. Michael represented and won one of the first cases at the Board of Veteran Appeals for post-traumatic stress disorder compensation in 1979.
Michael served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1970, with combat infantry service in Vietnam in 1968 and 69. He holds a juris doctor from New College of California School of Law and a Bachelor’s degree with honors from UC Berkeley.
Leon Winston, Chief Operating Officer
Leon Winston is the Chief Operating Officer and Housing Director of Swords to Plowshares, where he has worked on the housing, treatment, and income support needs of homeless and low income veterans since 1995, and is a nationally recognized veterans advocate. Referred by the SF VA Medical Center, he came to Swords as a homeless client in 1993, and is a graduate of its Transitional Housing Program. Leon possesses Master of Nonprofit Administration/Organizational Development and Bachelor of Public Administration degrees from the University of San Francisco, and Certification in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies from the University of California at Berkeley.
He is on the Board of Directors of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and in 2013 was recipient of the first Veterans Champion Award bestowed by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. In addition, Leon is currently serving as a member of the VA Secretary’s Advisory Committee On Homeless Veterans. He is an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Navy.
John Beem, Chief Financial Officer
John Beem, who began his role as Director of Finance and Accounting in mid-February 2005, comes to Swords to Plowshares with more than a decade of experience in fiscal and administrative non-profit management.
John graduated with honors with a B.A. in business and economics from Macalester College and earned an M.A. in social/clinical psychology from New College of California.
Kay Elewski, Human Resources Director
Kay oversees agency HR activities which include on-boarding new employees, administering benefits, open enrollment, training, policy development and conducting employee separations. She manages workers compensation and guides employees through leaves of absence. She contributes to compensation planning and supports the annual review process.
In 2010 she helped launched the agency Cultural Humility initiative and continues to support open communication across reporting lines and programs.
Amy Fairweather, Policy Director
Amy Fairweather directs Swords to Plowshares Institute for Veteran Policy (IVP) which conducts public policy research regarding veterans’ health, access to benefits and socioeconomic well-being. She has worked in the field of public health policy, in particular, with and for trauma survivors, since 1999. Ms. Fairweather serves as the chair of the California Governor’s Inter-Agency Council Health Committee.
Amy Fairweather received her undergraduate degree from Mills College and her Juris Doctor from the Hastings College of the Law. She is a member of State Bar of California.
Colleen Corliss, Resource Development and Communications Director
Colleen Corliss directs Swords to Plowshares’ Resource Development & Communications team which conducts fundraising, communications and donor engagement. She joined the organization in 2008 as the Communications Manager and has more than a decade of experience in nonprofit public affairs and development.
Colleen earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Communication and Women and Gender Studies, and a Master’s degree in Public Communication from American University in Washington, D.C.
Dave Lopez, Associate Director for Program & Operations
Dave Lopez is the Director of Supportive Services and oversees the Employment & Training Department and Health and Social Services. He is responsible for ensuring that the comprehensive services at Swords are integrated and meet the needs of veterans.
Dave is a native Southern Californian and has worked in the social services arena for nearly ten years. Dave’s experience with at-risk populations include, transitional aged homeless youth in Hollywood, California, incarcerated youth inside the judicial systems of San Francisco and San Mateo Counties and dual-diagnosis treatment programs for adults in San Francisco.
Tramecia Garner, Associate Director for Housing & Residential Programs
Tramecia Garner oversees our residential programs, including two transitional housing programs for homeless veterans suffering with substance use and mental health issues and three permanent supportive housing sites.
She has been working for Swords to Plowshares since March of 2010 and has over 5 years working with the veteran population starting with her internship in 2008 at the Atlanta Vet Center. She is currently a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and state of California Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).
Kate Richardson, Legal Director
Kate Richardson directs the Legal Services Program at Swords to Plowshares, which provides free legal assistance to veterans seeking VA benefits and military discharge reviews through direct representation and a robust pro bono program.
Kate joined Swords to Plowshares in 2013 and brings significant experience in disability rights work, including direct services, policy advocacy, and community lawyering approaches. Prior to joining Swords, she worked on access to justice issues at an international legal empowerment organization. She holds a JD from Northeastern University School of Law and a BA from the University of Michigan. She is a member of the State Bar of California.
Tina DiRienzo, Director of Property & Asset Management
Tina DiRienzo brings over 25 years experience in property management to Swords to Plowshares. She is the 2013 recipient of the General Manager of the Year award by the San Francisco Apartment Association and also received the President’s Award in 1996 from R&B Realty, a nationwide organization.
Tina holds a Masters in Gerontology and is excited about applying her passion for working with seniors to our aging veteran population. She currently does volunteer work with the SF-SPCA. Her labrador, Bella Luna, is part of the Assistive Animal Therapy program who typically works with the psychiatric patients at SF General Hospital. When not working or volunteering, Tina can be found swimming in the bay – another passion that keeps her energized and prepared for any challenge.
Sharon E. Vernon, Director of Health & Support Services
Shari has been with Swords for about 5 years, first as Mental Health Specialist servicing chronically mentally ill veterans with the Transitional Housing Program. She transferred to the Health & Social Services unit and now serves as the Program Director. She continues to provide clinical support and oversees the Drop-in Center and SSVF Program (Supportive Services for Veteran Families.
Shari previously was a Case Manager Coordinator for a 70-bed shelter for adults and held various positions in a foster care agency, including Licensing Director and Refugee Director. Additionally, she has facilitated a 12-step group in the Women’s Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, CA.
Erica Trejo, Director of Supportive Services
Erica Trejo directs the Employment & Training and Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF). She has been with the agency since September 2008 and has over ten years experience in employment services.
Erica Trejo holds a Master’s degree in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Master's degree in Public Administration from San Francisco State University.
Leo Joslin, Clinical Director for Residential Programs
Leo Joslin oversees clinical treatment, counseling, and supportive services for veterans in transitional and permanent housing programs at Swords to Plowshares. He joined Swords in 2007 and has worked in the counseling and mental health fields since 1999.
Leo is a Psychotherapist and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with an extensive history working with trauma in various populations. He holds a Bachelors degree from Occidental College and a Masters degree in Psychology from Golden Gate University.
Board of Directors
Yaniv Newman, Chair
Yaniv Newman is an attorney at Perry, Johnson, Anderson, Miller, and Moskowitz. He holds a B.S. from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business where he was a Regents and Chancellor’s Scholar. Yaniv earned his J.D. from the University of San Francisco.
Yaniv enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after high school and served for four years, including a tour of duty in Iraq in 2003. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Berkeley, Yaniv worked at Swords to Plowshares in the Iraq Veteran Project before attending law school. Yaniv joined the Board of Directors for Swords to Plowshares in 2014.
Deleano 'Del' Seymour, Vice Chair
Originally from Chicago, Deleano was drafted to serve during the Vietnam War and served stateside to support injured troops returning from Vietnam. He served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1969. Del, moved with his family to Los Angeles where he was a paramedic for the Los Angeles Fire Department for ten years while a single father to his two daughters.
He later moved to the Bay Area to be closer to family but his life took a turn for the worse and his long journey of homeless and addiction began. He eventually became a client of Swords to Plowshares and overcame his addiction. Clean and sober for eight years now, Del founded The Tenderloin Walking Tours and was recently appointed to the Local Homeless Coordinating Board. He was honored in 2013 as a Profile of Courage and continues to serve the community.
Michael Fassler, Board Secretary
Michael Fassler is Senior Vice President of Corporate Development for Syufy Enterprises where he is responsible for the corporate growth of their operating businesses, including VillaSport Athletic Club & Spa and Tomatina restaurants. Mike was previously the Associate Director of Real Estate for the Presidio Trust, a federal agency which owns and operates the historic Presidio of San Francisco, a former Army post.
Mike holds a JD from University of Virginia School of Law, a MEc in Human Rights from Sydney University, Australia, an Executive Wine MBA from Sonoma State University, and a BA in political science and economics from University of Puget Sound. He joined the Board of Directors of Swords to Plowshares in 2016 and chairs the Audit Committee.
Stephen Plath founded Plath Company, a General Contracting firm for the San Francisco Bay Area in 1975. Steve did ROTC and earned his B.S. in mathematics from California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo in June of 1967 and served two years in the U.S. Army as platoon leader, company executive officer and assistant battalion S-4 officer in Vietnam.
Steve joined the Board of Swords to Plowshares in 2007. He was elected Vice Chair in 2009 and Board Chair in 2013 through 2016.
Stacey Sprenkel is a partner in the litigation department of Morrison & Foerster’s San Francisco office, and a member of the firm’s Securities Litigation, Enforcement, and White-Collar Defense Group. She maintains an active pro bono practice representing disabled veterans and veterans’ organizations.
Stacey holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School, a M.Sc. in Human Rights from the London School of Economics, and a B.A. in political science and mass communications from UC Berkeley. She joined the Board of Directors of Swords to Plowshares in 2010 and became Vice Chair in 2013. She also chairs the Communications Committee.
Paul Cox is a civil engineer and associate principal of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates. He joined the USMC in 1968 and served in Vietnam. He attended the University of Oklahoma and holds an engineering degree from San Francisco State University.
Paul is one of the founders of Veterans Speakers Alliance and American Legion Robert Basker Post 315 in San Francisco. He serves on the National Board for Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign. In 2005, Mr. Cox joined the Board of Swords to Plowshares and served as Board Chair from 2009 to 2012.
Rick Houlberg is a professor emeritus of Broadcast and Electronic Media at San Francisco State University. Rick served on active duty in the US Army from 1962 to 1967 as a JAG legal clerk.
As a member of the Swords Board of Directors since 1992, Rick served four terms as board secretary. He currently serves on the Finance, Executive and Communications Committees.
Stephen M. Snyder
Stephen M. Snyder practices law as a founding partner at Snyder, Miller & Orton and has served on boards for the Bar Association of San Francisco. Steve has his undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara in 1965 and degrees in law and administration from Cornell University in 1972.
Steve served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantry officer. His service included one tour in Vietnam. He joined the Board of Directors of Swords to Plowshares in 2009.
Bob graduated with both B.S. and M.S. interdisciplinary degrees with an emphasis on the business of social services from San Francisco State University. He also attended the University of Oregon.
From 1967 to 1968, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 7th Marine Regiment in Vietnam. Bob has 30 years of executive non-profit management and joined the Board of Directors in 2009 and serves on the Audit Committee.
Julie Cane leads the Student Segment Marketing & Brand Strategy as well as the SF Bay Area Veterans’ Team Member Network at Wells Fargo Bank. In addition to financial services, her background includes management consulting, corporate venture capital and merger integration.
She began her career as an SH-3 Sea King helicopter pilot in the US Navy where she managed flight operations and flew combat search and rescue missions in the Philippines. Julie’s father was a Navy SWO during Vietnam and her maternal grandfather was a P-38 pilot and POW during WWII.
Julie holds an MBA from UCLA and a BA from the University of Virginia. She co-chairs the Resource Development Committee and is a member of the Board Development & Governance Committee.
Michael Dekshenieks is a Managing Director and Digital Transformation Executive at Accenture with a focus on enterprise initiatives which deliver personalized experiences. He began his career as a Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy with service aboard a Guided Missile Destroyer and the Naval Surface Forces Staff.
Michael received his BA from the University of Virginia and his MBA from The College of William & Mary.
Kristina Daniel Lawson is a partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, LLP in San Francisco, where she practices land use and environmental law. She maintains an active pro bono practice representing veterans with disabilities and veterans’ organizations. Lawson was a member of the Walnut Creek City Council from 2010 to 2014, and served as Walnut Creek's Mayor in 2014.
Lawson earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law, and a B.A. from the University of Arizona. She joined the Swords to Plowshares Board of Directors in 2016.
Mike Thiel is a technology executive, investor, board member and veterans advocate. He served as an officer for five years active duty in the United States Navy, including two deployments to the Arabian Gulf. Mike has also held various leadership & management positions in the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing industries.
Mike holds a BS degree in physics from the U.S. Naval Academy and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. In addition serving on the Board of Swords to Plowshares, Mike serves on the Board of CORO Northern California.
Erik Edwards is a partner at Cooley's Palo Alto office. He practices general securities and corporate law, with a focus on emerging growth companies, private financings, initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions. Erik represents companies and investors in a wide variety of areas, including software, hardware, Internet of Things, edtech, cleantech, life sciences, social impact, fashion, retail, unmanned vehicles, artificial intelligence, media, fintech and other areas of technology.
He works with numerous incubators both nationally and internationally and speaks regularly on various corporate governance and financing topics. Erik has been active with Swords to Plowshares' Pro Bono Advisory Board for several years and joined the Board of Directors in 2017.
Mike Cerre: Executive Producer, Globe TV
Steve Fields: Executive Director, Progress Foundation
Chris Kanios: Professor, JFKU School of Law
John Keker: Founding Partner, Keker & Van Nest, LLP
Dudley Miller: Contracting Consultant
William Millichap: Co-founder, Marcus & Millichap, Inc.
Major General J. Michael Myatt (USMC Ret.): CEO, Marines' Memorial Club
Craig Newmark: Founder, craigslist.org
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi: Minority Leader, United States Congress
Mark Solit: Owner, Solit Interest Groups
Joanette Sorkin: Physician, US Public Health Service, Travis AFB
Roger Walther: CEO, Tusker Corporation
Carol Wilder: Professor, The New School