Staff & Board

Leadership Team

Michael Blecker, Executive Director
Michael BleckerMichael 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 WinstonLeon 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 Housing Program. Leon possesses master’s degree in nonprofit administration/organizational development and bachelor’s in public administration 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 BeemJohn 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 bachelor’s degree in business and economics from Macalester College and earned a master’s in social/clinical psychology from New College of California.

Norman Anderson, Human Resources Director

Norman has over 15 years experience in various operational and HR roles in both the public and private sectors. Norman joined Swords to Plowshares in 2018 and is responsible for the people function, including HR leadership & development, talent acquisition, benefits administration, training and employee relations.

A U.S. Navy veteran, Norman graduated with a bachelor’s of science in organizational leadership from Azusa Pacific University and holds an MBA with a focus in human resources management from National University.

Amy Fairweather, Policy Director
Amy Fairweather

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 oversees Swords to Plowshares Combat to Community™ education and technical assistance and re-granting programs.

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 CorlissColleen 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.

Steve Culbertson, Associate Director for Program & Operations
Steven CulbertsonSteve grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. He attended Brown University where he received a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and attended the University of Pennsylvania where he received a master’s degree in city planning. Prior to moving to San Francisco in June 2017 to join Swords to Plowshares, Steve was the Director of Veterans and Housing Programs at Impact Services Corporation in Philadelphia.

In 2015, Steve, along with many other government and non-profit collaborators, effectively ended veteran homelessness in Philadelphia according to the standards of the United States Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (USICH). Steve lived in West Philadelphia for 31 years and now resides in the South of Market neighborhood with his dog, Chocolate.

Tramecia Garner, Associate Director for Housing & Residential Programs
Tramecia GarnerTramecia Garner oversees our residential programs, including two stabilization 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 RichardsonKate 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 juris doctor from Northeastern University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. She is a member of the State Bar of California.

Tina DiRienzo, Director of Property & Asset Management
Tina DiRienzoTina 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 master’s 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.

Jacob Donnelly, Director of Supportive Services

Jacob Donnelly is the director of our SSVF and Drop-In programs in both our San Francisco and Oakland offices. Jacob is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who first came to Swords to Plowshares in 2015 as the Program Manager of our Safe Haven harm reduction stabilization program. Jacob has been working in the mental health field with adults experiencing homelessness since 2007, and has worked on intensive case management teams at SF General Hospital and the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health.

He earned his master’s degree in social work at UCLA. Jacob is passionate about ending veteran homelessness, bringing our drop-in programs in line with trauma-informed and harm reduction best practices, and providing clinical supervision to his staff. In his spare time, he likes hiking with his dog.

Octavious Scott, Director of Employment & Training

Since 2014, Octavious has worked in workforce development and leadership development in different non-profit settings and is currently the Director of Employment & Training at Swords to Plowshares. As a post 9/11 veteran, he is passionate about removing negative stigma surrounding veteran issues and connecting veterans to meaningful employment.

Fresh out of high school, Octavious Scott served for eight years in the Navy and deployed to the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. After completing his service, Octavious completed his bachelor’s degree in business management at Golden Gate University and master’s degree in leadership from Saint Mary’s College.

Jerri Lee Young, Clinical Director for Residential Programs

Jerri began her work with Swords to Plowshares in 2012. Originally hired as a Case Manager at the Drop-in Center at 1060 Howard, she transitioned to the Housing Unit as the Program Manager for De Montfort. After two years at De Montfort, she served as Assistant Director for Residential Programs. She was recently promoted to her current position as Clinical Director for Residential Programs.

A visual artist and poet, Jerri was also a professional theatre artist for many years before returning to school to study psychology. Jerri holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Expressive Arts Therapy from California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and maintains a small private practice.

Board of Directors

Yaniv Newman, Chair
Yaniv NewmanYaniv Newman is an attorney at Sullivan Hill Lewin Rez & Engel. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business where he was a Regents and Chancellor’s Scholar. Yaniv earned his juris doctor 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
Deleano 'Del' SeymourOriginally 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 FasslerMichael 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 juris doctor from University of Virginia School of Law, a master’s in Human Rights from Sydney University, Australia, an executive wine MBA from Sonoma State University, and a bachelor’s 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
Stephen PlathStephen Plath founded Plath Company, a general contracting firm for the San Francisco Bay Area in 1975. Steve did ROTC and earned his bachelor’s degree 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
Stacey SprenkelStacey 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 juris doctor from Columbia Law School, a master’s in Human Rights from the London School of Economics, and a bachelor’s 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
Paul CoxPaul 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
Rick HoulbergRick 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.

Robert Trevorrow
Robert TrevorrowBob graduated with both bachelor’s and master’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
Julie CaneJulie 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 bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia. She co-chairs the Resource Development Committee and is a member of the Board Development & Governance Committee.

Michael Dekshenieks
Michael DekshenieksMichael 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.

Michael Thiel
Michael ThielMike 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 bachelor’s of science 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
Erik EdwardsErik 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.

John Marquez

John Marquez leads a team of Talent Acquisition Specialists for Kaiser Permanente National Functions group. He also currently serves as the National Chair for the Kaiser Permanente Veterans Association.

John enlisted in the United States Navy after high school and served for 5 years on the Naval Air Station, Alameda. After leaving the Navy, he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University East Bay. He has worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs and his career includes financial services, IT and non-profit work, leading him to Kaiser Permanente.

Ronan Kennedy

Ronan leads a group within Microsoft Ventures to identify and partner with the most promising and impactful startups from the SF Bay Area. Prior to working in venture capital, Ronan lead investment and innovation teams within Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase.

His proudest accomplishments are from his time serving in an infantry battalion within the 101st Airborne Division, logging over 28 months of combat in Iraq between 2005 and 2008 and departing with the rank of Captain.  Ronan was an ROTC student at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he received his Bachelor of Science. He was awarded an MBA from UC Berkeley, which he attended using the post-9/11 GI Bill. Ronan lives in the East Bay with his wife and rescued Golden Retriever.

Felipe Buzaid

Felipe is a graduate of West Point and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom with vast expertise in human capital management and talent acquisition.

She transitioned from the Army to Wall Street to help lead change management for a global HR transformation project at AIG. She led the development of veteran program initiatives there, after which she joined the tech industry as a senior customer success manager at LinkedIn. Felipe was able to pursue her passion for talent acquisition and innovation as a consultant for global companies on how to reinvent the way they connect talent with opportunity at scale. While at LinkedIn, Felipe led the first ever LinkedIn NYC Vets2Business Summit and NYC Vets + Allies ERG.

She is currently the head of the Facebook Veterans program with a focus on hiring veteran talent into the organization. By deploying an innovative strategic approach to veteran engagement and recruiting, she’s successfully built a strong community of veterans in the tech industry.

Advisory Board

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 and Peters 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