United in Vision: Our Board’s Dedication to Empowering Lives and Building a Stronger Community.

Board of Directors

Julie Cesare, Chairperson

Julie Cesare, the Board President of Casa Esperanza Transitional Home for Women and Children, brings a wealth of experience in fundraising, marketing, organizing, real estate, and business. Her dedication to addressing homelessness among women and children in Kern County is rooted in her extensive work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). This experience has reinforced her belief in the vital need for initiatives like Casa Esperanza in the community.

A graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Business from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California, Julie has spent most of her life in Bakersfield. Her diverse skill set and deep understanding of the community’s needs play a crucial role in leading the multi-faceted efforts to fund and launch Casa Esperanza, making her an invaluable asset to the organization.

Sr. Marie Francis Schroepfer,

CSJ, Founding Member

Marie Schroepfer, a Los Angeles native, has a diverse background in education and religious service. Her career includes roles as an elementary and high school teacher, a high school business manager, and a staff member for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. In 1998, Marie relocated to Bakersfield, taking up a role with Catholic Charities as a Community Building Facilitator for Kern County. Currently, she serves as the Associate Director of the Fresno Diocesan Social Justice Ministry, focusing on the South San Joaquin Valley.

Marie’s involvement with Casa Esperanza Transitional Home for Women began after two local women, recognizing a community need, approached her. Her commitment to this cause highlights her dedication to social justice and community support. Outside of her professional life, Marie is an avid sports fan, enjoys outdoor activities, and horseback riding. She also cherishes the company of her adopted Beagle/Sporting mix, Lexie.

Lauraine Cook

Lauraine (Fanucchi) Cook, a Bakersfield native with deep Italian roots, boasts an extensive background in education and community service. She holds degrees from Bakersfield College, Cal State University Bakersfield (BA in Psychology), and University of LaVerne (MS in Counseling). With over three decades of experience in high school and community college services, Lauraine’s skills span research, staffing analysis, district-wide planning, and child development programs, among others.

Her commitment to her community is evident in her active participation in various organizations, including the American Cancer Society, Community Connection for Child Care, and the Italian Catholic Federation. Lauraine, along with her husband Jerry, daughter, and two grandchildren, is deeply involved in charitable services, focusing on supporting women and children. She enjoys camping and traveling, embracing life’s adventures. As a devoted member of her church and local organizations, Lauraine has also co-chaired the Casa Esperanza’s Hearts of Hope fundraiser, further highlighting her dedication to community betterment.

Gregory DeWitt

Greg DeWitt, a Marketing Manager at a family-owned forage export company since 2008, is a Bakersfield native with a rich background in management across government and private sectors, and service in the U.S. Navy. His diverse experience in marketing, logistics, supply chain, and information technology, paired with skills in project management, programming, and graphics, make him a versatile professional.

Greg’s journey with Casa Esperanza began in 2017, working alongside Sister Marie Schroepfer to build the organization’s online presence. He played a key role in marketing and promoting the first annual Hearts of Hope Fundraiser for Casa Esperanza. Alongside his wife Gail, Greg co-founded a digital marketing company, offering services in various marketing disciplines and online entrepreneurial endeavors.

A holder of degrees in Marketing Management and Health Administration, Greg is deeply committed to leveraging his extensive skillset for the betterment of his community, demonstrating a passion for making a meaningful difference through his work and volunteer efforts.

Kathy Fenn

Kathy Fenn, a resident of Bakersfield since 2010 and a seasoned Marriage and Family Therapist, brings a unique perspective to Casa Esperanza. Before settling in Bakersfield, Kathy and her family lived in Egypt, enriching her life experiences. She is a mother to four adult children, which adds depth to her understanding of family dynamics.

Her involvement with Casa Esperanza is deeply personal and professionally relevant. In her therapy work, Kathy often encounters women who unexpectedly become single parents, struggling to navigate the challenges of sustaining their families. This firsthand experience fuels her commitment to Casa Esperanza’s vision of aiding these women in their transition to productive and independent lives. Kathy’s empathy and expertise are invaluable to the mission of empowering women facing difficult circumstances, embodying the spirit of resilience and support that Casa Esperanza stands for.

Lisa King

Lisa King, deeply rooted in Bakersfield, has dedicated her life to serving her community. A CSU Bakersfield business graduate, Lisa has primarily worked in accounting throughout her career. Her commitment to community service is evident through her involvement with various local organizations such as Garces Memorial High School, Friends of Mercy Foundation, and CSU Bakersfield. Additionally, she has served 12 years on the Rosedale Union School District Board of Education, showcasing her dedication to educational advancement.

Drawn to Casa Esperanza by its mission to help women overcome homelessness through education, job training, and support, Lisa has been an active supporter. Her work with the Hearts of Hope Fundraiser demonstrates her commitment to the cause. Recently, she deepened her involvement by joining the Board, bringing her financial expertise and passion for community service to further the organization’s goals. Lisa’s extensive experience and dedication make her a valuable asset to Casa Esperanza.

Gianna Lutje

Gianna Lutje, a Bakersfield resident since 2015, has transitioned from the medical device industry to a role in Johnson and Johnson’s neuroscience division, supporting behavioral health departments across the Central Valley. With a BS in Biology and a minor in Psychology from California Polytechnic State University, her academic background complements her professional endeavors.

In her current position, Gianna collaborates with care teams assisting patients in homeless or unstable conditions. This experience has given her valuable insights into the challenges faced by these individuals, particularly in the Bakersfield community. Her involvement with Casa Esperanza stems from witnessing these challenges firsthand, recognizing the importance of providing alternative care transitions for women and children. Gianna’s unique blend of scientific knowledge and practical experience in the healthcare sector makes her a vital contributor to Casa Esperanza, offering innovative perspectives on care and support for those in need.

Lucinda Macias

Lucinda Macias, originally from Houston, Texas, relocated to Bakersfield in 2018 to work as a Training Advisor for Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley business unit. With over 20 years of experience in HR, Lucinda is a bilingual professional skilled in recruiting, learning and development, diversity and inclusion, and more. Her leadership in Chevron’s employee resource groups, particularly the LatinX/Hispanic and Women’s networks, highlights her dedication to community service and volunteerism, including significant involvement with homeless shelters in Houston.

Lucinda’s passion lies in empowering women and being a role model for younger generations. Her dream of starting a shelter for homeless women and children aligns closely with her work at Casa Esperanza, where she is helping to turn this vision into a reality. Additionally, her commitment extends to her role as a board member of the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where she continues to advocate for community growth and development. Lucinda’s journey is a testament to her commitment to making a lasting impact in the lives of women and children.

Dave Packer

Dave Packer, a lifelong Bakersfield resident, has been shaping the local landscape as a custom home builder since 1990. A California State University, Sacramento alumnus with a degree in Business Administration and Real Estate, Dave’s career began in finance, working as an analyst for Getty Oil Company and later as the Secretary-Treasurer for the Arvin-Edison Water Storage District.

Dave’s commitment to community service is evident in his extensive volunteer work. He has generously offered his construction expertise to build specially adapted homes for military veterans through partnerships with the Gary Sinise Foundation and Homes for Our Troops. His dedication extends to creating unique playhouses for charity fundraisers, benefiting organizations like the U.S. Marine Corp. Toys for Tots program and Habitat for Humanity.

Serving on the Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House Board of Trustees and the Kern Home Building Association Board of Directors, as well as being an Industry Advisor/Partner for the Kern High School District Construction Traded program, Dave actively contributes his skills and knowledge to better his community. His work is a testament to his belief in giving back and sharing his passion for building with others.

Coleen Peters

Coleen Peters, with over 35 years of experience as a Realtor at Coldwell Banker, Preferred Realtors, has established a notable career in real estate and property management. A graduate of Cal Poly, SLO in Business Administration, Coleen brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her profession. Her commitment to mental health advocacy is demonstrated through her previous service on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) State Board of Directors from 2005 to 2010, where she played a pivotal role in initiating the STAR Mental Health court in Kern County.

Driven by a passion to empower women and positively influence their lives and those of their children, Coleen is dedicated to developing sustainable systems of support. Her vision is to create replicable models of success that can be adopted broadly, amplifying the impact on numerous families. Coleen’s combination of professional acumen and deep commitment to social change underscores her valuable contribution to empowering women and fostering community growth.

Diana Prather

Dianna Prather, a dedicated Bakersfield resident, boasts over 30 years of experience in advertising with the Buck Owens Production company. Her entrepreneurial spirit led her to co-own D&E Oil Well Tools and currently assist with commercial contracts and financing at Prather Drywall & Plastering Inc. Her extensive professional background is matched by her active community involvement, serving on the Seven Oaks Membership Committee and the Seven Oak Country Club Board of Directors.

Dianna’s commitment to her community extends to various charitable causes, including Bikes for Bakersfield, BCHS Key Event, and Heart for Hope. Alongside her husband, Brett, she has dedicated the past 14 years to philanthropic efforts such as remodeling the Ronald McDonald House and building Saint Jude dream homes.

Dianna is enthusiastic about her role with Casa Esperanza, where she aims to contribute significantly to the wellbeing of homeless women and their children in Bakersfield. Her passion for philanthropy and community service is a driving force in her efforts to effect positive change.

Lisa Elzy-Watson

Lisa Watson, CEO and Founder of Lightwave Education, has dedicated over two decades to the fields of education, mentoring, and community outreach. As a speaker, author, and growth counselor, she leverages her extensive study in human development and personal experiences to facilitate transformative growth in others.

In 2016, Lisa broadened her professional scope by becoming the Managing Director of a local transportation company. There, she successfully enhanced various business aspects, including marketing, operational restructuring, and customer service improvements, which elevated customer satisfaction to 95%.

A University of Michigan alumna, Lisa chose California for its vibrant environment. Her global travels, exploring diverse cultures and religions, have deepened her commitment to community service. Lisa is particularly passionate about making a positive impact on the lives of women and children, driven by her desire to contribute meaningfully to societal betterment. Her diverse skills and experiences, coupled with her dedication to service, highlight her unique approach to leadership and community engagement.

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