of Casa Esperanza Bakersfield
Julie Cesare, Chairperson
Julie Cesare is dedicated to bringing to scale innovative solutions for women and children in Kern County who are experiencing homelessness. Ms. Cesare currently serves as the Board President of Casa Esperanza, Transitional Home for Women and Children. Her work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate(CASA) for many years leads her to believe that Casa Esperanza is much needed in this community.
Ms. Cesare contributes experience in fundraising, marketing, organizing, real estate, and business, leading the multi-pronged approach to funding and launching of Casa Esperanza. Ms. Cesare earned a Bachelor of Science in Business from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California, and has lived in Bakersfield for most of her life.
Sr. Marie Francis Schroepfer, CSJ, Founding Member
Marie Schroepfer was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Over the years she has served as an elementary and high school teacher, a high school business manager and staff to the treasurer of her religious congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
In 1998, she moved to Bakersfield after being hired by Catholic Charities as a Community Building Facilitator for Kern County. She currently ministers as the Associate Director of the Fresno Diocesan Social Justice Ministry specifically for the South San Joaquin Valley.
She became involved with the founding of Casa Esperanza Transitional Home for Women after being approached by two Bakersfield women who recognized the need for such a program.
She enjoys spectator sports and loves the outdoors. Riding horses is one of her most pleasurable activities. She enjoys the company of her playful beagle mix that she found fourteen years ago and named Keeper.
Greg DeWitt is a native of Bakersfield. Since 2012, he has served as the Marketing Manager for The Gombos Company, a leading exporter of U.S. forage and roughage. In 2017, near the early stages of Casa Esperanza, Greg started consulting with Sister Marie Schroepfer to provide an online presence for Casa Esperanza along with other marketing and promotional materials for the First Annual Hearts of Hope Fundraiser event.
Greg has an extensive background that encompasses marketing, logistics, supply chain management, and network administration. He is a skilled programmer, developer, graphic artist, video editor, copywriter, drummer, and musician. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management and Associate of Science in Health Administration.
Kathy Fenn has lived in Bakersfield since 2010. Prior to moving to Bakersfield, she and her family lived in Egypt. She and her husband have four adult children. She is a Marriage and Family Therapist. “Being involved in this project of Casa Esperanza is of special interest to me because of the work that I do. I have come across many women who, for a variety of reasons, suddenly find themselves being a single parent having to find a way to make ends meet and are not prepared for the tough road.” The vision of Casa Esperanza is to help these women transition into a productive, independent life.
Lisa King is a native of Bakersfield and has lived most of her life in this community. She is a graduate of CSU Bakersfield with a degree in Business and has worked in accounting for most of her career. She and her husband Geoff have been involved with numerous community organizations including Garces Memorial High School, Friends of Mercy Foundation and CSU Bakersfield. She served 12 years on the Rosedale Union School District Board of Education.
Lisa was first drawn to Casa Esperanza by its commitment to providing women a way out of homelessness through education, job training and support. She assisted with the Hearts of Hope Fundraiser before joining the Board last year.
Gianna Lutje has lived in Bakersfield since 2015. She recently changed her career from working in the medical device industry and now works for Johnson and Johnson’s neuroscience division. Her role supports behavioral health departments for hospitals, outpatient clinics and private practices throughout the Central Valley. Gianna holds a BS in Biology with a minor in Psychology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
Gianna currently works with care teams that deals with patients that are either homeless or in unstable living conditions. Working with Casa Esperanza she sees the need first hand to be able to offer an alternative approach to transitions of care within the Bakersfield community for women and children.
Lucinda Macias was born and raised in Houston Texas. Her employer, Chevron, relocated her to Bakersfield in the summer of 2018 as a Training Advisor for the San Joaquin Valley business unit. She is a bilingual HR professional with over 20 years of experience in recruiting, domestic and international HR, organizational capability, learning and development, intern program management, diversity and inclusion, and facilitation.
She has served on leadership teams within Chevron‘s employee resource groups (ERG’s) more specifically, Somos, the LatinX/Hispanic employee network and the Women’s employee network. For 15 years while serving in these ERG’s, she planned and led community service events and volunteer opportunities throughout the city. This is how she became very involved with homeless shelters across Houston. One of her favorite volunteer roles was as an instructor, coaching groups on key topics to get back into the workforce.
She has always had a passion to help women become the best versions of themselves and strives to be a role model for the younger female generations. This is the legacy she wants to leave. She has a God-sized dream to start her own ministry, a shelter for homeless women and children, and working with Casa Esperanza is making her dream a reality. Lucinda also serves as a board member for the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Dave Packer is a native of Bakersfield and has been a local custom home builder since 1990. He is graduate of California State University, Sacramento with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Real Estate. Before starting his home building business with his wife, Marilyn, he was a financial analyst for Getty Oil Company and the Secretary-Treasurer for the Arvin-Edison Water Storage District.
Dave is a firm believer of giving back to the local community and being able to share his home building knowledge and passion. He currently serves on the Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House Board of Trustees and was the Board’s liaison for the recent expansion of the Bakersfield house. He has also volunteered his company’s services for the construction of specially adapted homes for two local military heroes through the Gary Sinise Foundation and Homes for Our Troops, each of which were given to the veterans’ and their families at no cost. He has also built one-of-a-kind playhouses as fundraisers for the U.S. Marine Corp. Toys for Tots program, Habitat for Humanity and Ronald McDonald House. Dave also serves on the Kern Home Building Association Board of Directors and is an Industry Advisor/Partner for the Kern High School District Construction Traded program.
Coleen Peters is a full time Realtor with Coldwell Banker, Preferred Realtors for over 35 years. She manages her own rental properties. She is a graduate of Cal Poly, SLO in Business Administration. Coleen was on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) State Board of Directors from 2005 -2010. She was instrumental in initiating and establishing the STAR Mental Health court here in Kern County.
She has a desire to help women who are willing to do the work necessary to change their life and impact and their children and their children’s lives. She wants to help create a system that can be duplicated by others so our success is multiplied by many houses many times over.
Dr. Bonita Steele, serves as the Project Director for the Kern Community College District’s California Career Pathways Trust Grant. The Pathways Trust Grant engages more than 30 educational and business partners in a four year $9.5 million project to implement high school to college pathways in nine industry sectors. In its first year, the project reached 11,142 high school and 532 college pathway students. Prior to assuming responsibility for the Pathways Trust Grant project, Ms. Steele served as the District Director of Grants and Resource Development for eight years, during which time, she provided workshops on grant writing, and engaged in programmatic design and problem solving, and acquired grant awards of more than $28 million dollars. Ms. Steele earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership with a focus on Higher Education from California State University Fresno, and earned a Master and Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration from California State University Bakersfield.
Lisa Elzy Watson
The CEO and Founder of Lightwave Education, Ms. Watson, established a non-profit dedicated to education, mentoring, and community outreach. A speaker, author, dynamic growth counselor, and human potential activator, Lisa shares her personal experiences and humorous insights gathered from more than 20 years of studying human development to assist others with their transformation.
In 2016, Lisa began working as the Managing Director for a local transportation company. She embraced all aspects of the business: Marketing, restructuring the back office, implementing an online reservation system, and launching the company’s first website. Customer Satisfaction was increased to 95% by reducing customer wait time, increasing scheduling efficiencies, and restructuring the driver’s work schedule.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, she chose the sunny climate of California to build her life. Traveling extensively around the world, studying culture, and comparative religions, it is her firm desire to give back to her community by positively impacting the lives of women and children.