Our Team

Staff

Elena Karoulina, Executive Director info@sustainablesolano.org

Elena joined Benicia Community Gardens in 2011, first as a Board member; she became an executive director for the organization at the end of the same year. Elena brings to Sustainable Solano more than twenty years of management and business analysis experience in telecommunication and health care industries, an MBA from Vanderbilt University, her passion for nourishing sustainable food and her deep interest in local economy and community resilience. In her role of the executive director, Elena is responsible for strategic planning, financial and legal aspects of the organization, day-to-day operation and program development and management.

Stefani Iribarren Brooks, Program Manager
Youth Cooking Pilot Program, Local Food
stefani@sustainablesolano.org

Stefani comes to Sustainable Solano as a passionate educator with a decade of teaching experience for the role of Youth Cooking Pilot program manager. She holds a BA in English with an emphasis in education and an MA in Rhetoric and Composition. As a committed lifelong learner inspired by the underappreciated tenacity and vigor of young adults, she believes enlightening young minds to be conscious decision-makers is her purpose; contributing to the well-being of the next generation is at the heart of all of her work. As a former food truck owner and devoted “foodie” who has healed herself using the power of healthy bounty, she is eager to inform youth about our nation’s flawed food system in hopes of harvesting innovative thinkers to heal what we have broken. Outside of Sustainable Solano, Stefani can be found stalking everything food related and playing outdoors with her husband, son and puppy.

Gabriela Estrada, Program Manager
Solano Gardens, Urban Forest, Conversation Circles
gabriela@sustainablesolano.org

Gabriela thrives in socially conscious environments where people are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive society and is passionate about identifying and developing sustainable and equitable solutions within her local community. She is committed to serving traditionally underserved communities by improving access to information and resources. She envisions a world where everyone is encouraged to share their voices and stories.

Gabriela holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Communication from UC San Diego. During her time in San Diego, she investigated and identified effective approaches to engaging Southeast San Diego residents in healthy eating strategies, systemic food waste reduction and recovery tactics. After graduation, she worked at the Institute of the Golden Gate in San Francisco, where she researched different approaches to better engage homeless park goers through interviews with different national and local stakeholders that had implemented novel and progressive collaborative methods and trainings. She holds a Permaculture Design Certificate through Occidental Arts & Ecology Center.

Through her work with Sustainable Solano, Gabriela hopes to promote a culture of belonging and social justice that is rooted in community.

Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan, Program Manager, Chef
Local Food
stephanie@sustainablesolano.org

Experienced chef and healthy-eating advocate Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan is program manager for our Local Food Program initiative. She assists with operational plan creation and oversees program administration. Chef Steph grew up in Nebraska and holds a BA in Communication Studies from Northwestern University. After working in marketing and PR for several years, she caught the “cooking bug,” and in 2004 earned a Certificate of Professional Cooking from the Illinois Institute of Art. Shortly after culinary school, she started her own company, Hot Dish Inc., through which she catered numerous private events. She has taught over 400 public cooking classes at various venues in Chicago and also served as adjunct faculty in the Culinary Department at Robert Morris University. A mother of two young boys, Chef Steph is passionate about teaching children to eat healthy from a young age, and increasing the accessibility of quality, organic food to families. She is an advocate of cleaning up our nation’s broken food system and works for food justice whenever possible.

Allison Nagel, Program Manager
Workforce Development, Communications
allison@sustainablesolano.org

As communications manager, Allison focuses on helping the organization expand its capacity to share the latest news, manage the resources it has to offer through the website and help tell Sustainable Solano’s story. She is also advancing the organization’s youth leadership and workforce development program to bring sustainability programs to local youth, professionals and other adult learners.

An experienced journalist and editor, Allison is excited to bring her skills to Sustainable Solano to bring more awareness to the community of what the organization has to offer among its interwoven initiatives. Allison is inspired by the power of people to create change within their lives and communities. Allison holds degrees in journalism and business, has built a career working for newspapers and other news publications and volunteers her time with local organizations. She has earned a Permaculture Design Certificate through Sustainable Solano and Vital Cycles.

Nicole Newell, Program Manager
Sustainable Landscaping
nicole@sustainablesolano.org

Although a longtime Benician, Nicole didn’t feel like she belonged to a community until she discovered Benicia Community Gardens. Having earned her degree in biology and having a personal passion for healing herbs and growing anything organic (especially from seed), Nicole joined the 2015 Land Caretaker’s Training, where she was introduced to permaculture.The concept resonated with her as a caretaker of people, now evolving to being a caretaker for the earth as well. She continued on to receive a permaculture design certificate with Toby Hemenway.

Seeing the interconnection of all things inspires her to continue learning, evolving, and creating with others a fulfilled life. For her, healing and community resilience begins in a garden, and she looks forward to working with others to continue to bring sustainable landscapes into Solano County.

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Support Sustainable Solano with

Upcoming Events

Dec
7
Tue
3:00 pm Wildfire Support Group @ Online/Zoom
Wildfire Support Group @ Online/Zoom
Dec 7 @ 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
California Wellness & Resilience Community Support Group This free, weekly virtual support group will be held via Zoom to support individuals (18+) impacted by wildfires in California. Register here! For further information contact: Eugenia Cervantes[...]
6:30 pm Vaca Valley Grange Meeting @ Contact for meeting information/address
Vaca Valley Grange Meeting @ Contact for meeting information/address
Dec 7 @ 6:30 pm
Vaca Valley Grange meets on the first Tuesday of each month. Vaca Valley Grange was revived in 2019 with the goal of bringing individuals, families, and the community together through agriculture. The chapter strives to[...]
Dec
8
Wed
6:00 pm A Conversation with Ellie Cohen @ Online
A Conversation with Ellie Cohen @ Online
Dec 8 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Join the Climate Reality Bay Area Chapter for a Zoom conversation with Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center. The Santa Rosa-based organization is a climate and energy policy nonprofit working to rapidly reduce climate[...]
Dec
11
Sat
9:00 am Benicia Tree Care Days @ Lake Herman Open Space
Benicia Tree Care Days @ Lake Herman Open Space
Dec 11 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Join Benicia Tree Foundation for its Tree Care Days at Lake Herman Open Space in December. Volunteers are asked to register in advance so there are enough supplies. Register here.

Sustainable Solano Board of Directors

Marilyn Bardet, Board President

Marilyn, a long-time resident of Benicia, is a civic & environmental activist with a life-long commitment to social and environmental justice. She is a founding member of the Good Neighbor Steering Committee, a local grassroots environmental watchdog, a founding member of Benicia Tree Foundation, an ex-officio member of the Benicia Community Sustainability Commission, and a certified member of the Benicia Emergency Response Team; in the past she served as a council-appointed member of the City of Benicia General Plan Oversight Committee. In her free time, Marilyn writes poetry, gardens, paints and hikes. She is also an active member of Arts Benicia.

Stephen Borostyan, Treasurer

Stephen is a highly experienced and versatile business leader who brings with him a broad range of experience in a variety of specialties and industries. In a career spanning 30+ years, he has held a variety of senior and executive level positions, has worked internationally, owned several businesses (including a franchise) and has helped many small businesses improve their operations and profitability.
Stephen’s early background includes senior level corporate financial positions at Xerox and Charles Schwab. He also served many years as the CFO/COO of the largest and most influential open-access scientific publisher, PLOS Publications, where he was instrumental in guiding the company from startup to over $50M in annual revenue. He now focuses his time on using his experience to help businesses grow and succeed.
Stephen brings with him a broad skill set in finance, operations and strategy. He is a self-proclaimed “quant” and loves building complex financial models, doing financial analysis and budgeting. He is also well versed in operational management, including streamlining operations and building infrastructure to scale for growth. Having owned several businesses, he is very familiar (and empathetic) with the challenges of small business owners and this drives his passion to help small business owners succeed and thrive.
Stephen’s education includes a Bachelor of Science from Rochester Institute of Technology and an Masters of Business Administration from the University of Rochester.

Maggie Kolk, Secretary

Maggie is a dedicated food safety and quality professional with diverse experience in training, auditing and consulting across the food supply chain. She has developed and implemented food safety programs for a variety of food processing, manufacturing and retail facilities preparing for FDA and USDA regulatory compliance. She is an enthusiastic, experienced trainer with a background in instructional design and has developed and delivered accredited courses in HACCP, Advanced HACCP, GMPs, Internal Auditing and related topics. Maggie is an approved training provider for Global Food Safety Initiative standards and is a certified trainer for Seafood HACCP. She is also a lead trainer for the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Preventative Controls course and Produce Safety.

Maggie has volunteered with a many U.S. food and agricultural organizations, including Global Growers, Clarkston, Georgia, and Slow Food Atlanta – Farm to School programs. She was the SQF International Conference chair from 2013-2017. Maggie is the current co-manager of Sustainable Solano’s Avant Community Garden in Benicia with her husband, Jack. Her degrees and certifications: A.S. Business Administration, Peirce College in Philadelphia; B.S. Food Science and Nutrition, M.S. Food Science, SJSU in San Jose; CP-FS, National Environmental Health Association; ATD Instructional Design Certification.

Anthony Adams, Board Member

Anthony Adams was born in Southern Louisiana and has lived in California since the age of 15. He has two masters degrees from Cal Poly in Engineering and City Planning. Moving to Suisun City six years ago, he began his career in Project Management at the Solano Transportation Authority, where he focuses on active transportation connections and electrification of transit in the county.

Anthony believes that it is important to give back to the community you love, that’s why he has devoted his life to government service since his professional career began.

After moving to Suisun City in 2014, Anthony was appointed to the Parks & Recreation Commission, eventually earning the position of Chair. Focused on action-oriented solutions, Anthony is a member of the Suisun City Team Clean, which meets on the last Saturday of the month to clean up trash around the city. After an open and competitive process, he was honored to be appointed to Suisun City Council on Jan. 23, 2019. Anthony is currently the Chair of the Suisun Planning Commission.

Verneal Brumfield, Board Member

Verneal is a retired associate warden with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at California State Prison in Vacaville. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and African American studies from California State University – Northridge, and completed the California Management Program through the University of Phoenix and the Leadership Institute at California State University – Chico.

She has held and currently holds leadership and executive board positions for several Solano County nonprofit community organizations, including the Solano County Library Foundation; Golden Empire Council-Campfire USA; Solano County Chapter of the Links; National Council of Negro Women, Vallejo Section; NCNW NorCal Region; and Tri City NAACP. Verneal was appointed and serves on the Solano/Napa County Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council. In 2019, she was elected to the Solano County Democratic Central Committee AD11 and currently serves as Northern Solano County vice-chair.

She has received numerous community service awards, including Congressman Garamendi’s 2018 Woman of the Year Award, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority 2018 Community Person Award, 2018 Vallejo Kwanzaa Community Award, and Northern Solano County Democratic Club 2017 Service Award.

Her interest in joining Sustainable Solano is to inform, educate and empower the underrepresented and communities of color on the issues involving creating greener, eco-friendly communities, the effects of climate change and environmental justice. This includes teaching and providing resources to start protecting and saving the earth within their communities by creating community gardens, reducing carbon footprints and recycling.

Dr. Bonnie Hamilton, Board Member

Bonnie is a pediatrician who has practiced in Solano County for almost 30 years. She believes positive change occurs most effectively at the community level, where local action can result in a ripple effect into neighboring communities.

She serves on the board of the Solano County Medical Society, is a delegate to the California Medical Association and has done decades of advocacy work for the health and safety of all Californians. She belongs to Climate Health Now and Physicians for Human Rights, and advocates for climate justice and health equity. She is also involved in lobbying efforts with our local and state elected officials to bring attention to the climate crisis and to put into action practices that will help heal our Earth.

In 2017 she trained with former Vice President Al Gore in the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. She facilitates a Solano Climate Policy Action Team through the Bay Area Chapter of the Climate Reality Project, which focuses on local action addressing climate issues and clean energy resilience, independence and security. She teaches climate-related workshops and does presentations on solutions to the climate crisis to numerous community members, college students and faith groups.

Her particular interests are promoting regenerative farming practices, green renewable energy and clean solar+battery microgrids at the community and local government levels. She is also interested in green space expansion, wetlands preservation, waste management, plastics reduction and climate justice.

Elena Karoulina, Executive Director info@sustainablesolano.org

Elena joined Benicia Community Gardens in 2011, first as a Board member; she became an executive director for the organization at the end of the same year. Elena brings to Sustainable Solano more than twenty years of management and business analysis experience in telecommunication and health care industries, an MBA from Vanderbilt University, her passion for nourishing sustainable food and her deep interest in local economy and community resilience. In her role of the executive director, Elena is responsible for strategic planning, financial and legal aspects of the organization, day-to-day operation and program development and management.

Larry Lamoreux, Board Member Emeritus

Larry, a retired biomedical engineer and a long-time Benicia resident, has been interested in farming since boyhood. In his youth, Larry became a pig farmer through the Future Farmers of America program. Larry’s other passion – engineering – took his life in a different direction and he spent most of his professional career in biomedical field working for the VA and Shriner’s Hospital for Children, designing artificial legs, among his many projects. After retirement, Larry returned to his roots, first by actively gardening himself and later becoming Sustainable Solano Treasurer and our “chief engineering officer”: Larry designs and oversees the construction of all garden beds and other small structures in our programs (and he builds them too! – with help from other volunteers). Father and grandfather, Larry spends a lot of time with his family; he also enjoys cycling, canoeing, and singing.

Mary Condit, Board Member Emeritus

Mary, a life-long gardener and a long-time Benicia resident, grew up in a farm and used to manage a 35-acre family food garden and orchard in WA State. Mary is very active in our community; Besides serving on the Sustainable Solano board since its creation (Mary retired from the position of the secretary of the Board after completing 100 (!) Board Meeting Minutes), Mrs. Condit belongs to the Benicia Friendship Club, P.E.O, women’s philanthropic organization, and Vallejo Choral Society, where she was an active Board member until recently, and is still an active singer

Advisory Boards & Volunteers

Click here to learn about the people who make our work possible, including advisory board members and volunteers.