Our Team


Elena Karoulina, Founding 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.

Anissa Barwela, Operations Coordinator

Anissa is a longtime resident of Solano County who grew up with a great sense of community and respect for nature and animals. She collected ladybugs and studied the various differences of each ladybug. She loves to hike and explore what the wonderful world has to offer. From the beaches to the mountains, she always wanted to help protect the land that surrounded her.

She grew a true sense of community during her high school years at Hogan High School in Vallejo, where she organized a Blanket & Jacket Drive for the less fortunate. She gave away over a hundred jackets and blankets with the help of her class. While attaining her associate’s degree in business management, she would volunteer and help with giveaways to the less fortunate in the Philippines.

She later worked for the Department of Industrial Relations Cal/OSHA for over five years, where she gained a great amount of knowledge and skills in many different fields. During Anissa’s off-hours she’s usually out and about exploring the natural world around her and finding new adventures wherever the wind blows.

Jazzmin Ballou, Program Manager
Solano Gardens

Jazzmin is a lifelong Solano County resident, who has always carried an interest in the wellness of her community. After moving to New York City for college and living life in the city, she realized that her home was anywhere where she could live in community with Mother Earth. She returned to the land she knew, with a new desire to live in harmony with nature and to educate herself in the lifeways of her ancestors, which made that possible.

This path led her to gardening, and starting a community garden in Vacaville. She utilized Sustainable Solano’s services to help her do that in early 2021. Impressed and humbled by the connections she made with SuSol’s Solano Gardens team, she realized that there were many like-minded people in her community, she just needed to seek them out. The intention of her garden was to grow food to increase access to healthy and organic produce in communities that are not usually afforded that right, which is a goal that the garden has been meeting for the past year, with the help of many folks involved in Solano County grassroots organizations.

When Jazzmin saw that there was an opportunity to work for Sustainable Solano she jumped at it with enthusiasm. She is excited to grow in community with the environmentally conscious folks here in Solano County, while increasing her knowledge on all things gardening, soil health, food sovereignty, and engaging her fellow community members in returning to a cyclical relationship with the land just as our ancestors intended.

Taylor Collins, Development & Communications Coordinator

Born in Los Angeles, Taylor’s lifelong fascination with the wonders of the natural world has been a driving force in her life. Her academic journey led her to attain a master’s degree in urban sustainability from Antioch University, where she also earned a certificate in spatial storytelling using GIS technology. It was during her internship with the Los Angeles Community Garden Council that Taylor realized that supporting climate resilience efforts at the community level was the next step in her professional journey.

Beyond her computer screen, Taylor can often be found painting at her desk or exploring the outdoors with her dog. Taylor is brimming with enthusiasm about her mission to share the compelling stories of Solano County’s progress toward a more sustainable future.

Noah Galgan, Program Manager
Local Food

Noah Galgan is a lifelong resident of Solano County and has a passion for local food. Noah is working to bring the farm to the tables of Solano County communities through cooking education of local specialty crops. He is excited to be working alongside community ambassadors to increase awareness and access to local food for Solano County residents.

While getting his degree in business administration from Liberty University, Noah pursued passions in community outreach and learning to cook local food through work experience. Noah is passionate about connecting people with the resources they need to live healthier lives. Outside of work, Noah loves spending time with his community, being outside (doing anything), and cooking new dishes that seem interesting. If you get the chance to meet Noah, please make sure to stop him and say hi! He loves meeting new people!

Willa Gruver, Program Coordinator
Resilient Communities

Willa grew up exploring and falling in love with California’s natural beauty, raising chickens, rabbits and quail, and selling vegetables at her local farmer’s market. While earning her B.A. in Environmental Studies at Carleton College, she facilitated community-building and environmental education on campus as a member and house manager of a Sustainable Living Interest House Co-op. She further honed her community-building skills while working in event planning and people operations at GiveWell, and developed an interest in sustainable city planning through UC Berkeley’s [IN]City program. She believes that creating connected, engaged communities is a crucial component of forming and upholding systems of care for people and the planet.

As the Resilient Communities Coordinator, Willa will focus on building community connections and facilitating community-led conversation, education and action. Outside of work she can often be found befriending neighborhood cats, roller skating in the park and singing.

Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan, Program Manager, Chef
Local Food

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.

Alex Lunine, Program Manager
Resilient Communities

As the Resilient Communities Program Manager, Alex works with Solano communities to bolster their ability to prepare, adapt and respond to environmental hazards. While getting his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Environmental Studies, Alex conducted research on the impacts of urban stream syndrome and worked with the state of Maryland to assess the climate resiliency of coastal counties. He is excited to leave his work behind a desk to directly collaborate with Solano residents to ensure a green and thriving future.

Patrick Murphy, Program Manager
Solano Gardens

Patrick Murphy is a lifelong resident of Solano County, and an Environmental Science graduate of Cal State East Bay. Patrick is a Rio Vista native, and helped to create that city’s “Community Compost Collective,” a small group promoting local composting. At CSU East Bay, he worked to improve the rate of composting and reduce recycling contamination on campus, and created various information campaigns aimed at reducing waste on campus. Patrick hopes to bring accessible and impactful green infrastructure to Solano County and its residents through Sustainable Solano. Through youth engagement, Patrick is overseeing youth environmental education and internship opportunities and working on a pilot farm-to-school project that aims to install permaculture gardens at schools so students can access both fresh produce and complex living laboratories.

Allison Nagel, Co-Executive Director
Leadership & Workforce Development, Communications

As co-executive director, Allison focuses on helping the organization expand its capacity to best serve our communities in Solano County through various programs that ultimately serve the good of the whole. She retains her role overseeing communications to share the latest news, manage resources through the website and help tell Sustainable Solano’s story. She is also advancing the organization’s youth leadership and workforce development programs 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

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.

Sustainable Solano Board of Directors

Maggie Kolk, Board President

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. She was recognized by Congressman Garamendi as one of Solano County’s 2023 Women of the Year. 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.

Marilyn Bardet, Board Member/Past 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.

Verneal Brumfield, Board Member/Secretary

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.

Karina Cook, Board Member/Treasurer

Karina is tax strategist/advisor with over seven years in the finance industry. Her journey from banker to entrepreneur has been guided by a commitment to fiscal education and empowerment. Karina’s work, stretching from assistant branch manager at US Bank to bookkeeping for a publicly traded company to launching and nurturing her own tax and financial advisory business, revolves around helping individuals and other business owners grow their wealth and legacies, informed by a deep understanding of entrepreneurship and savings strategies.

Beyond her professional pursuits, she is dedicated to fostering community resilience and environmental stewardship as a member of the Suisun Environmental and Climate Advisory Committee and the Suisun City Juneteenth Committee. Karina’s advocacy in these roles is a reflection of her core belief that building awareness and providing resources can significantly shape our future for the better. As a member of BNI, she also works to strengthen business owner networks, knowing that strong relationships are the foundation of any thriving community.

At heart, her role with Sustainable Solano and beyond is fueled by a drive to give back. As a woman of faith, a loving mother of three, and a supportive wife, she is anchored by family values and a desire to guide others toward their best selves.

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.

Princess Washington, Board Member

Princess is a community leader, artist, and inspirational force. Princess is Mayor Pro Tem and City Council member in Suisun City, and the youngest Mayor Pro Tem in the city’s history. Prior to her election to City Council in November 2022, she was the vice chair for the Suisun City Recreation, Parks, Marina, and Arts Commission. She helped create the first ever Poet Laureate contest and I Art Suisun, helped organize Black History Month events and works with the Suisun City Youth Commission to host a Juneteenth on the waterfront and now the first ever Kwanzaa celebration! She was recognized by Congressman Garamendi as one of Solano County’s 2023 Women of the Year.

She currently serves on the Fairfield-Suisun Rotary Club Board of Directors, where she is Community Services Director and was named Rotarian of the Year for 2022-2023. Princess is vice chair for The Salvation Army of Solano County Advisory Board and serves on the Fundraising and Strategic Planning committees. She is also chair of the Solano County Sierra Club, and a member of the Community Conservation Committee with the Solano Land Trust. She helped establish an annual Farmers Market with the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce and was a 2023 Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce Buzz Awards Nominee as Citizen of the Year for Fairfield and Suisun City.

She serves as Trustee for The Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary, which is the largest black Catholic organization in the world. Through her work in the Ladies Auxiliary, she is instrumental in creating opportunity for youth through scholarships and part of their national social justice initiative and uses her voice to speak out against gun violence. As a board member for the Love Life Foundation, she also actively engages with youth in Oakland, where she was born, to offer alternatives to violence through mentorship and educational outreach.

She works in Appointment & Advice at Kaiser Permanente for their Northern California facilities and is a licensed pharmacy technician. She is a 2011 graduate of Solano College’s Theatre Conservatory.

Elena Karoulina, Executive Director info@sustainablesolano.orgElena 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.