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Senior Leadership

Committed to the Community

Senior Leadership

Erica Padilla-Chavez _headshot

Erica Padilla-Chavez – Chief Executive Officer

Erica joined the Food Bank in 2022 as CEO. Her career embodies a commitment to the improvement of health and wellness for all people. With over two decades of experience in the health and human services field, Erica has a history of facilitating collaborations that impact positive change. She has a deep understanding of health equity and is well versed in the social determinants of health, the conditions that affect a wide range of health and quality of life outcomes for people. During her career she has served as the Department Manager for UCSC’s Latin American and Latino Studies Department, the first Health Equity and Policy Manager for the Monterey County Health Department and CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention & Student Assistance, Inc. Erica is a member of Dominican Hospital’s Community Board, a member of the RISE Together Santa Cruz County Initiative, President of the Hartnell College Board of Trustees, and has held several additional board positions. Erica attended the University of California, Berkeley where she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and Master of Public Administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. She is also an alum of the California/Hawaii Public Health Leadership Institute, a leadership program designed to advance health practices to improve health equity.

Michele Bassi

Michele Bassi​ – Chief Development Officer

Michele Bassi, who has over 32 years of banking experience, is the Chief Development Officer for Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County. She spent 22 years at Wells Fargo Bank and was most recently a Senior Vice President at 1st Capital Bank. Michele’s community involvement includes serving as Past President of Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds Foundation, Board Member (incoming Board President) of Cabrillo College Foundation, Board Member of Nonprofit Connection Santa Cruz and a Past President and Board Member of Capitola Aptos Rotary. Michele has also served as President of Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County and was a founding Board Member of Digital NEST. Michele’s dedication to community service has earned her numerous awards, including the Woman of the Year Award from the Aptos Chamber of Commerce in 2018, Be The Difference Award from the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County in 2019 and 2023, as well as awards for her work with Meals on Wheels. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from California State University, Fresno, and a graduate degree in banking from Pacific Coast Banker School/University of Washington.

Second Harvest staff member Donna Sheppard

Donna Sheppard – Chief Financial Officer

Donna Sheppard joined Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County in July 2018 and is responsible for leading The Food Bank’s finance, accounting, and IT activities. Donna brings strong strategic and financial planning, compliance, and accounting skills to the organization.

Prior to returning to Second Harvest, Donna was the accounting manager for Sambrailo Packaging, where she was responsible for the finance and accounting functions. Prior to Sambrailo Packaging, Donna worked for several years as a Senior Accountant for Robert Half Salaried Professionals Division. As a full-time employee of Robert Half, Donna was contracted out to companies throughout the Bay Area helping companies with their financial and accounting needs. Working as a salaried professional allowed Donna to expand her accounting knowledge to various industries such as education, government, and manufacturing. Other appointments include positions as accounting manager at the Armada Group, accounting manager at Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County, accounts receivable manager at EORM and assistant fiscal officer at San Benito Health Foundation.

Donna earned her Master’s in Accountancy and Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Phoenix. She currently resides in Hollister.

Second Harvest staff member Mary Casey

Mary Casey - Chief HR Officer

Mary Casey serves as the Chief Human Resources Officer at The Food Bank, where she oversees the HR, Volunteer, and Community Food Hotline teams. Mary has worked at The Food Bank since 2015. She has more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and holds a Certified Professional accreditation (SHRM-CP) through the Society for Human Resources Management – the world’s largest certifying body for HR professionals. Mary started her career in teaching and earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Indiana University.

Brendan Miele 20023

Brendan Miele - Chief Operating Officer

Brendan Miele leads The Food Bank Operations Team acquiring food, warehouse operations, logistics, safety, food safety, quality control and compliance. He has driven strategic plan development and implementation, created Covid-19 emergency response plans, and expanded critical infrastructure.

Brendan gained his extensive background in the produce industry as Director of Domestic Farming Operations for Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo Inc., where he supervised the production of organic culinary herbs, berries, and vegetables on 300 field acres and in 1.2 million square feet of greenhouses in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and San Mateo Counties.

Brendan is a graduate of the Feeding America Level UP! program, International Fresh Produce Association Leadership Program, Santa Cruz County Leadership Class 31, and Focus Ag. He has a BA in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz.

Second Harvest staff member Josue Barajas

Josue Barajas - Chief Programs Officer

Josué began his career in food banking in 2019. He oversees the Programs Department, which consists of the partner agency network, CalFresh, nutrition education, and food recovery teams. The Programs Department is responsible for acquiring healthy and nutritious food for the community through farmers’ market-style, or drive-through distributions. Josué is community oriented and has an extensive community outreach and partnership-building background. While at The Food Bank, he has been dedicated to overall community development and self-sufficiency through programming with the goal of living better and healthier lives through nutrition education and CalFresh application enrollments. Josue and his team have developed programming to nourish targeted populations such as the unhoused, children, and campesinos. Josué is a first-generation Latino with a bachelor's degree in Sociology and a minor in Education from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He holds a master's degree in Organization and Leadership from the University of San Francisco and is finishing a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University.

Second Harvest staff member Des Rieke

Despina Rieke - Executive Assistant to the CEO

Des Rieke is the Executive Assistant to the CEO. She joined Second Harvest in 2017 bringing extensive experience in project management, executive administrative support, account, and business management. As a member of the Executive Team, Des is known for quickly grasping complex concepts while working in fast-paced environments with the ability to navigate quickly and balancing multiple priorities. Previous jobs included International Account Management for Engineering Departments in Tech companies as The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc. (SCO) and Legato Systems, Inc.

Des graduated from IPAE in Lima, Peru, with a BA in Business Administration, and earned a certification from UCSC in International Marketing. Des is bilingual-bicultural in English and Spanish and conversational in Portuguese.

With a life goal to make a measurable difference in the lives of her community, working at Second Harvest speaks to that fact.

Dawn Barreras - Senior Director of Communications & Marketing

A career born from a natural love for food, agribusiness, and marketing, Dawn Barreras combined passions when she joined Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County in 2021.

Dawn’s leadership gained from over a decade of agency strategy, 20 years of brand management, and targeted messaging uniquely positioned her to lead The Food Bank’s marketing endeavors. Dawn’s efforts to evolve The Food Bank’s communications with advanced and inclusive messaging approaches have garnered significantly increased engagement in the community. Dawn and her team manage digital marketing, social media, PR/media, and marketing projects for The Food Bank that has served Santa Cruz County for over 50 years.

Dawn grew up amongst the fruit trees and crops of southern Santa Clara County and is raising her daughter and dogs with a love of the same unique geography. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and MBA in Agribusiness, both from Santa Clara University.

Angela Chesnut

Angela Chesnut - Senior Director of Community & Government Relations

Angela is responsible for maintaining and building strong relationships with Second Harvest’s major donors, local, state, and national legislators and managing grant opportunities.

Angela has lived in the community for over 20 years and has served most recently as a fundraiser and community organizer for a number of our local organizations, most notably helping with the Tannery Arts Center's Colligan Theatre, Save our Shores, and the Museum of Art and History (MAH). Angela has served on or worked closely with several local nonprofit boards, including Monarch Services, Children’s Hospice & Palliative Care Coalition, Janus, Santa Cruz Film Festival, Santa Cruz Symphony, and Silicon Valley Education Foundation. She was able to further her collaborative work among the public and private sectors in our community by serving as former Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisor Leopold’s Chief of Staff and State Senator Laird’s District Director. Angela also has an extensive public sector history serving with the Department of Justice combating human trafficking in Washington, DC and the mid-Atlantic as a Special Agent as well as ensuring trust and safety for victims of cybercrime at eBay, Inc. in Silicon Valley.

Brandon Coffin 2

Brandon Coffin - Facilities & Safety Director

Brandon Coffin joined Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz in 2022. Prior to joining the Food Bank, Brandon worked at McCormick and Company as a Safety Specialist in Salinas, Ca., and had a 14-year career in the U.S. Marines. Brandon’s track record shows a desire to follow a total productive maintenance approach. He also has a strong passion for safety, under the motto, “It’s not luck, it’s prevention.”

During his time with McCormick, Brandon implemented an incident and near miss reporting system that reduced the organization’s total incident rate from 5.8% to .85% over a two-year period.

During his service with the U.S. Marines, Brandon began as a Diesel Technician and ended his enlistment as a Diesel Technician Instructor. During his time in the Marines, Brandon served in many positions and was deployed overseas twice.

Brandon was certified as a USMC Ground Safety Manager in 2011 and has dedicated his career to safety ever since. In addition to this experience, Brandon also maintains several OSHA and Food Safety certifications.

Emily Freed 23

Emily Freed - Supply Chain Director

Emily is the Supply Chain Director at Second Harvest Food Bank where she directs all components of supply chain management including supply and demand planning efforts, warehouse inventories, and the organizational food budget. Additionally, Emily oversees the annual distribution of 11 million pounds of food in collaboration with 125 partner agencies. With the increased frequency of disasters due to climate change, Emily is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Emergency Services Administration from California State University Long Beach, with a research emphasis on disaster preparedness for farmworkers in Santa Cruz County. Emily previously played in the dirt professionally as Regional Production Manager at Jacobs Farm/del Cabo, Inc. where she managed over 500 field acres and 1.25 million square feet of greenhouse space for organic culinary herbs, edible flowers, and mixed vegetable production. Her passion is to inspire citizens to connect deeply with the earth, and create sustainable intersections with their local, national, and international food systems.

Arturo Fuentes

Arturo Fuentes - Warehouse Operations Director

Arturo Fuentes joined Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County in October of 2019 as a Warehouse Manager and quickly showed his leadership skills and climbed the ranks to become our Warehouse Operations Director. During the hectic Covid-19 pandemic, Arturo worked alongside numerous volunteers, including the United States National Guard, to help keep our county fed. He came to love working in the food industry after working for Farmhouse Culture where he helped make and distribute sauerkraut and probiotic drinks. Arturo realized he wanted to continue to work with food but also make a difference in his community, so he began his career at the Food Bank and loves it.

Arturo was born in Watsonville, but raised in Tampa, Florida. He returned to his Watsonville community in 2002.

Vanessa Arizmendi

Vanessa Arizmendi - Wellness and Nutrition Director

in 2023, Vanessa joined Second Harvest Food Bank as the Wellness and Nutrition Director. She oversees the Nutrition and CalFresh outreach teams, bringing nutrition education to the community, Vanessa advises residents to apply for CalFresh benefits, empowering them to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

With and educations background, Vanessa previously worked on students' overall well-being during the pandemic, contributing her science background and current public health knowledge to create a curriculum that supports a healthy and safe environment.

A first-generation Latina from Santa Cruz, Vanessa holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Sonoma State University and a master's in public health from Chamberlain University. Her research at Chamberlain focused on wellness initiatives aiming to enhance nutrition, increase physical activity and reduce obesity-related diseases.