Meet Our Staff

Jessica Allan (she/her), Real Estate Project Manager | 413.586.5855 ext. 210 | ja@valleycdc.org 

Jessica has public and private sector experience in land development, real estate, and affordable housing. Formerly the City Planner in Easthampton, Jessica worked as a Permitting Project Manager at a civil engineering firm administering municipal permit applications on behalf of private developers for commercial and industrial projects in Western Massachusetts. She worked at MBL Housing and Development, providing project management services to nonprofits and for-profit clients for the development of affordable housing. Jessica sits on the Easthampton Community Preservation Act Committee. She holds master’s degrees in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and lives with her family in Easthampton.

Laura Baker (she/her), Real Estate Development Director | 413.586.5855 ext. 100 | lb@valleycdc.org      

Laura is a Northampton native. She holds a BA in Religious Studies and a Master’s of Science in Community Economic Development. She has worked for 30 years in the nonprofit and community development sectors, including at the Hampshire Community Action Commission and the HilltownCDC. She has a long-standing passion for affordable housing and has been privileged to work since 2016 developing affordable housing on behalf of Valley.

Alexis Breiteneicher (she/her), Executive Director | 413.586.5855 ext. 190 | ab@valleycdc.org         

Alexis has considerable experience working with nonprofit organizations that support low-income communities, with an emphasis on finding solutions to homelessness. She has her Master’s in Public Administration from the Evergreen State College and lives in the hilltowns with her husband, elementary age twins.

Donna Cabana (she/her), Homeownership Program Manager | 413.586.5855 ext. 180 | dc@valleycdc.org 

Donna has 20 years of experience with homeownership, foreclosure prevention counseling, and program administration. Donna has administered and provided direct services since joining Valley in 2012. She worked for Way Finders for 11 years in their Homeownership Department. She has worked on many programs over the years including mortgage subsidies, lead paint loans, down payment assistance loans and grant and affordable homeownership opportunities, including resales and new development. She has experience in all areas of homeownership services.

Mariam Khan (she/her), Homeownership Program Assistant | 413.586.5855 ext. 231 | mk@valleycdc.org

Mariam completed her Cultural Studies undergraduate degree and later moved to Amherst for a master’s in international education from the University of Massachusetts. She is currently working as the Homeownership Program Assistant. Mariam has lived in the United States and Lahore, Pakistan, throughout her life. She loves to be outside and be active in some way.

Eyad Salha (he/him), Small Business Advisor | 413.586.5855 ext. 230 | es@valleycdc.org          

Eyad has his B.S. in Finance at the American University of Science & Technology. After graduation, he worked as an accountant in Beirut, Lebanon before relocating to Saudi Arabia to work in business development. In 2020, Eyad moved to Massachusetts and started pursuing his MBA from UMASS Amherst and FMVA certificate from Corporate Finance Institute. Eyad speaks French and Arabic, and is passionate about helping startups and small businesses. Before joining Valley, he worked in economic development in Southern Vermont, serving as a Business Technical Assistance Provider for entrepreneurs and small business owners. During his free time, you can find him gardening, playing with his pets, or hiking.

Sarah Sargent (she/her), Program Director  | 413.586.5855 ext. 200 | ss@valleycdc.org

Sarah is a seasoned business professional who ran her own small business, Element Athletics, a premier field hockey club program in the Valley for seven years. She worked for the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce showcasing local businesses in the downtown and surrounding areas by partnering with the city, local businesses, and MassDevelopment. Sarah coached field hockey at Northampton High School for six years. More recently she was a business consultant working with distressed companies to help restructure them, resulting in saving the jobs of those employed by the businesses. She has an MBA from Bay Path University in Entrepreneurial Thinking and Innovative Practices and an undergraduate degree from UMASS-Amherst where she was a Division I field hockey goalie.

Liz Sullivan (she/her), Fiscal Director | 413.586.5855 ext. 150 | ls@valleycdc.org

Liz has a rich and varied 20-year history of helping small businesses, startups, and nonprofits thrive and grow. With a background in the public sector as well as Fortune 500 multinationals, she has brought financial best practices and a solid and sustainable business model to support strategic planning and decision-making in senior management teams. Working at Valley has allowed Liz to bring her skills to bear in a way that positively affects people’s lives.

Joshua Swift (they/he), Office Manager | 413.586.5855 ext. 170 | js@valleycdc.org 

Joshua has a degree in psychology, dance, and facilitation from Hampshire College. They handle office, administrative, and data management for Valley and provide support to all of Valley’s programs. Prior to working at Valley, they worked as a Care Resource Coordinator with Partners in Health on the MA COVID-19 response. They live in Belchertown with their loved ones, two cats, and three chickens.

Twonnisha Winbush (she/her), Associate Project Manager | Fellow for Equitable Affordable Housing 413.586.5855 ext. 220 | tw@valleycdc.org

Twonnisha was born and raised in Dorchester and in 2010, her family experienced a fire that changed their lives forever. Losing her childhood home made her feel lost. She and her family stayed with friends and relatives because they couldn’t find affordable housing that would accommodate their financial state.

Getting accepted into this Fellowship is a dream come true for her. Twonnisha has dealt with housing insecurities, and it was a journey she would not want anyone to go through. There was rarely anyone working in the places that she went to for help who looked like her or who showed compassion. Twonnisha wants to help families and individuals become stable and create generational wealth.

Bill Womeldorf (he/him), Real Estate Project Manager | 413.586.5855 ext. 160 | ww@valleycdc.org

Bill has a diverse background in the built environment having worked his early career in architecture and engineering firms, and then receiving his degrees in Architecture & Building Science Technology. He worked extensively with the Mass Save energy efficiency program through the pioneering years of Passive House and Electrification where he spoke at regional conferences as a technical expert. He owns a portfolio of apartment buildings which he redeveloped and self-manages. He is passionate about sustainability and helping develop under-utilized sites and blighted buildings in his local community.

2023 Board Members

We are seeking new board members from our community. If you are interested in joining our board, please fill out this form.

Richard AbbottTreasurer Rich is a retired certified public accountant. He had his own tax and accounting practice in Easthampton for 30 years. During that period he worked with various non-profit organizations throughout Western Massachusetts. He is a director and on the audit committee of Easthampton Savings Bank and the Hometown Financial Group. He is also the chairperson of the Open Space Committee in the Town of Hatfield where he lives with his wife Ellen. Rich is a former Peace Corps Volunteer. Rich has been on the board of Valley CDC for more than 6 years.


K
im Alston – Vice President – Kim Alston is a Program & Communications Manager, and Muslim Student Advisor in Smith College’s Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. She has served the College for 11 years, guiding students on their spiritual path and working on issues of equity and social justice. She advises multiple student secular and religious organizations, including Al Iman, the Muslim student organization. She has been on the board since 2018.


Madeline Weaver Blanchette – President
Maddy is a principal at Foster and Blanchette, a Holyoke law firm specializing in civil liberties and indigent defense. Having grown up in Northampton in the 1970s and early 1980s, she returned with her husband Peter and children in 2007. She has been on the board since 2016, after coming to understand Valley’s critical role in supporting local housing affordability and promoting equitable community sustainability during the development of the Lumber Yard in her neighborhood.


Maureen Borg
– Maureen is a Real Estate Broker Associate working with Delap Real Estate in Northampton.  She has been active in real estate since 2008 and prior to that was in engineering and construction.  She started volunteering with Valley in 2011 out of concern for the ever-increasing cost of local housing and particularly how it impacts low-moderate income families.  She has 2 adult children and 2 grandchildren in the Valley and in her free time, enjoys participating in the local Ballroom/Latin/Contra dance scene. She has been a member of the Board since 2018.


William Fontes
– Mr. Fontes is Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending for bankESB, focusing on helping members of the business community with industrial and commercial real estate financing. He is responsible for the Bank’s affordable housing initiatives. He has been in commercial banking for more than 30 years, with 20 years spent serving the needs of small and medium-sized businesses within Hampshire County.  Before joining bankESB, Mr. Fontes was with Bank of Western Massachusetts (now Peoples United Bank) and Shawmut Bank of Hampshire County. A resident of South Hadley, he is a Director of Promoting Downtown Amherst (now Amherst Business Improvement District), and the South Hadley Baseball Association.


Hugh
Heisler – Hugh has been a shareholder of Heisler & Feldman, P.C., since it was founded in 1996 until he assumed Of Counsel status in 2016. In addition to his work at the firm, Mr. Heisler served on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Justice Project for seventeen years and was its President for eight years. He also worked as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Dickinson R. Debevoise, District Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Before founding the firm, Mr. Heisler was the Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Massachusetts’s Executive Director and Litigation Director/Acting Executive Director for Essex-Newark Legal Services. Mr. Heisler is admitted to practice law in Massachusetts and the federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Laufer – Emily works closely with populations to fight against poverty. Her passion for anti-poverty work began when she had her first child. In college, she focused on how the government systematically oppresses Black, Brown, and low-income populations. She has her Masters degree in Public Policy from UMass Amherst. and currently works in UMass Student Parent Programs where she assists students who are also parents in meeting their basic needs to attain degree completion. She previously worked at The Care Center in Holyoke serving pregnant and teen moms in enrolling in higher education institutions. Emily has served on the Northampton Housing Authority Board as a resident commissioner and on the Tapestry Board. She is excited to bring her knowledge around being a tenant and a board member.


T
heresa LaValley –  Theresa has lived and raised a family in Hampshire County for 30 years. She worked for the Town of Amherst as the Registrar of the Amherst Leisure Services and Supplemental Department, as well as the Hadley Housing Authority as the Executive Assistant. Theresa enjoys volunteering in her community and throughout the US. Gardening, international cooking, and Pan-African dance are among her interests.


Kristen Mara – Kristen is a seasoned executive and licensed attorney with over 20 years of experience in operations, service excellence, project delivery, and state and federal regulation. She has a versatile business background and has worked in both corporate and start-up environments and non-profit organizations. Kristen received her undergraduate degree in Government and Public Policy from Smith College and holds a law degree from Western New England University School of Law.


Dorothy Nemetz – Clerk
Dorothy is a non-practicing attorney, a graduate of Hampshire College and Rutgers University School of Law. She is the Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Northampton Center for the Arts and a member of the Board of Directors of the Northampton Community Arts Trust. Dorothy is a member of the board of directors of the Northampton Education Foundation. She served Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton in many capacities, including the president, fundraising chair, and personnel chair.


Greg Richane –
Greg specializes in network engagement, group facilitation, communication, public policy, and event planning. His experience includes campaigns and issue advocacy efforts focused on economic and social justice. He hails originally from Western New York, and came to the Pioneer Valley after time in New York City, San Francisco, and Providence. He lives in Easthampton with his wife Amy and son Sam. He has been on the board since 2016.


Dr. Leslie A. Saulsberry –
Dr. Leslie Saulsberry is the CEO of The Whole Institute, LLC, located in Amherst, MA. She guides organizations in Organizational Effectiveness and Development; Change management and Leadership; Leadership Development; Organizational culture assessment and change; Organizational evaluation and learning approaches. She hosts international retreats for women in leadership; affinity group coaching for women in leadership; and coaches women in creating, building, and growing their companies, careers, and cultivating expansive lives. She is a Keynote Speaker, TEDx Speaker/Author, and TV/Media Guest Expert.


Carol Walker –
Carol Walker is retired from a 40+ year career in affordable housing and human services. Her expertise is in grant writing, marketing, and communications.  She lives in Hatfield and has a particular interest in rural issues.

 

 

The Board of Directors has the following committees: Governance, Finance, Real Estate, Resource Development, Racial Justice and Equity and ad-hoc committees.

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