Whatcom Community Foundation Board of Directors
Aaron Brown | Chair
Aaron Brown is the CEO of Larson Gross, located in Bellingham and Lynden. Brown has been with Larson Gross since 2003. Prior to his promotion to CEO, he served as the company’s chief operating officer. He has also held positions of marketing director and operations director. Aaron lives in Bellingham with his wife, Sarah and daughter Olivia.
“I am so impressed with the work the Whatcom Community Foundation is doing and its ability to collaborate with others to amplify their combined impact and achieve positive results in our community. I’m looking forward to supporting this effort as a member of the board and continuing to deepen my own knowledge of this community I call home.”
Francisco Rios, Ph. D | Vice-Chair
Francisco is a Professor, Secondary Education, of Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University (WWU). He served as dean of the College at WWU from 2011-2017. Francisco spent spring, 2005 as a Fulbright Fellow at the Pontifica Universidad Católica Valparaíso in Chile. In 2017, he received WWU’s Diversity Achievement Award. Francisco served as the Senior Associate Editor of Multicultural Perspectives, the Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education. He is currently the Immediate Past-President of the National Association for Multicultural Education 2016-2018.
Kira Bravo | Immediate Past Chair & Secretary-Treasurer
Kira Bravo has been in public accounting since 2004 after graduating from Western Washington University. Kira’s career in the financial services industry began when she was working at a local Edward Jones office while attending school at Western Washington University. She graduated from WWU with a degree in Accounting and Finance in 2004 and began her career as a CPA at Moss Adams, LLP. She remained at Moss Adams until joining Metcalf Hodges in 2015.
“This is a great organization of people who are incredibly passionate about making our community a better place. It’s exciting for me to see community members making gifts that have such an immediate impact.”
Steve has recently retired from serving as the Vice President for University Relations and Community Development at Western. The Division included Internal and External Marketing, Communications, Government Relations, Community Relations, Web Communication Technologies and the Small Business Development Center. He was also responsible for special projects as assigned by the President, including WWU’s Western Crossing development on the waterfront in Bellingham.
“I have a strong belief in the important role that community foundations make in enhancing the quality of life in communities across the country. After having a first-hand opportunity to see the impact of the Whatcom Community Foundation in our county, I knew this was an organization that I want to support with my time and resources. The WCF is a special organization and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of it.”
After working for Kraft Foods in a variety of marketing positions, Mike retired as a Senior Business Analyst. He is a Bellingham native, graduated from Western Washington University and has been involved in the local community in a variety of areas. Mike enjoyed coaching his sons in Youth Soccer, judging high school students at Future Business Leaders and DECA Marketing Association regional and state conferences, and currently connects with high school students by Chairing the Bellingham Bay Rotary Student of the Month committee and selecting scholarship recipients.
Mike has been an active participant and chair of Unity Care NW, Interfaith Coalition, WWU Alumni Association, Whatcom Volunteer Center and Faith Lutheran Church Council. He also served as a member of Bellingham Dollars for Scholars, Whatcom County Youth Soccer Association, Visiting Nurse, City of Bellingham Board of Adjustments and Landmark Review Board. Besides being actively involved in his community, Mike enjoys traveling, photography, sports and spending time with his family (wife Diane, and two grown sons).
Carol began working with Foundation as a volunteer with Whatcom Dollars for Scholars shortly after moving to Bellingham. She has served on the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity of Whatcom County. She is also a classroom volunteer in the Bellingham Public Schools.
Carol has both an education and business background. She has a MEd in Supervision from the University of Colorado and was a teacher in her early career. She subsequently began work in the telecommunications industry, managing business integration projects at AT&T Wireless until she retired in 2010. Carol enjoys travel, walking and reading, and especially treasures time with family and friends. She and her husband Ray feel bountifully blessed to be living in this caring community of Bellingham.
“It’s a privilege to join the WCF Board. I admire greatly the work WCF does to strengthen Bellingham’s community so it can flourish. It’s like gardening – we must all tend to this beloved place we cherish.”
Chuck works along side his life-long partner Dee as a consultant helping businesses and nonprofits thrive. In 1980, after teaching and consulting in education for ten years, Chuck and Dee founded Village Books in Bellingham, Washington’s Historic Fairhaven District, and two years later founded Paper Dreams, a card and gift store. In November of 2015 a second Village Books and Paper Dreams store was opened in Lynden, WA. In January of 2017 the entire business was sold to three employees. Chuck has been involved in dozens of community projects and has served on the boards of multiple organizations including Whatcom Community College, Sustainable Connections, and North Cascades Institute, just to name a few.
“Over the years I’ve been so impressed with all of the initiatives in which the Whatcom Community Foundation has been engaged to help build a healthy community and enrich the quality of life here. From human services to protection and preservation of the environment, from education to arts and culture, and much more, WCF has been involved every aspect of what makes this community such a great place to live. I’m so pleased, and honored, to be able to join in the work of the foundation, supporting the work of numerous nonprofits and encouraging and helping others to accomplish their philanthropic dreams.”
Flo Simon has been with the Bellingham Police Department since 1989 and is currently the Deputy Chief of Services. Flo grew up in a military family and spent most of her childhood in Europe before settling in Lacey. Flo’s passion for helping others led her to pursue a career in Law Enforcement.
Flo is a member of the Bellingham Bay Rotary where she serves as Sergeant at Arms and also serves as Treasurer for the Washington Chapter of the FBI National Academy.
Karen Kramer Occhiogrosso
Born and raised in Whatcom County, Karen has been an active participant on many local boards and committees and feels that it is an honor to serve. “We are so very lucky to live in a community where giving of your time, treasure or talent is part of the overall culture.”
Karen has been with the Northwest Washington Fair since 2008 and though she wears many hats, serves as the sponsorship coordinator. She is a mom of three amazing young men, is a proud Washington State University Coug and currently resides in Lynden with her husband.
Tasha Dewey is a Certified Public Accountant, business adviser, and a lifelong Whatcom County resident. After graduating from Western Washington University with a Masters degree in accounting she briefly worked as a financial analyst before joining Moss Adams’ Bellingham office in 2013. When she isn’t working in public accounting or serving as a board member, Tasha enjoys traveling, cooking, silversmithing and exploring our many parks and trails with her husband, Steven, and their dog Cody.
“We have an inherent and sacred responsibility to take care of our home and each other. We all share in the vision of leaving this world a better place. I am very excited to be a part of the WCF team because for many years they have not only accepted this responsibility, but have taken positive action, creating a brighter future for us all.”
Born and raised in Bellingham and Lummi, Tony is a Husband to an amazing wife, father of 3 amazing children, Lummi tribal member, commercial crabber and lifetime Bellinghamster, Tony is an alumnus of Assumption Catholic School, Bellingham High School, and Western Washington University. Tony has deep roots in Whatcom County, where he and his wife are raising their 3 young children. He is currently the Chief of Staff for the Lummi Indian Business Council, previously working in Human Resources and Employment Training.
Whatcom Community Foundation Staff
Mauri Ingram, President & CEO
“Every day people here in Whatcom County make charitable gifts with one end in mind: to make this already wonderful place even better. Their investments make a difference.”
Mauri’s first encounter with WCF was as a grantee. She was the founding executive director of what is now the Downtown Bellingham Partnership. Several years later, she was asked to serve on the Foundation’s board of directors where she served for three and a half years. In 2007, she became President and CEO. Her work experience prior to WCF includes working for two different nonprofit organizations based in Washington D.C. and operating two restaurants with her husband Lee. She has volunteered her time supporting many different community organizations including Sustainable Connections, Northwest Economic Council, and the YWCA. Mauri currently serves on the board for Philanthropy Northwest and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Among Mauri’s favorite things in life are being alone on a run or long walk with her camera or just being with her family and enjoying our community. Click here to email Mauri.
Pamela Jons, Executive Vice President
“I believe philanthropy can be powerfully transformational for the giver, receiver, and facilitator.”
After getting a bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies from Macalester College and a master’s degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University, Pamela worked for more than two decades in the public sector. She also ran a small business for 10 years. Inspired by people like Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Bill and Melinda Gates and all of her yoga teachers, Pamela was drawn to opportunities that help us move from one state of being into another where we are more aware and compassionate. Pamela has volunteered in a public housing authority, driven the food bank truck, and walked dogs at the Humane Society. Click here to email Pamela.
After 17 years in the banking industry in California, Pam moved to Lummi Island in 1990. Her husband bought a small business and Pam did the accounting for his and many other Island businesses. She also volunteered as accountant/Treasurer for several Island organizations over the years. Pam began working part-time for the Foundation in 2000 and, as the Foundation grew, eventually became Director of Finance. Click here to email Pam.
Sukanya (Suki) Paciorek recently joined the WCF team as Director of Special Projects. She and her family moved to Bellingham this spring from Brooklyn NY, where she spent the past 18 years working in the real estate, energy and sustainability industries. Most recently she was the Chief Operating Officer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a 300 acre economic development zone on the Brooklyn waterfront. She is passionate about cooking and food, loves hiking and camping, and feels fortunate to be working on the Millworks project which combines her interest in food, affordable housing and sustainable development.
“I feel enormously lucky to be living in Bellingham and working at the WCF with great colleagues on impactful projects. What a wonderful community and place to live!”
“I love this community, and I feel so fortunate to work for an organization that is focused on bringing people together to make things better.”
Rachel grew up in a tiny Iowa community of just 334 people. She graduated from Drake University in 1996 and spent the next 4 years working in marketing and communications and enjoying the barbeque and culture of Kansas City. She decided to move 1,800 miles to Bellingham after falling in love with this beautiful area during a visit. She was thrilled to discover a community full of amazing and generous people who love Whatcom County as much as she does. With more than 19 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Rachel has worked and volunteered with diverse organizations in the arts, mentoring youth, and promoting adult literacy. She is an avid reader and currently serves as a Trustee for the Bellingham Public Library. Click here to email Rachel.
Sara moved to Whatcom County in 1996 and quickly fell in love with this community she now calls home. Sara is a proud alumna of Western Washington University, where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree, as well as worked for 18 years, most recently as the Director of Development for Woodring College of Education. She is passionate about helping individuals and families to maximize their philanthropic impact in ways that are meaningful to them. Sara and her husband Jay have two boys and feel incredibly blessed to be raising them in such a special place.
“What I love most about the WCF is working with people who care so much about, and want to make a difference in, our community. I am incredibly honored to be a member of the WCF and proud to be a part of our community.” Click here to email Sara.
Missy Belles, Gifts and Grants Administrator
“Working here makes me feel so good about what I do for a living. I love our mission and our purpose.”
As a local graduate of Mount Vernon High School with a Bachelor of Arts in Finance, Marketing and Decision Sciences from Western Washington University, Melissa (“Missy”) Belles was attracted to the community spirit and trust that WCF brings to Whatcom County early on. Missy is involved in Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition trail work, Northwest Youth Services Soup for Shelter and the YMCA Girls on the Run program. In her spare time, Missy can be found on her mountain bike exploring new terrain, as she is always up for a challenge. She even won the Washington State Mountain Bike Championship Series in 1991! Click here to email Missy.
Heidi Lehman, Office Administrator
“I feel blessed to be a part of this amazing team of dedicated individuals working towards the goal of bettering our community. Whatcom County is beautiful, and I love that the work that I do each day helps to make it flourish.”
Heidi joined the Whatcom Community Foundation with 17 years of Administrative and Event Planning experience under her belt. In her previous life, she ran two private foundations focused on assisting cancer patients with medical costs and living expenses and scholarships for students raised in single parent homes. After realizing she needed more rain in her life, she decided to move from sunny Southern California to Bellingham, a move she never once regretted. Within two weeks of calling Bellingham home, she joined the Upfront Theatre family, taking classes and performing whenever she had the chance. As an avid hiker, Heidi is in heaven here in Whatcom County, exploring the vast and seemingly endless trail systems. When Heidi isn’t hiking or exploring the world of improv, you most likely will find her in her kitchen, creating a feast for friends and family. Click here to email Heidi.
“Working at the Whatcom Community Foundation makes me feel like I’m not only making a difference in the community, but also learning more about what community truly means.”
Born in Colorado and transplanted to Idaho, Sam continued his northwestward migration to attend Western Washington University. While earning his degrees in economics and Spanish, he fell in love with the green forests, grey skies, warm community, and strong coffee of Whatcom County. Through a fortuitously-timed email, he joined the Whatcom Community Foundation as an intern, eventually transitioning to a full-time role. Outside of work, he enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest via bikes and skis, listening to podcasts, and surprising his coworkers with new facial hair styles. Click here to email Sam.