Welcome to the new Gilroy Foundation website!

Gilroy Foundation Board of Directors

Vito smiling portrait
Vito Mercado
President

Vito Mercado, a dedicated and longtime resident of Gilroy, brings a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to community service as the President of Gilroy Foundation. Born and raised in Gilroy, Vito’s roots run deep, shaping his strong sense of belonging and…

More About Vito
Rigo smiling with glasses
Rigo Vargas
Vice President

Rigo Vargas brings a rich and diverse background to Gilroy Foundation as the Vice President of Gilroy Foundation. Born in Mexico and raised as a migrant farmworker in various regions, including San José, Coachella, Santa Maria, and Salinas, Rigo’s journey has shaped his…

More About Rigo
Karen La Corte
Past President

Karen La Corte is a highly respected leader and community advocate, currently serving as the Past President of Gilroy Foundation. With a strong connection to Gilroy, Karen has dedicated her life to making a positive impact in the community.

Throughout her career,…

More About Karen
Lee Blaettler
Secretary

Lee Blaettler brings a wealth of experience and a deep connection to the Gilroy community as the Secretary of Gilroy Foundation. Born and raised in Gilroy, Lee is proud to be a third-generation resident and is dedicated to giving back to the community that…

More About Lee
Jennifer Speno
TREASURER

Jennifer Speno is a dedicated member of Gilroy Foundation, bringing her extensive experience in accounting and her deep commitment to community service. Born and raised in Gilroy, Jennifer has strong roots in the community and a passion for making a positive impact.

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Ericka Davis
Board Member

Ericka Davis brings a wealth of experience and a strong commitment to community service as a valued member of Gilroy Foundation. Originally from Southern California, Ericka earned her bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Southern California, where she also met her…

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Don smiling
Don Delorenzo
Board Member

Don DeLorenzo, a proud Gilroy native, has deep roots in the community. After attending local schools, he graduated from Gilroy High School and continued his education at San Jose State University, where he played on the nationally-ranked golf team. Don’s passion for golf…

More About Don
Yesenia Smiling
Yesenia Gonzalez
Board Member

Yesenia Gonzalez, a proud native of Gilroy, has always had a strong connection to Gilroy Foundation. Her journey with the foundation began in 2008 when she was awarded the Julio Mata Scholarship. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of her educational and personal growth, setting…

More About Yesenia
Carlos Pineda
Board Member

Chef Carlos Pineda serves as the Director of Hospitality and Culinary Services at Rebekah’s Children Services, a role where he oversees the Kneaded Culinary Academy and Kneaded Bakery & Catering. Born and raised in Gilroy, California, Chef Carlos graduated from Gilroy High School…

More About Carlos
Lauren Mantani
Board Member

Lauren Mantani is a third generation Gilroy resident and proud granddaughter of Japanese American farmers. She graduated from Gilroy High School and then attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and met…

More About Lauren
Gina Anderson
Board Member

Gina Anderson, a native of Gilroy, is honored to join the Gilroy Foundation Board of Directors. With a decade-long history of involvement with the Foundation, Gina has significantly contributed to Grants and Scholarships, Membership, Youth Board, Garlic Festival, and day-to-day operations. Gina’s academic…

More About Gina
Vito smiling portrait
Vito Mercado
President

Vito Mercado, a dedicated and longtime resident of Gilroy, brings a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to community service as the President of Gilroy Foundation. Born and raised in Gilroy, Vito’s roots run deep, shaping his strong sense of belonging and passion for making a positive impact in his hometown.

Vito’s connection to the local community extends beyond his years in Gilroy. He and his family resided in Guadalajara, Mexico for a decade, immersing themselves in the culture and education system. In 1979, they returned to Gilroy, where Vito completed his education at Gilroy High School, graduating in 1980. It was during this time that Vito’s career journey began, as he joined Nob Hill Foods as a courtesy clerk, marking the beginning of his long and successful tenure in the grocery industry.

Throughout his career, Vito demonstrated strong leadership skills and a commitment to excellence. He served as a Store Team Leader at Nob Hill Foods, contributing to the growth and success of the organization. Recently retired, Vito’s invaluable experience in the grocery industry provides a unique perspective and valuable insights to Gilroy Foundation.

Vito’s dedication to community service is evident in his active involvement in various organizations and events. He has been a passionate volunteer at the renowned Gilroy Garlic Festival for many years, assuming the role of President in 2014. Additionally, Vito serves on the board of directors for the Sister Cities organization, fostering cultural exchanges and relationships.

In his leisure time, Vito cherishes moments spent with his family, especially his wife of 37 years, Debra, their two daughters, Marisa and Monica, and their granddaughter, Antonia. He finds joy in reading, walking, traveling, and creating lasting memories with loved ones.

Vito’s strong ties to Gilroy, extensive career background, and unwavering dedication to community service make him an invaluable asset to the Gilroy Foundation. As the President, he brings a unique perspective and a genuine commitment to improving the lives of Gilroy residents.

Rigo smiling with glasses
Rigo Vargas
Vice President

Rigo Vargas brings a rich and diverse background to Gilroy Foundation as the Vice President of Gilroy Foundation. Born in Mexico and raised as a migrant farmworker in various regions, including San José, Coachella, Santa Maria, and Salinas, Rigo’s journey has shaped his strong work ethic and resilience.

He pursued higher education at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and later transferred to San Jose State University. With over 23 years of experience as a Computer Systems Consultant at San Jose State University, Rigo possesses valuable expertise in the field.

Since 2005, Rigo and his family have been proud residents of Gilroy, where he has actively participated in Latino Family Fund for the past 13 years.

Rigo’s passion for education and belief in the power of scholarships drives his commitment to Gilroy Foundation’s mission. He deeply values the foundation’s efforts to provide educational opportunities to deserving individuals within the community. Beyond his professional pursuits, Rigo enjoys engaging in hobbies such as home brewing, travel, hiking, and cooking during his free time.

Karen La Corte
Past President

Karen La Corte is a highly respected leader and community advocate, currently serving as the Past President of Gilroy Foundation. With a strong connection to Gilroy, Karen has dedicated her life to making a positive impact in the community.

Throughout her career, Karen has held various leadership positions, demonstrating her commitment to service. Notably, she has played integral roles in organizations such as St. Mary School, the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Leadership Gilroy, and the Arts & Culture Commission. Karen’s exceptional contributions have been recognized and honored, including being named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce. She has also received the esteemed Hearts of Gilroy award and the Silicon Valley Philanthropy Volunteer award for her outstanding dedication to community service.

As a former ambassador for Gilroy Foundation, Karen chaired the Foundation’s highly successful “Day in the Country” event, a beloved community tradition. Additionally, she has served as a grant reader for the Foundation and played a crucial role as a founding board advisor to the Youth Board.

Outside of her professional commitments, Karen finds joy in her family life. She has been happily married to Frank, a former Major League Baseball player, for over four decades. Together, they have raised two married children and are proud grandparents to four grandchildren.

Karen’s passion for teaching etiquette and manners extends beyond her philanthropic work. She shares her expertise by teaching these invaluable life skills and contributes as a columnist for the esteemed Gilroy/Morgan Hill Today magazine.

As the Past President of Gilroy Foundation Board, Karen brings her wealth of experience, leadership, and dedication to guide the Foundation in its mission to support and uplift the Gilroy community. Her vision and commitment to philanthropy make her an invaluable asset to the Foundation and the community it serves.

Lee Blaettler
Secretary

Lee Blaettler brings a wealth of experience and a deep connection to the Gilroy community as the Secretary of Gilroy Foundation. Born and raised in Gilroy, Lee is proud to be a third-generation resident and is dedicated to giving back to the community that has shaped her life.

Lee’s educational background includes a degree in Business Administration from San Diego State University, which provided her with a strong foundation in financial management and business operations. She embarked on a successful 23-year career in the Financial Services industry, working in prominent financial hubs such as Wall Street in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Dallas. Lee held key positions, including Vice President at Standard & Poor’s and Stockbroker at Prudential Securities and First Union Bank in Carmel. Her extensive experience in the industry has honed her financial acumen and strategic mindset.

In addition to her financial expertise, Lee has actively contributed to the Gilroy community through various roles and organizations. She served as an Event Coordinator at the Gilroy Foundation for four years, gaining valuable insights into community engagement and philanthropy. Lee’s commitment to community service extends to her involvement with the Gilroy Assistance League, where she has served as President and remains an active member. She is also a graduate of Leadership Gilroy Class 2010, demonstrating her dedication to personal and professional growth.

Lee’s passion for supporting women in their professional journeys led her to serve as the Past President of the Professional Women’s Network of Monterey Peninsula. She has been recognized for her outstanding contributions and received the Volunteer of the Year award in 2000 from the YWCA Monterey.

With her strong financial background, extensive community involvement, and commitment to empowering others, Lee Blaettler serves as an invaluable Secretary of  Gilroy Foundation. Her dedication and expertise contribute to the Foundation’s mission of fostering a thriving and inclusive community in Gilroy.

Jennifer Speno
TREASURER

Jennifer Speno is a dedicated member of Gilroy Foundation, bringing her extensive experience in accounting and her deep commitment to community service. Born and raised in Gilroy, Jennifer has strong roots in the community and a passion for making a positive impact.

Jennifer’s active involvement in various community organizations showcases her dedication to serving others. She has been actively engaged in Leadership Gilroy, the Gilroy Assistance League, Gilroy Rotary Club, and the Gilroy Garlic Festival, where she served as President in 2005. Her leadership and contributions have left a lasting impact on these organizations, furthering their missions and benefiting the community as a whole.

Jennifer’s educational background includes a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting from San Jose State University, providing her with a strong foundation in financial management and a keen eye for detail. Currently, she holds the position of Accounting Manager at Headstart Nursery in Gilroy, where she brings her expertise to support the financial operations of the organization.

In her personal life, Jennifer finds joy in her family. Together with her husband Jeff, they have raised two grown children, Lindsay and Brad. Jennifer’s commitment to family values and community involvement has shaped her perspective on the importance of giving back and making a difference in the lives of others.

With her strong financial acumen, extensive community involvement, and dedication to service, Jennifer Speno serves as a valuable Treasurer of Gilroy Foundation. Her expertise and passion contribute to the Foundation’s mission of supporting and enhancing the well-being of the Gilroy community.

Ericka Davis
Board Member

Ericka Davis brings a wealth of experience and a strong commitment to community service as a valued member of Gilroy Foundation. Originally from Southern California, Ericka earned her bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Southern California, where she also met her husband Scot. Over 20 years ago, they chose to make Gilroy their home and raise their three children, Kaitlyn (CHS Grad ’17), Cole (CHS Grad ’20), and Trevor (CHS Grad of ’23).

While raising her children, Ericka successfully operated a home bookkeeping business, showcasing her skills in financial management and organization. Currently, she contributes her expertise to the Finance Department at the City of Morgan Hill. Ericka’s dedication to education and youth development is evident through her involvement as a board member of Navigator Schools and her role as an Honorary Member of the Gilroy Assistance League.

Ericka’s passion for empowering the next generation is further demonstrated through her service as a Gilroy Foundation Youth Board Mentor, where she guides and supports young leaders in their philanthropic endeavors. Additionally, she played a pivotal role as the original Director of the Upward Sports League in Gilroy, providing valuable opportunities for youth to engage in sports and character development.

Ericka’s strong financial background, combined with her unwavering commitment to community service, makes her an invaluable asset to Gilroy Foundation. Her dedication to fostering educational opportunities, supporting local initiatives, and empowering youth reflect her genuine love for Gilroy and its residents.

Don smiling
Don Delorenzo
Board Member

Don DeLorenzo, a proud Gilroy native, has deep roots in the community. After attending local schools, he graduated from Gilroy High School and continued his education at San Jose State University, where he played on the nationally-ranked golf team. Don’s passion for golf led him to turn professional in 1981 and become a member of the PGA of America in 1983. Currently, he serves as the PGA General Manager at both Gilroy Municipal Golf Course and Gavilan College Golf Course.

Beyond his contributions to the golfing world, Don actively engages in community involvement. He has been recognized as the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year and serves on the boards of Visit Gilroy, The First Tee of Silicon Valley, and the Gilroy Sportsman Chefs. With a commitment to giving back, Don utilizes his skills and expertise to support various organizations and initiatives in Gilroy.

Outside of his professional and community endeavors, Don finds joy in family and culinary experiences. He has been happily married for 36 years and cherishes spending time with his three children and three grandchildren. In his spare moments, you can find Don passionately cooking for his loved ones or embarking on exciting travel adventures. Don’s unwavering dedication to his hometown and his love for connecting with others makes him a valued member of Gilroy Foundation.

Yesenia Smiling
Yesenia Gonzalez
Board Member

Yesenia Gonzalez, a proud native of Gilroy, has always had a strong connection to Gilroy Foundation. Her journey with the foundation began in 2008 when she was awarded the Julio Mata Scholarship. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of her educational and personal growth, setting her on a path of success.

After graduating from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, Yesenia embarked on a career in event coordination, honing her skills and gaining valuable experience.

Now, as a seasoned professional in the Bay Area tech world, Yesenia’s return to Gilroy Foundation Board is a full circle moment for her. She is thrilled to give back to the community that has supported and shaped her and to contribute her unique blend of expertise and passion to further the foundation’s mission.

Yesenia’s dedication to making Gilroy an inclusive and thriving community is deeply rooted in her personal journey, and she is excited to play a role in creating meaningful opportunities for others, just as the foundation did for her.

Carlos Pineda
Board Member

Chef Carlos Pineda serves as the Director of Hospitality and Culinary Services at Rebekah’s Children Services, a role where he oversees the Kneaded Culinary Academy and Kneaded Bakery & Catering. Born and raised in Gilroy, California, Chef Carlos graduated from Gilroy High School before pursuing his culinary passion at the Professional Culinary Institute in 2008. His culinary journey has taken him to renowned establishments across Monterey, Carmel, Los Angeles, San Jose, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy.

In 2010, Chef Carlos played a pivotal role in developing the Kneaded Culinary Academy at Rebekah Children’s Services, providing job, culinary, and life skills to disenfranchised youth aged 15-25. A passionate advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, Chef Carlos successfully applied for the commemorative flying of the Pride Flag at Gilroy City Hall. His advocacy extends to the Gilroy Unified School District, where he championed a resolution recognizing June as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month.

Beyond his culinary endeavors, Chef Carlos is deeply committed to community service. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, was Chair in 2022, and is involved with the Gilroy Economic Development Committee, Gilroy Exchange Club, El Cajon Project, Leadership Gilroy, and Gilroy Foundation. His commitment to service earned him the Nob Hill Award for Outstanding Community Service in 2017 and recognition as one of Gilroy and Morgan Hill Today’s 2018 People to Watch.

Chef Carlos is a proven community leader, receiving awards such as the 2020 Leadership Gilroy LIFT Award, the 2021 Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Spice of Life Young Professional of the Year, and the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 2021 40 Under 40. He is also a three-time Gilroy Garlic Festival Champion and was featured in “The Rotarian” international magazine in September 2022. Voted 2021’s Best Chef and Best Community Volunteer by the Gilroy Dispatch readers, Chef Carlos received the Community Champion Award from the San Benito Office of Education in January 2023.

In August 2020, Chef Carlos launched the #YESCHEFCARLOS Podcast, offering lifestyle conversations focused on social and emotional well-being. With a motto to “Lead, Inspire, Feed, and Educate,” Chef Carlos believes in the transformative power of education, inspiration, and leadership to empower future generations. His podcast has reached over 33 countries since 2020.

As Chef Carlos emphasizes, “This is me, in my true colors. Being true to myself, living life authentically, unashamed, and unapologetic.”

Lauren Mantani
Board Member

Lauren Mantani is a third generation Gilroy resident and proud granddaughter of Japanese American farmers. She graduated from Gilroy High School and then attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and met her husband of over ten years, Matt. She also attended Santa Clara University to earn her teaching credential and San Jose State University for her Master’s in Counseling Education. 

 

She had the honor of serving as Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen in 2010 and joined the Association as a Chair for the Queen Pageant Committee from 2014-2017 and Board of Directors for 2018 & 2019. She currently serves as the Entertainment Committee Chair. Her other community involvement includes Gilroy Assistance League, Gilroy FFA Agriculture Advisory Board, and Gilroy-Takko Student Exchange Program. 

 Lauren spent thirteen years working for Gilroy Unified School District. She started as an elementary school teacher at Las Animas, then spent a year teaching middle school at South Valley before transferring to Gilroy High School where she worked as a Counselor and Academic Coordinator for seven years. She now works for Infineon Technologies as an Executive Assistant supporting the Vice President of Sales for the Americas.  

Her favorite role, however, is being a mom to her son, Mason, and identical twin girls, Ashlyn and Kayley. She feels so fortunate to be able to raise her family in the same wonderful community where she grew up. They are avid sports fans and enjoy traveling as much as possible, especially to their favorite place – Disneyland. 

Lauren currently serves as a Gilroy Foundation Youth Board Mentor and looks forward to increasing her involvement as a Board member.

Gina Anderson
Board Member

Gina Anderson, a native of Gilroy, is honored to join the Gilroy Foundation Board of Directors. With a decade-long history of involvement with the Foundation, Gina has significantly contributed to Grants and Scholarships, Membership, Youth Board, Garlic Festival, and day-to-day operations. Gina’s academic journey led her to San Jose State University, where she majored in Communications and Public Speaking. In her current role as the Director of Human Resources and Risk Management at Headstart Nursery for the last eight years, Gina seamlessly blends her favorite passions—problem-solving, leadership, forward thinking, and fostering an inclusive culture among employees.

Alongside our Board, we are honored to have the Gilroy Foundation Youth Board actively engaging as the perceptive eyes and ears within our local community. Their invaluable insights and perspectives help shape our mission and ensure our efforts align with the evolving needs of our youth.

Gilroy Foundation’s Youth Board

Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders: Gilroy Foundation’s Youth Board ignites the passion of local middle and high school students, fostering teamwork, collaboration, and a deep sense of community as they work alongside Gilroy Foundation to address pressing needs in our area. Established in 2008, this dynamic platform cultivates the next generation of change-makers and philanthropists.

Mission Statement

Inspiring Youth Leadership and Engagement. Gilroy Foundation’s Youth Board empowers our community’s young minds, showcasing the significance of community involvement, leadership, and philanthropy in tackling the most pressing challenges.

Supported by Foundation Ambassadors, Emeritus Board Members, and dedicated Mentors, including Marilyn Ayala, Ericka Davis, Lauren Mantani, and Debbie Russell, the Youth Board represents a diverse group of passionate students from various schools such as Ascension Solorsano Middle School, Brownell Middle School, Christopher High School, Gilroy High School, Saint Mary School, Santa Catalina High School, South Valley Middle School.

Our current Youth Board members include:

Aiden Francis

Alice Vu

Aris Parson
Ashlyn Platt
Ashleen Bhandal
Avleen Bhandal
Anna Nguyen
Bella Fonseca
Crystal Garcia – Pablo
Danielle Guerrero
DJ Williams
Dominic Vu
Fatima Acosta
Gabriel Garcia
Guadalupe Olguin
Isha Patel
Keira Silver
Kennedy Agnitsch
Kevin James
Kristiana Alexa Aczon
Kristina Ariel Aczon
Lavender Hwang
Lucas Salles
Mariam Ndao
Monserrat Gonzalez
Olivia Goldammer
Sadie Romero
Saed Mustafa
Sophia Bayret
Victoria Garcia

 

 

If you are interested in joining our Youth Board and making a difference, we encourage you to reach out to us. Together, we can shape a brighter future for our community.

Click HERE for Youth Board Application

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I learned more about Gilroy, how to better my public speaking, and about Robert’s Rules of Order. I have met so many amazing people.

— Trevor Youth Board
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I have been on Gilroy Foundation Youth Board since 6th grade and I have learned the importance of being an active member of the community. Being a leader, listener, and collaborator are all skills that I have developed.

— Sophia Youth Board
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My favorite memories on the Youth Board have always been the activities where we are outside and interacting (with the community). I learned how to become a stronger leader and apply myself to my community.

— Kennedy Youth Board